8/31/08

Sarah Palin is a lying liar

Turns out that the centerpiece of her stump speech is blatantly untrue.
Today, while I watched her hop out of the “Straight Talk Express” bus, and give the second reading of her acceptance speech, one of my fellow viewers said, “You know, I don’t remember her opposing the Bridge.” And it hit me. I don’t remember that either. A quick double-check with the third member of our watch party confirmed our confusion. We all live here. We all watch the news, read the paper, and pay attention to the local political circus, but none of us connected Sarah with her claims of rebuffing the controversial earmark. If you weren’t watching, here’s the quote from her speech:
“I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that Bridge to Nowhere. ‘If our state wanted a bridge’, I said, ‘we’d build it ourselves’.

Reeeeally.

Check out these entries from the Ketchikan Daily News:
“People across the nation struggle with the idea of building a bridge because they’ve been under these misperceptions about the bridge and the purpose,’ said Palin, who described the link as the Ketchikan area’s potential for expansion and growth.

Palin said Alaska’s congressional delegation worked hard to obtain funding for the bridge and that she ‘would not stand in the way of the progress toward that bridge’.
8-8-06

‘We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative,’ Palin said.”
Ketchikan Daily News 9-28-06

For those keeping score, that's three blatant lies that we know of so far. In addition to lying about the bridge, Palin lied about her knowledge of Kopp's letter of reprimand and lied about her involvement in the campaign to pressure Monegan to fire Wooten.

8/30/08

We take a break a short break from trooper gate....

... for this:




My apologies. In my defense, I am drunk

The politics of troopergate

As of this moment, the conventional wisdom is that this isn't a vulnerability for Palin because Wooten isn't a sympathetic character. Obviously, I think this is a lot bigger than Wooten. This is about the arbitrary exercise of executive power.

On the politics, I don't think you can get past the fact that she has publicly lied about the extent of her involvement. This is not even in doubt, by the way, since she was forced to issue a retraction after the DPS produced a tape proving that the governor's office had exerted pressure.

But none of it matters if nobody notices, and if the conventional wisdom rules, then nobody will notice. And maybe nobody will notice most days. But there is an independent commission investigating the firing of Monegan, and the investigator's report is due right before the election.

Regardless of what the report says, the press is going to notice the investigation and they're going to focus attention on the process of the investigation. Palin herself is going to be deposed. Monegan purportedly has emails from the governor, which nobody else has yet seen. I'm telling you, it's a circus.

Maybe that's McCain's idea. Maybe Palin convinced him, in their hours together, that the investigation is a dead end. If it is a circus, and if McCain is standing next to an exonerated Palin on November 4, that could be enough to put his candidacy over the top. Might work. Might be better odds than he'd get in a fair fight.

Utah, I knew Appalachian State, and you sir...

...lead by two early in the second quarter.

...I mean to say, up by five.

...I mean to say, up 12 at the half.

Palin comparison

If you're looking for the definitive wingnut defense of Palin's egregious abuse of power, Flopping Aces appears to be the locus classicus.

The core of the defense lies with two points. First, that Wooten was and is a total dick and second, that Wooten did not face serious enough consequences for his actions. Conceded on both points. Flopping Aces posted a link to the report of the disciplinary hearing (pdf!!) and having read it my opinion is that he got off with a slap on the wrist and shouldn't have.

The question is, what is to be done? One idea would be to work to reform law enforcement so that police forces aren't filled with douchebags like Wooten.

That's not what Palin did. On the contrary, her appointment of Kopp to replace Monegan suggests that she had no interest at all in strengthening the mechanisms by which complaints against Division of Public Safety employees are handled.

Instead, Palin, chose to use the power of her office in an arbitrary one-off crusade to set things straight. That's about as serious an ethical slip as it is possible for a governor to make, and it is hauntingly similar to the arrogant disregard that the Bush Administration has shown for the rule of law.

