Is this the last post of 2008?

Countries don’t become prosperous by having extremely low wages. Countries have low wages because they’re poor. Countries prosper by having reasonable quality infrastructure and a reasonably healthy and well-educated population. Unions can neither magically create wealth out of thin air, but neither can they magically destroy wealth. What they can do is influence at the margin the way wealth is distributed — a bit more to the workforce and somewhat less to the managers and the shareholders. That’s why people who represent the interests of managers and shareholders don’t like them. It’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, but not one that the broader public should find persuasive. |Yglesias|

Forty miles over Texas, six years ago

The suit protects the crew in many scenarios; however, there
are several areas where integration difficulties diminish the capability of the suit to protect the crew. Integration issues include: the crew cannot keep their visors down throughout entry because doing so results in high oxygen concentrations in the cabin; gloves can inhibit the performance of nominal tasks; and the cabin stow/deorbit preparation timeframe is so busy that sometimes crew members do not have enough time to complete suit-related steps prior to atmospheric entry.

As Columbia entered the atmosphere, one crew member was not yet wearing the ACES helmet and three crew members were not wearing gloves. Per nominal procedures, the crew wearing helmets had visors up. There was a period of about 40 seconds after the orbiter loss of control (LOC) but prior to depressurization when the crew was conscious and capable of action. Part of this short timeframe was undoubtedly employed in recognizing that a problem existed, as the indications of LOC developed gradually. The crew members could have closed their visors in this timeframe but did not. The SCSIIT attributed this to the training regimen, which separates vehicle systems training from emergency egress training and does not emphasize the transition between problem resolution and a survival situation. Once the cabin depressurization began, the rate of depressurization incapacitated the crew so quickly that even those crew members who had fully donned the ACES did not have time to lower their visors.

Source: Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report, p. 28 (via).


"Boy, what's the big deal here?"

Even as we've been occupying ourselves arguing about which dastardly scheme the GOP will use to defeat EFCA, the Grand Old Party has been busy implementing what Josh Marshall calls, "the GOP's devious plan to become the party of southern whites over the age of 50." Marshall, I should say, is talking about the controversy that erupted after Chip Saltsman decided to promote his campaign for the chairmanship of the GOP by distributing a humor CD including the song "Barack the Magic Negro."

On the politics of it, one of the really interesting things about this controversy is the way that it exposes the lack of coherence of the Republican Party at this moment in history. Mike Duncan, the current RNC Chairman who Saltsman is hoping to unseat, immediately expressed disapproval saying, "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction." As the days have passed, though, more and more Republicans have come forward to say that they don't really see what the controversy is about. The upshot is that Politico is reporting today that, "the controversy surrounding a comedy CD distributed by Republican National Committee chair candidate Chip Saltsman has not torpedoed his bid and might have inadvertently helped it."

On the substance, a lot of the discussion seems to assume that the whole issue boils down to the use of the word 'negro' in the title of the song. I'm sure that some people are offended by that, and it's surely not in good taste, but when I listen to the song (WMA!) what jumps out and offends me is the spectacle of a well-off white man impersonating an uneducated black man questioning Obama's blackness. Ick.

The last word:
One of the distinguishing characteristics of modern American conservatism is that it believes in a curious concept of “color blindness.” In this view, racism is bad. But absent truly egregious behavior, it’s not something you’d really get all that upset about nor is it something you should be really attuned do. But so-called “political correctness” — meaning something like anti-racism that’s gone too far — is a really serious problem. Any hint of political correctness is worth getting upset about. And the views of actual members of racial minorities as to what is and isn’t racist should be completely discounted. Rather than saying that the prudent and decent white person will steer a mile clear of racist activity — sending out “Barack the Magic Negro” CDs, for example — the best course of action is to deliberately drive straight at the line and then get really upset at anyone who says you’ve crossed it. |Yglesias|

* -- The title quote is from Mark Ellis, chairman of Maine's Republican Party.


Why aren't there any good songs about card drives?

Count Marc Ambinder as an EFCA skeptic, at least for 2009. As near as I can decipher his argument, Ambinder's idea is that EFCA can't get by the Senate unless it has a veto-proof majority and that the prospects for that majority are dim. Maybe so; if Ambinder has any cred at all, it's as a nose counter.

That said, count me an Ambinder skeptic. Consider his recommendation going forward:
So -- maybe -- EFCA will have to wait until the summer of 2010, after the primaries, when Republicans in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be more vulnerable to pressure from unions. In the meantime, the unions have to figure out a way to be patient, and Obama's team has to figure out exactly how many votes in the Senate they have. If they've got a hard count of more than 60, then everything I've written above is moot. |Ambinder|

This just doesn't make any sense. If EFCA is popular, then the Republicans can't credibly threaten a filibuster. If EFCA isn't popular, then unions won't be able to use it as an issue to mobilize voters in 2010.

More generally, I think there has been a trend toward overestimating the power of the filibuster and the potency of the filibuster threat. Politically, the Republican party is in the wilderness and the narrative solidifying around the 2008 campaign is that voters decisevely rejected the hyper-partisan attack politics that have defined the party since 1994. In that environment, it's going to be very difficult for the Senate Republicans to engage in comprehensive obstructionist tactics. So they can't filibuster everything, and will have to carefully consider the consequences whenever they do.

Notes on sport

Item: The Lions are playing on the road in Green Bay today where, it turns out, they've lost 17 straight. Naturally, the Lions Report did a feature about how the rookies still have a positive attitude because they haven't yet been touched by the Lambeau Curse.

Item: I can't say that I fully understand who is and is not champion of what, but I'm looking forward to a Mir / Lesnar rematch.

Item: Since we need some cliche ridden end of year blogging around these parts, these are my nominees for top sports stories of 2008:
  • Tiger Woods grits out 91 hole victory at US Open.

  • Nadal defeats Federer at Wimbledon

  • Michael Phelps

  • Giants put an end to Patriot streak at Superbowl XLII



Entered into the Blog of Record without further comment... for now.
Another sign of the pro-Obama times: An MTV exec says they're changing their reality shows: "Our shows are going to focus less on loud and silly hooks and more on young people proving themselves. These are themes that are consistent with the Obama generation." | via ben smith |



Oh. I thought they were in the Bible.

So, I'm enjoying the Joe6paq family holiday sing-a-long, family and friends gathered around the piano belting out holiday favorites. Many readers will recall the contrapuntal lyrics in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (e.g. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games – like Monopoly).

When we got to the rousing,"You'll go down in history" my "like Columbus" was met by the kids' "like Tupac".

Children are our future.

Freedom Eagle strikes!


Fine dining in the Delta

A scientist visiting an outdoor restaurant was startled to see a Laotian rock rat among the nearby wildlife. The hairy, nocturnal, thick-tailed rat, which resembles a squirrel, had been thought for centuries to be extinct.

