Friday, February 29, 2008

Shrine of the Mall Ninja

Best. Superhero. Ever. I think I burned an hour and a half reading this American hero's exploits. I especially love the part where his 3 man team earned the right to carry special weapons by saving the mayor's nephew from being sodomized by the Gap. The blatant sockpuppetry is pretty awesome, too.

The Unforeseen

This looks awesome.


Personally, I thought Fred Armisen was pretty good. There's a legitimate beef here in SNL habitually taking the "token black guy" approach to hiring people of color; this is a problem that goes all the way back to the first season. True, during a couple of seasons in the early 2000's they had Keenan Thompson, Maya Rudolph, and Finesse Mitchell, but Rudolph was the only one who could get parts written for her that weren't "we need a black person here" parts. SNL has had enormous trouble integrating other black comedians into the cast.

That being said, in their current cast they have 3 quality male impressionists, and they're all white (Darrell Hammond, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader). Keenan Thompson just doesn't have a knack for impressions, and quite frankly he doesn't resemble Obama as much as Armisen does, both in terms of looks and disposition.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Get Rich Slowly

Grims has linked to her little corner of teh intarwebs a blog called Get Rich Slowly. I gotta say, it really is a wonderful little blog about money, living within your means, getting out of debt, and long term financial strategy. Thanks to it I've decided to open a high-interest savings account, and have earned in the last month as much as I probably made on my money all last year.

My Very Extraordinary Mother did WHAT?

Who the hell is Ceres? And Eris? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY UNIVERSE?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

FOX's The Moment of Truth

Last night Sap and I were stuck in the TV hell between "How I Met Your Mother" and the River Tam Chronicles, so out of boredom we sat through FOX's lie detector show. We watched a young woman systematically dismantle her marriage on national television. Then, on the following question, she gave the wrong answer and walked away with nothing.

In case you're curious, the last question was "Do you think you are a good person?" She answered yes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Welcome to the EuroOscars!

Hey Academy: hire a frakin' translator already! It's silly and obnoxious to make these Oscar winners from other countries stumble through their acceptance speeches in broken English, and then cut them off after 30 seconds.

Though, even with that problem, I do have to admit it was pretty nice seeing people from non-English-speaking countries getting a share of the little bald guys for once.

And does Daniel Day-Lewis get nominated for every role he plays? Wait, nevermind, that's Jack Nicholson I'm thinking of. Apparently that's why they let him sit in front and strike up conversations with the presenters; they're calling out his name half the time anyway.

I've been wondering if it's just the luster of newness that makes it seem this way, but the Best Actor category has been absolutely stellar the last 3 years. The 3 performances that won-- Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, Forrest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, and, of course, Daniel Day-Lewis this year-- are 3 of the absolute best ones I've ever seen.

But it's not just the winners that are so striking. Here, for instance, are the losers from 2005 (Hoffman's year):

* Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow as "Djay"
* Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain as "Ennis Del Mar"
* Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line as Johnny Cash
* David Straithairn - Good Night, and Good Luck. as Edward R. Murrow

Comparatively, the winner in 2001 was Denzel Washington for Training Day, which, let's be honest, was a make-up Oscar for 1992, when he was robbed out of the Best Actor nod for Malcolm X... by another make-up Oscar (Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman). In 2000 it was Russell Crowe. For frakin' Gladiator.

elections have consequences

So you know all that work Clinton put into lowering not just the deficit, but the ratio of national debt to GDP? The work that consumed nearly his entire second term and that required him to concede significant cuts to the social safety net? The work that exhibited one of the rare true compromises between Republicans and Democrats to achieve something useful in this era of Rush Limbaugh and casual comparisons to Nazis? The work that had us on track to pay off the national debt entirely by 2012?

