Tuesday, September 30, 2008

support the troops: send them off to die

John McCain released an ad today denigrating Barack Obama's patriotism, accusing him of "voting to cut off funds for our troops." Aside from the logical implications of that accusation which I've covered in more detail on numerous prior occasions, I would like to point out that John McCain is the last person with any right to Barack Obama on this point.

You see, back in the '90's we had a little mini-conflict with Somalia, and it didn't go well. In this case, you may remember, the war eventually ended because the Republicans passed an amendment to cut off funds. Guess who introduced that amendment?

Monday, September 29, 2008

that was REAL?!

I didn't realize that Tina Fey's nonsensical bailout answer was a pretty close parody of a real answer Palin gave.

Holy God. And Howard Kurtz is now claiming that CBS has two more segments to show, and they're both going to be embarrassing as well. Kudos to Katie Couric: say what you will about her job anchoring CBS News so far (and believe me, I have), she has exposed Sarah Palin in a way that no other interviewer has, and her ABC competitor Charles Gibson got the first crack. This interview may save Couric's career at Palin's expense.

Against my better judgment not to try to lower expectations for Palin, I can't help but get a little more excited about the upcoming VP debate. This woman is an absolutely trainwreck of a candidate.

The cautious approach would be for Biden to give her a pretty wide berth, referring to her merely as "Governor" (when he addresses her at all) and avoiding any appearance of bullying, denying her an opportunity to win any pity points. She's clearly a "just give her enough rope to hang herself" kind of candidate. That's how you win the independents, and it's almost certainly what Biden's going to do.

There's also a part of me, however, that says you don't go easy on a clearly uncomfortable novice and give them the chance to gain their footing; you pressure them and knock them off balance and make them make a mistake. It's a risk because Biden comes off looking like the bad guy if she doesn't crack under pressure, but it also dramatically increases the chances of her making a serious mistake on national TV. Biden can always deflect some of the heat he would take for not going easy on her by turning the GOP's own anti-Obama and -Clinton argument on her: "This shows how irresponsible John McCain is in picking such an unqualified running mate. If she can't handle me, how on earth could she handle Putin?" (just stay away the old "politics ain't beanbag" aphorism, since the complete statement is, in fact, a sexist dismissal of women in politics). The image of Palin as hopelessly unprepared for the job is already congealing in the public mind; with the right strategy and execution, Biden could sink not only the McCain campaign, but her political career.

debate consensus: Obama won

The initial polls show Obama looking more likable, in touch, and presidential in the first debate. This one was supposed to be John McCain's best one. James Fallows highlights a difference in strategy between the two candidates that gave Obama the upper hand, specifically that Obama actually had one while McCain's only focusing on the short term.

Of course, it doesn't help when you can't even maintain composure enough to refrain from saying "horseshit" in the middle of a nationally televised debate:

Perhaps not coincidentally, this weekend Barack broke 50% in three of the big five national polls (including Gallup) for the first time.

the Couric interview makes SNL

That can't be good for the McCain campaign.

On Saturday, Sarah Palin also became the latest public figure to agree with Obama's position on attacking terrorist camps in Pakistan. Woopsy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

new website showing 50 years of campaign commercials

Fascinating. www.livingroomcandidate.org allows you to view presidential campaign commercials going all the way back to Eisenhower.

I looked at some of the 1992 Clinton/Gore commercials, and one thing has become abundantly clear: we are a more liberal country than we were back then. Bill Clinton '92 would have been the most conservative candidate in the entire Democratic primary this year, and probably the most of any of the '04 crowd as well. Most of his commercials are geared toward cutting taxes, punishing criminals (prominently noting that he supports the death penalty), and "ending welfare as we know it."

16 years later, Barack Obama can openly attack his Republican opponent for not supporting "a woman's right to choose," and both candidates are trying to out-green each other, with frakin' T. Boone Pickens trying to outdo both of them!

Then again...

more bailout substance: the best so far

Here is Brad DeLong explaining the financial crisis in an understandable yet comprehensive way, and it actually does make me feel a little better about the bailout. I'm still not sure why that money can't go to homeowners, but it at least doesn't look like a total boondoggle anymore.

the rollercoaster never ends

McCain's coming off a terrible week where his weakest issue became priority no. 1 for the press (the economy), his running mate got humiliated at the hands of Katie Couric, his desperate political stunt failed miserably and is being lambasted by the media, and Barack Obama has retaken and doubled his lead in a week. Furthermore, he now has to face a well-prepared Obama at a debate that, by all accounts, McCain didn't spend any time preparing for. The stage is set for McCain to underperform and for Obama to hamstring him and finally start pulling away in the polls.

