Friday, May 30, 2008

Bond Gadgets in Real Life

Cool article, from the Tech column at New Scientist: Bond gadgets: Never say they will never work.

Their list includes: Fake fingerprints, Phone-controlled car, Micro-aqualung, Invisible car, Voice changer, Ski jacket emergency-pod, and Snooper robot.

h/t Sullivan. Pic of the Q-manual from the Bond RPG. Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Rabbi Bieler's Back

Rabbi Jack Bieler is one of the best scholar-pulpit rabbis out there. In the past, his weekly Parsha sheet was must reading; but he stopped writing it a few years ago. Now, it appears that he's back! (but for how long?).

(Photo from OU).

Movie Review: Versus (2000)

Versus (2000): It's a Japanese Evil Dead II - it has the Raimi-cam, the humor-comic vib, and the production values (it feels like it's shot in one acre of Japanese forest). It has the same blood-love that I first saw in Kill Bill I (the Japanese love geysers of blood, although so did Raimi), but just like I love the shots of Ash with his chainsaw and shotgun, Versus has the hero with his Katana and 50 calibre sniper rifle.

It's a cheezy film, though, with clear continuity and story problems (new facts keep being introduced, exposition is fat and lazy). But if the phrase "Japanese Evil Dead II" makes your mouth water, see this film.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Obama Gets Some Advice On Race...

Some straight out wisdom from Ta-Nehisi Coats on Yglesias' blog:
[Obama Gets Some Advice On Race...] from arguably the last group of people who should be giving advice on race. I won't get into this too much, but I just want to say that rather than writing a memo to Obama on how to deal with "white voters" and the "race problem", Newsweek would have done better to send "white voters" a memo on how to deal with Obama and the "race problem." It was tragic to see so many interviews with folks in Kentucky and West Virginia saying point blank that they wouldn't vote for Obama because he was a colored. The conclusion always was, "Wow this is a huge problem for Obama," not "Wow. this is a huge problem for these people."

I know that seems backward, but roll with me for a second: We can all agree that a presidential election is an extremely important event, arguably the most important mass event in the country. If you have voters who essentially disqualify candidates, on race alone, isn't that, like, kind of a problem for the voters? Please do not counter with "but blacks vote for Obama on race!!" As I've said before, it ain't the same dog. Blacks--because we've basically had no other choice--have a long record of voting for white people, and will continue to do so. A guy who openly says "I'm not voting for a black guy," get's no such consideration.

Anyway, my point is that this is of a piece with the widely held view that racism is basically a problem for black people, not whites, that our history of slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, housing covenants are an injury to black people, not to the larger country. We think about the Civil War, as a war to free the slaves. But here's another way to think about it: It cost us 700,000 American lives--and the near fracturing of our country--to accomplish something that the rest of the civilized world accomplished with the stroke of a pen. I'm simplifying I know, but the point is racism poisons everything and everyone. Black folks obviously pay the most obvious price, but we really aren't its only victims.
Backpost finished on 2009-12-06.


Wow, this election has gone from the farcical to the obscene pretty quickly, and this time it's not from Hillary, it's from our friends, the Republicans. The GOP is going nuts over the fact that the Democrats have repudiated the polarizing Queen of Darkness and will soon nominate an uncorrupted, charismatic transcendent orator who draws crowds of thousands and has added new voters, and members, to the Democratic party. Meanwhile the GOP candidate is detested by most of the party and is about 1000 years old.

So the GOP has been trying to use whatever they can to slam Obama and the most recent gambit is to say that Obama is stupid and makes gaffes, like confusing Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Ya see, Obama said this on Memorial Day (from CBS):
Obama also spoke about his uncle, who was part of the American brigade that helped to liberate Auschwitz. He said the family legend is that, upon returning from war, his uncle spent six months in an attic. “Now obviously, something had really affected him deeply, but at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain,” Obama said. “That’s why this idea of making sure that every single veteran, when they are discharged, are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and given the mental health services that they need – that’s why it’s so important.”
Well it turns out that Mr. Barack O'Liar has lied again: it was not his uncle but his Great uncle. Liar. And it wasn't Auschwitz, it was Buchenwald! Super liar!

OK, back to reality. What does it matter? To almost everybody on earth, Auschwitz is a synecdoche for all concentration camps. And it's totally immaterial for Obama's point, which is that his relative liberated a concentration camp and was haunted by the experience. That is all true.

But, according to the links cited by my friends at Balloon-Juice, the right wing crazies have called Obama a liar and a goofball for messing up the facts. Nice try, schmoes, but it doesn't wash. And it would be just silly if the GOPers had stopped there. But they went worse.

The Right-wingers, in order to create a scandal, have to show that it DOES matter which concentration camp Obama's great-uncle liberated. And so, as I read on Balloon, they have to say that while Auschwitz was bad, Buchenwald was NOT THAT BAD:
Buchenwald, on the other hand, while atrocious beyond normal human understanding, was merely a slave labor camp, and not historically abnormal in a time of war. The people who died there did so under the stress of work and disease, rather than as a deliberate attempt to wipe them off the planet. Which, of course, says much more about human nature and history than it does about the Nazis.
It is crazy beyond comprehension. This was my commentary on BJ:
OK, I’m going to play the “Jew card” on this play. I am named after two (great) uncles who were killed in the Holocaust. I don’t know where they were killed; it could have been in Auschwitz, it could have been in their homes by a mob, it could have been in a ghetto. It does not matter.

Seeing a pile of bodies – who for all I know contain my grandfather’s brothers – and to be told by ANYBODY that it is “merely” a slave camp is beyond obscene.

Yet, as my rational side is pulling me back, I have to say that this episode demonstrates just how much a Republican hates a Democrat: in order to attack a Democrat, a Republican will say that the Nazis weren’t so bad in Buchenwald.

Put another way, Republicans hate Democrats more than they hate Nazis.
Taking it just one step further: the GOP first attacked the story, then found out it was basically true, so now they have to say that Obama's great-uncle was a weenie for suffering PTSD from seeing what was only horrific to a billionth degree and not a trillionth degree.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Personal Update: Dr. Styx

No, not me yet, but Mrs. Sytx became Dr. Styx on Monday in a moving ceremony involving every person to ever be affiliated with Yale. Seriously, the graduation ceremonies were long, irritating, and demeaning to individual achievement. But at least I got to hear every single damn Dean ask the president to accept the nameless graduates. It was a ceremony designed by deans to highlight deans, and dat's dat.

But now Mrs. Styx, PH.D. leads the Styx family with advanced degrees (which includes college). My wife has 6 (BA, 4 Masters, 1 Ph.D.). Second place is my father (5 = BA, BS, MA, DVM, PhD), then my brother (5 = AB, MA, MD, PhD), who will tie my father on Wednesday when he graduates Harvard with (another) Masters.

Depending on the vagaries of the Brandeis program, I could pull ahead of the pack but that will be in about 5 years, so who knows what will happen before that.

Anyway, yay for my wife.

Video of the Day: The Skinheads of Maine

I had no idea that the Dana Carvey Show had any quality. But if both Steve Colbert and Steve Carell were on it, then it must have had it's moments. This column from the Onion AV Club highights this great sketch (with Carvey and Colbert):

And a bonus sketch, of the same concept:

Monkeys? Robots?