It's now all gone. Thanks, Mr. MBA President.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

wisdom of the ages

This evening Sap and I were watching Will Smith's tour de force perfomance in "Poor Man's Blade Runner" and we decided to get some Chinese. One of our favorite parts of ordering Chinese is, of course, the fortune cookies, and we had a humdinger of a haul tonight.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Straight Talk Express

It's a funny aspect of the Clinton/Bush era Republican party that the very things they highlight most about themselves frequently turn out to be the most false. Republicans obsessed with family values turn out to be the most sexually deviant ones, while the warhawks tend overwhelmingly to be the same guys who were ducking the draft 40 years ago. Ronald Reagan, dubbed by modern conservatives the "Great Communicator," would freely tell the most comically absurd and demonstrable lies as long as he thought they would have a powerful effect and that no one would dare call him on it, such as that the Russian language has no word for "freedom," or that he personally liberated Nazi death camps, and that's not even counting the big (read: Iran-Contra) whoppers.

So it's strangely fitting that John McCain, to whom Atrios refers as "the Patron Saint of Maverick Straight Talk," turns out to be a positively Reaganesque liar.

change you can replay on VHS

I guess now it's time for us to drop all the "plagiarism" talk and pretend no one ever made such accusations, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NYT: More Americans coming to their senses

Golf is a good walk spoiled. --Mark Twain

It appears that golf is on the decline. The article mentions all manner of possibilities as to why that could be happening, from a quickly crappifying economy to the aging population to the ol' "fat guys don't wanna go outside" angle.

I think I have a more compelling answer: golf blows. I'm sorry, but it's an intrinsically shitty sport, and the drop in number of people doing it shows simply that Americans are finding new things to do and discovering that, compared to their new hobbies and pastimes, golf just sucks.

Golf has to take place outside, so your schedule depends on the weather. This means that if you live north of the Mason-Dixon, it's f**king miserable trying to play for 6 months during the winter. This also means that if you live south of the Mason-Dixon, it's f**king miserable trying to play for 6 months during the summer. And yet, unlike pretty much every other outdoor "sport," you can't even claim you got any exercise unless you walk, which *nobody* does anymore, and which isn't even allowed in many clubs nowadays from what I understand.

Golf is stupendously expensive. Not only do you have to buy hundreds (or more!) worth of equipment, but you have to pay exorbitant green fees to play. And you have to pay it, because golf requires an absurd amount of meticulously maintained space. No makeshift backyard fields for you! No, sir, instead you get to drive outside of town, which is where the closest golf course usually is. Nevermind that golf courses also happen to be environmental disasters both in amount of land wasted and amount of resources wasted just to keep said land manicured. And it's not just expensive in terms of money; golf takes for-f**king-ever to play. As in an average of 4 hours for 18 holes. And that doesn't include the time it takes to drive to the course and back.

Golf is also hell on spouses/children. Golfers are like devotees of any sport, in that they don't just play golf; they have to watch it every time it gets shown on TV. Unlike devotees of just about every other sport, however, their sport is painfully boring to watch, at least for anyone who's not a golfer. Even tennis has things like, ya know, motion, multiple people actually moving on the screen.

Golfers will tell you that one of the reasons they love golf is because it's relaxing. This is what golfers think they should feel because they play in a bucolic wonderland of multi-colored grasses lined with combed, unnaturally shaped sandboxes, but it's pure, unadulterated horseshit. This is what I've learned from watching golfers play every summer since I was a kid: golf is absolutely infuriating. Every hole requires you to hit a tiny ball with near-professional precision 3-6 times in a row, at least once with as much force as you can muster while maintaining said precision, and one miffed swing could leave you a ball short and multiple strokes behind. Putting from more than a couple of yards away, or on any kind of incline, is virtually impossible for people not named "Tiger." And no matter how much you practice, you'll probably never get much better than you were after about a year of playing.

In short, golf is what happens when you teach a Scotsman croquet. This is why we don't televise football in Scotland. The English should have learned when they taught the Irish soccer.

not sufficiently vetted

So McCain had an affair...and with a telecom lobbyist? Ouch. Didn't see that one coming.

Does this mean that John McCain is a threat to traditional marriage?

Anybody got any good phallic jokes about the Straight Talk Express?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

officially done with winter

Sorry I haven't been posting as much. Took a nasty fall on the ice last weekend and have been recuperating, but as I slowly regain motion in the right side of my body I'm sure I'll get back into maintaining this little corner of the wilderness.