"There is a certain amount of shock because our scientists will sometimes see something that doesn't fit anything they know," said Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the Fund's Mekong Program. "They run through a catalogue of wildlife in their brain, asking themselves, 'Have I seen this?'" |CNN|

The article does not explain the failure of restaurant staff to discover the rat.


"Let the Right One In"

Absolutely the best vampire movie I have seen in years. It really succeeds despite being a vampire movie. It's very Swedish, which in this case is a good thing. I can't really tell you why you need to go see this movie, but you need to go see it as soon as possible.

Here is some random bits of the film that I liked. None of these are the main reasons you need to go see the movie, of course, because like I just told you, I can't really tell you that.

* The characters hang out at the "Sun Palace."

* With one exception, the CG effects are incredibly subtle, yet effective.

* You find out the right and wrong ways to try to murder someone and/or to hide a body in Sweden.

* You find out the absolutely wrong way to try to commit suicide in, well, anywhere


Some Eastern Seaboard residents have reported seeing skinny, aggressive squirrels

The Acorn Bubble is over:
In far-flung pockets of northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, scientists have found no acorns whatsoever.

"I can't think of any other year like this," said Alonso Abugattas, director of the Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, Virginia. |CNN|

As long as we're bailing....

I think and hope that Bush's folks will use TARP money to extend a lifeline to GM and Chrysler to get them through to the end of January, where we won't have lame duck Republicans to kick around anymore.

But while we're handing out money, how about a bailout for the newspaper industry?

Sure, it's not at all equivalent. Journalists are white-collar workers who presumably have more job mobility than do folks in manufacturing. And unlike the auto industry, it's hard to see how newspapers could return to profitability, since their business model is being eaten, digested, and evacuated by the future.

But the sudden acceleration of the of the newspaper industry's slide is putting downward pressure on our already hurting economy. And, more importantly, as the newspapers contract, our nation's total news-gathering capability also shrinks. Reporters are being fired, whole bureaus are being closed. As a people, we know less and less about what is happening.

So what about it? How about a cool 5 billion to reopen some overseas bureaus? It's chump change compared what we are prepared to hand off to GM's management.

Or maybe just a billion for NPR?

Consider this an open auto- OR newsy-bailout thread


Where be his quiddities now?

On one hand...
Everything I've heard is completely consistent with PN's report, though that does beg the question of how this goof got elected and reelected in the first place.

(ed.note: Please no emails telling me this is the incorrect use of the phrase 'beg the question', though I know you're right. I've decided that this misuse is too widespread, too serviceable and too lacking in an alternative not to simply persist in using it.) | Josh Marshall |

On the other hand...
While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight. | BTQ |

On the gripping hand, Jason says:

The term "beg the question" suffers from being a terrible name for what it describes. Terms of art should ideally suggest to layfolk what they actually are on their face OR be sufficiently obscure that layfolk don't easily come up with another interpretation.

Linguists and Philosophers would do all of us a favor by adopting a different term, or just sticking with petitio principii.


Meta update: I think DRs suggestion is perfect, so I've updated the title accordingly. Feel free to continue to suggest titles, however. For the record, the old title was: It turns out that coming up with titles for blog posts is actually one of the hardest parts of blogging, so feel free to suggest a title for this post.


SEIU and Blago

Don't know if you've noticed it, but Blagojevich is making that statement at the UE sit-in. Oh well. That's not nearly as embarrassing as this:
The U.S. attorney's complaint states that Blagojevich mused aloud with his advisers about the possibility that he could seek a high-paying job with Change to Win, the coalition of seven unions -- dominated by SEIU -- that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Blagojevich and his chief of staff wondered aloud about a "three-way deal" in which he would appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman believed to be the woman identified in the complaint as "Candidate 1," to Obama's Senate seat; Blagojevich in return would become Change to Win's executive director; and Obama would reward Change to Win with pro-labor policies. |WaPo|

Even if Blagojevich was just daydreaming, it's still noteworthy that the Governor had that particular fantasy. Why SEIU? Why Change To Win? One suggestion:
The alleged role of the SEIU official was surprising, given that the union had not figured publicly in the investigation into Blagojevich (D). But on another level, the SEIU's apparent involvement is an indication of the extent to which it has, under the leadership of its ambitious and controversial president, Andrew L. Stern, become an omnipresent force in Democratic politics. |WaPo|

This sounds right as a description of what SEIU, Stern, and Change To Win have been up to. One thing to note is that this state of affairs is precisely the opposite of what Stern and his cronies were arguing when he began his campaign to blow up the AFL/CIO four years ago. At that time, Stern was arguing that unions ought not to be so involved in politics, but should instead focus their resources on organizing. He seems to have changed his mind.

A point more clearly: If a crook like Blagojevich[1] thinks that Executive Director of your labor federation looks like a sweet gig then you've got a problem.

1 - Properly pronounced "bluh GOY-ye vich" in the character of Professor Frink.


Getting ahead in Illinois

Word is, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested. I voted for Blagojevich -- and picked up the refrigerator magnet pictured above -- back when I was a grad student in Illinois. Back then, 2002 I think, we all thought that he might run for president one day.

The thing I remember about my introduction to Illinois politics being bemused by the way that the outgoing Republican Governor, George Ryan, had managed to be so corrupt as to destroy the state Republican party as a functioning institution.

Here's a question. What will happen in Illinois now that both parties have been discredited?


The viral marketing continues

At the end of the day, it’s hard for me not to reach the conclusion that the backlash is, not coincidentally, coming just as Gladwell’s hit upon a politically charged topic and reached conclusions that are discomfiting to the very successful. I’ve seen a few people express the notion that Gladwell’s conclusion — that success is determined largely by luck rather than one’s powers of awesomeness — is somehow too banal to waste one’s time with. I think those people need to open their eyes and pay a bit more attention to the society we’re living in. It’s a society that not only seems to believe that the successful are entitled to unlimited monetary rewards for their trouble, but massive and wide-ranging deference.

Beyond that, it’s a society in which the old-fashioned concept of noblesse oblige has largely gone out the window. The elite feel not only a sense of entitlement, but also a unique sense of arrogance that only an elite that firmly believes itself to be a meritocracy can muster. Gladwell not only shows that this is wrong, but he does an excellent job of showing why it feels right. He explains that success does, in fact, require hard work — lots of it — and that people who think they got where they are through effort rather than good fortune are at least half right. The issue is that in some ways the best luck of all is the luck to be in a position to do hard work at a time when it pays off. | Yglesias |

It's a new world out there

Leading political figures in the Chicago area have turned out to support the sit-in -- including the former South Side state senator who was elected president last month.

"Number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned these benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments," Obama said during a news conference Sunday.