From today's Science Times: Monkeys Control a Mechanical Arm With Their Thoughts. Monkeys? Robots? All we need are clowns and we got a trifecta!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Olbermann Uses Both Barrels

Boy do I like watching Olbermann when he's right (and since I don't watch TV news, I only see clips of him when he's saying something necessary). This is linked from the NYT and is about Hillary's Assassination-gate. Warning, do not watch this if you support Hillary, it may cause you to gnaw at the straps of your straight-jacket:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Surely She Can't Get Better Than This?

From the Washington Post:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the memory of slain Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy as she explained her persistence in the Democratic race on Friday, saying that although the media and the Barack Obama campaign have been trying to usher her from the race, "historically, that makes no sense."

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California," Clinton said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Argus Leader, a newspaper in South Dakota.
Wow. Yup, she did it, she said that she's staying in the race because of RFK's assassination. Nudge nudge, wink wink.*

She quickly issued a denial of the insinuation. But after so many months of outright falsehood, after the "hard working white voters" of a few days ago, can ANYONE believe the denial. Come on.


So, bravo Hillary, you have reached the point of insane offensiveness.

Update: Just in case you thought that her apology was actually, ya know, APOLOGETIC - in the sense that it expressed remorse for wrongdoing - here is her apology. Summary: she presumably denies that she meant that Obama will be assassinated (its not on this clip) and apologizes to the Kennedys. Not Obama, why should she?

Both videos from TPM.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'This Is an Ex-Candidate'

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post (who's a dude), writes a great column about how the Clinton campaign has become self-parody, using the famous Monty Python "Dead Parrot Sketch" as his model. Hillary's farcical behavior does resemble a number of Python sketches (the other that comes up frequently is the Black Knight from the Holy Grail).

Milbank's point - and this article is from May 13th - is that the farce is insulting and the journalists don't like playing along. And Milbank does something I have not read before, he tells the truth about the campaign artifice. Why more reporters don't do this infuriates me, but, hey, that's the Mainstream Media for ya:
2:57 p.m., Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va.: A steep descent brings Clinton's plane to Charleston's hilltop airport. After an appropriate wait, she steps from the plane and pretends to wave to a crowd of supporters; in fact, she is waving to 10 photographers underneath the airplane's wing. She pretends to spot an old friend in the crowd, points and gives another wave; in fact, she is waving at an aide she had been talking with on the plane minutes earlier.
Hillary has been lying to us for a very long time (remember the planted question), but this is just so lowbrow and pathetic. Thank you Milbank for breaking the code of omerta and actually telling us facts about the farce.

The Map & Predictions

From Yglesias about the new sensation, 538. He's right, because this has been my creeping criticism as well:
It's really too bad that the folks behind Five Thirty have gone and created such a compelling website based around state-by-state general election polling. It's all really well done and, as such, I can't really bring myself to look away. But this stuff is all really and truly meaningless. Six months ago, no polling showed Barack Obama winning the Democratic race, and no polling showed John McCain winning the Republican race and the general election is about six months away.

Diplomacy, Appeasement, GOP Credibility

I was on the road for Appeasement-Gate (or Bush-Knesset-gate), when Bush accused strawmen of appeasing dictators, just like bad people did back in the 30s with Hitler. (Oh, funny side-point, turns out Prescott Bush, the president's Senator grandfather, was one of those appeasers... heh). Anyway, in the past 8 years, Bush has shown either to mean exactly what his words sound like or to be a complete liar, whichever happens to be worst at the time. That is not a joke. When he sounds like he's saying something good, he's lying ("heckuva job", "we don't torture") and when it sounds bad, it is bad.

Bush's comments at the Knesset were OBVIOUSLY referring to Obama and the Democrats in general. Duh. Duh duh duh. And the Press understood it too, which is an uncommon admission, given their slavish acceptance of every lie uttered by the Bush administration so far (cf. Iraq war, Iran, torture, civil liberties, the attorney firing).

Yeah, some bullet-heads are still claiming that Obama overreacted, but they're the same people who believe that Bush is the reincarnation of King Arthur and Richard "First Crusade" Lionheart, so whatever.

McCain, gotta love him, is so maverick-y that he immediately followed Bush's lead. That'll show 'em how independent you are John! You mavericky mavericking maverick, you.

What I wonder is why ANYBODY believes that the GOP knows what it's doing with foreign policy anymore. Seriously. The concept that diplomacy=appeasement has resonance only if you are 6 years old and are presently in a schoolyard. Outside of that puerile universe, diplomacy is how actual real life occurs. I'd go so far as to say that the bright-shining-line between childish and adult personality is the recognition that life is about compromise and negotiation and not about violence and absolutes.

Bush is a big baby, this is clear. He is a bully and a spoiled brat. Bully proof comes from how he treats those out of power; spoiled brattishness has been amply shown with his recent comments about nobly giving up golf in recognition of the sacrifice of the thousands of casualties from his foolish war.

McCain is following along because he doesn't actually appear to possess leadership qualities. Yeah, maybe when he was in the military, but in the Senate? That's the downside of being a maverick: unless you can translate your rebellion into a movement, then you're just a troublemaker, a noisemaker, not a leader.

Why is diplomacy not appeasement. Here's a good summary by Matt Yglesias:
The problem here is that, once again, we see hawks not understanding what diplomacy is. But think of diplomacy as a kind of bargaining. Like you might do at a yard sale or something. Diplomacy doesn't exist at one end of a spectrum of coercive measures -- we try war, we try sanctions, we try diplomacy -- any more than bargaining operates on a smooth continuum with robbery. The point of bargaining with a vendor is to see whether or not it's possible to find mutually acceptable terms that improve both parties' positions. In terms of diplomacy with Iran, the idea isn't that Obama's steely gaze would force concessions out of the Iranians, the idea is that we might be able to give Iran something Iran deems more valuable than weapons-grade nuclear material, and in exchange we would get verifiable disarmament.

The "something" here would presumably be some form of security assurances plus an accommodation to Iranian interests in Iraq, along with Teheran and Washington laying out a pathway to gradual normalization of relations in exchange for an end to Iranian support for terrorism and Palestinian rejectionist groups. Would it be possible to strike such a deal? Maybe, maybe not. But the purpose of a negotiating session would be to find out by attempting to do the bargaining rather than having five more years of back-and-forth blog posts speculating about the possibility. The general theory of diplomacy is that rational actors should, through negotiations, be able to achieve positive-sum settlements rather than negative-sum conflicts. It's always possible that your would-be negotiating partner will prove irrational (as George W. Bush did when he rejected Iranian peace overtures several years back) and the process will fail, but it's worth attempting in good faith.
And just in case Yglesias is too much of a squishy leftie to truly understand things, here are two recent examples of (sane) Republicans who agree, Sen. Specter (from Yglesias) and James Baker III (from Sullivan):

Summaries: Specter is asking Sec of Defense Gates why Bush is calling negotiation appeasement when negotiation is normal, logical, and sensible. Specter assails the Bush perspective and hopes Gates can talk some sense into the President.

Baker is even more clear; he says that a strong leader talks to enemies. He himself travelled to Syria 15 times, on Bush Sr's request, to get Syria to recognize Israel and on the 16th trip Syria agreed to negotiate at the Madrid Peace Talks. Baker, while an anti-Semite GOP running-dog, is also from the time when the GOP were considered competent. Not any more; Baker (and Specter) are as slimy as Obama. Only Bush and McCain know what to do!

WARNING NSFW: Die Hard Short Version

Found this linked from the Onion AV Club. This is the first Die Hard movie reduced to it's essentials, and every time the F-word is uttered as dialogue (which turns out to provide enough footage for 2 full minutes). It's great but intensely profane. Do not see this clip if you are offended by profanity, violence, or Bruce Willis in a grimy wife-beater.

