Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama, Gustav, and McCain

Given that Obama commands the waters, we shouldn't be surprised that Gustav is about to destroy New Orleans again during the Republican Convention. Obama commands it so!

Gustav Predictions

Sitting here under the second outer band of Gustav to hit Orlando (yes, it's that big), I feel an urge to prophesy come over me.

Gustav will hit the Gulf Coast, and New Orleans will once again flood, as the new levies weren't supposed to be finished until 2011. (They may even lose roofs, as this time they will actually get hit by the bulk of the storm and not just suffer a glancing blow as with Katrina.) Once again President Bush will go there and say, "We will rebuild the Great City of New Orleans, and make it better than it was!" Obama and McCain will follow and make the same promises, ensuring that the Great City of New Orleans will in fact be rebuilt.

A few years from now, the Great City of New Orleans will once again get hit by a hurricane, and will once again flood. Whoever is President then will show up and state "We will rebuild New Orleans, and make it better than it was!" As happened the first two times, more poor blacks will leave the city for greener higher pastures, to be replaced by more illegal Mexican immigrants, who are the only people allowed to work in the building construction industry these days. This will happen over and over again. Eventually, the Great City of New Orleans will consist of a few jazz musicians, some restaurateurs, a few hoteliers, some a lot of hookers (all of which are necessary for the convention business) and 200,000 Mexicans devoted to rebuilding the city after periodic flooding.

In order to facilitate this, a small podium will be erected in the French Quarter on some small piece of land above sea level, so that the President of the Moment can proclaim his/her desire to rebuild the Great City of New Orleans after the periodic flooding.

All this time, politicians and journalists will wonder why the Great City of New Orleans floods every time a hurricane strikes within 100 miles of said soggy city, completely failing to understand that placing a city next to the sea, on ground that is below sea level, guarantees eventual flooding. The sea will reclaim her own, water will continue to flow down hill, and stupid people will continue to go into politics and journalism.

(I feel sorry for those few intelligent people who have found themselves in those lines of work.)

The question must be asked!

On making a slight detour I stumbled across this series of one man's thoughts on the 40 greatest grunge songs. Concerning his number three song, Soundgarden's Outshined, he writes,

Focus on the interlude that starts just before 3:00. On the surface, there's not much going on here -- no key change or guitar solo or anything. But a gentle little passage like this, in a song that's otherwise anything but gentle, is the kind of thing that elevates a song, and distinguished Soundgarden from 99.99% of grunge bands.
My immediate thought was, "Were there 10,000 grunge bands?"

Palin, Creationism, and Fear [Update]

It seems Palin DIDN'T support teaching Creationism in school. As I said in an earlier post, enemies will spring out of the woodwork now that she's on the national stage, and they WILL use every dishonest trick in the book to make her look bad. One begins to wonder exactly how much people fear her, and why.

H/T Amba

Update: Good lord. Obama and his people are more dishonest and slimy than I thought. What a bunch of tools. H/T Pastor Jeff.

Taking Bets

I wonder how long Charlie Crist's engagement will last now that he didn't get selected to be Vice President....

OUCH!

This is going to leave a mark!

The Naitonal Hurricane Center has taken the weekend off.

Seriously, check out the latest forecasts for Gustav and Hanna.




Straight line forecasts! These storms almost never travel in straight lines. (They added a slight wiggle to Hanna to make it LOOK like they haven't taken the weekend off, but they can't fool me.)

Palin & Creationism [Update]

Apparently Sarah Palin favors teaching Creationism in schools. My first thought it that this is bad. My second thought is, "Good!" Given how badly the public schools do teaching everything else, I'd prefer they ONLY teach Creationism. I can only hope the public schools STOP teaching Darwinian Natural Selection - they do such a bad job that no one will believe it.

Update: Here. It seems that the story was made up by various opponents. I still stand by the thought that it might be better for science if the public schools taught something else.

Personal Note

I am back home again, for a few hours at least. My brother may or may not be reaching the absolute end of his life. For those few readers who don't know, he has terminal cancer - he's going to be dead soon regardless. It's just a question of exactly when. That looked very close Wednesday night and Thursday, but looks a little farther away now. So blogging may be heavy, non-existent, or sporadic in coming days.

Palin [Corrected -twice!]