"And, number two, I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan that we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so that we're not seeing these kinds of circumstances again." |CNN|

Meet the David Gregory

On the one hand, he's the consummate empty suit, eager to be won over by fatuous arguments so long as they are presented seriously by serious people who are serious about being political moderates. To take a recent example, see the shining shitpile of his performance during the auto bailout fiasco, when Gregory was always eager to bask resplendently in the light of worries that bailing out the auto companies would be throwing good money after bad. On the other hand, Russert's Meet the Press was the creche for high Broderism, so Gregory provides continuity with the tradition.



[Origin: Late Old Engish 'scoru' - "twenty," from Old Norse 'skor' - "mark, tally," also, in Icelandic, "twenty," from Proto-Germanic '*skura-', from Proto-Indo-Euorpean base '*(s)ker-' - "to cut" (cf. Old English 'sceran'; see shear). The connecting notion is perhaps counting large numbers (of sheep, etc.) with a notch in a stick for each 20. This counting notion is the origin of the modern sense in sports (1742, originally in whist). In Old French, "twenty" (vint) or a multiple of it could be used as a base, e.g. vint et doze ("32"), dous vinz et diz ("50"). Meaning "printed piece of music" first recorded 1701, from the practice of connecting related staves by scores of lines. The verb meaning "to cut with incisions or notches" is attested from c.1400; the slang sense "achieve intercourse" first recorded 1960.]

1. The record of points or strokes made by the competitors in a game or match.
2. The total points or strokes made by one side, individual, play, game, etc.
3. An act or instance of making or earning a point or points.
4. In Education or Psychology, the performance of an individual or sometimes of a group on an examination or test, expressed by a number, letter, or other symbol.
5. A notch, scratch, or incision; a stroke or line.
6. Notch or mark for keeping an account or record.
7. A reckoning or account so kept; tally.
8. Any account showing indebtedness.
9. An amount recorded as due.
10. A line drawn as a boundary, the starting point of a race, a goal line, etc.
11. A group or set of 20.
12. Plural 'scores', a great many: Scores of people were at the dance.
13. Reason, ground, or cause: to complain on the score of low pay.
14. Informal.
  1. The basic facts, point of progress, etc., regarding a situation.

  2. A successful move, remark, etc.

15. Music.
  1. A written or printed piece of music with all the vocal and instrumental parts arranged on staves, one under the other.

  2. The music itself.

  3. The music played as background to or part of a movie, play, or television presentation.

16. Slang.
  1. A success in finding a willing sexual partner; sexual conquest.

  2. A purchase or acquisition of illicit drugs, as heroin or cocaine.

  3. A single payoff obtained through graft by a police officer, esp. from a narcotics violator.

  4. A successful robbery; theft.

  5. Any success, triumph, happy acquisition, gift, or win.

  6. The victim of a robbery or swindle.

tr. v.
17. To gain for addition to one's score in a game or match.
18. To make a score of: He scored 98 on the test.
19. To have as a specified value in points: Four aces score 100.
20. In Education or Psychology: To evaluate the responses a person has made on (a test or an examination).
21. Music.
  1. To orchestrate.

  2. To write out in score.

  3. To compose the music for (a movie, play, television show, etc.)

22. Cookery. To cut ridges or lines into (meat, fish, etc.) with shallow slashes, usually in a diamond pattern, before cooking.
23. To make notches, cuts, marks, or lines in or on.
24. To record or keep a record of (points, items, etc.), by or as if by notches, marks, etc.; tally; reckon (often fol. by up).
25. To write down as a debt.
26. To record as a debtor.
27. To gain, achieve, or win: The play scored a great success.
28. Slang.
  1. To obtain (a drug) illicitly.

  2. To steal.

  3. To acquire; be given.

29. To berate or censure: The newspapers scored the mayor severely for the announcement.
30. To crease (paper or cardboard) so that it can be folded easily and without damage.

intr. v.
31. To make a point or points in a game or contest.
32. To keep score, as of a game.
33. To achieve an advantage or a success: The new product scored with the public.
34. To make notches, cuts, lines, etc.
35. To run up a score or debt.
36. Slang.
  1. To succeed in finding a willing sexual partner; have coitus.

  2. To purchase or obtain drugs illicitly.

  3. To elicit and accept a bribe.

37. Pay off or settle a score, to avenge a wrong; retaliate.[source]


It begins

CHICAGO - Laid-off workers at a Chicago factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay owed to them.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors are staging the sit-in in shifts after learning earlier this week the plant would close Friday.

Leah Fried (LAY'-uh FREED'), an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, says Republic failed to give 60 days' notice required by law. And, she says, the company claims Bank of America is preventing it from paying wages for those 60 days and earned vacation time.

Bank of America says it's not responsible for Republic's financial obligations. |Chicago Tribune|

Not a cent for tribute

I think this is just about the best jobs program ever:
...a massive expansion of the federal program to weatherize homes and federal buildings would include a six-month training period for new workers.

Complex green infrastructure initiatives -- such as building renewable energy plants, improving the electrical grid and installing "smart" meters that allow consumers to reap benefits from using electricity at off-peak hours -- would take effect well into the second year. |WSJ|

I'm not all that green compared to lots of folks I know, but you don't have to be all that green to recognize the need for greener policies.

The thing that really gets me about this, though, is its utter sanity. Can this be real? The next president is proposing a policy that rests on a reasonable assessment of several problems we face.

The economy, already in recession, has nosedived into a liquidity trap. The Keynesian remedy for this situation is a massive expansion of government spending. But not just any spending will do. The government must spend on brick and mortar, and it makes no difference whether the projects are of any use at all.

But we face another problem. We've based our economy on an increasingly scarce and unsustainably dirty resource. By focusing spending on green infrastructure, the Obama administration will address a global problem that has been allowed to fester for years and years.


To highlight the absurdity of finding sanity refreshing, here's a short video:

Saturday morning cartoon

This too shall pass

The word on the radio when I woke up this morning was that there's finally an auto industry bailout deal in place. Naturally, the big three got less money than they'd asked for. Naturally, the money wasn't taken from the bloated TARP. Instead, the plan is to take the money from the Fuel Efficiency Research Program.

So we're going to save the auto industry by cannibalizing the subsidy for green auto technology. Perfect.

In other news:


Happiness is contagious

for reals:
While there are many determinants of happiness, whether an individual is happy also depends on whether others in the individual's social network are happy. Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people.
The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people.

Indeed, changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. These results are even more remarkable considering that happiness requires close physical proximity to spread and that the effect decays over time. | via |

In related news, the United States ended Prohibition 75 years ago, today.

Empirical data!

For 50 years, from the 40's to the 90's. the province of Ontario had a card-check organizing system....So what was the record there?
Arthurs answered that in all of his research about labour law complaints under card check, he could not find a single case where the employer complained of a union intimidating workers to unionize when they didn't want to.


You've come a long way baby!