Which is why I have every confidence that McCain will do fine, the media will call it a win for him, and the polls will tighten yet again, dragging on this damn race. I'm going to have ulcers by the time we decide this thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alaska: it's where Putin's air force invades from

I almost feel sorry for her.

Watch CBS Videos Online
Sweet Jesus this woman is an idiot.

drama and gamesmanship: McCain makes his play

And there it is:
McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham tells CNN the McCain campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the VP debate, currently scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 in St. Louis.

10-gallon tip to Grimsaburger for finding it. Katie Couric interviewed Sarah Palin on CBS News last night and it, uh, could have gone better.

She's scheduled to debate Joe Biden one week from today. Honestly, what would you do if you were John McCain?

Sarah Palin is the real reason for McCain's antics. As she botches each scrupulously chaperoned interview and as the VP debate looms larger, it's become clear that Palin just isn't "ready for prime time." She doesn't know anything about, well, anything, and the Crazy Train's completely unjustified insistence that she's some sort of expert on energy policy is likely to be exposed for the fraud that it is when she goes toe to toe with Biden. Young candidates new to the national stage have not typically done well in the VP debate (think Edwards vs. Cheney and Quayle vs. Bentson), and she has even less experience in national politics than the other guys did. They essentially have to hope that Biden puts his foot in his mouth, because that's the only way she's going to come out of that debate looking like she has any business on a national ticket.

And then there's the minor issue of this week's cover of the National Enquirer, in grocery store checkout lanes across the nation. Normally that wouldn't be that big a deal for the candidates, but people are suddenly paying the Enquirer more attention since it was so publicly vindicated in its reporting of Edwards' affair.

I wonder if McCain is starting to regret his VP decision yet. He will by the time this is over, mark my words.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the National Enquirer and its suddenly sterling reputation

When the Enquirer, and only the Enquirer, was reporting Edwards' affair, right wingers suddenly started talking about how the publication actually vets their stories pretty scrupulously. "They win lawsuits," said Jonah Goldberg.

And now liberals are saying the same thing, as the Enquirer's new story is:
In a world exclusive The NATIONAL ENQUIRER names GOP VP Candidate Sarah Palin's secret lover!

No less than three members of the man’s family including one by sworn affidavit have claimed that Sarah Palin engaged in an extramarital affair with hus­band Todd’s former business partner, Brad Hanson.

These sources have named Hanson as Palin’s secret love, and say their affair nearly wrecked both their marriages.

Hanson owned a snowmobile dealership with Palin’s husband Todd, who immediately dissolved the partnership after he heard stories about the affair, which occurred around 1996, according to the sources. At the time, Palin was mayor of Wasilla.

As I've said several times before (and generally been correct), I do not believe that God loves us this much. The McCain campaign threatened to sue several weeks ago, but my inner hopemonger points out that the Enquirer has chosen to publish the story anyway, implying that they believe they really have the goods.

No. It can't be. I do not believe God loves us this much.

drama and gamesmanship

A statement from the Obama campaign:
At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if
he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared
principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress
and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a
proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator
Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The
two campaigns are currently working together on the details.

John McCain, not to be outdone, takes this idea and runs it off a cliff:
Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me.

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.

I'm sorry, but what "action" will McCain be taking at 9pm on Friday night that necessitates canceling the debate? Furthermore, what action will he be taking at all, considering the full senate doesn't touch this matter until the Banking Committee decides on a bill to send to the floor, and neither Barack Obama nor John McCain are on said committee?

And I wonder, is this going to be an excuse to dump the VP debate?

A politically motivated overreaction that's totally lacking in perspective. That's leadership, John McCain style.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bernanke's boondoggle

Matt Yglesias:
I just heard Ben Bernanke saying that there should be no “punitive measures” for companies that participate in a bailout because that might discourage firms from participating. But that would be the point, right? That if some measure of bailing out is truly necessary then the money will be provided, but it shouldn’t just become handouts for bankers. Punitive measures mean that only firms that genuinely have no alternative will enter into the program, and their corrupt or inept managers will be duly punished. Firms that would merely prefer free money to no free money will, by contrast, stay out of the program and avoid punishment but suffer some financial loss. What’s the problem with that?