In the meantime, anyone want to try to catalog the attacks that have been launched against Obama in the last 48 hours? I guess the GOP is finished with their primary.

Also, I found out this weekend that "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" is, in fact, a good movie.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Revelation of the Day

When Chelsea Clinton was young, she got called a "dog" for being in an awkward puberty stage. When she finally blossomed and became too beautiful to be called a dog, she must've felt pretty happy about beating that rap. That is, until they started calling her a whore instead.

But David Shuster and Don Imus are important media figures who provide "incisive" political commentary.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

are you fucking kidding me?

David Shuster accuses Hillary Clinton of "pimping out" her daughter, and I have to hear about it on the liberal blogs. Debbie Schlussel photoshops little black candy hearts that say, "Obama and Islam forever," and nobody utters a peep.

But Jane Fonda says "the C-word" and the story floats right to the top of my AP News aggregator by the end of the business day, and with the especially prissy lede "Fonda uses vulgar slang on 'Today.'" Perhaps the most telling aspect of this story is that it took about a dozen stories before I could find what she actually said. It's in reference to The Vagina Monologues:
"I hadn't seen the play. I live in Georgia OK," Fonda said. "I was asked to do a monologue called 'Cunt,' and I said, 'I don't think so, I've got enough problems. And then I came to New York to see Eve and it changed my life."

Wow, how dare she say a slang term for a woman's body part while citing the title of a monologue! That B-word!

My dark funnybone is broken at the thought of Jane Fonda getting trouble for saying "cunt" referencing a play that's partly about how people are too squeamish about vaginae.

The media apparently thinks we're children.

NCAA moves to minimize time during game spent playing football

God I hate the NCAA. Basically they're increasing the time between plays from 25 seconds to 40 seconds, which means fewer plays per quarter and more standing around, and a much shorter window of opportunity in the 4th quarter to stage a comeback.

Apparently there were too many exciting last-second upsets last year, and entirely too much potential huddling and standing-with-arms-akimbo time wasted playing football. Excellent work, Rules Committee! Your job here is done.

Chuck Todd does the math

Todd crunches the numbers and tells us what Hillary has to do to catch up.

Howard Dean beats Mark Penn

Yesterday I talked a little bit about Hillary Clinton's big state strategy, whereby she's ceded lots of small states to Obama to focus primarily on the "big" prizes and hoping that they put her over the top. Today we're seeing this strategy bleed over into the rhetorical side of the campaign, which you generally don't want to happen.

Allow me to illustrate. This morning MSNBC let us in on this gem from Clinton's unionbusting campaign architect Mark Penn:
“Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states -- outside of Illinois?”

Wow, thanks Mark! Myself and the other tens of millions of people living between Nevada and Virginia will just file that away with all those coastal elitist jokes about "flyover country!"

Other campaign spokespeople have been dismissing many of Obama's wins because they were in caucuses. From the Boston Globe:
But Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson.

"I want to be clear about the fact that neither campaign is in a position to win this nomination without the support of the votes of the superdelegates,'' Wolfson told reporters in a conference call.

"We don't make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,'' Wolfson said. "And we don't make distinctions when it comes to elected officials'' who vote as superdelegates at the convention. [emphasis mine]

Of course, it's primarily small, western states that hold caucuses, and Obama has swept all but one at this point. Interestingly, it's also small western states that have seen the most drift toward the Democratic party in the last 8 years. Montana elected a Dem governor, a Dem Senator, and turned over one of their statehouses. Colorado has done the same, and is likely to flip the second senator this year. Idaho nearly flipped one of its two House seats in '06, and Wyoming came within a handful of votes of doing the same thing with its one lonely seat. New Mexico, a caucus state that will probably go for Clinton, has a Hispanic Dem governor, voted for Bill and for Al and also has a red Senate seat that's likely to flip blue. Iowa and Missouri went for Bill as well (Missouri is considered especially important in presidential races), and Missouri has flipped a senate seat and may flip their governor this year. Even Arizona, John McCain's homestate, flipped a House seat or two and has a governor who's not only a Democrat but a woman, Janet Napolitano (there's also a woman Democratic governor in Kansas).