Robot jokes for robots:[1]
Knock knock.
Who's there?
A robot.
Oh, shit.

What's the difference between a regular robot and a killer robot?
The gnawing jeers of men.
Why did the robot order a milkshake?
To blend in with the general human population, making it easier to infiltrate society and—in time—conquer it.

Why was six afraid of seven?
Because seven was a robot.

1 - I think we've linked to this before.


Obama and EFCA

The other day, Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer answered "yes" when asked whether Obama was still a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. In some quarters, this has been taken to show that Obama isn't really such a strong supporter. After all, Pfeifer could have unleashed a full-throated stemwinder, or at least parsed the question closely enough to repudiate the merest possible suggestion that yes might possibly mean no.

But who am I to tell you to trust a politician?

Here's why you should be optimistic about EFCA, or at least rely on Obama's real support. Obama's political interests will be furthered by the passage of EFCA.

I don't mean by that EFCA will ingratiate Obama to Gettlefinger, Weingarten, and Stern. Rather, an expansion of the labor movement -- which is to say, an expansion in the number of workers who have direct experience of organizing campaigns -- is ipso facto an expansion of Obama's base. Why wouldn't he favor that?


"Truth does not do as much good in the world as the semblance of truth does evil"

Surely this is not the case.

Today, as always, dedicated sophists of all ideologies would like to so discredit the bastions of expertise that moderately educated people no longer have any assistance in discerning the truth or falsehood of of the sophists' claims.

With respect to everything from global warming to the financial crisis, without years of study it is impossible for the average joe to determine when the current crop of ascendant experts is correct, or when those who snipe from the sidelines--attacking methodology, questioning motives, flinging as much mud as possible--actually have a good point.

Some might argue that this quote lights the way forward: Perhaps we should automatically disbelieve--not just distrust, disbelieve, every statement that one can't verify oneself.

But it seems to me that this is just another way of giving up on actually engaging the world. What do you think?

Quote from Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 64, via Sullivan. | Image credit.


Marking time

I'm stuck in the Miami airport for the foreseeable future. I've decided to pass the time by letting as many kids as possible know that, despite the propaganda they hear, drugs are awesome. How do you keep yourself occupied in airports?

Addendum: I find that parents tend to get the wrong impression if you walk up and start talking to their kids about how awesome fucking is, which is why I've decided to focus on the pro-drug message.



Hockey is pretty awesome in HD.


$7.4 trillion

Jesus Fucking Christ. That's how much cash the U.S. Treasury has proffered in loan guarantees to the finance industry. That's about six months worth of GNP. Probably some of the debt will turn out good, but in the absence of any plan to help the people who owe money to the banks, the prospects look dim.

It's tempting to focus on the injustice. The owning class made this mess and now their plan seems to be to insulate themselves from the consequences by taking advantage of the fact that free market ideologues will control the White House for another two months. This situation is, as Jason said in comments, disgusting.

But, as with many of the policies of the Bush Administration, focusing on the injustice threatens to distract attention from the catastrophic stupidity. We're all in deep water here, but the financiers think that they can stay afloat by standing on the rest of our shoulders. What they don't see is that when the rest of us drown, they'll be stuck treading water with no shoreline in sight.

This far into the Bush Administration I had thought that my capacity for outrage had been exhausted. Guess not.

Just to throw in something constructive: Josh Marshall has the right idea about how we ought to be setting our priorities:
The bottom line, I think, is that the money has to go toward building real stuff -- primarily infrastructure -- and pumped into the hands of people who will immediately spend it, i.e., middle and lower-income people who will spend it on necessities. |TPM|

Also: By my calculations, the guv'mint has promised 300 times as much to the financial industry as the auto industry was asking for.

Saving Citigroup; or, Too rich to fail

Y'see, it's worth $200 billion in loan guarantees and $20 billion in cash because Citigroup is run by financiers rather than auto-industry executives, and financiers, as we all know, are astute managers whose unquestioned competence insures that they won't skulk back to the public trough begging for another handout.

Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by

Snyder will return to the Wildcats after three years away. Snyder, who is 69 years old, compiled a 136-68-1 record at Kansas State from 1989-2005. He replaces Ron Prince, who finished with a 5-7 record this season and 17-20 overall in three seasons with the Wildcats. |ESPN|


Holy crap!

I absolutely, positively have to step away from the internet, but:
Citi is not only too big to fail, it’s too big to rescue with any of the half-measures that have been tried so far. Only outright nationalization is feasible, and that will probably require joint action by a number of governments; Citigroup’s global operations are too big for the US to handle alone. After that, the kinds of tinkering discussed at the G20 last week will be irrelevant. It’s now unsurprising to read (on CNBC!) predictions that all US financial institutions will be nationalized within a year. That’s probably an overstatement: as long as the economy doesn’t really crash, there are plenty of small banks and credit unions that will survive, but few of the big names will be among them. |CT: Quiggen|

Step Two: Foreplay

My first thought, naturally, was "caption contest".
The following would have been my entry:
Now you can easily, quickly and comfortably increase the size of your bulge with the IJ Bulge Booster. It’s unbelievably simple but amazingly effective. Just pull the waistband on like a pair of underwear and push your boys through the opening created by the contoured support strap and that’s it! Your package will be lifted up and pushed forward, creating a remarkable increase in your male profile. |Source|

I find myself wondering why it wouldn't be simpler and preferable to either: (a) stuff a sock down there; or (b) make do. Perhaps you, gentle reader, are wondering how I became acquainted with the International Jock Bulge Booster. Blame Violet Blue.

Friday Sir Mixalot moment

This is going around in email and chat. It seems to have come from here.

It's "Baby Got Back" translated into Latin, and then back into English:
Domina Mea Exstat a Tergo
Mixaloti Equitis

"By Hercules!
Rebecca, behold! Such large buttocks she has!
She appears to be a girlfriend of one of those rhythmic-oration people.
But, as you know, who can understand persons of this sort?
Verily, they converse with her for this reason only, namely, that she appears to be a complete whore.
Her buttocks, I say, are rather large!
Nor am I able to believe how round they are.
Lo! How they stand forth! Do they not disgust you?
Behold the black woman!"

Large buttocks are pleasing to me, nor am I able to lie concerning this matter.
For who, colleagues, would not admit,
whenever a girl comes by with a rather small middle part of the body
beneath which is an obvious spherical mass, that it inflames the spirits
so that you want to be conspicuous for manly virtue, noticing her breeches
have been deeply stuffed with buttock?
Alas! I am captured, nor am I able to desist from gazing.
My dear lady, I want to come together with you
and make a picture of you.
My companions were trying to warn me
but those buttocks of yours arouse lust in me.
O! skin wrinkled and smooth!
Did you say you wish to enter my vehicle?
I am entirely at your disposal
because you are not an average hanger-on.
I have seen her dancing.
Forget, therefore, about blandishments!
Such sweat! Such moisture!
I am borne along as if by a four-horse chariot!
I am tired of reading in the gazettes
that flat buttocks are judged more pleasing.
Ask any black men you wish: the answer will be
rather that they prefer fuller ones.