I thought this was about saving the banks from imminent mass bankruptcy; why would they possibly consider "not participating?" If saying "no thanks" and holding onto Big Shitpile is a legitimate alternative for the banks, what are we bailing them out of?

Consider also this article from the Wall Street Journal (c/o TPM):
"We're opposed to adding provisions that will affect [or] undermine the deal substantively," said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, whose members include the nation's largest banks, securities firms and insurers.

A deal killer for the group: a proposal that would grant bankruptcy judges new powers to lower the principal, interest rate or both on a mortgage as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

A deal killer? Since when was this a deal? We're giving free money to banks, supposedly to save them from annihilation, and they're giving us conditions on which they'll accept the money?

I'm becoming more convinced by the day that we may be going about this all wrong, and that these 2 former investment bankers running the Fed and Treasury are looking at this crisis with a banker's priorities in mind. If all these write-downs at the end of the day, all the mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps and whatnot, are caused by mortgages that are going unpaid, shouldn't we maybe consider taking that $700 billion and using it to help people pay their mortgages? I mean, if the choice is between those who made stupid buying decisions and helping those who willfully conned them into taking on debt they couldn't handle, who would you help? Or perhaps, alternatively, setting up a sovereign wealth fund to invest in those banks rather than just a handout, thus entitling us to dividends if the banks start making money with that new capital?

And why $700 billion? How can Paulson be so sure when he's been so abjectly unprepared and unable to see this crisis coming? Why should we have any confidence whatsoever in his judgment?

UPDATE: I discovered after I wrote this that Bernanke comes from academia rather than Wall Street. For some reason I thought they were both from Goldman Sachs.

where to from here?

Here's a good post on dKos on the problems and decisions now facing the Fed, the Treasury, and the government.

Monday, September 22, 2008

a little substance

Here's a decently meaty primer on the Wall Street meltdown, courtesy of TIME. Another very good, if perhaps a bit tinfoil-hatty, retrospective here.

And another one, short and sweet, c/o Princeton econ professor Paul Krugman.

the banking bailout, brought to you by The Office

Think of Dwight as Secretary Paulson and Michael as Congress, and just about everyone else, and "Emergency Disaster Mode" as the current bailout legislation.

As happens many times when the Bush Administration starts yelling, "DO IT. DO IT NOW. 3, 2, 1...5, 4, 3, 2, 1...DO IT. NOW. SHAKE MY HAND...," a voice in the back of my head keeps whispering that things never seem to work out as planned when they do this, and we spend the next 6 months finding all the little hidden gems they buried in the legislation (see USAPATRIOT Act). If the bailout is not going to deal with the structural problems that led to this meltdown, not going to rain hellfire down on those responsible, and yet is going to be enormously expensive, why should it pass?

good question

One reader writes in to TPM:
Considering as how the proposed Wall Street bailout will be one of the most intensely lobbied efforts in American history, will there be anyone left to manage John McCain's campaign?


the PAC-1

So what's all this I hear about the PAC-10 being one of the two elite conferences in football? After they went 0 and 4 against the Mountain West Conference last week, including losses for top-tier teams UCLA, Arizona St., and Cal, Oregon hands Boise St. their first road win against a BCS team. Ever.

the Emmys

Apparently it has Tina Fey on the brain. It also, apparently, looked at the nominees in each category, found the one show I've never seen, and gave it the award. How can I blast the show for dissing my shows if I haven't seen the winners?

In all seriousness though, or at least some seriousness, I think I still have room to complain about Jeremy Piven winning the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the third time in a row over Neil Patrick Harris and Rainn Wilson (not to mention, ahem, Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon for Weeds). Also, Dexter and The Wire walking away empty-handed? Are you kidding me?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Palin: more disgusting by the day

Hekebolos at dKos puts 2 and 2 together to figure out why Sarah Palin made victims pay for their own rape kits as mayor of Wasilla: rape kits include emergency contraception.

Matthews has had it

Matthews slaps around McCain surrogate and soulless spinster Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Republicans running on change:

Wow. Where has that Matthews been these last 8 years?

the future, a little too early

Looks like I should've waited a couple of days to write this post. The Dow is now lower than it was on the day that George W. Bush was inaugurated.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the Sarah Palin baby name generator

Ever wondered what your name would be if Sarah and Todd Palin were your parents? Would you be a Trig, a Piper? Here's your chance.