The Latest Better

Recall that I use 'better' in an ironic way when referring to Hillary Clinton's descent into crazed desperation. It's shorthand for the oft-used movie phrase "this just keeps getting better and better" (which isn't used nearly as often as it's action movie staple "we've got company" - a phrase used so often that I believe each relevant movie should have a time-stamp rating as to when they first use it... they have to use it...)

Anyhoo, Hillary is now claiming that her struggle to seat the illegal Florida delegation is a civil/woman's/human rights issue on the par of the struggle in Zimbabwe.

Rhetoric levels getting too dense to emit light, crash imminent.

Deadline Met

I survived the deadline. Can't give more details, except to say that to actually cross the finish line I needed to write hundreds of pages and stay up for 33 straight hours. The next day, the four of us went up to Boston to spend the weekend looking at houses and shuls. Upon our return, Monday morning, we had the kids' doctor's appointments back-to-back (which sounded like a great time-saving idea when it was first scheduled, but it turned out to be a disaster). Monday morn, upon arising after the 33 hour then 4 day ordeal I threw out my lower back and have been lying incapacitated for a while. I'm too old for this stuff, it appears.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Time is Running Out

I have a major league massive deadline for tomorrow. When it gets to a deep crunch like this, I often will play one song over and over on my ipod. This time (and for a few times before) it's "Time is Running Out" by Apollo 440, from the "S.W.A.T" soundtrack.

Here's the song (that some dude put as background to the SWAT video game):

This is the scene from the movie (warning: some profanity)

Why McCain Doesn't Need a Woman/Black VP

Because if he goes with a standard white male VP he'll totally capture the disgruntled racist vote - which may be substantial. What does he gain by putting a black/woman on the ticket? Cutting into the Democratic base? He has enough trouble getting his own base!

Why McCain's Age Matters

Bob Gorrell, one of the more heinous of idiots to work a political cartooning pen has this 'toon up to decry a media double-standard:
Styx Commentary: The whole point behind racism and sexism is that they MAKE NO SENSE. There's no behavioral difference from being dark or light skinned. And while there may be significant differences between how men and women think, stand up comedians have long established that it's mainly in the realm of asking directions. But age?? Only a partisan hack will deny that age doesn't matter (or just in this case). It's as chronic a condition as any illness.

Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Five Reasons why 2012 is a No-Go for Clinton has a good post (defined as 'agreeing with The Styx') called "Five Reasons why 2012 is a No-Go for Clinton" about why Hillary can't conceivably run in 2012. My biggest counterargument is that since she has shown absolutely no shame or good judgment this year, why would she learn it in 4 years? Ah well. But this is the key paragraph:
3. She has burned too many bridges within the party leadership.

If Clinton's goal is to become the new Ted Kennedy, that is harder to accomplish when Ted Kennedy is still alive and kicking, and happens to hate your guts. Calling Bill Richardson 'Judas', or saying that that John Kerry is 'dead to us': these are not the sort of actions that a political franchise takes when it is concerned about its long-term future. Clinton's comments to USA Today, which triggered the Kennedy outburst, may ultimately be remembered as the moment that her campaign, having committed the crime, jumped into the White Ford Bronco and tried to make the best of it. If superdelegates are still around in 2012, she is not likely to have the head start with them that she did in this cycle.
Again, if she didn't understand that now, why would she get that in the future?

Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Comic Watch: Prickly City

In addition to my daily political cartoon intake, I have a monthly/bi-monthly regular ol' cartoon intake. Politics I need to follow every day, Garfield can wait for a 6x year binge. By waiting a buncha weeks, the storylines make more sense anyway.

My subscription is "" and over the years (I've subscribed on and off since 2000) some of the best 'toons have left. Some of the new ones are very good (probably the best new one is "Cul De Sac"), but others not so much. Usually the cruddy ones don't make it on my subscription page, but there are a few I keep under 'watch,' which brings us to Prickly City.

This is a pathetic attempt to be a Republican Bloom County. As with GOP sponsored comedy, the sense of humor is shrill and insulting; the messages are actually much stupider than the comic medium is assumed to be.

The main characters are a black Republican girl (chyeah, those are common) and a Democratic yellow dog. The girl is the voice of reason and intelligence, the dog is a stand-in for idiotic liberals. Or whatever. Here's a great example (from April 24,2008) of the "political relevance" as Da City takes on the myth of global warming:

Things to emphasize: how every argument about global warming from the GOP devolves into a hissy fit about Al Gore. No matter what Bush and his slack-jawed lackeys say, it REALLY bothers them that Al got a Nobel Prize.

Note, though, that Glenn McCoy, who writes one of the worst political cartoons, has a rather decent daily strip The Duplex. I want to give Glenn credit for both doing a daily strip and political cartoon (not easy) but keeping the politics out of the strip (which explains why it can be funny on occasion).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Delegate Scorecard Widget

Added the following widget (from CBS News) to the page (which I will take down at least by Denver...)

h/t Ambinder.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Now She's Wallace!

More and more commentators are bringing heat on Hillary for her "hard working white" comments. This is from the (pretty liberal) Joe Conason at the Huffington Post:
Citing an Associated Press analysis "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me," she went on to say: "There's a pattern emerging here."

There is indeed a pattern emerging -- and it is a pattern that must dismay everyone who admires the Clintons and has defended them against the charge that they are exploiting racial divisions.

As Sean Wilentz and others have argued, there was no ugly subtext to her innocuous remark about the different roles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Baines Johnson in the civil rights crusade, although several prominent Obama supporters promoted that smear. And if Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama and Jesse Jackson was badly timed and clumsy, that too fell within the bounds of acceptable commentary. Indeed, the discussion of ethnic and racial voting preferences is not only fair but unavoidable and utterly mundane in American politics.

But this time she violated the rhetorical rules, no doubt by mistake. It was her offhand reference to "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" that raises the specter of old Dixie demagogues like Wallace and Lester Maddox. Was she dog-whistling to the voters of Kentucky and West Virginia?
Conason, by aligning himself with the loopy Wilentz, shows that he doesn't entirely get the depravity of Hillary... yet even he recognizes the George Wallace-ness of Hillary. It's as if she's completed the transformation of Nixon and is pursuing her own Southern Strategy.

h/t TPM, photo from Wiki.

Noonan, Too

Peggy Noonan, like George Will, has been a conservative critic of the Bush administration (yet another unrepentant Reaganite - someone who remembers what real conservatives think and act like), and as expected from a 1990s culture warrior, no friend of the Clintons. However, her analysis of the GOP and Hillary has been often been so close to mine that I have to declare that she is smart and sane (at least on these issues).

So she too remarks on the "white americans" comment of Hillary and brings in some more data as well:
... The Democratic Party can't celebrate the triumph of Barack Obama because the Democratic Party is busy having a breakdown. You could call it a breakdown over the issues of race and gender, but its real source is simply Hillary Clinton. Whose entire campaign at this point is about exploiting race and gender.

Here's the first place an outsider could see the tensions that have taken hold: on CNN Tuesday night, in the famous Brazile-Begala smackdown. Paul Begala wore the smile of the 1990s, the one in which there is no connection between the shape of the mouth and what the mouth says. All is mask. Donna Brazile was having none of it.

Mr. Begala more or less accused the Obama people of not caring about white voters: "[If] there's a new Democratic Party that somehow doesn't need or want white working-class people and Latinos, well, count me out." And: "We cannot win with eggheads and African Americans." That, he said, was the old, losing, Dukakis coalition.