O colleagues (What is it?) O colleagues (What is it?)
Do your girlfriends have large buttocks? (They certainly have!)
Encourage them therefore to shake them! (To shake them!)
To shake them! (To shake them!)
To shake those healthy buttocks!
My mistress stands out behind!

In other news, this article neatly skewers my taste in hip hop: Stuff White People LIke: #116 Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore.

Speaking of the bailout

Jonathan Cohn takes an honest look at autoworker compensation.

"Oh my god they're turkeys!"

Well. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey in Wasilla yesterday. Then she took questions from the television press while standing in front of the turkey slaughtering operation. Some of you might not want to watch the video, but I've just got to post it.

(via, though I totally would have seen it I hadn't been watching basketball)


That's how many times Janet Reno collapsed while serving as Attorney General. Mukasey, like so many Bush appointees, pales in comparison to his Clintonian predecessor.


Green tooling, green growth, organizing

Obama is giving a lot of signals that his agenda is going to be to link massive fiscal stimulus to projects that are intended to address global climate change. As policy, this strikes me as exactly right. Politically, well, we shall see what we shall see.

For my part, I'm optimistic. I think Obama's political initiatives are often best looked at through the lens of his background in community organizing. In that vein, one of the pieces of wisdom that gets handed down in the organizing business is that a campaign needs two kinds of hooks. There has to be, on the one hand a piece to satisfy the self-interest of supporters, and on the other a piece that appeals to some sort of moral cause or principle. Purely from the point of view of building strength, the closer the link between the two the better.

In this case, the faltering economy makes the self-interested piece possible. Unemployment just hit a 16 year high. The middle class has been shrinking for a decade and buying power, already in long decline, is threatening to dive off a cliff. A green jobs program, in this context, is first and foremost a jobs program.

The moral piece, obviously, is the green. You need the moral piece because it addresses supporters who need to be reassured that the benefits they receive from the fiscal stimulus package -- which have no doubt about it, is going to require deficit spending -- are deserved. People care about their own self-interest, but they also care about fairness and the common good. Put another way, "give me a job!" is a less ennobling demand than "give me an opportunity to save the fucking planet!"

The politics of distraction, continued

I think it's fair to say that this exchange is dominating coverage of the seemingly doomed auto industry bailout.
"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."

He added, "couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."|CNN|

Yes, the executives heading up the big three automakers are chowder heads. This is not in dispute. Nor is it the issue.

On the plus side, there's always the possibility that the bailout will rise again, stronger than before. You might think, for instance, that any acceptable bailout must involve those jet-setting jerks tumbling ass over teakettle out the door. Well, political support for your version of the bailout just went up a notch.

By way of contrast:
President-Elect Obama has to say to them, yes, we're going to use this money to save these jobs, but we're not going to build these gas-guzzling, unsafe vehicles any longer.

We're going to put the companies into some sort of receivership and we, the government, are going to hold the reigns on these companies. They're to build mass transit. They're to build hybrid cars. They're to build cars that use little or no gasoline.

We're facing a national crisis, not just an economic crisis, but a crisis of the polar ice caps are melting. There's only so much oil left under the Earth. We're going to run out of that, if not in our children's time, our grandchildren's time.

There's got to be a plan set out to find other ways to transport ourselves in other ways than using fossil fuels. |CNN: Michael Moore|


By the way

I was chatting with a biologist who works on aging, and he said that, as far as folk remedies go, two seem to stand out in terms of their success in fighting aging.

1) Semi-starvation. A very, very low calorie diet can lengthen life expectancy significantly.

2) Drink the blood of the young (although a transfusion might be better). As we grow older our stem cells die off, and this causes many of the symptoms of aging. By introducing the blood of the young into our system, we can replenish our supply of stem cellls.

My biologist friend, by the way, claims not to engage in either practice. His hopes lie instead with gene therapy. "Living forever would be a mark of professional success," he told me.

Wrong again

Looks like it all could have been avoided. I withdraw my support for the bailout.

A short excerpt from Big Labor Boss's stemwinder:
BLB: Whoa, there boys! Don't misunderstand me. We gotta turn this deal down because it's too fucking sweet.

(Boos and calls of "Huh, huh, huh?")

BLB: That's right, too fucking sweet. Sure everything is going pretty great for auto makers and America right now. Hell, we're kings of the fucking world people, but it ain't gonna last. Nope, there are some dark fucking times ahead. Right now, even as I address this crowd, there are men in the Pentagon that are plotting to seize on the flimsiest of evidence that the North Vietnamese attacked our brave sailors in Vietnam. This will widen a war against a determined guerrilla foe. The widening war with cause a cultural rift that right-wingers will be able to frighten most of you with for the next four decades. I'm telling you right now, your granddaughters will marry Negroes and your grandsons will be queers. Our eventual defeat in Vietnam will send the nation into a existential funk. Our apparent military vulnerability will be exploited by OPEC which will -- hey, hey, calm down people. Give me a minute here. I know what the fuck I am saying -- OPEC is going to embargo oil. Embargo. This will lead to people wanting to drive small, fuel efficient cars.


BLB: No, I'm fucking serious. First it will be a company called Datsun, which will eventually be called Nissan, but that's neither here nor there. Toyota will kick all of our asses. Fuck, even the Koreans will take us to school. I shit you not.

Ted: BLB, won't we start making small cars too? Better cars? More efficient, better built? We are the fucking best labor force in the world!

BLB: Afraid not, Ted, although I appreciate your support for my seemingly insane prediction of the future.

|GBOR: Those Short-Sighted Sons a' Bitches|

Son of LOLberman

From maray, the outcome:

That said

There's no reason to give the automakers precisely the bailout they've asked for. I'm sure everyone has ideas for how things should be structured, but I'll just say that three things I'd like to see are much tougher mileage and emissions standards going forward, investment targeted at the development of alternative fuel technologies, and a scalable program by which the federal government could take over the legacy pension and healthcare obligations that infect the balance sheets of the big three.

Bailing out the big three

Out there in the wide world people have taken to referring to the proposed auto industry bailout as 'bailing out Detroit'. I'm here to tell you, Detroit is too far gone to be helped by anything as paltry as a bailout. A friend of mine had never been to the city but assumed that Detroit, like other cities that suffered through deindustrialization, had rebuilt and now faced problems of crowding and gentrification.