More executive experience

Palin knew, but appointed him anyway:
Kopp served just two weeks this summer as the head of law enforcement in Alaska, resigning on July 25, after a past complaint of sexual harassment and a subsequent letter of reprimand surfaced in news reports.

But Palin made sure he had a soft fall from grace, giving him a $10,000 severance package for just two weeks served.

While Palin has conceded she was aware of the past complaint against Kopp, she claims that she thought the complaint had been unsubstantiated and was unaware of the letter of reprimand. |TPMMuckraker|

Palin...

I'm going to try to backtrack to what I thought about Sarah Palin before I started looking at Wootengate.

First, I think Robert Farley all but nailed the GOP strategy's gender politics:
The choice of Palin over any number of vastly more qualified women on the Republican side also tells us a bit about how McCain interprets the candidacies of both Clinton and Obama. McCain thinks that Clinton and Obama are both, essentially, affirmative action hires; they rose to prominence not because of qualification or talent, but rather because the one is a woman and the other is black and the Democrats go for that kind of thing. The antidote? A woman; any one will do, since (in the Republican view) you're already throwing qualification to do the job out the window when you eschew a gnarly white dude. |Lawyers, Guns, and Money|

And the only thing I would add to this is that it understates the warm fuzzies that some GOP voters are going to feel when they vote for a woman, any woman. There aren't that many people who want to think of themselves as racists or sexists, and putting Palin on the ticket gives moderately conservative voters an out. Now, instead of fretting about making common cause with the 'no hussein' crowd, they can focus on the fact that they're voting for a woman. As Farley said, it's still a qualification free affirmative action vote, and these voters oppose affirmative action, but there you go.

Second, there's been talk about the way that this undercuts the experience argument, but I think it's even worse than that. The experience argument was, among other things, a proxy for national security. It was necessary, first for Clinton and then for McCain, because Obama's actual views on national security are more popular at this stage than any sort of hawkishness. Once the experience argument is abandoned, McCain literally has nothing effective to say about national security.

Two Americas

While Palin was being introduced to the world at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, today, thousands of miles away in an Anchorage office, Branchflower was preparing to interview principals in the case, French said.|source|


Read the whole thing.

(via)

Executive experience

Palin abruptly fired Monegan on July 11 and later explained she wanted to take the Department of Public Safety in a different, more energetic direction. She replaced him with Chuck Kopp, the former Kenai police chief. But Kopp resigned Friday over questions about a reprimand he received after a sexual harassment complaint lodged against him in Kenai. |source|

8/29/08

Palin's constitutional authority

Palin apologists are saying that Palin had the constitutional authority to fire the trooper, and so did nothing improper. There's a whole lot of wrong in there, but focus on the bare assertion. Does Palin have that power?

Wooten, the employee in question, is a an Alaskan State Trooper employed by the Division of Public Safety. Troopers in Alaska aren't covered by a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement, but they do have a union, the PSEA, and it's clear from the PSEA's grievance update (PDF!) that PSEA represents terminated troopers in arbitration proceedings. That says to me that troopers are not at will employees, but can only be fired for cause.

This is confirmed by Title 2 of the Alaska Administrative Code, specifically by Articles 9 and 10 of Chapter 7.

Article 9 sets the rules for separation and demotion of public employees. Section 415 Dismissal says, in part, "The appointing authority may dismiss a permanent employee for just cause only." Section 400 provides that employees may be suspended with pay while alleged misconduct is investigated, and may be suspended without pay as a result of misconduct. Second, Section 420 says that an employee may be involuntarily demoted "for just cause". Article 10, specifically section 440, sets up an elaborate system of hearings to resolve disputes in cases of suspension, demotion, or dismissal.

Now, I'm no lawyer, and I don't know how this compares to other civil service legislation, but to me this reads pretty straightforwardly as a system in which the governor lacks the authority to fire ordinary state employees.