"Paul, baby," Ms. Brazile, who is undeclared, began her response, "we need to not divide and polarize the Democratic Party. . . . So stop the divisions. Stop trying to split us into these groups, Paul, because you and I know . . . how Democrats win, and to simply suggest that Hillary's coalition is better than Obama's, Obama's is better than Hillary's -- no. We have a big party, Paul." And: "Just don't divide me and tell me I cannot stand in Hillary's camp because I'm black, and I can't stand in Obama's camp because I'm female. Because I'm both. . . . Don't start with me, baby." Finally: "It's our party, Paul. Don't say my party. It's our party. Because it's time that we bring the party back together, Paul."

In case you didn't get what was behind that exchange, Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." As evidence she cited an Associated Press report that, she said, "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy."

If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.

To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.

"She has unleashed the gates of hell," a longtime party leader told me. "She's saying, 'He's not one of us.'"
There's more.

h/t TPM. Pic from WSJ.

P.S. Not this Noonan.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yup, Even Better

Hillary is still fighting. What stubborness. In an interview with USA Today, Hillary explains why she should be the nominee (emphasis mine):
Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Wednesday to continue her quest for the Democratic nomination, arguing she would be the stronger nominee because she appeals to a wider coalition of voters — including whites who have not supported Barack Obama in recent contests.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Clinton's blunt remarks about race came a day after primaries in Indiana and North Carolina dealt symbolic and mathematical blows to her White House ambitions.
Let's see an instant replay? "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Any penalty on the play? Unnecessary roughness? Nah. Wasn't that rough, just dumb. Offsides? Sure. Delay of game? Yup, for quite a while, but not this play. Clipping? Maybe. Gratuitous playing of the race card? Bingo.

To reiterate. Two days after her fate was sealed, a day after Feinstein implicitly told her to start wrapping this thing up, Hillary explicitly plays the race card. A new low! Bravo, Hillary.

h/t TPM. Photo from here.

Update: Let me explain why this is such a bad thing, and it revolves around what the first thing I thought when I read that sentence: 'does she know she just said that out loud?'
  1. Hillary is a politician. Some people think that means her job (as a legislator) is to make policy. But no; policy can and often is made by staffers and other paid experts (a.k.a. economists and other elitists). What separates a politician from a staffer, the specific skill set that a politician needs to have, is to be POLITIC (asop. the staffer who makes POLICY). Now Hillary knows how to pander (exhibit 1: the beer and a chaser in Pennsylvania), but that's not being politic. Even if it were correct and even if it were to her benefit to get the idea in the open, explicitly saying: "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" is not politic.
  2. Hillary defenders sound like Bush defending Harriet Miers (or GOPers defending Bush before Katrina): they keep needing to insist, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Hillary truly is a great senator, leader, politician. No, she isn't.
  3. If Hillary wanted to get the statement out that Obama is unacceptable to white voters, there's a hundred or so ways to do that without crudely burping that drivel to the largest circulation newspaper in America. True, she and her crew did try many of the 100 ways... but that's no excuse! It's a mema-nafshach: if it's so important that people know it, then the 100 politic tactics will work, and if the tactics don't work then people don't think it's important/relevant/true. Shouting your point louder doesn't convince another person you're correct. Teenagers learn that rule eventually, why hasn't Hillary?
  4. When she says such anti-Democratic drivel out loud, she sounds like her fella, Mark Penn. Not like her nominal husband, who was much better about this before his heart was removed from his body.
  5. Last point: every time she has the opportunity to do the classy thing, she goes into the gutter. Someone please remind me of another "politician" this pathetic? No state politicians please (who are JV), but players in the big show.

Top Notch George Will

George Will is still an unrepentant Reaganite, but there are time when he can nail a column. He is a fierce critic of the lawless GW Bush - from the Right - and he has even less love for the Clintons. Today's column is a scorcher. Some choice lines:
After Tuesday's split decisions in Indiana and North Carolina, Clinton,... will, creatively argue that she is really ahead of Barack Obama, or at any rate she is sort of tied, mathematically or morally or something, in popular votes, or delegates, or some combination of the two,...

Or perhaps she wins if Obama's popular vote total is, well, adjusted, by counting each African-American vote as only three-fifths of a vote. There is precedent, of sorts, for that arithmetic (see the Constitution, Article I, Section 2, before the 14th Amendment).

"We," says Geoff Garin, a Clinton strategist who possesses the audacity of hopelessness required in that role, "don't think this is just going to be about some numerical metric." Mere numbers? Heaven forefend. That is how people speak when numerical metrics -- numbers of popular votes and delegates -- are inconvenient.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur said that every military defeat can be explained by two words: "too late." Too late in anticipating danger, too late in preparing for it, too late in taking action. Clinton's political defeat can be similarly explained -- too late in recognizing that the electorate does not acknowledge her entitlement to the presidency, too late in understanding that she had a serious challenger, too late in anticipating that she would not dispatch Barack Obama by Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), too late in planning for the special challenges of caucus states, too late in channeling her inner shot-and-a-beer hard hat.

Most of all, she was too late in understanding how much the Democratic Party's mania for "fairness," as mandated by liberals like her, has, by forbidding winner-take-all primaries, made it nearly impossible for her to overcome Obama's early lead in delegates.
Tuesday night must have been almost as much fun for John McCain as for Obama. The Republican brand has been badly smudged by recent foreign and domestic policies, which are the only kinds there are, so McCain's hopes rest on the still-unattached cohort called "Reagan Democrats," who still seem somewhat resistant to Obama.

McCain's problem might turn out to be the fact that Obama is the Democrats' Reagan. Obama's rhetorical cotton candy lacks Reagan's ideological nourishment, but he is Reaganesque in two important senses: People like listening to him, and his manner lulls his adversaries into underestimating his sheer toughness -- the tempered steel beneath the sleek suits.
Will shows he's smart because he recognizes that Obama is consistently underestimated - which people may do less since he has just defeated the most talented political couple since FDR-Eleanor - and that he is very much like a liberal Reagan. Go-bama! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Two PDF Books on Zionist Halakha

From the estimable Rabbi Gil Student over at Hirhurim; he uploaded two books on Zionist Halakha:

1. As Rav Student explains: "In honor of Israel's sixtieth Independence Day, I collected and edited the series of blog posts 'The Religious Zionism Debate' into an e-book. Download it here."

2. "I'm also reminding readers that R. Shlomo Aviner's booklet Do Not Ascend Like A Wall, translated by R. Mordechai Friedfertig, is available for download here."

Virtue of Disloyalty, part 2

As a followup to Virtue pt 1, here's a point from Time Magazine via TPM (emphasis mine):
Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game. That became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year, according to two people who were there. As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates.
Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Israel!

Happy 60th, Israel. You may Now collect social Security.

Picture of Celebration from the Jerusalem Post.

Feinstein Instead of Pelosi

In an earlier post I claimed that it would be Pelosi who'd ask Hillary, politely and with due deference, to sit down and shut up. Turns out that Senator Feinstein is doing it instead of Pelosi. Via TPM, it's reported that Feinstein has publicly asked Hillary to explain her plans for the rest of the primary (longhand for: "can you just stop it, please?").

Marshall says clearly that this is the signal we've been waiting for. I'm glad it's Feinstein and not Pelosi. Feinstein is
  1. a woman
  2. fellow (and senior) Senator
  3. an early supporter of Hillary
  4. in a blue as blue can be state that Hillary won in the primaries.
Pelosi, although from the same state, is more powerful than Hillary is right now, is the de-facto leader of the party, and has remained "neutral;" so her shutting down the Clinton machine would have meant that heavier weaponry was necessary. I hope Feinstein's plea will work.