Responsible liberal opposition to the bailout boils down to a cost/benefit analysis. At the end of the day the big three automakers should be allowed to fail, the argument says, because the cost of allowing them to continue is structural economic inefficiency. But of course that only becomes an argument against the proposed bailout if you think that the cost of the economic inefficiency attributable to the bailout exceeds the cost of the disruption caused by the failure of the big three. And this is the ground on which liberal elites are defending the bailout. They are saying that with the economy this bad, allowing the big three automakers to fail will have large macro-economic effects, making the cost of failure exceed the cost of economic inefficiency.

The striking thing about all of this to me, living where I do in SE Michigan, is how abstract the debate is. For me, this approaches a which side are you on kind of question. At any rate, living here I know that sooner or later it's going to come to that. And I'm not going to pick an abstract macro-economic good over the people in my community.

Which isn't to say that I'm not conflicted. I'm also a unionist, and I'd hate to see an automotive bailout held up as evidence that Obama's debt to labor had been paid, and now there's no need for EFCA. But that's neither here nor there.

Returning to the argument, there's no way for me to adjudicate the disagreement about the macro-economic costs of the bailout, but here's a point about the content of the weighting that we're being asked to do. You have, on one side of the scale, identifiable people and harms which are reasonably easy to predict. What is on the other side? Economic inefficiency. Well, what are the costs of that, and who do they accrue to? Moreover, what other forms of economic inefficiency does government action foster, and how do we make trade-offs between them? Anyone promoting a policy opposed to the real interests of real people bears the burden of answering these questions.


Team of rivals

Obama seems to have relatively few rivals on the Left.

Better and better for Begich

Begich now leads by over 2,300 votes with 8,000 left to count today. After this, all that will be left are absentee overseas ballots, which are not expected to have much effect.

The mainstream media is playing this one close to the vest, but here at your humble blog of record we have the courage of our convictions. Thus I am pleased to announce that as of this moment The Bellman blog has officially called the Alaska Senate race for Mark Begich.

Naturally, Silver agrees.


Make your own and send them to me, and I'll post them later in "Son of LOLberman."


The horrible truth

... is that I need to spend less time playing games, and more time doing my freakin' work of choice:
The curious thing about Ericsson's study is that he and his colleagues couldn't find any "naturals" - musicians who could float effortlessly to the top while practising a fraction of the time that their peers did. Nor could they find "grinds", people who worked harder than everyone else and yet just didn't have what it takes to break into the top ranks. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. What's more, the people at the very top don't just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers [!], ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals [!!!]" writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, "this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years... No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery." | The Guardian, via Daring Fireball |

Related: How does one accumulate 10,000 hours of being a master criminal?

Smart Game Monday

Incredibots is a game that makes me feel dumb. It makes me painfully aware that I've forgotten many basic engineering designs that I once knew.

But it's also loads and loads of fun. So give it a try. Maybe you can help me figure out some basic schemes for conquering the challenges. (I know I could go online and see successful designs, but that feels more like cheating than simply collaborating with a few Bellmaniacs).

I find that I can quickly design something that can conquer the "Easy" challenges, albeit not with any great elegance. And that same design--for example, my "Son of Porkchop Express" climber pictured here--usually comes in well under the credit limit for the next level challenge. But the hardest level of each challenge is beyond me so far.

So give it a shot! It's what Obama wants you to do. He told me so.


The principles of conservative casuistry

Justice Antonin Scalia was unswayed by that argument. "People are governed by the law that is passed, not by the law that Congress intended to pass," he said. He and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the law as written appeared to apply only to domestic violence measures, not the more common laws against assault and battery. |LA Times|

Let's be clear about the game here. Intent is everything until intent doesn't give the right result. Then we switch to plain meaning, or if the law is old enough, plain meaning at the time (which is almost fuzzy enough to match original intent).


Because I am a nerd: I wanted to title this post, "And then blamm, Eric Fromm!"


Getting there

Remember that Senate race between friendly felon Ted Stevens and angry Democrat Mark Begich? Forty thousand absentee and disputed ballots have been counted so far today in Alaska, leaving fifty-five thousand left to count. Here's where it stands:

Begich - 125,019
Stevens - 125,016

Another twenty thousand ballots will be counted tonight, and the remaining ballots over the next week or so.

Obligatory nod to 538:
More to come tonight and in the coming few days to finish off the race, but given where we expect the remaining votes are located, this looks very good for Begich. It looks very bad for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and Andrew Sullivan, who probably wanted the material if Sarah Palin were to run to replace Stevens in a special election. |538|

And also too:
The latest tally reflects the counting of absentee ballots -- about 40,000 of them -- and will soon be incorporating about 35,000 more from around the state. Most of the remaining votes appear to be from outlying areas of the state where Begich should do very well. Final results, though, won't be available for a few days, and probably not before the middle of next week. Don't ask me why. People count slowly up here.

But depending on the final tally, America just might owe the Alaskan Independence Party -- whose candidate, Bob Bird, earned more than 10,000 votes -- a modest debt of gratitude. Last time, the AIP received about 3% of the vote; this time, Bird is clearing more than 4%, which would be one of many factors -- the greatest of which would be Stevens himself -- enabling a Democratic win. |LGM: DaveNoon|

America asks, where oh where are the trial lawyers?

Fritz Knaak, an attorney with Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, said Tuesday that "perhaps 120 Coleman lawyers" may descend soon on each of the estimated 100 recount sites to be set up in each of the state's 87 counties and in large cities as the process gets underway next week. |Star Trib|

Maybe a little strong

Her candidacy, in short, was indefensible. It remains indefensible. Until the mainstream media, the GOP establishment, and the conservative intelligentsia acknowledge the depth of their error, this blog will keep demanding basic accountability.

My point is not to persecute or hound some random person. I wish I had never heard of Sarah Palin. I wish this nightmare had never happened. I wish totally innocent by-standers, like Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston and Heather Bruce and Trig Palin, had not had their lives disrupted by this circus. It's distressing to everyone, which is why most journalists left many aspects of this charade alone. But Palin is claiming vindication, is on every cable show, is at the National Governors Association Conference, and is touted as a future leader of the GOP. There comes a point at which you have to simply call a time out and insist that this farce cease and some basic accountability and transparency be restored to the process. Since no one else seems willing to do so, the Dish will stay on the case. So where are those medical records anyway? |Andrew Sullivan|

ringring: raising mccain
me: Christ.
ringring: hehe
I am deeply scared and slightly turned on. Way to go republicans!
me: I'm telling you, troopergate is important.
Maginot Line
ringring: I hope you are right, if you mean that it is important to the outcome
if you mean, important as a chilling vision of things to come, I am less hopeful
me: If, indeed, Obama is not the anti-christ, then I fear that it may be her.
ringring: she is good
I can see why McCain fell for her
me: I'm not pinning my hopes on her fucking up a debate or a press conference.
ringring: no, she is not our last best hope
she is the fucking storm

Source: gmail chat 9.3.08

Well, maybe center-left

A second shock, Barack Obama was the candidate of the Democratic Party. Not of the Peace and Freedom Party. I know it's hard to digest, but true. Third, the American left has failed, let me repeat that, FAILED, to create a credible on-the-ground anti-war movement having initially ceded that task to a gaggle of wack jobs from a sectarian cult known as A.N.S.W.E.R. The payback for that little mistake of 5 years ago has been the evaporation of said movement. So It's not clear to me which instrument the Left is going to use to exert pressure on the new admin to get out of Iraq.