I dare any of you to get a name that surpasses mine, the very apex of awesome, the intersection of class and badass: Hose Hotrod Palin.

Chicago politics

Mayor Daley made it dramatically clear Monday what he thinks of recent accusations from Gov. Blagojevich that the city is to blame for a potential CTA fare hike.

"Cuckoo," Daley said in a high-pitched voice.

For what it's worth, from what I've read on the subject Blagojevich did screw Daley here. The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) has been hit hard by higher gas prices and less money coming in at the state level (contrary to President Reagan's misguided beliefs, the only things that "trickle down" are budget shortfalls). CTA pushed hard and finally won a sales tax increase in the statehouse to help with their budget problems, but then out of nowhere the governor went and slapped an addendum to it mandating that CTA let seniors ride free.

This is the way of state and local politics. Irresponsible governors make themselves look good by rolling the tax burden downhill to mayors or forcing them to take on extra burdens so the governor can look good for the cameras. The mayors then have to do the dirty work of raising property taxes or lobbying the state government to raise sales/income taxes to pay for basic services like public transportation, sanitation, roads, police, etc., as well as the new governor-mandated services, which makes the mayors look extra bad.

When irresponsible governors become presidents, they do the same thing: cut taxes at the federal level to win votes, and make up the shortfall by sending less money to the states while also issuing them new responsibilities-- you may have heard Howard Dean refer to them as "unfunded mandates"-- to makes themselves look good, forcing state governments to raise taxes to deal with the new deficits. Sound familiar?

Monday, September 15, 2008

the future, all the way to the year 2000

The Dow Jones Industrial average today: 10,917.
The Dow Jones Industrial average on the day Clinton left office: 10,646.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Notre Dame 35 - 17 Michigan.

It's hard to lose when you hang 21 on the other guys in the first quarter.

How 'bout that Irish offensive line, eh? 2 games, no sacks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

football: the coming weekend

Here's one for the Tech fans. Matt Hinton at Dr. Saturday (former Sunday Morning Quarterback):
Inevitable Massacre of the Week.
SMU at Texas Tech. The widest point spread of the week is North Texas at LSU (-41), and rightfully so, but I actually watched a large portion of SMU's opener at Rice, and the disaster that unfolded before me is seared into my brain. The Mustangs can only be described as "ghoulishly bad" -- they gave up 56 points and six touchdown passes in that game, largely the result of awful, cover-your-eyes turnovers, and gave up 36 points last week to I-AA Texas State and its comically-named quarterback, Clint Toon. If Toon can have his way, Graham Harrell will throw for 450 without breaking a sweat, and the Raiders can choose their number at home.

And then there's the, uh, ND-Michigan "game," generally denoted on most sports blogs in pictorial terms this year:

And I pulled this picture off of an ND fan blog!

A somewhat surprising synopsis from Dr. Saturday:
As it is, while I don't believe ghosts or echoes and generally can't believe I'm typing this, the clearest difference between one side and the other is Clausen. He's obviously rounding into something closer to his recruiting than the raw meat we saw last year, and if he has a long way to go still, at least he can put a little pressure on a defense downfield if given just a little time. Barring perfect circumstances (which does not include "facing a Jon Tenuta-coached defense") and a slew of turnovers on the other side, Michigan quarterbacks look incapable of any such thing.
ND 15 - 12 Michigan

In my opinion, the clearest difference between the two teams is the Michigan defensive line, and my calculus says:
strong def. line + ND offensive line + sophomore quarterback = turnovers by the boatload = Michigan wins by 14 on defensive points

but Hinton's the pro at this stuff.

new movies and old devils

A real murderer's row coming up to a theater near you.

I dunno. I find it hard to believe such a loathsome human being could engender enough sympathy to make a good movie, at least this close to the disaster that was his presidency.

Then again, I guess one could have said the same thing about The Last King of Scotland. Plus, it did't help the first clip that the dialog was awful.

Speaking of loathsome human beings engendering just enough sympathy to make a great movie:

I was happy to find that the villain is Mathieu Amalric, the lead from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. That is one damn talented Frenchman.

And speaking of loathsome, well, you get the idea:

I'm actually very excited about this one.

the Obamafication of Republican foreign policy: the Sully edition

Andrew Sullivan sees it, too:
On one of the most critical decisions of the war, Obama staked out a position a while back that the Bush camp and neocons assailed as naive, disastrous, and revealing of his unfitness to be president. But like almost everything else Obama has said about the war, he was right and Bush was wrong. Obama was ahead of Bush in proposing to shift troops to Afghanistan, ahead of Bush in suggesting a timetable for Iraq withdrawal (subsequently embraced by Maliki), ahead of Bush in arguing we should talk directly to Iran, and, of course, right about not fighting the war in the first place.