Needless to say, small western states have proven themselves to be plenty "significant" in the makeup of Congress and even in presidential elections, even the ones with caucuses. Moreover, candidates up and down the ticket are connected to each other and to the party as a whole; when a presidential candidate shows up in a congressional district, it generally boosts the party's congressional/Senate/local candidate, too, and a solidly built and funded party office will help elect Democrats to the school board and the presidency alike. Nevertheless, the penny wise, pound foolish strategy of ceding entire regions of the country to the other side has been a staple of Democratic groupthink for decades. Remember how crazy Howard Dean was for advocating a "50 state strategy?" In May '05 on CNN, for instance, Paul Begala said about Dean's strategy of, ya know, actually contesting elections in red states:
He has raised $74 million and spent $64 million. He says it's a long-term strategy. But what he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose. That's not how you build a party. You win elections. That's how you build a party.

In the next election, Democrats gained 31 House seats and 6 Senate seats, including House seats in North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada, plus 3 of Indiana's 9 House seats and Senate seats in Montana, Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio.

The Clinton strategy is a perfect representation of so many previous Democratic candidates' strategies, and perfectly illustrates how they managed to lose elections they should have won. How can a Democrat win almost every big state, California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan, and still lose, Mark Penn asks? Hell, just ask Al Gore and John Kerry.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

more on Clinton campaign strategy

I'll say it again: Mark Penn should be fired yesterday. Clinton is an intelligent, deeply knowledgeable, popular Democratic politician married to a wildly popular Democratic president, who is supported by the party establishment and, until recently, was swimming in cash and flying high in the polls. How does she end up having to pick herself up off the floor for the second time in this primary?

She nearly lost the whole match after Iowa and is now likely to lose 10 primaries in a row, and all by at least 19 points. How could this happen?

2 reasons:

1. the inevitability angle: This is a weak argument to base a campaign on, it has a "glass jaw" as Kos says, because it's so easily discredited. You only have to lose one contest to lose this argument. It was particularly foolish for the Clinton campaign because the very first contest in the whole damn schedule was Iowa, where at no point was she consistently ahead in the polls.

Thus, when Obama pulled off a surprisingly substantial win there (though really not that huge, comparatively speaking-- 8%), her entire campaign was endangered and the press started talking up the likelihood of a Kerry-esque Obama sweep. And the polls reflected that until she got lucky with a tearful moment that got such unfair and even misogynistic coverage by the press that late deciders rallied to her. Make no mistake, it was lucky: had Clinton scored 3 percentage points less, or had 1.5% of her voters gone with Obama instead, Obama would've carried the state and, in all likelihood, would have KO'ed Hillary by Super Tuesday.

2. the big state strategy: what was surprising about Super Tuesday was not that Clinton carried CA, NY, and MA--she was supposed to carry those and was leading huge in all of them a week before the primaries-- but how poorly she fared almost everywhere else in the country. The most favorable estimates had Obama winning 10 states out of 22 and hanging within 100 delegates of Clinton; not only did he win 14, but he actually edged out Clinton by about half a dozen delegates. The problem for Clinton wasn't that she lost more states, because they're all proportionally allocated. The problem is that in 8 of the states she wasn't even competitive, allowing Obama to garner over 60% of the vote (in 2 cases over 70%). That's a telltale sign that Clinton ceded those states to Obama and relied on the big 3 to give her overwhelming delegate counts. That would have happened had she not allowed Obama to nickel and dime her to death everywhere else in the country.

Needless to say, Hillary's not done yet, but given her advantages, she should've had this in the bag by now.

Ireland debating switching to the right side of the road

No, seriously.

tell me, have you been experienced?

Clinton campaign people would be wise to listen to Rachel Maddow, who suggests that Clinton could win points by going after McCain, instead of Pat Buchanan, who thinks she should attack Obama.