And, in fact, even insta-astronuts agree:
Monegan alleged shortly after his dismissal that it may have been partly due to his reluctance to fire an Alaska State Trooper, Mike Wooten, who had been involved in a divorce and child custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly McCann.[47] In 2006, before Palin was governor, Wooten was briefly suspended for ten days for threatening to kill McCann’s (and Palin’s) father, tasering his 11-year-old stepson (at the stepson’s request), and violating game laws. After a union protest, the suspension was reduced to five days. |Right Thinking|

North to Alaska

Want to be depressed? Follow this link.

Palin.

Holy crap. Watch MSNBC if you can.

...to continue, I was going write a whole post about the pick now that I'd had awhile to think about it, but the exercise now seems pointless. I'm telling you, this is game over.

I'm sure clips will be everywhere soon, and the story itself has been out there awhile, but basically what happened is that MSNBC got the fired police commissioner on the line and he very calmly laid out the facts and, as they say at the OG, BOOM!

He was extremely credible, to say the least, and the picture he painted was vivid.

There were, he said, 17 calls from the governor, her family, or her staff to him, including two contacts from the governor herself. The purpose of the calls was clearly to get him to fire a trooper, Wooten, who was in the midst of a messy divorce from Palin's sister. The commissioner didn't fire him--the douche, Trooper Wooten, that is--and then the police commissioner was himself fired. That's an abuse of power any way you slice it, and to add insult to injury, she's lied about it repeatedly and publicly.

Whatever you think about Wooten, and he sounds like a dick, this is about the rule of law. As bad as the Bush Administration has been, at least they haven't used the apparatus of the state to pursue personal vendettas.


The important question now is, how long until she's off the ticket?

Palin?

The rumored pick would seem to indicate that McCain is trying to let us know that he's more like Bush the elder than Bush the shrub. On the politics, Palin is credited by the National Review crowd with fighting against the corruption of the Alaska GOP, but at best this is going to mean that she spends a lot of time talking about the corruption of the Alaska GOP. From the point of view of overall strategy, this pretty obviously means that the McCain campaign intends to double down on offshore drilling.

Addendum: I guess the question we're supposed to to be considering is whether Clinton voters will be impressed by McCain's decision to pick a woman. My guess is that this will be seen for what it is -- opportunistic and cynical. It's not as if he picked an equal who would challenge him. No, he picked a lightweight former beauty queen.

Double Plus Addendum: The first line of this post was meant as a reference to Dan Quayle, but I don't think I really sold it. Anyway, I just read that Palin is the same age Quayle was when named to the Elder's ticket, so there you go.

Happy Birthday John McCain!

Other things turning 72 this year include the helicopter, the zippo lighter, and the practice of magnetically recording sound on audio tape. Huzzah!

8/28/08

Bush's Catch 22


So, lets just say the hurricane hits some Gulf community--say, Lynchburg--and hits hard enough to warrant a federal response. What does George Bush do? Does he...

A) ... do the right thing, swing for the bleachers, and pull off a successful response, knowing that this will cement in some people's minds the idea that he didn't respond to Katrina because "George Bush does not care about black people?"

or

B) ... knowing the result of A, decide to pull a Katrina, just to prove he's an equal opportunity fuckup?

or

C) ... try for A but end up doing B out of genuine incompetence?

Discuss.

8/27/08

Why I'm not too worried about old Gus


My NOLA friends all moved inland a couple years ago. Caneys, we called them.

That's the Bill I remember

Is it just me, or was that Bill being bigger than he was on the campaign trail? I liked Hillary's speech last night, but I think Bill hit it out of the park. Discuss.