An over-enthusiastic commenter writes: Already, they are unmasking [Palin's] many flaws and political scandals so she will be discredited soon enough and even if she makes it to the VP debates, Biden will chew her up and spit her out! In another comment she speculates that now conservatives will flock to Obama for some reason.

I have no idea what my commenter is talking about. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, LOVE Palin. But more on that latter.

And if Biden does his usual bully routine, his career will go down the toilet as fast as Rick Lazio's did.

As for Palin's "many flaws and political scandals"....

Well, she has one potential scandal. One of her aids may have pressured another state employee to fire her brother-in-law. That is being investigated. Of course, it could have been that she was upset that her brother-in-law threatened to kill her father, and the government up there took no action. Or something altogether different. That remains to be seen.

However Palin brought down the former Republican governor through electoral means, and took down the corrupt (Republican) state Attorney General and the chair of the state Republican Party. Not to mention standing up to the Alaska's (once) powerful senior US Senator. Her comments about the Bridge to Nowhere ("If we wanted a bridge, we would build it ourselves.") were brilliant politically: She emphasised that (1) Alaska doesn't need DC pork, and (2) that not everything in America must be done by the Federal government. (Contrast this with Democrats who believe that no ass can get wiped without a Federal Department being in charge of it.)

If you want to go after her on the corruption front you are whistling your way to the political graveyard. She has been willing to buck corruption in her own party. But please, talk about political corruption. Let's talk about the lawsuits Biden's sons are involved in from a failed hedge fund. For that matter let's talk about the fact that Biden's sons are involved in hedge funds, which Obama has said are the embodiment of evil. One of Biden's sons has also been a lobbyist, another verboten profession according to Obama. (And wasn't that son working for one of the credit card companies for whom Biden wrote a sweet-heart piece of bankruptcy legislation? Why yes, yes he was!)

Or should we talk about Obama's ties to a crook, and what Obama did for that crook in return for a sweet-heart deal on a house? Feel free to bring it up.

As for Palin's other flaws.... That's another matter. Putting her on the ticket DOES undercut McCain's experience argument against Obama. It doesn't end it, as Palin has more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket. She also has concrete examples of what she has done, which is something Obama doesn't have (note that he didn't mention one single thing he has accomplished in his acceptance speech - because he doesn't have any) and something that Biden won't want to mention (Biden consistently voted for the USA to unilaterally disarm when faced by the Soviet Union, has voted in favor of big business so often that he embarrasses Republicans, etc.)

Palin does have a bunch of strengths, however. First, she's done stuff other than politics - which is a claim that her Democratic opponents can't make. She's owned a business. She's done TV. She's been an athlete and is a sportswoman. I've seen footage of her shooting an M-16 on automatic - she looked completely at home. And she kills and guts her own moose! Her family lives what they believe - she kept a baby with Down Syndrome rather than abort it. (The very first attack I heard from an Obama spokesman CNN reporter Obama spokesman on Palin was someone saying that there was no way a woman with a special needs child could possibly do the workload of the VP. When did Democrats start to hate mothers and say that women couldn't do the work of men if they were mothers? I think that spokesman has already been given concrete boots and a trip to the nearest river.) Her son has joined the Army and deploys to Iraq on September 11. (Note the McCain has sons in the military, an Biden has a son about to deploy to Iraq too. It's interesting and good to see the leadership tied to the military like this.) All in all there are many pluses.

But the three big pluses are

  1. She shores up the social conservative base that has been skeptical of McCain.
  2. Palin is aimed at disaffected Democratic Hillary voters - but not at women as such. Palin is aimed clearly at working class voters, the ones that Biden has fucked over with bankruptcy legislation and the ones that Obama has said bitterly cling to "guns and religion" because they're worried about the price of arugula.
  3. Palin comes across as a real person, and not as a political construct. (Contrast Palin with Romney, for example.) And she hasn't spent her entire fucking life trying to get elected so that she can be someone. (Contrast this with both Clinton's, Biden, Obama, the Bushs, etc.)
This point is probably the thing that impresses me the most. She got into politics because she wanted more paved roads and a police force in her little town in Alaska. In other words, she wanted to actually do something.

But besides the inexperience argument, the biggest problem is this - she has never been involved in a national campaign. From now until the time she is either dead of irrelevant the opposition and the news media will dig into every facet of her life in order to destroy her. (The only candidate I have ever seen the media NOT attempt to destroy is Obama. Hmm, I wonder why that is?) How will she hold up under this scrutiny? Who knows. The pressure could lead to a blow up that could look really bad on TV.