I'm not suggesting that criticism of Obama is off limits, just that if Clinton wants to prove she can kick conservative ass, she should start doing it.

Clinton's reputation as a bare-knuckled, hard-nosed electoral Amazon is largely just light refracted off of Bill's sheen. Hillary has only been a candidate in 2 elections (both in a heavily Democratic state):

In the first one, she was locked in a dogfight with Rudy 9u11iani, whose mad electoral skillz we all have since been privileged to witness and who didn't even have 9/11 to run on at the time, until prostate cancer knocked him out of the race in May 2000. By the time Rick Lazio was drafted in to finish the race, it was already out of reach.

In her re-election, she put to the knife a sacrificial lamb named John Spencer, a former mayor of Yonkers who was unsupported financially by the national Republican apparatus, whose primary opponent made an independent bid for the seat in the general, who as mayor and despite being a Christian conservative husband with 2 kids had an affair with his chief of staff and tripled her salary, and who said on the radio during the GOP primary that his opponent, Jeanine Pirro, didn't have "a Chinaman's chance" of winning the conservative vote.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama actually have something in common: they're both waging the first real electoral battle they've ever fought right now.

Howard Fineman on delegates

I think he's right. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that, although she's killing Obama in superdelegate count, she cannot rely on them to win the nomination, because she'll be perceived to have "stolen" the nomination from Obama. The party will not allow this to happen.

The second problem for Hillary is that it's looking less and less plausible that she'll finish with more pledged delegates than Barack. Of course, there is still the possibility of her kicking ass in Texas and Ohio, 2 states not renowned for their taste in presidential candidates (though perhaps less likely than Florida to get voted out of the union by the other 49 states), but she has yet to pull 60% in any state but Arkansas. And 60% is likely the minimum percentage she'll need.

Personally, I'm a little more skeptical than Fineman is of the party's willingness to let Hillary win the nomination on superdelegates even if she comes within 20 or 30 of Obama in pledged delegates. Obama's support is as intense as it is widespread; if this nomination thing doesn't appear completely aboveboard, the party will risk alienating independents and red state dems just in time to go toe to toe with John McCain.

It's funny to me that the press is just now starting to figure out how massive of a strategic loss Super Tuesday was for the Clinton campaign. They needed to score a dramatic victory to KO Obama early or at least to counterbalance the following month, and they failed even to match Obama's pledged delegate count. As Kos said that night after Obama reeled in the 8th state by 60% or more (paraphrasing): "I can't believe it. Barack Obama did it. He made California irrelevant." I guess it's like they say: reading blogs is like reading the paper a week before it's printed.

for cat people

War is hell.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Karl Rove gets owned by a high schooler over gay marriage

Hysterical. From ThinkProgress:
Spivak kept pressing. “You never actually answered, how does it threaten anyone?” she asked.

Rove asked, what’s the compelling reason to throw out 5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman?

What, Spivak countered, was the compelling reason for society to allow interracial relationships when they had once been outlawed.

Then Rove invoked the Declaration of Independence before Spivak interjected that its reference to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” seemed to support her claims.

Eventually, Rove wiggled out of the debate by asking Spivak “when she planned to run for political office.”

A nice illustration of how weak the argument is for the other side. I can concede that both sides of the political divide have reasonable arguments for most of their respective positions, even if I think that conservatism has been largely discredited by its abject failure following its widespread adoption in the Bush years. This, however, is one of relatively few issues where the conservative position is not only weak, but it lacks even a defensible rationale.

Then again, rational argumentation was never Rove's forte.

what's wrong with the economy

Here is a good article from the Washington Independent explaining in layman's terms what the hell is going on. At the end, Charles Morris asks the questions that have been bugging me about the government "stimulus" efforts and every solution discussed in business news:
The question is, what are we are trying to accomplish? Do we want consumers to keep on spending and borrowing? Are we hoping over-levered companies will pile on more debt? Are we trying to make house prices go up? Isn’t that why we’re in trouble in the first place?