Wednesday omnibus applesauce reconciliation post

Item: This growing sense among the pundit class that there's something terribly wrong with the Obama campaign {insert: 'for not savagely attacking John McCain' -- dr} strikes me as symptomatic of a cramped way of thinking about effective political discourse. Biden will attack tonight, and that's important, but blood lust isn't the only emotion that the electorate responds to and the Democrats understand that. [3:40 pm]

Item: Damnit, I missed Kansas. [6:17 pm]

Item: I tried to surf around to see how the various outlets were covering the roll call, but I could only find it on C-Span and MSNBC. Fox News is on the floor while it's going on, but it isn't their primary focus. [6:20pm]

Item: I don't know who this person is calling the roll, but she's doing some weird game show announcer schtick and America does not approve. [6:30]

Item: My fellow Americans, The O'Jays! [6:40 pm]

Item: Fox News just floated the idea that Barack Obama might nominate Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court. [7:30 pm]

Item: Finally. Jesus. Pursuant to rule c-11!!! [10:19 pm]

Item: To expand on the blood lust point, it's relevant here that the pundit class is made up largely of white dudes and is amplifying the talking points of a white dude dominated political party. I'm telling you, if I'm a serious Democrat and I'm looking for votes, white dudes are not my base and my theatrics aren't going to be aimed at them. [11:28 pm]

8/26/08

dnc

Item: Anybody catch Spike Lee being interviewed on the convention floor? He was with the Indiana delegation, I think. I also think he was soused.

Item: The media sharks are thirsty for blood and wish Warner had lit into McCain. Speaking as a jet, my view is that Warner's speech reminded me of the best parts of Clintonism.

Item: Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty, John Tesh. Quite the star studded soundtrack for the Hillary Clinton tribute video, but now that she's on stage I can't identify her theme song. It's no equal to the old standby.

Item: Pluck! Pluck! Sarcasm is really the only way to break through when a politician is that good at hitting the heart strings.

Item: What law says Joe Biden can't wear a nice hat? "Obama, Biden, and a hat!" There's a slogan you can win with.

How would you feel about an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the terror of a coward?

Something Dave wrote down at the OG makes me think that maybe there's room for a more serious attempt at compromise on efca. As Dave has argued elsewhere, the nub of truth in the anti-efca narrative is that there are unions that operate with little or no regard for the wishes of rank and file membership. Follow the link to his post for a vivid example.

So here are two problems. On the one hand, it is too difficult for workers who desire to bargain collectively to organize themselves into recognized unions. On the other hand, it is too easy for unions to adopt governance practices which leave very little room for rank and file participation in decision making.

There is a well justified tendency in the progressive parts of the labor movement to think about this question introspectively. We focus on our own locals or, if we are thinking about labor more broadly, on reform movements within labor and the institutions -- Labor Notes comes to mind -- which support them.

But are there structural reforms that would encourage democratic union governance, and would it be possible to bring about those reforms through legislation? This is a really difficult question because when you're talking about a democratic union, what you're really doing is talking about a set of interrelated institutions that operate at different levels of scale, and which have different kinds of decision making structures. One approach would be to encourage democratic governance by pushing power closer to the rank and file membership. A series of reforms aimed at this goal might include limiting the size of locals, forcing unions to keep most dues at the local level, and strengthening the financial reporting requirements on locals.

I'm all for local control, so it sounds good to me. The bug in the batter, though, is that it's politically impossible for the straightforward reason that the national federations aren't going to trade away their power for card check. I'm sure they'd tell you that it would be imprudent.

Got any better ideas?

Don't save the whiteboard for election night

Talking heads keep telling me that Barack Obama should be doing better in the national polls, but they're looking at the wrong race. Just as the real race during the primary season was the campaign for delegates, the real race now is the campaign for electoral votes. In that arena, Obama has been methodically and effectively moving states toward his side of the ledger. I wouldn't say that he's got the race won, but the campaign has built a strong position.

What a difference a weekend makes

Compare and contrast these GOP talking points that framed the weekend:

Friday: By making fun of John McCain's inability to remember how many houses he owns, Barack Obama has opened the door to the McCain campaign's use of the Rezko scandal.

Monday: Whatever the Obama campaign accomplished tonight, they didn't do any damage to John McCain, so it was a wasted day.

8/25/08

A note on style

If you must wear purple, do not wear a cape.

Addendum: I've finally figured out who that was. Norah O'Donnell. I see that she's replaced fellow empty suit David Gregory as MSNBC's Chief White House Correspondent. This leads to obvious questions. Could Gregory pull off a cape? Would he even try?