The Bush administration - when guided by the saner forces within it such as Gates and Rice - eventually follows Obama's advice. In that sense, Obama has been president for quite a while already. And proving he could be a shrewd, pragmatic and prescient one.

In case you don't know Sully very well, he's a very famous pundit. A famously conservative pundit.

And here's Radley Balko from Reason, a libertarian rag:
Last year, Barack Obama had the right smirking with glee when he made the sensible suggestion that if the U.S. gets intelligence that there are Al Qaeda cells operating in Pakistan, we should go in and get them, with or without permission of the Pakistani government. If Pakistan won't root out Al Qaeda, Obama said, his administration would. I never quite understood the controversy in that statement, which by the way, is the position of many in the U.S. military.

Nevertheless, Obama was roundly ridiculed. John McCain said the statement showed Obama's naivete. Mitt Romney called him "Dr. Strangelove." Conservative blogs mischaracterized his position as wanting to "invade" or "bomb" Pakistan. Obama's critics at the time apparently believed that it's fine to invade an occupy a country whose government had virtually no ties to Al Qaeda, but suggesting we cross the border into a country whose government may be actively or passively harboring large numbers of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces is foolish.

It looks like the Bush administration didn't find Obama's position all that naive, because they've adopted it to the letter...

He later argues that Obama should be pressing this point hard, and he's obviously right. Then again, this did only come out yesterday, so I'm sure he will (or even better, Joe Biden will!).

John McCain losing his base

By his base, of course, I mean the media. This from the AP, until now shameless water carriers for the Crazy Train:
The "Straight Talk Express" has detoured into doublespeak.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain, a self-proclaimed tell-it-like-it-is maverick, keeps saying his running mate, Sarah Palin, killed the federally funded Bridge to Nowhere when, in fact, she pulled her support only after the project became a political embarrassment. He accuses Democrat Barack Obama of calling Palin a pig, which did not happen. He says Obama would raise nearly everyone's taxes, when independent groups say 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead.

Even in a political culture accustomed to truth-stretching, McCain's skirting of facts has stood out this week. It has infuriated and flustered Obama's campaign, and campaign pros are watching to see how much voters disregard news reports noting factual holes in the claims.


What we're seeing is the beginnings of a new, campaign-ending narrative: McCain, the former straight-talking maverick, losing his moral compass as he is corrupted by the lust for power. It probably won't start affecting his numbers for another week or two, and not unless this narrative appears in other places as well, but if other media figures start talking about McCain like this, he'll be in real trouble.

But don't worry, John: you'll always have Tom Brokaw.

Meanwhile, the AP also reported on Palin's first interview with Charles Gibson. If you saw the interview, you don't need me to tell you it did not go well:
John McCain running mate Sarah Palin sought Thursday to defend her qualifications but struggled with foreign policy, unable to describe President Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against threatening nations and acknowledging she's never met a foreign head of state.

The Republican vice presidential nominee told Charles Gibson of ABC News in her first televised interview since being named to the GOP ticket that "I'm ready" to be president if called upon. However, she sidestepped on whether she had the national security credentials needed to be commander in chief.

In case you're not wigged out by her already, when asked specifically whether she would start a hot war with Russia over Georgia, she said:
Perhaps so.

If elected, she will be a 72-year-old heartbeat away from the nuclear button. Then again, if you remember, John McCain was essentially agitating for the same thing with his "We're all Georgians now" crap.

The Washington Post is growing a little disenchanted with McCain's assurances that she knows what she's talking about as well. Apparently, Palin opening her mouth tends to do that:
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, Sept. 11 -- Gov. Sarah Palin linked the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling an Iraq-bound brigade of soldiers that included her son that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The idea that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a view once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself. But it is widely agreed that militants allied with al-Qaeda have taken root in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

Good Lord, is there a more thoroughly and publicly discredited misconception that we've seen in the last decade?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the Obamafication of Republican foreign policy, part 3

From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Barack Obama, August 1, 2007 (via Reuters):
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, adopting a tough tone after a chief rival accused him of naivete in foreign policy.