Monday, February 11, 2008

If McCain were a rapper, he'd be "Tone Def"

A spin-off of the Obama viral video.


I think it's worth discussing just what superdelegates were designed to do. Who are they supposed to benefit, and at whose detriment? What phenomenon are they supposed to offset? Do you really want to offset it?

It's very interesting to me that everyone can see the trainwreck up ahead in Denver due primarily to these superdelegates, and no one seems to have any handy rationale for their existence in the first place. And yet, unless I'm missing something, no one else has bothered to ask what the hell they're for.

My God, is Howard Dean the only person in the entire party who's trying to head this thing off? If Obama gets more pledged delegates but the establishment rallies to Clinton and she wins on superdelegates, which is emerging as the most likely scenario, there will be something between widespread demoralization of the party faithful, and rioting in the streets. The damage that would be dealt to the credibility of our electoral system would be enormous, especially coming just 8 years off of Bush v. Gore. Can you imagine seeing people turn out in record numbers all over the country, shattering all previous records in nearly every state in the union, only to have the winner squelched at the convention by the party leadership?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Patriots season perfect for rest of nation

Some fine gloating from the Onion. My favorite part:
"Did their team plane land safely back in Foxborough?" Colgrave asked. "It didn't happen to lose altitude over Boston, burst into a cartwheel of flames, throwing players like Roman candles across New England, and then slam into few dozen loudmouth Patriots' fans houses? It didn't? Well, I guess no football season is perfect."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

people power

I'm sure you've heard by now that Hillary Clinton had to loan herself $5 million today to stay competitive with Obama. The Obama camp heard about it and launched a fundraising drive to match her loan.

As of 10:00pm on the same day, Barack Obama has raised $5.2 million. In one day.

Yes We Can!

In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. --Barack Obama

Seen this around a couple of places, including at Zee's place. Vote for Obama, because Scarlet and John Legend and Link from the Matrix and that guy in one of those cop shows says so!

But seriously, it is uplifting, and that was an amazing speech.

So was this one yesterday.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

pollsters: who's right?

The polls are all over the place in the various Super Tuesday states, perhaps most of all in the biggest prize, California (go figure), where Zogby has picked Obama by 12 and SUSA Hillary by 10. These, of course, run on the heels of January's primaries, 3 out of 4 having left the pollsters with egg on their face (in fact, the pollsters actually got worse as the season went on, getting NH more wrong than IA and SC more than all of them). Nevertheless, by comparing numbers we may at least get a sense of who's hitting closest to the mark so far.

Iowa: The first caucus finished Obama 38%, Edwards 30%, Clinton 29%. Here's how the big dogs pegged it:
ARG: Clinton 31, Obama 25, Edwards 21
Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby: Obama 31, Edwards 27, Clinton 24
CNN: Clinton 33, Obama 31, Edwards 22
McClatchy/MSNBC/Mason-Dixon: Edwards 24, Clinton 23, Obama 22

Oddly, I didn't find any polling from Rasmussen or SUSA near the primary day, so I'll assume they passed on it. Zogby is the only one who got the order right, but all the numbers are low, including his. Caucuses are notoriously difficult to poll, however, because people often end up supporting their 2nd or 3rd choices. And because caucuses are the stupidest, most irrational way to choose a candidate ever devised. Go democracy, and take individuality with you.

New Hampshire: As you remember, Clinton blew everyone's expectations here, including the pollsters, finishing 39 to Obama's 37 and Edwards' 17.
ARG: Obama 40, Clinton 31, Edwards 20
Zogby: Obama 42, Clinton 29, Edwards 17
Rasmussen: Obama 37, Clinton 30, Edwards 19
CNN: Obama 39, Clinton 30, Edwards 16
USA Today/Gallup: Obama 41, Clinton 28, Edwards 19

No one picked Clinton to win, but CNN, Rasmussen, and to a lesser extent ARG got Edwards' and Obama's numbers right. Zogby and Gallup overstated Obama's support. Looks like Rasmussen missed the least badly (but, ahem, still badly), only picking Obama to win by 7.