How good was Michelle Obama?

Doesn't matter. How good were the kids? Juan Williams and Brit Hume are both tearing up on Fox News.

Kennedy

BOOM!

I'm telling you, by the time they get done running the ads cut from that speech nobody born before 1952 is voting for anybody but Obama.

oh yeah: speaking of the dnc, check out the OG.

Behind the gap

Maybe it's worth taking a few minutes to think about the so-called experience gap. Barack Obama is 47 years old. He has been nationally prominent since 2004, and had been growing in prominence in Illinois for awhile, having been in the state senate since 1996.

Stop there for a minute. Even before he arrived on the national stage Obama spent eight years in the Illinois state legislature. That's twelve years in electoral politics and twelve years as a legislator. I don't think you can look at Obama's performance in either area and conclude that he hasn't been at this stuff long enough to figure out how to do it. But Obama has no experience, so whatever it is that he got out of those twelve years, that doesn't count.

Okay. Moving along. What was Obama doing before he began frittering away his time playing at politics? Well, one thing he was doing was lecturing on Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago's Statement Regarding Barack Obama is worth quoting in full:
From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

One thing that jumps out here is Obama's course load during his 12 years on the faculty of the University of Chicago School of Law. For those outside of the academic community, this would be somewhere between a one third and a one half time appointment. It's comparable to the course load that a well funded academic department might assign a tenure track professor - a significant amount of teaching, but with enough uncommitted time remaining to pursue other responsibilities. A tenured or tenure track faculty member would be expected to use that time to conduct research. Obama led a record setting voter registration project in 1992, married, practiced civil rights law from 1993-2002, wrote an acclaimed autobiograpy, fathered two children, served eight years in the state legislature, and ran a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. So he keeps busy.

The second thing that jumps out is that this is the University of Chicago School of Law. This is an elite school at a near-the-top-of-the-world class university and Barack Obama has declined offers of a tenure track position. Obama landed this job in his early thirties with a cv that includes a J.D. from just about the only law school better than the University of Chicago (graduating magna cum laude no less) and a turn as President of the Harvard Law Review.

But Obama has no experience, so none of this counts. He's a lightweight. A guy who hasn't achieved anything. All style, no substance. A pointy headed perfesser at best, and who likes them?

Okay. Moving along. What was Obama doing before he retreated into the asceticism of the ivory tower? Well, he knocked around for a few years in the NYC, working for a PIRG and dropping a toe in the corporate world. Then he moved to Chicago and spent several years as a community organizer directing one of those faith based organizations that you hear so much about. But Obama has no experience, so none of that counts either.

Okay. Moving along. Please enjoy this video.

Yes we can


Where Are The Dogs Humping.com

8/24/08

The stealth campaign

It's not really that stealthy, but since I haven't heard much about it through my usual sources, I thought I'd draw attention to this.

Via:

Obama supports my right to kill my baby should it be born alive in an abortion. Hands off my body Republicans

Posted By: Debbie | August 22, 2008 at 11:03 AM


Update: The payoff. "Barack Obama...was responsible for living babies being left out to die." Wo0t!

8/23/08

Joe Biden

Discuss.

8/21/08

8/19/08

He tried to match the ranger with the big iron on his hip

"John McCain shoots from the hip, while Barack Obama is thoughtful" loses to "John McCain is a leader, while Barack Obama is a professor", and not just because of anti-intellectualism. The intended contrast of the first is between recklessness and prudence, but that message is so dominated by the competing contrast of action with inaction that it can't possibly get through. Put it all together and Obama settles comfortably into the frame as an ineffectual professor matched against a shoot from the hip leader. Point McCain.

8/18/08

Cultural differences

The track for the women's triathalon looks to be located in a drainage ditch similar to the one behind my dad's old apartment in Houston. The Houston ditch was needed to carry runoff from the immense parking lot of Memorial City Mall. Not sure what drains through the Chinese ditch.