Regardless, it's a gutsy pick, but it has the potential to be a disaster.

Added: I caught another Obama spokesman yesterday asking if Palin had ever even left the country. He asked it with a sneer. Yes she has. That footage I've seen of Palin and the evil assault rifle was shot in Iraq, while she was visiting Alaskan National Guard troops. She could, much to my surprise, be a disaster for the Obama campaign. So far all they've done since Palin was announced is insult mothers, working women, small towns, and working class people. The thing that shocks me most about the Obama campaign is that they are so astoundingly arrogant and stupid, and they keep getting away with it.

[I stand by my contention, though, that VP picks generally don't mean anything unless they are disasters.]

H/T Pastor Jeff, for supplying links about who attacked Palin for having a child with Downs Syndrome.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mini-hiatus

I have been away from home for the last day, and shortly after finishing this post I will spend another day away from home, possibly several. Blogging will be limited to non-existent.

In the meantime, here are a few brief notes:

  • I don't believe that any of today's politicians can write half as well as U. S. Grant.
  • Obama's speech wasn't good. It certainly wasn't as good as Bill Clinton's speech from the night before. More importantly, my MOTHER thought the speech was awful. My mother has never voted for a Republican.
  • Note to conservatives: Biden doesn't commute to save money - he commutes to save time. (More on this when I get back home, if I still care.)
  • Nobody cares who anyone picks for VP unless that pick is a disaster. The last time a VP pick mattered in a positive way was 1960. It can be fun for us wonks to talk about them, but ultimately they just don't matter, in terms of electoral politics.
  • I suspect McCain is about to make a colossal blunder for his VP pick. [Note: CNN is reporting as I write that it will be Alaska governor Sarah Palin.] For reasons that I may get to latter I suspect that Palin could be a disastrous pick, and Meg Whitman would ultimately be as bad as picking Lieberman.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breaking the Law

Of course, if there were a law, then I could get around to breaking it.

There oughta be a law!

Or perhaps, in response to certain circumstances, even an amendment.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Master

I decided that I would watch one speech from the Democratic Convention - William Jefferson Clinton's speech. I admit, I watched it in part to see if he would somehow throw Obama under the bus, but Bill didn't do that. Instead he gave what I thought was the best political speech of the year. Frankly, he made all of the other candidates running this year look like incompetents by comparison, and yes, I mean all the candidates in both parties. And I say that as someone who had problems with contents of Bill's speech tonight and as someone who never cared for him as a politician. Still, the man is masterful at what he does. Barry's got a tall order tomorrow - to top the Master.

Thuggery [Updated]

Thuggery comes in many shapes in sizes - especially political thuggery. Unfortunately these kinds of things seem to be becoming more and more common.

Note that the second story reflects as badly on McCain as Obama, as McCain has been on of the driving forces for regulating political speech in this country. Of course, the desire to censor political talk extends to both parties.

These are depressing times.

Update: More on the Obama campaign's efforts to smear or scare critics here.

More on the arrest of an ABC reporter here, with video footage of the arrest here. It's interesting to see the police push a reporter into traffic and then arrest him for blocking traffic. (Also? That was a crappy choke hold the police used. Denver police suck as thugs.) It reminds me of the classical definition of chutzpah.

I had thought that Obama was yearning to recreate the Carter Presidency, but perhaps it's Nixon whom he will emulate. Overall this doesn't bode well for an Obama Presidency. (And it certainly continues to demonstrate the Big Lie at the heart of the Obama Campaign -the lie that HE will bring us all together.) Unfortunately the country is between Scylla and Charybdis this election, although few seem to realize it.

Job Security

Bob Dole came up in the comments of another thread, which reminded me that in 1996 Bob Dole resigned his Senate seat after he secured the Republican nomination for President. I know Obama won't do the same, but I was wondering about Biden since his term is up at the end of this year. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, technically early in 2009.) It turns out Joe is running for two jobs at once. I'm sure his Senate re-election bid won't distract from his VP bid - his seat is safe, and mostly he just needs his name on the ballot. McCain is also keeping his Senate seat. (McCain and Obama aren't up for re-election until 2010.)