Obama's stance comes amid debate in Washington over what to do about a resurgent al Qaeda and Taliban in areas of northwest Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf has been unable to control, and concerns that new recruits are being trained there for a September 11-style attack against the United States.

Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.

John McCain thought Obama's idea was "naive" at the time. Wonder what he thinks now?

For those of you keeping score, the Bush Administration is already quietly adopting Obama's foreign policy positions on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, and McCain has himself adopted Obama's position on Afghanistan after chiding him for it. This, then, makes the fifth time the Republicans have mocked Obama's foreign policy only to appropriate it as their own later. Or, as it was expressed 4 years ago, being against it before they were for it.

It's not a flip flop, however, because John McCain was a POW.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hookers and blow, indeed

Ladies and gentlemen: the latest in a long, long line of Bush Administration scandals. From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” besets the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.

When we said the Bush Administration is in bed with the oil companies, that's not quite what we meant.

But it's pretty close.

the rules are the rules, except when they're not

In case you weren't watching any college pigskin last weekend, and have not watched any sports news whatsoever since then, here's a clip of the event that has everyone talking about the letter vs. the spirit of the rules this week. This is #15 BYU at Washington, 4th quarter, 8 seconds left on the clock. BYU leads 28-21, but Washington has the ball on the BYU 3 yard line... and then this happens:

To clarify, moving the PAT (point after touchdown) back 15 yards means the kicker has to kick the ball lower than normal, greatly increasing the chance of it being blocked. That's why the commentators blame the refs for the block.

King Kaufman makes a good case that Locker and Washington got hosed, and that the referees are guilty of poor judgment in refusing to let Locker slide during a moment where only the most stoic of personalities could possibly have contained themselves. College football is intense and emotional, and Locker was right in the middle of the perfect sports narrative: the young, talented player from a downtrodden program who makes a comeback at the end of the game and dives into the endzone with 2 seconds left on the clock.

The crowd goes wild.

The celebration rule falls under "unsportsmanlike conduct" for a reason. Celebration with your teammates is fine; it's the time-wasting, self-aggrandizing, insulting and sophomoric antics of emotionally stunted NFL players that the NCAA is seeking to curtail. It's hard to see how Locker's ball over the shoulder qualifies.

On the other hand, the rules are the rules, and it does clearly state in the rules that throwing the ball in the air as part of a celebration qualifies as unsportsmanlike conduct. What goes in the first quarter has to go at the end of the game as well, even especially when the game is on the line, or there's no point in having the rule.

It should also be noted, by the way, that a nontrivial amount of the hoopla surrounding this call revolves around the fact that Jake Locker is a pretty popular guy in the world of college football news/fandom. He's widely considered one the sport's more collegial, upstanding kids, so fans and pundits tend to want to cut him some slack. People just ate up the story of Locker, the highly touted high school quarterback, passing up generous offers from all the marquee football programs so that the poor sap could play for his hapless hometown school (admittedly, included myself; I really like the guy). Everyone wants to see Locker succeed.

And then, of course, there's Ty Willingham, the perpetually even keel, classy, promising Notre Dame football coach, booted out of the program before he was allowed the standard 5 years that all the coaches get, cast into exile in Washington to clean up a program in shambles from years of neglect. He lands a great recruit in Locker, and nearly beats a bunch of great schools last season, including Ohio State and USC, but still ends up somewhere around 3-9. It's generally assumed that this is his last year to improve Washington's record or he's out, and unlikely ever to be a head coach again. Plus, his success would make Notre Dame look bad, and everyone who doesn't love ND hates them.

I can't help but wonder if we would be seeing the same level of disapproval if it were a less popular kid who committed the foul, and a less sympathetic coach who suffered because of it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ron Paul to run as an independent?

I do not believe God loves us this much.

the coming Trobuckalypse

The only thing about this game I'm not looking forward to is that one of the teams has to win it. I guess between them I'd rather see Ohio State throw the rankings into further chaos. Last season was awesome.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Republican electoral shenanigans: and so it begins...

...in the newest swing state, Virginia. From the New York Times:
Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities for students who registered to vote at their college.

The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and health insurance.

After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections said Friday that it was “modifying and clarifying” the state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his releases.

the rewards of putting tough teams on your schedule

New college football polls released today. At number 14: East Carolina.

That's what happens when you down VA Tech and West Virginia in consecutive weeks.

Congrats to Tech for landing at #12.