8/17/08

I have come here on a pious pilgrimage to one of the numerous lands of my fathers

Let it not be said that the Obama campaign is above hitting below the belt. They've got an attack ad in rotation here in Michigan -- during FOX News Sunday no less -- that, while completely fair on the merits, doesn't shirk from pushing hard on voter fears that McCain is too old for the presidency.

The premise of the ad is set by a quote of John McCain saying that the economy is fine. You then get a parade of regular people who aren't fine -- a veteran who can't find a job, a working class man dealing with inflation, a middle aged woman calmly expressing anger. The message is clear, John McCain is out of touch.

But why is John McCain out of touch? As the ad ends, the same John McCain quote is played again. And this time you can't help hearing how tired McCain's voice sounds. He's tired of explaining this same thing to you again, sure, but mostly he's just downright dog tired. Just look at him there in that picture. The man is worn out. Old. Old and out of touch. John McCain.

8/16/08

I like a prizefight that isn't fake

You say you want trampoline in the Olympics, I say whatevs. But why is trampoline its own event instead of just another gymnastics apparatus?

8/15/08

Good riddance to buzz rubbish!

'nuff said.

Bad idea Friday


I give you the air car. It runs on air, and the only fuel it uses is for a small compressor. In order to make this work, tanks of compressed air are located under the floor of the car. Sounds promising, except that compressed air tanks have a tendency to explode, cars have a tendency to be involved in traffic accidents, and traffic accidents have a tendency to be made worse by explosions.

Aruspicy

It has apparently become conventional wisdom that whoever Obama picks as VP, it can't possibly be anyone who has already been assigned a speakers slot at the convention. The reasoning, as far as I can divine it, goes like this:

1. There is a speaking slot reserved for the VP.
2. No person could conceivably speak twice at the Democratic convention.
3. Thus, anyone already assigned to a speakers slot is ipso facto not going to be the VP nominee.

I call bullshit.

In the first place, I don't see any reason why someone couldn't speak twice. It would be a departure from what has been done in the past. So what?

But there's also a covert assumption here that strikes me as pretty implausible. That assumption is that the speaking schedule could not possibly be modified. But why couldn't it be? No reason that I can see.

As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the conventional wisdom has the significance of the schedule precisely backwards. When I look at the speaker's schedule, what it suggests to me is that the pick is likely to be Biden, Bayh, or maybe even Richardson. This is because all three are already set to speak on the same day the VP nominee address is scheduled. Which means, among other things, that moving any of them into the VP speaking slot wouldn't require much schedule shuffling.

8/14/08

Four more wars! Four more wars!

From the fever swamp:
1) Russian officers are drunk, slow, lazy thieves and are no match for any Western professionals. Their relative success is due purely to Georgian military incompetence, like the failure to block the roads and organize tank ambushes in the mountainous terrain perfectly suited for such operations. Even so, the Georgians managed to down several Russian aircraft and that should present a clear picture of the pathetic condition of the Russian air force.

2) The current Kremlin dwarfs (whichever one is really in charge) are no Hitlers or Stalins, but paper pushers who won the lottery and who, most likely, will not risk a real military confrontation with the West. They will however continue probing to sense weaknesses and to search for small victorious engagements to entertain the revenge hungry masses.


Addendum: Relatedly, you may have heard about wingnut efforts to turn this into another front on the war on terror. As often happens, Yglesias has the defninitive takedown:
In Iraq too, the Kremlin’s projection of power down through Georgia will soon be felt. Take another look at the map. If Russia is allowed to extend its reach southwards, as in Soviet times, down the Caucasus to Iran’s borders, Moscow can support Iran in any showdown with the West. Iran, thus emboldened, will likely attempt to reassert itself in Iraq, Syria and, via Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