John Cole and the Start of the General

Even though Hillary hasn't stopped her machine, the consensus is that she is done. So John Cole, of Balloon-Juice (a daily-read for me) kicks off the general election with this coda for Hillary, praise for Obama, and seething contempt for the GOP. I will intersperse his statements with commentary when appropriate:
At any rate, I feel a profound sense of relief the whole nomination process is finally over.
The Styx is saving relief for when Hillary finally walks off the stage or Obama goes over 2025.
I guess I am just not used to the messy way you all do things here in the Democratic party, but these past few months have been excruciating. The primary, for me at least, was over after March 5th, when she failed to blow him out in the firewall state of Texas, but as a new member of the party I guess I am in the wing where "firewall" and "math" still mean things.
Just to emphasize, this was a new experience for many Democrats and a singular product of Hillary Clinton's psyche. I don't remember anyone quite as disgusting, empty and narcissistic in the party since, uh, since Woodrow Wilson? William Jennigs Bryan? Hmph.
So I endured another month of listening to certain wings of a party (that, again, I am a newcomer to) do their best NRO and Weekly Standard impressions and talk about electability, stealth Muslims, lapel pins, patriotism, new new delegate math, Rev. Wright, and whatever else they could dream up.

Whatever. She threw everything she had at him. He weathered the storm. Consider him vetted. Consider Rev. Wright kicked in the junk. Consider me relieved. Now, can we get to the very serious business of dismantling the GOP? I have a very serious axe to grind, and it is deeply, deeply personal for me. There are a bunch of frauds, crooks, and phonies with whom I have a serious grudge that I want to settle. You see, I still have my “Peace Through Strength” button from when I campaigned for Reagan. I believed in limited government, I believed in a strong national defense, I believed in fiscal restraint and balanced budgets and I believed in personal integrity and individual liberty and personal freedom.

I am pissed. I want the frothing nutters, the fraudulent hucksters, the race-baiters, the anti-science frauds, the anti-intellectuals, the gay-bashers, the big-money cheats, the torture fetishists, the religious nuts, the tax and spenders, the xenophobes, and the phonies to pay. I want payback. I want the people who ruined my former party relegated to permanent minority status. I know I am a newly minted Democrat, and, as such, it is ballsy for me to start telling you what I want from the party, but this is my website and you are just going to have to deal with my opinion.

I am under no illusion I will buy into everything Barack Obama puts forward, but I am damned sure convinced he is a decent man who, at the very least, will restore a sense of competence to the national stage. I am willing to meet most Democrats half-way, and I am already doing everything I can to get this man elected. I think Obama will act in good faith for this nation, and I am responding in kind. His policies are not outlandish or crazy or uber-left- they reflect a rational, and I would argue, a decent and progressive way forward out of the mess I helped to create. I won’t like all of them, and I will not agree with all of them, but there is no chance that I will ever be President, so perfect agreement is never a possibility.

And don’t get me wrong- I am not for Obama because of what I am against. I am for Obama because he is a decent man, a break from the past, and really a once in a lifetime opportunity. He has treated us like adults throughout this primary, and it is time to act like adults. There will be times we feel he lets us all down, but we are not electing a deity. We are electing a leader, and Obama is that leader. It is time to get past the bullshit of the last 20 years, the battles I am really tired of fighting, and time to turn our attention to the really important issues of the day- the economy, the budget, our international presence, our crumbling infrastructure, our military, medicare and medicaid and social security, and on and on and on.

If Barack Obama was not your your preferred candidate, I am sorry that person did not win, but it is time to remember that the target is John McCain and the Bush/Cheney way of doing things. If you can not accept that and help move us forward, please at least get out of the way.
Well done. And, play ball!

Backpost: Stubbornness is not a Virtue

I wrote this on Friday, but didn't send it out right before Shabbos. Then, today, Sullivan links to a corroborating quote, so here goes:

Stubbornness is not a virtue. It's the combination of stupidity + selfishness. It's the ugly mirror image of perseverance.

'Not quitting' is only virtuous when its done to help others or help a cause. Most of the time, when you meet stubborn people, they are that way because they are either too stupid to know how to change their minds or are to selfish to accept another view.

I'll say more about this later, but time is short. (Friday)

Naturally this applies to Hillary Clinton, but it's a view I've held for years (ask friends and family, they'll tell you that I consider stubbornness to be a common trait among people who are considered to be 'smart' but - when manifest - tars them as low and mean intellects. Sadly, as the phrase k'shei oref (stiff-necked), implies, this is a vice found common in our people.)

Today, Sullivan linked to this comment by Philip Klein of the American Spectator (GOP rag) which pithily encapsulates my views of Hillary's stubbornness quite well:
"It has become popular in conservative circles these days to suggest that "you just gotta admire her tenacity," a sentiment that is advanced at her campaign rallies...

But what is there to admire about this so-called "tenacity"? Clinton began this campaign with a financial edge, the support of a popular former Democratic president, a built-in political apparatus, a consistent lead of more than 20 points in national polls, and more than a hundred superdelegates.

If a candidate starts off with all of those advantages and is too stubborn to drop out of the race, it's no surprise that she is still hanging on.

There is absolutely nothing admirable about a politician so narcissistic and hungry for power that she is willing to say or do whatever suits her political interests at any given moment. If the Republican Party has declined to the point where conservatives are so worried about defeating a freshman Senator that they are rooting for Clinton to do their dirty work for them, it is simply pathetic,"

Is it Over?!

According to MSNBC Hillary has cancelled all public events tomorrow. And Russert, in the clip below, says that Obama is now the nominee and Hillary is over.

The "cancelling appearances" track follows Romney's path as well. He cancelled all his stuff but still took a few days to concede. We'll see; I'll pop the champagne when I hear it from the lovely Ms. Rodham C herself.

P.S. Do you think Obama will change his campaign song to "Gary, Indiana" from the Music Man?

P.P.S. Hey, my analysis about the close race-ed-ness was right. Cool.

P.P.P.S. Maybe now, that Obama is declared by his almighty Russertness to be the (presumptive) nominee, "" can include the word "Obama" in it's spellchecker? At least it's number one suggestion is "ABM" and not "Osama"...

Union County, Indiana

For some reason, the NYTimes Indiana county vote map has a big ol' blank for Union County. No votes at all? According to the Wiki, Union has 7000 people and 98.69% White, so maybe they're all Republicans. Hmmm. Well, no, because there's no results on the GOP side either! Maybe they're all Canadians?

Update, 1:41am: OK, now 100% reporting. Union had 1186 voters and that took as long as Lake county's 119,575? Indiana folks, Indiana.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Purple Rule

I've referred to this rule a few times in my blogging, so this entry is to make it easily indexed. The purple rule states that the Democratic president should not appoint into his cabinet a sitting office-holder of a swing ("purple") state for fear that the Democrats will not be able to get another party-member in that office. This is especially critical for the Senate, where every one of the 100 votes matters for filibusters and other nonsense.

Application of the purple rule: Pennsylvania and Virgina are especially vulnerable. Otherwise appealing candidates like VA Governor Kaine and Senator Webb and PA Sen. Casey are thus rendered un-nominate-able by the Purple Rule.

VP, Cabinet Watch, part 2: Cabinet

Part 1, VPs, here.