Nevada: another caucus, oy. After the voters were sufficiently separated by height and hair color, herded into their respective corners, shoed, tagged, asked to divide 783 by 4, given ceremonial wombat tooth necklaces, and made to burn incense for Gumle, the Great Woodpecker Spirit, they came up with Clinton 51%, Obama 45%, Edwards 4% (ouch!). The pollsters?
Zogby: Clinton 45, Obama 39, Edwards 6
Mason-Dixon: Clinton 41, Obama 32, Edwards 14
ARG: Clinton 45, Obama 32, Edwards 25
Research2000: Obama 32, Clinton 30, Edwards 27

Zogby was impressive in NV, nailing the order and the spread and even getting Edwards within the margin of error. ARG significantly overestimated Clinton's margin of victory (and Edwards' support), while Research2000 was the big loser of the night and I suspect may have accidentally polled Utah instead.

South Carolina: Obama apparently got tired of getting pushed around and cleaned Clinton's clock here, 55 to 27, with Edwards taking 18.
Zogby: Obama 41, Clinton 26, Edwards 19
ARG: Obama 39, Clinton 36, Edwards 22
SUSA: Obama 43, Clinton 30, Edwards 24
Rasmussen: Obama 43, Clinton 28, Edwards 17

By this time, someone at SUSA had finally turned on the news and found out there was a primary going on, but Mason-Dixon is still checked into the Reno Motel 6 with a bottle of Wild Turkey, traumatized by the horror of attempting to peg Obama support in a circus caucus, so they sat this one out. Everyone got the order, and everyone but ARG got Clinton's numbers right (they overestimated it again), and everyone but ARG and SUSA getting within 3 of Edwards' numbers. ARG really botched the spread, predicting a 3-point Obama win (it turned out to be 28) Zogby and Rasmussen got this one closest.

So what did we learn here, kids? Well, despite the great Zogby prediction snafu of 2004, Zogby and Rasmussen have done the best so far, with Rasmussen in fact taking top honors in both of the contests in which they polled. ARG, so far, has been probably the worst.

Zogby and Rasmussen both predict an Obama victory in California, despite other polls (most notably SUSA) who think Hillary will run away with it. It really only matters for media exposure and narratives since Dem primaries are mostly (if not all) proportional representation, but still, there's reason to be hopeful tonight.

Monday, February 04, 2008

right wing mythopoiesis: an example

Here we have a picture from "Fort Apache," starring Henry Fonda (left) and John Wayne (right). Both of these men played manly man roles in the movies, and both also had the opportunity to fight in World War II, being in their mid-thirties at the time.

One of these men, to quote Wikipedia, "enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II, saying, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio."[14] Previously, he and Stewart had helped raise funds for the defense of Britain.[15] [He] served for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee. He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded a Presidential Citation and the Bronze Star."

The other one decided not to participate and never spent a day in the military, opting instead for a family deferral and said fake wars in studios. He later became a strong supporter of McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities and even had producer Carl Foreman black-listed.

Can you guess which is which, and who is who?

Then again, since you're reading this post on my dirty f**king hippy blog, I suppose you can guess easily enough that John Wayne, uber-conservative Republican, famous Vietnam War supporter, and right wing folk-hero frequently cited as "an American patriot" was the second description, while liberal Democrat Henry Fonda chose to put his career on hold to fight the forces of fascism.

a new symbolic moment to beat to death

The Patriots lost. Trip out on that.

Maybe we can finally replace that "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you..." Gandhi cliche. I used to like it; now it makes my stomach churn.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

insurance mandates

What sounds like a decent argument on Crooked Timber. I don't know all the ups and downs of the health care debate, but I get the sense that mandates are a bit problematic. Used correctly, they can potentially bring us closer to universal health care, but if you're talking about making people pay for insurance while providing subsidies to the poor to help them pay, aren't you just taking tax money and putting it directly into the pockets of the very companies that have proven to be utterly unwilling to serve the needs of their customers? If it's actually a government-funded alternative they're paying into, I guess that's better, but there are lots of middle-class people who can't afford health insurance. Will they get subsidies, too?