Nor do most good-thinking liberals I know actually do very much, if anything, to actually contribute to a vigorous American union movement except to pay it occasional lip service from afar. After all, union members rarely run in the same social circles as professional activists. [Present readership excluded! -- J]

By contrast, actual real-life union members are not sitting around moping about Rahm Emanuel this weekend, but less than a week after the election they are already ratcheting up their local and nationwide organization to pressure the Democratic congress to pass the much needed Employee Free Choice Act -- a measure that could radically redraw the face of American labor and dramatically expand the organized and progressive electorate. Let's hope we can gin up some "critical support" for this push from the left field bleachers. | Cooper |


On message with the GOP

Even though a bill supporting [insert issue] was passed by Congress in the last session, and even though the Democrats now have larger majorities, there is no support for [repeat issue] in the Congress, so an Obama administration would be overreaching were it to attempt to make any progress on [issue].


The gold of the early sourdough's dreams

Although Ted Stevens currently holds a lead of approximately 3,200 votes in ballots counted to date in Alaska's senate contest, there is good reason to believe that the ballots yet to be counted -- the vast majority of which are early and absentee ballots -- will allow Mark Begich to mitigate his disadvantage with Stevens and quite possibly pull ahead of him.

The reasoning behind this is simple: some early ballots have been processed, and among those ballots Begich substantially leads Stevens. A tally of Alaska's 40 house districts as taken from Alaska's Division of Elections webpage suggests that Begich has won about 61% of the early ballots counted so far, as compared with 48% of ballots cast on Election Day itself. |538|


Green tooling

More like this please:
Obama: The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces, hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry.

The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

I would like to see the administration do everything it can to accelerate the retooling assistance that Congress has already enacted. In addition, I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States of America. |CNN|

While we're at it, let's replace our broken farm subsidy program with one that subsidizes producers who are small, green and integrated into local and regional distribution networks.

Oh noes, another post about Alaska?

Maybe the fact that Alaskans had mixed feelings about voting for their beloved convicted felon is responsible for what seem to be significant turnout declines in the state. Maybe Dem turnout was down because of the lack of a competitive presidential race. That, or Republicans are trying to steal the election. (Only to turn around and help vote to kick Ted Stevens out of office again? How does that make sense?) |Ambinder|

Let me just say before going any further that I think it's pretty unlikely that the election was stolen in Alaska. The turnout numbers are suspicious, and I'd like to hear more by way of explanation, but my default is always to assume that explanations requiring a conspiracy are less likely than explanations that don't.

That said, Ambinder's parenthetical dismissal of motive is typical of his obtuse brand of analysis. Here, Marc, is how it makes sense. A Stevens victory means that the seat will remain in Republican hands, a Begich victory would have been a pick-up for the Dems.

Honestly, how is it possible to tag your blog as, "A Reported Blog on Politics" and not understand this? Oh that's right, it's called being a moderate.



Stolen election in Alaska?

The real October's Bellman wordcloud

I figured out a way to extract the actual text from the October archive. Here it is:

By contrast, here's October 2007's 2006's Bellman wordcloud, when a nation watched as DR struggled with his clock radio:

Updated! That was indeed from October 2006. Here's the real 2007 one:


[Origin: Old English 'calu' - bare, bald, probably from West Germanic '*kalwaz', perhaps from Latin or Celtic. From young birds with no feathers, meaning extended to any young inexperienced thing or creature (1580)]

Destitute of feathers; naked; unfledged.
An in the leafy summit, spied a nest, Which, o'er the callow young, a sparrow pressed. --Dryden.

2. Immature; boyish; "green"; as, a callow youth.
I perceive by this, thou art but a callow maid. --Old Play [1675].

A recently hatched worker ant.



Last night was a lot more personally emotional than I expected it to be. I didn't know how to write about it then. I was stuck in a hotel room in a California suburb, trying not to cry, feeling alone and foolish and awkward about just how moved I was.

But now I am reading emails from my friends, seeing a ton of text messages from last night that finally hit my phone, and looking at pictures of celebrations that happened just a few miles away in San Jose.

Wow! Now I don't feel so foolish. It was an emotional night.

And not emotional because a Democrat won (although, wow, that's nice). And it's not because a black guy won (although, really, wow).

I think it's because of just how wound up we've all been through the Bush years. It was a dark time in so many ways. America started to resemble the weirdest, most cynical comic-book versions of itself.

And now, for the first time in at least six years, I feel like we're in the real America again... in the America described in my highschool texbooks, the America where we are the good guys, and the America where it's actually possible to get things done.


image credit

About the speech

Commenting on Obama's victory speech last night, James Fallows wrote:
Performance expectations have been higher and higher for Barack Obama's set-piece high-stakes speeches, and so far he has not fallen short even once. This one was delivered with unusual poetic skill. This can't go on forever, but the string continued in a heartening way this evening. |Fallows|

What struck me most about the speech was that Obama all but declared that our nation's motto is, 'Yes, we can.' It's a small thing, but I find it incredibly moving that we've reached a point in our politics where the slogan of an immigrant worker movement can be described as a "timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people."

I mean, damn. It's been a long time coming.

What it all means, in an incredibly narrow sense

Conservative pundits and bloggers may be gnashing their teeth and rending their clothes this morning, but somewhere the big boys--Murdoch, Hannity, and El Rushbo--are smiling and lighting their Cuban cigars. For they know from experience that their business model makes a lot more sense when it's not their guys in the White House.

For a similar reason, I wonder how our beloved progressive blogs will fare. Just as conservative talk radio came into its own during the Clinton years, the netroots was born in the fire of Cheneyism.

If Obama is at all successful as president, I imagine the demographic for Kos, TPM, etc, is bound to condense to a harder-core liberal audience. Many of the blogs may hang up their keyboards, either because their readership is down or just because they no longer have the passion. And, of course, Andrew Sullivan will pivot again, and begin decrying liberal politics almost immediately.

What I'd hate to see, but what I predict, is the zombification of a large portion of the medium. They will shamble onward under their own weight, no longer serving anything but their own survival.

But do not worry about this humble Blog of Record, dear reader. We've been planning for this transition for some time, and I am happy to announce that, during the first Obama administration, The Bellman will be your first, best source for pictures of, and discussion about, alternate hairstyles.




It's 7:04 and... McCain leads 8 EV to 3. I'm not going to panic yet.