Like with VP, the cabinet doesn't do as much work as provide famous faces of the party, helping define the political persona of the president. Bill Clinton chose many of his advisers from the campaign, and then had certain 'token' slots: Hillary insisted (so I've read) on a female in the top 4 slots (AG, State, Treasury, Defense) and got AG (and eventually State as well). Blacks and Latins were important, as well as a Republican in Defense. Bush also did this with his cabinet: his AG was a sop to the rabid conservatives, his Defense was to be a signal for realism and experience (cough cough cough), his State was a fine choice despite it being a token point (but also to be a hearkening back to his daddy's days) and treasury also went to a competent old timer (who was quickly fired after he proved too competent). A good cabinet official is a former senator or governor who wants to get back in the game, or a geezer who wants to retire with dignity (cf. Lloyd Bentsen, Clinton's first Treasury Sec.).

My analysis will be about the big names from the campaign supporters. I'll stick with the big four, plus any other notables - especially for the Democrats who are choosing largely from the same pool.
  1. Obama:

    I've put the most thought into this of all the 3. Here's a list of Obama's top endorsers that I will generally be working with. And, note, for Obama, based on their close relationship and has experience in government, I think former Senate majority leader Daschle can ask and get whatever cabinet position he wants. So that's a wild card. Also, I am going to apply the Purple Rule (i.e. restrict the appointment of any sitting officeholder in a swing state. Another caveat, I don't think Sen. Kennedy (MA) will pull a Bentsen. He's too powerful and useful in the Senate. However, if he can arrange for a proper replacement, maybe he will so he can control both a cabinet spot and Massachusetts.
    1. State: Gov. Richardson (NM), if he shows that he can pull in Hispanic voters in November. His resume alone qualifies him for this job and he's perfect as the affable airhead that State has often been.
    2. Defense: Former Senator (GA) Sam Nunn. I hope.
    3. Attorney General: John Edwards' name was bounced around but he hasn't endorsed and since today's his primary in NC he's lost most of the effectiveness, so I see him (at best) getting HUD, Interior or Labor. The two best of the top people would be either Senator Feingold (WI) (sending a clear civil liberties message), or Sen Kerry (MA). I like Kerry because he was a former AG in Mass, he came out early and strongly for Obama, and it would take him out of the Senate, giving some more deserving people a shot.
    4. Treasury: Nobody special right now; could be Fmr Sec Robert Reich; Or even a Bloomberg would be nice. Of the other top endorsers there's Fmr NJ Sen Bradley (general gravitas), or better yet: Fmr Commerce Sec Daley (Chicago machine politician, Commerce Sec under Clinton, CEO of huge corporations).
    5. Others: Former Clinton cabinet members are a nice touch, to reassure voters that there's some heft after an 8 year absence from power (like, l'havdil, GWB did with GHWB people): Reich, Daley, Fmr NSA Anthony Lake, Fmr Sec Pena, and a nice group of former military leaders.

  2. Hillary:

    Haven't given as much thought (ugh), but here's her endorsers:
    1. Defense: Wes Clark. This is off to an easy start.
    2. Treasury: I'm putting Paul Krugman here because he has turned into such a distgusting hack, that this must be his reward.
    3. State: Probably Mark Penn. He's so smooth.
    4. Attorney General: Webster Hubbell? Jim McDougal? Fmr Sec Cisneros? Or any of these fine fellows. Ooh, howzibout former Solicitor General Starr? He has lotsa experience.
    5. Others: Really, since Hillary is promising a 90s Nostalgia Administration, she'll basically choose whatever people are left over from her husband's administration. Basta.

  3. John McCain:

    Here's a list of his endorsements. This a tougher list to compile because McCain needs to find people who have not been tainted by the second Bush administration or the scandals of the DeLay Congress. It's not only because both entities are electoral poison, it's because they are largely incompetent hacks who won't inspire confidence in what will be a dispirited an angry electorate [given what the landscape must look like for McCain to be victorious]. It's one of the tragedies for the GOP - that usually a decade in power will train a new generation of leaders; as it is, the GOP actively tranished and attacked leaders, training hacks and goobers instead. Bravo Karl Rove.
    1. Attorney General: I'll start here because I think that's where Lieberman will end up. I think after '08 his power in congress will have been eliminated by a massive Democratic pickup (even with a McCain win, just one more Democrat and Joe is moot).
    2. Others: Rather than go through the offices like I did with Obama, I'll just list some notables that may end up in power: Schwarzenegger will get something, because McCain owes him *big* for delivering California. Same goes with Crist for delivering Florida. Since those big states were winner-take-all, McCain needs to give payback. Schwarzenegger maybe for State (since he may the only Republican who speaks another language). And, if I'm right about Graham for VP, McCain may also want some prominant also-rans who can build up a real GOP leadership team: Romney could be in there, as well as Jeb Bush.
Well, that's all for now. Let's see what happens in Indiana and No Carolina. Go tar heels!

VP, Cabinet Watch, part 1: VP

I've discussed different ideas for VP, especially for Obama (who I most care about) here, here, and here. To recap these issues, for all three candidates, and to expand into a discussion of major cabinet officials.

Vice President:
  1. Hillary
    Don't know why I care, but I still think it's going to be Evan Bayh.

  2. Obama:
    I used to believe that he'd need some old white ex-Senator to offset his foreign policy credential problems, but over this long primary I think new pressures have arisen. First, his war-cred has been bolstered by new supporters like Sam Nunn. And since McCain is a warrior, there's no good way to offset that advantage except, possibly, with your own warrior (cue: Clark or Webb), but even then I'm not sure how much that will help. But, bottom line, while '04 was a "war" election, '08 is about the economy. Getting a warrior may be irrelevant; Obama needs managerial help. Ironically Bloomberg would be good for that, but as I've said before, the VP is about votes and perception not actual talent.

    In the past few weeks, many have stated that Hillary's polarizing presence is almost forcing that she be put on the ticket. Even Sullivan has floated the idea, but (as I emailed him), this idea is daft and to suggest it means that Hillary has managed to get into your head. It is what she wants right now, but it would add all of her negatives with the only positive coming from her disgruntled supporters and surrogates who, I must reiterate, are die-hard Democrats. The people who support her because they can't vote for a 46 year old, and/or an African American, won't vote for Obama just because Hillary is there. If so, who needs her to offset the young/race biases... anybody and everybody would help.

    Moreover, a lot of her support comes from people who want to vote for 4 more years of Bill Clinton. Why else would the guns-and-church crackers, who think that Obama is a crack smoking Muslim terrorist, support the pantsuit posterchild of feminism?! It's because she's married to "the Big Dog" who is a card-carrying member of the Good Ol' Boy Klub. And you won't get 4 years of Bill again unless she's in the #1 slot; because if she's #2, then what more influence does the VP's spouse have over policy than he would if he were on his own? Billy C will be able to advise Obama better as a freelancer (no government oversight if he's just called three times a day) as opposed to being in the executive branch again.

    Bottom line, I'm sticking with my analysis from here - the only bloc that will leave the party if Hillary ain't on the ticket are the over-50s women. And they can be mollified with a woman VP. I'm sticking with Sebelius or Napolitano.

  3. McCain
    I haven't thought about this as much recently. I thought he'd need a die-hard conservative, but that looks less likely. It does depend on who is the Democrat. I used to think Brownback; recently people have floated as the top 2: Pawlenty (Gov. MN) or Crist (Gov. FL). Some even have suggested Sec. of State Rice. However knowing McCain as well I do (we shot skeet back in the 1960s), and reading a bunch of articles, I think these things are clear: McCain is a military man through-and-through; he will want a veteran and a strong national-security ticket. This rules out anybody who doesn't have decent war experience. Christ and Pawlenty aren't veterans. And Rice? While it's great for pundits and predictors, I think it's D.O.A. Because for all of McCain's lack of general knowledge, I think he's smart enough to know that Rice is a total Bush-toady and incompetent. Anybody from the Bush cabinet will be poison in '08 (doing to McCain what Hillary would do to Obama) and Rice is one of the worst: responsible for both 9/11 and Iraq. Yipe.