NFL: realignment

Looking back at one of the most topsy-turvy weekends in the NFL that I can remember, it's hard to pick out the flukes and the temporary impairments from the performances of teams genuinely on the descent. Much as I wish I could say it was more skill than luck, the Bears won by exploiting Manning's rustiness (not to mention by knocking out Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark). Congrats to my Bears for seeing that weakness and ruthlessly exploiting it, but I doubt any other teams will have that opportunity. Manning is slated to be at practice this week.

And temporary as it is (and as much as an entire season can be called "temporary"), I think we saw a playoff spot open in the AFC East last night. The Patriots winning by 7 against the club one of the CBS crew said was "the worst team in the NFL?" Yowzah. I should probably be happy about that, but I'm not. Much as I and just about everyone else in America loathes the Patriots, you just can't help but develop a grudging respect for Tom Brady after seeing what he's done with generally good-but-not-great weapons. I'd love to watch the Pats in decline, but I'd rather see it with Brady healthy (if such a thing is possible).

I think we also got a pretty big clue as to who will be filling in for the Patriots this year. That Seattle squad they smoked went to the playoffs last season.

And then there were all the expected realignments to occur this season that fail to manifest in week 1. The Browns, who everyone is expecting to challenge Pittsburgh for AFC North dominance this season, got torched by the Cowboys 28-10. Then again, perhaps this game did show us the first manifestations of the new NFL: our first glimpse at the Dallas Cowboys' first Superbowl team in, what, 12 years? That may sound a little breathless for week 1, but remember folks, this was supposed to be a damn good Browns team.

Can you imagine if, after all this time and after all those coaches and quarterbacks, the Cowboys wade through the expansion teams and all the new stars to face... the Buffalo Bills?

Ladies and gentlemen, the "new" NFL.

And alas, as of this writing, no new jersey for the freshly minted Chad Ocho Cinco. The NFL cites "administrative issues," presumably that the Administration has "issues" with Johnson Ocho Cinco failing to display the kind of sober sensibility we've come to expect from professional football players. Goodness knows we wouldn't want any players making a mockery of the NFL, amirite?

Friday, September 05, 2008

don't quit your day job, John

I've learned something about the Republican nominee over the course of this last week: John McCain isn't very good at executive leadership, specifically managing people.

The big news of the last week, of course, is his VP, a painfully obvious gimmick pick that undermines perhaps his most salient argument against Obama. His strategists' choice to respond to the criticisms by arguing that being mayor of a town of 6,000 is better experience than being a United States Senator, and even more absurdly by arguing that living near Russia counts as foreign policy experience, is pretty heinous overreaching and only further highlights her incredible weakness as a candidate. That's not even considering her ties to an Alaskan separatist party which undermines his patriotism card, and her hiring of a lobbyist and support for the "Bridge to Nowhere" which undermines his reformer card.

For that matter, have you ever seen a clearer example of a karmic justice against a social conservative, of a Christian rightwinger getting swatted by reality? Think about it: she guts special education funding in Alaska by 62%, only then to have a baby with Down Syndrome. Then she opposed comprehensive sex education in her state and slashed funding for a state program helping teen mothers... and her 17-year-old daughter comes up pregnant. Her life story is a refutation of conservative beliefs.

In fact, she's such a terrible choice that the press started asking if he even bothered to vet her. Even worse, it appears that he really did cut corners on the vetting process, despite having finished his primary more than two months before Obama. And why did he suddenly find himself with a candidate he hadn't vetted? Because he wanted someone else, but "the party" said no. Apparently the Original Maverick, at this late point in the campaign, still doesn't have a solid enough purchase on his party to make his own decisions about the most important matters of his own campaign. And it has not gone well so far, if we can judge by the reactions of conservative pundits Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy when they thought the mics were turned off:

Then there was this week's convention. First there was the interruption by Gustav, where he directed the party to postpone the convention for a day and take on a mood of sober compassion ("We will be contacting corporations and others to ask them to be respectful of events in the gulf," his campaign manager said), but his admonishments meant little to the party. They went out and partied their asses off, on camera, at lobbyist-funded shindigs while Gustav rattled the levees in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, canceling the first day meant having to find another spot for Rudy 9iu11ani. They chose to put him right in front of their most important speech of the entire convention, that of Sarah Palin, at a critical moment in the timing of the convention events since it was on live network television at that point. Rudy then went off script on live TV, thankfully not making a gaffe, but going so long that they had to cut the introductory bio for Sarah Palin, the VP candidate they were literally introducing to the nation at that point.