7:50 and... South Carolina called for McCain, pushing his lead to 15 EV. Insurmountable? Not yet.

8:02 means Pennsylfuckingvania... And that's a wrap folks, let's go home. MSNBC has it 103-34 Obama.

8:37 and... MSNBC calls both Alabama and Georgia for McCain. I really wanted Georgia. No panic yet, but Obama needs to turn a red state blue here somewhere.

9:02... This isn't the year that Kansas flips.

9:23... The 80 folks here watching the returns at the big bad union office just erupted into a spontaneous a capella rendition of the CSNY classic.

9:47... 200 to 90 Obama and holding. FYI: CA + OR + WA + HI = 77 EV.

October's Bellman wordcloud

Click to make all big and stuff. I love the conjunction of "Republican" and "wrongdoing," as well as the appearance of "party" "time"!

Update: My methodology was poor. This cloud is actually just for the last 25 posts, many of which happened in November. I have an idea for how to do a proper cloud for October...  coming soon.

Do you count? Did you vote?

It took me an hour and four minutes to vote in Ann Arbor's precinct 1-5. We share a polling place with 1-6, but they had no appreciable line.

Meanwhile, in the comments eb (née em) wrote:
What, no post about wait times at the polling place? Or is it still too early for all y'all Texicans and Midwesternerners?

I'd like to report that I arrived to cast my vote around 8:15 NY time and had to wait about half an hour. Lines were messy but possessed of some hidden order. The only glitch I witnessed was a NJ woman who thought she could vote here... the workers swiftly handed her a paper ballot and sent her on her way. By the time I left, lines had roughly doubled in length.

Et tu?

A note for the Obamacons

You say that the Republican Party failed to implement conservatism properly and all of the problems that Republicans have caused can be attributed to ideological impurity. Old Uncle Trotsky had a similar complaint and all it got him was stabbed in the head, but I'm sure that your apostasy will be forgiven by the GOP.

In the meantime, I'm glad to hear that you'll be casting your ballot for a plausible candidate for once. That said, the mere fact that you have abandoned the Republican Party doesn't do anything to redeem your political philosophy. Last time I checked, you opposed reasonable regulation of economic activity and supported a ridiculously aggressive foreign policy. Them dogs won't hunt.

Don't you even try to bring that bullshit into the Democratic caucus! The adults are going to have their hands full cleaning up your mess, and the only way for you to help is to shut the fuck up for a few years. Please do so.

Everything you need to know about the Petumenos report

Petumenos is the investigator appointed by the Palin controlled Personnel Board to conduct an in-house investigation of troopergate. Petumenos has cleared Palin of wrongdoing, but only by the expedient of interpreting the Alaska Ethics Statute in such a way that nothing counts as wrongdoing unless it leads to a financial benefit. This is ground I've covered before.

So, fine. What that leaves is that Palin used the apparatus of the state to pursue a personal vendetta against a low level employee, allowed her husband -- who had not been elected to any office and had no official standing -- unfettered access to the apparatus of the state for the purposes of pursuing that same vendetta, and then engaged in a coordinated campaign to cover-up and whitewash what had been done.

Apparently, lawyers disagree as to whether any of that is illegal. I think that tells you more about lawyers than it does about Palin.



Chuck Todd, who is to the Microsoft Surface what Tim Russert was to the white board, says that the four states to watch tomorrow night are: Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. In his analysis, if Obama wins two of the four, then he's almost certain to win.

The really striking thing, it seems to me, is that he didn't mention Pennsylvania.

November surprise

You people need to take a Zoloft or something. Obama will win, and win big. His grandmother has made the final, ultimate sacrifice for her little Bear. All of those stupid undecided voters conditioned by a lifetime of Hallmark cards and afterschool specials will be wiping away tears as they vote for the big O.

Is anybody else really freakin' nervous?

I am. Really freakin' nervous

I am reading all of these premature "How Obama Won" pieces around the blogs, and it's not making me feel better. Nate Silver is more realistic, and actually quite sobering. This election might be really, really close.

Today's number

According to the ACLU, there are 5.3 million American citizens who are ineligible to vote because they have been convicted of a felony. Of these, approximately four million have served their time and been released.

I wasn't able to find a racial breakdown of that number, but in 2005, African Americans comprised about 40% of the prison population. It seems reasonable to assume, then, that about two million African Americans are ineligible to vote because they have been convicted of a felony.

In 2006, the total number of African Americans of voting age was about 25 million. Really easy math tells us that about 8% of potential African American voters are ineligible to vote because they have been convicted of a felony.

Using the same sources and methods, the comparable result for white Americans is 1.2%. Which means that the rate of ineligible voters is nearly seven times greater among African Americans than among whites.

Now, of course you can say that felons don't deserve our sympathy, and it's your own darn fault if you give up your right to vote, but that really misses the point. Unless you believe that African Americans are seven times as likely as white Americans to commit felonies, then you pretty much have to acknowledge that there is some sort of structural cause here.

At the end of the day, there's really only one question. Is it okay that one out of every eleven African Americans lacks the right to vote? If you're answer is that it is, and that it all comes down to personal responsibility, then you should keep voting for Republicans.

BREAKING: Most undecided voters are stupid

Confidential to Kevin: You live in Nebraska. Just vote for the fucking Republican already.



Let me see if I've got this straight. John McCain is a huckster, the caricature of Sarah Palin will do as well as the real thing for a national TV appearance the weekend before the election, and each and every one of the McCain campaign's arguments is a gimmick. Ok then.

Electoral saving time

This may come in handy later.



Yes, yes, it's awful that McCain has stooped to McCarthyistic race baiting. The real story here, though, is that the McCain campaign is still flailing wildly. The Joe-the-Plumber / Obama is a socialist / anti-tax message of the last two or three weeks has been the only time since the convention that the Republicans have managed to have a consistent message for more than three hours running. It wasn't the greatest message in the world, but it wasn't bad enough to be worth throwing away for the sake of the latest entry in the evil association of the week club.

I mean, honestly, this isn't rocket science. Every campaign needs a consistent message. Obama has been saying every chance he gets for two years that he represents a change from the failed policies of the Bush Administration. It was always a foregone conclusion that Obama would say that the Republican nominee, whoever it turned out to be, represented more of the same.

Against that, John McCain could have had a similarly simple message. He could have said that after eight years of bungling, America needs an experienced leader. He could then have said that Obama, because of his inexperience, could turn out to be another bungler in chief, just like Bush.

Obviously, that message went out the window once Palin joined the ticket. Arguably, that means that picking Palin represented a strategic error. The really inexcusable mistake, though, wasn't that McCain abandoned his message for the sake of a short term bounce. Rather, it's that the McCain campaign hasn't replaced his old message with anything new. I had thought that Joe the Plumber had helped McCain find his footing, but I guess not.
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