Possible electoral issues aside, all of this makes one ask: if it's actually a government-funded alternative that you're making poor people buy into, why not just make everyone (i.e., also rich people) pay a progressive tax on it and just sign everybody up, allowing people to purchase additional private insurance if they choose? If they already were paying for private health insurance, then they pay no more than an equivalent amount to the government (in fact, since everyone is paying and is run by the much more efficient Medicare people, they could probably pay substantially less) and can drop their HMO if they so choose.

And if the insurers don't like it, they have a constitutionally guaranteed right to go f**k themselves.

In any case, whether or not mandates are the more "progressive" option is a fair question, but Brian is right that it's pretty foolish to question Barack Obama's progressive cred just because his plan doesn't have them. It is preposterous to suggest that someone with Obama's legislative record is somehow lacking in the liberalism department, especially compared to Hillary Clinton, who, by liberal standards, anyway, is plenty suspect on foreign policy and free speech issues.

I have another issues with this argument as well. It seems to me that doctrinaire, "litmus test" politics are precisely where the GOP lost touch with the American people. They've become so obsessed with the right-left kulturkampf that they're spending whole debates arguing not about the merits and drawbacks of their solutions, but rather merely over who's more "conservative," as if it's a foregone conclusion that the most conservative candidate is the best one, but most Americans don't believe that and would scoff at the very suggestion of it. Every time I hear Mitt Romney say he doesn't think McCain's "conservative enough" or boast that his plan is "more conservative" or when Fred Thompson calls himself "consistently conservative," I roll my eyes because they sound like a bunch of Bolshevik ideologues trying to root out each other's latent capitalism. It's cultish and, I imagine, off-putting to lots of people because people have a sense that, taken that far, ideology often becomes syllogistic and naive. Should we really be arguing over who's the most liberal?

Friday, February 01, 2008

a moment of despair for my country

I held firm in my populism after seeing the lack of reaction to the Bush v. Gore in 2000. I sucked it up 4 years later when 50% of the American people voted to re-elect a man so manifestly unfit for office that I still get the sensation of vertigo when I contemplate his finger on the nuclear button. I'm hanging tough even as Democrats argue with a straight face that independents will vote for Hillary Clinton over John McCain. Hillary frakin' Clinton, people! But that's alright, I could still see how otherwise sensible people can be misguided or swayed by the promise of security sometimes.

And then Meet the Spartans took in over $18 million in box office receipts. So I need a moment to blow off some steam.

In case you weren't discerning enough to tell from the poster or the commercials that this movie was perhaps not the best choice for your $10, you also had the critics, who reacted thusly:
It's so bad even Carmen Electra should be embarrassed. -Adam Graham, Detriot News

It's mind-boggling to imagine that this witless, amateurish mess came from supposedly professional writers and directors. -Frank Lovese, Film Journal International

This was the worst movie I've ever seen, so bad that I hesitate to label it a 'movie' and thus reflect shame upon the entire medium of film. -Josh Levin, Slate

I'm moving to Europe. -Aaron Hillis, The Village Voice

To prove I'm not cherry-picking, the film got a 3% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the top critics gave it a goose egg. That's a zero. Out of 100.

And yet some one and a half million people looked at that movie and thought, "I can't think of anything I'd rather spend my $10 on! At least, anything that's not ether!" I don't know if this is the fault of the American education system or TV or paint-huffing-- perhaps the Power Rangers are involved somehow-- but this is an event far more foreboding than the impending recession or renewed escalation of violence in Iraq.

We can't even secure our borders from such barbarism.

Republican Family Values

Classy. AMERICAblog reminds us that the nominee of the family values party left his disabled wife for a wealthy heiress 17 years his hot, blonde junior.

Needless to say, both Hillary and Barack have opted not to trade up from their age-appropriate first spouses.

"the back of the line"

What does that mean? The Washington Independent, alone among its peers, bothers to deal with the absurdities of the immigration debate.