    To my eyes the favorite for VP would be McCain's senate foxhole buddy Lindsey Graham (Sen. SC). The two are connected at the hip; both are "mavericks" in the GOP (meaning they are all bluster, no action) and I think McCain's going to go for comfort over electoral math. Graham is 53, a veteran, as true-red conservative as McCain (which is considerable, in the old sense). I'd put money on this.

  4. If I'm wrong, and I will likely be wrong, I think the two tickets should at least be Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain-Jeb Bush, just to drive the anti-legacy corps crazy!
Part 2 will discuss the cabinet.

Political Cartoons Tell the Tale

Every day I receive, by paid subscription, 20 or so political cartoons (as well as daily 'funny cartoons, but that's another essay). I use the 'toons to keep up with the pulse of the bloviation. Like on TV, the inveterate right-wingers outnumber the left-wingers 5 to 1. The worst of the right wingers are Chuck Asay, Glenn McCoy, Lisa Benson. The worst of the left is Ted Rall (the Michael Moore of 'toons). The positive about the toonists is that while most of them are as stupid as the TV anchors (e.g. Russert, Matthews) there are a few balanced acts. Two of them are the estimable Tom Toles (who's been on such a role he deserves another Pulitzer) and the skeevy Pat Oliphant.

See below for today's pickin's from both. And note, Oliphant has been a critic of the Clintons back from the 90s, but his slapdown of Hillary is a telling marker that she's losing credibility capital:



Kennedy-Johnson & Hillary-Obama?

One of Sullivan's readers points out why making the SAT analogy of Obama:Clinton = JFK:LBJ isn't true (emphasis/bold mine):
Kennedy/Johnson and Obama/Clinton don't compare. Johnson was not a serious contender for the presidency against Kennedy in the way that Clinton is against Obama. The "hatred" between Kennedy and Johnson was ideological and political but not formed in battle, so to speak, as is the case with Obama and Clinton. Kennedy's major opponent was not Lyndon Johnson. It was Hubert Humphrey. And even then, one has to use "major opponent" loosely. Kennedy steamrolled everyone in the primaries. Kennedy racked up 85 percent of the vote in NH, 64 percent in IL, 92 percent in MA, 71 percent in PA, 81 percent in IN, 88 percent in NB, and 70 percent in MD. Another thing is that Humphrey wasn't even a consistent second place contender for the presidency. He ran second to Kennedy only in Wisconsin (Kennedy 56.5/Humphrey 43.5) and West Virginia (Kennedy 60.8/Humphrey 39.2). The only contests Humphrey won were DC and South Dakota where Kennedy, apparently, was not on the ballot. Johnson's biggest vote total in the 1960 primaries was 3.9 percent.

Humphrey's totals in the other primaries was usually in the low single digits. When Humphrey dropped out Lyndon Johnson was considered the only serious contender but again "serious" has to be used loosely. In the primaries, Johnson was a statistical nothing. The only reason that Humphrey and Johnson were favored is because, in spite of the primaries, the smoke-filled room was still the way things were done and party bosses really chose the nominee and that's where I see a comparison between the election 1960 and election 2008. The party bosses could not ignore Kennedy's impressive primary wins much as the superdelegates will not be able to ignore Obama's admittedly less impressive pledged delegate and popular vote lead.
I haven't checked the facts, but it sounds plausible.

Pic from this freaky conspiracy site (sorry). Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Flag Pins in American History

This is too good to be true, but it's on the internets, so it must be. From The American Conservative blog (a real conservative magazine, and thus anti-Bush), linked by Sullivan, a quote in Bill Kaufmann's 2008 book "Ain't my America:"
American flag lapel pins had been distributed to members before the president spoke to Congress on April 2, 1917, requesting a declaration of war. It took a certain obdurate courage to refuse to wear the colors; Senator La Follette was among the refusers, as was the Mississippi senator Vardaman. (Wilson had called for “stern repression” of disloyalty in his speech of April 2–a Prussian formulation that ought to have set American throats to gagging.)
It's possible the story is true but it sounds almost mythic. I don't have Kaufmann's book and I don't know his ultimate source, but since it's a new book, it's not inconceivable that he is trying to apply current events to earlier times.

Why it sounds too good to be true: the match up between Wilson & La Follette is too much like Bush/Hillary and Obama. Bush's foreign policy is Wilsonian (and for the record, despite his affiliiation with Princeton, I think he was a bad president and a bad person) and La Follette was the head of the Progressive party (and the Hair Club for Men, evidently). He's considered one of the best Senators in history, a real thinker and patriot, who was beacon of sanity in the insane 1920s.

A myth, to my hoax-busting ears, always sounds *too* neat and pat. Let's see how this plays out.

It's Worse Than I Thought

TPM has this clip up of a Hillary "surrogate," the hacktacular Senator Menendez (D-NJ) defending the gas-tax holiday:

Things to learn from this, and why this is an even lower low than before:
  1. This is a glimpse to what a Hillary administration would be like - denying reality, and good policy, just to rustle up votes by assuming the voters are dumb as dirt.
  2. On the other hand, the press - who gave Bush a free ride when he did the very same things - is going after Hillary's idiocy. Democrats get press scrutiny (as we saw in the 'first' Clinton administration) and that has to be factored into everything.
  3. As noted by TPM reader GP, while the press is mocking Hillary for having no economists, they aren't challenging the 'surrogates' over the fact that it won't actually save the consumers (voters) ANY MONEY. Not a cent. So why not ask that? The press is allowing the Clintons to pull their "Bush" and attack the elitist economists who, in Menendez' words don't know what it's like to have to pinch pennies to get by. Barf.
  4. Just wondering why people - sitting senators! - are willing to shill such destruction to the party by helping Hillary this way, so late in the game. Hillary is not worth it at this point, why is Jersey Bob doing this?!
Just to highlight the folly of the Clinton supporters, I wrote this reaction to the TPM about a letter they printed from some moron who supported the "Clinton as Gut Fighter" myth:
I vehemently disagree with the sentiment of reader "RP" in the mega-meta post, especially in light of David Kurtz' MSNBC clip. First of all, the whole "Hillary as fighter" canard doesn't play in reality. Her fighting may have gotten her a few-popular-vote pushes every few days before critical primaries, but she is still losing. Bottom line, her fighting can't even get her to win Democrats, so how is she going to get independents. It's a Hillary-supporter myth that her fightingness is an asset.

But the MSNBC clip shows something more sobering which is that the press does not give Democrats the same free-ride that was given to Bush (and now to McCain). We saw this under Bill Clinton; the press was all over everything he did. In fact, I'd assume one reason why you started your blog was because of the lack of scrutiny given to what Bush did in the recount (and for the whole primary/general in 2000).

Hillary (and Obama) will be given heavy crazy scrutiny. Her bellicosity and dirty tricks won't get any traction against McCain because the rules are different. But just as she didn't understand the rules for the primaries, she - or her supporters - don't understand the rules for the general either.
Update: Menendez tries to ratchet down the crazy here.

Video of the Day

Keith Olbermann, of MSNBC, mocking Hillary. Mock mock mock.