This is crazy and paranoid, but also ignorant. The former Soviet Republics of Central Asia already have friendly relations with Moscow — Georgia, the Baltics, and the current regime in Ukraine are trying to get out of the Russian orbit, but the ’stans largely aren’t. But beyond the specific details it’s the constant paranoia and hysteria of the right-wing that really comes through here — the entire American position in the world turns out to hang on the narrow thread of Georgia exercising effective sovereignty over South Ossetia and/or Mikhail Saakashvili’s ability to hold onto power in Tblisis. Nevermind that before he took office, nobody thought him taking power was especially vital to American interests (as opposed to, perhaps, the citizens of Georgia’s interest in democratic elections) or that it’s not clear why the fact that Georgia touches Iran would magically alter the nature of the US-Iran-Russia relationships. |Yglesias|

As I indicated above, this all seems correct. The only thing that I would add is that it's important not to underestimate the strategic vision of the neocons. Consider what would happen if, once a fairly durable cease-fire had been established, the U.S. used this opportunity to negotiate a deal with Georgia to base American troops there. Like magic, Iran and Russia would find that their security concerns suddenly dovetail. Rising tensions would, naturally, be taken as evidence that the neocons were right all along.

Medal counts

First thing first. The medal count, as a practice, is straight up stupid and nobody should pay any attention to it. That said, contra Bob Costas, the fact that the China has won only one more total medals than the USA (32-31) would only indicate that the medal count is close in cases where China had not won twice as many (20-10) gold medals.

8/13/08

Oh, Canada

Switched over to CBC for men's gymnastics because NBC's coverage was so jingoistic and heard this about a Canadian gymnast, "he's having a great competition, scored 15 on the vault, which was a higher score than some of the other athletes."

Smart game Wednesday



This is pretty fun.





8/12/08

The human drama of athletic competition

My standard Olympic complaint usually applies no matter who buys the rights to the coverage. It goes like this:
The Olympics is an incredible sports festival. There are enough sporting events, in fact, that whichever network buys the rights could fill their entire schedule for the duration of the Olympics with nothing but coverage of sporting events. Instead, what we get is hour after hour of fluffy human interest stories with the occasional event final thrown in if there's a chance that an American might win. I understand that there are people who tune in to watch that sort of thing, and I don't generally have a problem with those sorts of people having access to their preferred flavor of drivel, but goddammit, the Olympics are a sporting event and the focus ought to be on the constant variety of sports.

Not mentioned, but maybe implicit, in this critique is the thought that the conventions of Olympic broadcasting made a lot more sense before the cable age. When most everyone was limited to three or four channels, it made sense for the networks to pander to the common denominator among their potential audience. Sports fans would tune in because at the end of the day its the Olympics. The problem for the networks was to attract those viewers who would as soon see the opening scenes of Heidi as watch the final moments of an athletic competition.

For the last 20 years, though, pandering to the common denominator has been a recipe for irrelevance. The explosion in the number of channels, even on basic cable, means that narrowly targeting a particular audience is a better strategy for success than is trying to be unobjectionable to all viewers.

Which brings me to the fact that the coverage of this Olympics seems to be different. I'm sure it's partly due to time zones, and 25% due to the fact that I live in a border state, but my experience so far is that there are always at least two, and often as many as four, channels broadcasting the Olympics. Of those four, only NBC ever runs those puff pieces. Right now, at 3:30am, I've got a choice between swimming on NBC and whitewater canoeing on USA. CBC and MSNBC were, until 3, also providing coverage. Naturally, I'm watching Starship Troopers.

8/11/08

Obama and O.J.: Here we go

In today's edition of Great Moments in Wingnut America, D.R. Tucker says that--win or lose--having a black man on the ticket will be kinda like when O.J. was declared not guilty. 

Monday morning politics

I didn't mention it at the time, but I was struck by something about Obama's response to McCain during the tire pressure dust up. Here's what Obama had to say:



The punditocracy got a good laugh out of the proud-to-be-ignorant remark, and of course this sparked another round of backlash rope-a-dope[1], but what really got my attention was that Obama used the L word. Just before getting into his explicit defense of the idea of inflating your tires, Obama says, "One, they know they're lying about what my energy plan is."