And then there was John McCain's own speech. The speech was not terribly good and pretty poorly delivered, and everyone on TV was a little perplexed at seeing yet another "green screen" behind McCain reminiscent of the disastrous speech he gave right as Obama clinched the nomination.

It appears that no one checked to see what part of the backdrop the cameras would pick up:

Oh, but this screw-up gets better! Some of you may be wondering why the McCain campaign would up behind McCain a picture of some anonymous middle school in California that isn't even obviously marked as a school and in a speech that barely mentions schools or education. Well, a little digging by Josh Marshall unearthed exactly what school this is: Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, CA. It appears that the campaign told some flunky to go get a picture of "Walter Reed" to put behind McCain, never checked what the guy found, and this inexplicable image ended up behind McCain during what was probably the most important speech of his life.

John McCain just isn't any good at managing people. We keep seeing his campaign making rookie mistakes and botching the details (and some big decisions), always scrambling to clean up messes or make up for unforeseen circumstances or react to Obama's last move rather than taking initiative, something that reflects poorly on his leadership. He appears to have trouble judging who to put in high administrative positions and who needs more oversight. Perhaps worst of all, he's no good at discerning his employees' weaknesses and liabilities, so their screw-ups catch him off-guard. After this week, I think we've gotten a pretty good look at which of the candidates would run a more efficient administration, which one would be "ready on day one." It clearly is not John McCain.

he's his own man

How do you know when your narrative has penetrated the country's consciousness?

Answer: When one of the other guy's top picks for VP says this:

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Ridge!

exploiting the dead for political gain

So inappropriate. So incredibly inappropriate.

Also, apparently they timed John McCain's speech to begin at 9:11. How tacky is that?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

a bar so low she could roll over it

On my yahoo! news feeder it says Palin's speech could "make or break the GOP's presidential hopes." Um, exactly what are they expecting to happen, for her to break down halfway through the speech, burst into tears, and run off the stage?

It's a speech pre-written for her by professional writers. It's on a teleprompter, so she doesn't even have to memorize anything. All she has to do is stand up there and read it without looking absolutely horrified.

It ain't rocket surgery.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin on the Pledge of Allegiance

For real. From Eagle Forum Alaska, in answer to a questionnaire they sent to Alaska gubernatorial candidates in 2006:
11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?
JB: No.
SP [Sarah Palin]: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

For those of you who are curious, the Pledge was originally written in 1892 (for extra fun, click the link and find the picture of students reciting the Pledge to see why Franklin Roosevelt changed the salute to putting your hand over your heart!). The "under God" part wasn't added until 1954.

Good Lord, what next?

The newest on Palin, bringing rage to my librarian's heart:
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor.


Sarah Palin: former member of the Alaskan Independence Party?

From ABCNews blog:
Officials of the Alaskan Independence Party say that Palin was once so independent, she was once a member of their party, which, since the 1970s, has been pushing for a legal vote for Alaskans to decide whether or not residents of the 49th state can secede from the United States.

And while McCain's motto -- as seen in a new TV ad -- is "Country First," the AIP's motto is the exact opposite -- "Alaska First -- Alaska Always."

Lynette Clark, the chairman of the AIP, tells ABC News that Palin and her husband Todd were members in 1994, even attending the 1994 statewide convention in Wasilla. Clark was AIP secretary at the time.

"We are a state's rights party," says Clark, a self-employed goldminer. The AIP has "a plank that challenges the legality of the Alaskan statehood vote as illegal and in violation of United Nations charter and international law."

I can just see an Obama surrogate's response: "We want to keep this election from being about 'small things,' to quote Barack Obama's magnificent speech last Friday. We are confident that Sarah Palin has since decided that she does, in fact, want to remain an American citizen."

Mr. Projection strikes again.

On a more serious note, some of us know what secessionists are like, having come from states where that kind of thing gains a bit of traction. You'll still see bumper stickers in Texas that say "Secede" on them, and I've met a couple of people who are into that. And they are, nearly to a man, wild-eyed jingoists completely detached from reality. This is not a flattering association for the young governor, as it makes people like me start to look at her not just as a hard core righty, but one that's so far out in right field that you have to wonder about her sanity. She's approaching Ted Nugent levels of crazy.

This veep pick is turning out to be a nightmare for the GOP.

the acceptance speech: the video

Still awesome.