And some youtube dude connects it to this Daily Show clip from 2 weeks ago:

The fruity pebbles part is priceless.

Video of the Day: Teflon John

An attack youtube against Senator McCain:

Backpost finished 2009-12-06. Tube still works!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Buy My Friend's Book

Apocalypse How: Turn the End-Times into the Best of Times! by the Daily Show's Rob Kutner.

It looks good (especially if it has a chapter about Zombies). And look at these reviews!

Update: yup, zombies are in it. Good.

New Hulk

Just want to say that I've never liked the Hulk comics, but I did like the TV show (especially the theme songs, for the live action and cartoon). What the TV show did, because of technical necessity, was use a body-builder (Lou Ferrigno) as the Hulk. And it worked. It could be because of the laws of thermodynamics, but turning a 6' man into another 6' man, just with more muscles makes more sense than for a 6' man to become 9' tall and built like a dinosaur.

But we live in the age of bad-CGI and so the Hulk has to be animated. And it looks very very bad.

What is this supposed to look like? Ugh.

Better and Better, part 2

Yup, Hillary's going lower and lower. From Steve Benen about Hillary's 'gas-tax holiday':
The demagogic pandering prompted the Clinton campaign to create another ad to tout her ridiculous idea — the second commercial this week — and bash Barack Obama for taking reality seriously. The ad, which started airing in Indiana yesterday, says Clinton’s proposal would “save families $8 billion,” adding, “Barack Obama says that’s just pennies.” The ad concludes that Obama would “make you keep paying that tax, instead of big oil.”

The irony, of course, is that Clinton’s plan would ensure that the oil companies “end up the biggest beneficiaries.” Everything about Clinton’s idea is backwards — consumers lose, the environment loses, conservation loses, Big Oil wins. Clinton knows all of this — she’s far too smart to believe otherwise — but she insists on shamelessly pandering anyway.

The new ad, as it turns out, was only part of yesterday’s offensive display.

On Thursday, the Clinton campaign said policy experts no longer matter, and added a Bush-like ultimatum to congressional Democrats: “Do they stand with the hard-pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the oil companies? I want to know where people stand and I want them to tell us, are they with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?” (Remember, the biggest beneficiaries of her plan are the oil companies.)

On Friday, the Clinton campaign actually managed to make an insulting situation even more offensive by accusing those who care about reality of being elitist: “Clinton strategist Geoff Garin deployed [the elitism card] on a conference call with reporters, and Clinton used the tactic on the trail: ‘I find it, frankly, a little offensive that people who don’t have to worry about filling up their gas tank or what they buy when they go to the supermarket think it’s somehow illegitimate to provide relief for … millions and millions of Americans.’”

To press her point, Clinton adopted one of the Republicans’ favorite tactics: she announced she would go forward with her idea of introducing legislation, forcing Democrats to either vote against a popular-but-ridiculous idea in an election year, or vote for a policy that would boost oil company profits and undermine the environment.
h/t link and pic JC,BJ

The Weekly Standard Loves the New Hillary

She must be so proud.

The Weekly Standard
has now found An Exceedingly Strange New Respect for Hillary. This is a glimpse into how far Hillary has fallen because, by definition, when her greatest enemies now applaud her, it's a sign that she has become them or vice-versa... and they haven't changed a bit - which they admit in the article. Here are the first few paragraphs. Read the rest if you dare:
But no new respect has been quite so peculiar as that given by some on the right to Hillary Clinton--since 1992 their ultimate nightmare--whose possible triumph in this year's election has been the source of their most intense fear. Lately, however, a strange thing has happened: A tactical hope to see her campaign flourish--to keep the brawl going and knock dents in Obama--has changed to, at least in some cases, a grudging respect for the lady herself. Actually, they may not have changed quite so much as she has (who knows, perhaps merely changed in her image and tactics), but the Hillary of May 2008 is radically different from the Hillary of two months ago, much less the one of last year, or of eight years back. And this one (at least till the nomination is settled) has some traits the right wing can love.

First of all, she is tough. Boy, is she tough. Next to John McCain's torture and FDR's polio (or John Kennedy's terrible health and PT-109 put together), she has arguably been through more harrowing times than any major contender in history. Hillary may not have been tortured for six years by the North Vietnamese, but her marriage to Bill could have seemed the equivalent....{JC: Charming, eh. Oh they do go on}
Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

The Empire Strikes Barack

This may even be better than Baracky:

h/t Sullivan.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Virtue of Disloyalty

The silver lining of the Wright Affair is that it demonstrates that Obama understands his obligations to people as being more than their usefulness to him at the immediate moment. We've seen with Bush (Gonzales, Miers, Brownie) and Hillary (Doyle, Penn) that they prize 'loyalty' - a word given to a false ethic of rewarding slavishness over competence and morality. They will reject someone who ceases to have single-minded attention to the principal person, but keep someone around, no matter how damaging to the cause, as long as they are steadfast.

Obama could have jettisoned Wright as soon as he decided to run for president, or even back in the Senate run of '04. But he didn't get rid of Wright because no matter how damaging he was to BHO *now*, BHO was grateful to Wright for past gifts. This was seen especially in the famous Philadelphia speech; Obama was gracious and generous to someone who was *disloyal,* because of what he owed him.

Is this a sign of Obama's naivete? Only if Hillary and Bush are considered wise.

Just Getting Better n' Better

Just how low can Hillary go? I said that her lowest point was when she claimed that Obama can't be commander-in-chief but that McCain could. Lower than that would be for her to (1) not endorse Obama after she loses, (2) then lower is to endorse McCain directly, and (3) in between is to run as a third party.

However in terms of her *rhetoric* she's getting worse and worse. See this as an example (from Michael Tomasky of the Guardian):
Twice this week now, Hillary Clinton has stood there smiling like the Cheshire Cat as the governor of North Carolina used the word "pansy" and then as a union leader in the same state, who more famously referred to her "testicular fortitude", went on to inveigh that Hillary was the only thing that stood between the good and God-fearing people of North Carolina and the "Gucci-wearing, latte-drinking, self-centred, egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle." Clinton, according to the report linked to here, "smiled sheepishly before breaking into a nervous laugh."
These are explicitly right-wing tactics and talking points. Those of you across the pond may be unfamiliar with a very famous soundbite from the 2004 presidential campaign, which featured in a commercial that ran early that year in Iowa and was produced by the anti-tax group Club for Growth.

In the ad, a husband and wife discuss Howard Dean's plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts. The happy couple join forces to say the following: ''Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.''

It was garbage, but at least it stood to reason, under the logic of this country's political climate, that a ferociously right-wing group (Club for Growth is known for finding even many Republicans to be "soft" on the tax question, backing right-wing anti-tax acolytes against a few Republican congressional incumbents) would employ such rhetoric against a liberal, Democratic candidate.

And now we are greeted by the spectacle of one Democratic campaign - no, not directly using, but getting a nice little happy kick out of seeing almost exactly the same rhetoric, right down to the choice of beverage, used against a fellow Democrat.
... this latest episode frankly sickens me, and it really ought to sicken you, too, no matter which Democrat you support. Republicans and conservatives have for years used this kind of smear language against Democrats. It has perverted our political discourse for 30 years. It is not clever or tables-turning or ironic or anything of the sort for one Democratic campaign to be involved in sending these kinds of smoke signals about another. It is repulsive.

What next? In terms of rhetoric, the sky's the limit (or, considering I'm mixing better/worse, lower/higher metaphors, "the hell's the depth").

h/t: RBC.