And then, this weekend, the Obama camp released this web video which goes through a McCain attack ad point by point before reaching the conclusion that, "In short, this ad is a lie."

It seems to me that this is a watershed, and I'm surprised that it hasn't been remarked upon. In 2004, some members of the Democratic base called on the Kerry campaign to make an issue of the pervasive dishonesty of the GOP machine, but they were roundly rejected. Tom Friedman even went so far as to write a column arguing that liberals should avoid calling Bush a liar because doing so would coarsen our political discourse and undermine the electorate's trust in government. I disagreed with Friedman then, and nothing since has changed my mind.

It's refreshing to see the Obama campaign break from past practice here. For too long, Democrats have let the pundit class talk them into trying to fight the GOP slime machine with sugar, spice, and comity. I don't know that it's necessary for the Obama campaign to climb all the way down into the mud[2] in order to win, but they do need to at least make sure that the low road has speed bumps. It looks like they're ready to do that.

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1 -- Holbo's must-read post does a good job of identifying and explaining this strategy. Holbo is talking specifically about race card rope-a-doping, but his point seems generalizable.

2 -- Unless, that is, framing McCain as old, cranky, and out of touch counts as dirty politics.

8/9/08

Women's ten meter air rifle

Really?

Fencing

Item: Zagunis!

Item: I can't help but wonder: do those fencing masks filter the air at all?

Item: Fencing is one of those sports that it's best to get out of the way early, don't you think?

Item: Coincidentally, I assume, just this evening I found myself wondering how the epee could possibly have found its way into any nation's armory.

Item: Jacobson is the Monica Seles of fencing.

Item: Oh. I guess everybody is the Monica Seles of fencing. My bad.

Item: Apparently, the announcers are required to say, "Jacobson is very analytical. A Yale graduate" once per match. Anyone surprised to learn that our best fencers are Yale graduates? Howzabout, anyone surprised to learn that our best fencers are the children of Yale graduates?

Item: Not for nothing, I think fencers are among the last true amateurs.

8/7/08

Maybe 100 years

"Foolishly she continues to try to assert her control over the remote. This is a battle that will continue for a long time."

- John McCain, on control.

Dumb game Thursday


Zombie survival quiz. I would survive, apparently. How about you?

8/5/08

Bachelor living

I think I learned how to make a new sound this morning.

8/3/08

The race card card


An interesting sequence of events. First, the McCain Campaign, in the context of a week long ad blitz that has been demonstrably deceptive on each of its major themes, unleashes an ad that invites viewers to associate Obama with young white women who are famous for being overhyped, vapid, and sexually promiscuous. Second, it immediately becomes conventional wisdom that it would be the purest fantasy to suggest that the creators of the ad might have cynically chosen imagery that played to the repressed racist core of the GOP's wingnut base. Third, Obama, while discussing the McCain campaign's descent into the mud, remarks that, "They're going to try to say that I'm a risky guy, they're going to try to say, 'Well, you know, he's got a funny name and he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills." Fourth, the McCain Campaign announces that Obama has "played the race card." Fifth, it is immediately accepted as conventional wisdom that Obama has played the race card and that this is a very bad thing which must be admitted and repudiated.

Addendum: And now I'm watching Clarence Page on MSNBC and he's being riduculed for suggesting that the McCain ad has racial overtones. Meanwhile, it continues to be taken as obvious that 'looks like a president' has clear racial content.

Double Plus Addendum: Holy crap! Page may have won the argument.

(image via)

8/2/08

An important internet survival skill for the future

If you don't like something online, just don't look at it. Web celebs, trolls, trashy blogs, and Web 2.0 blowhards run on attention and if they're denied that, they'll go away.

The link is to Kottke, which should know about these things, and, by the way, is where I first ran across buzzfeed.

8/1/08

Seriously fantastic news: solar power for everything

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."
...
The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.
...
Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

Maybe time to start selling oil short?

(link, via boingboing and every other website I visited this morning)
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