I do find it interesting to see if or how people hedge their bets - it gives some indication of how sure they are of their plans. Apparently none of these men are sure of victory.

Added: A commenter reminds me that Lieberman did the same thing in 2000. I think that this has actually become fairly common practice. (Didn't LBJ have Texas state law changed so he could do the same thing in 1960?) I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I think I'm opposed to it. To choose a specific example, shouldn't a Senator for a state owe his first alligiance to the voters who elected him as their representative? How many votes, hearings, etc, have McCain & Obama missed in the last two years? Is that what their supporters back in Arizona and Illinois wanted when they last elected them? (I imagine that in the case of Obama the answer may well be "YES!") This would seem to be even worse for someone in an executive position, a la Bush II in 2000.

Target: NEW ORLEANS

Gustav is looking to kick ass and chew bubble bum - and he's all out of bubble gum.

(I was going to put up images of the Spaghetti Models but I think that's probably a copyright violation. Here's a link - I hope it holds up for a while.)

All of which is to say: Better them than us.

Hubris or staging?

Obama's team is constructing a set that resembles a Greek temple for Obama's acceptance speech. The easy temptation is to make fun of Obama's hubris, both in terms of building his own temple and in once again trying to make himself look like a very tan JFK. But really, I think Obama just likes Greek temples - he's used them as backdrops before. Of course Obama's temple will be in better shape than Heracles....

What was he thinking?

Obama, last week:


The Times of London, this week:

THOUSANDS of Chinese farmers face ruin because their water has been cut off to guarantee supplies to the Olympics in Beijing, and officials are now trying to cover up a grotesque scandal of blunders, lies and repression.

In the capital, foreign dignitaries have admired millions of flowers in bloom and lush, well-watered greens around its famous sights. But just 90 minutes south by train, peasants are hacking at the dry earth as their crops wilt, their money runs out and the work of generations gives way to despair, debt and, in a few cases, suicide.

In between these two Chinas stands a cordon of roadblocks and hundreds of security agents deployed to make sure that the one never sees the other.
My question is this: Does Obama really think the USA needs to emulate China or is he simply that uninformed? Perhaps he's just really impressed by fancy facades.

H/Ts to Rush Limbaugh & Dave Schuler.

Strange

This political season feels very strange. I'm not sure if the normal rules don't apply this year, or if it's that the rules are being ignored. I suspect the latter. For example, Obama's VP choice not only hasn't given him a bounce, it has caused Obama's numbers to drop.




I'm starting to suspect that Obama's poll numbers will have little or no bounce after the Democratic Convention.

I'm guessing that something like 30-50 million Americans have just started closely following the election news. They didn't vote in the primaries, probably because they aren't registered with either party, and have now started the serious business of figuring out which of the two parties has offered up the least sour lemon. They must be amazed at what the Democratic Party has offered: A callow youth with almost no national résumé, whose one serious policy judgement was wrong, and who can't seem to control his own Convention. Closer examination reveals that Obama seems to have been nominated because he's half-Black and reads well off the teleprompter.

All of the Convention coverage I have seen has centered on the question of whether or not the Clintons and their supporters will behave. THIS is why it was such a huge error to allow the Clintons this much air time at the Convention - even if they behave it only means they're good soldiers, not that Obama has the stones to impose his will on them. He's been emasculated whether he realizes it or not.

Contrast this with the Republican nominee: A well-known Senator who has served several terms in Washington, having created at least SOME well-known legislation, who has been very visible on the foreign policy issues of the last decade, and is even known to buck his own party. Added bonus: In Republican fashion, they picked McCain because it's his turn. They don't always do this (see Bush in 2000) but Republicans often enough reward the long-time party stalwarts with a Presidential or VP nomination. This is boring, and often electorally useless, but it has the advantage of picking known commodities. This year, more than any other, this difference with the Democrats is strikingly in the Republican favor.

I'm starting to think that McCain should perhaps be considered the favorite this fall, which is a strange thought indeed.

Yet another example of the worthlessness of the UN

The UN has investigated claims of civilian deaths caused by US forces in Afghanistan.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.N. put its weight behind the Afghan government claim of civilian deaths in Herat, saying its investigators "found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men."

The U.N. did not provide photos or evidence that its investigators who went to the scene saw any graves or that any militants were among those killed. Instead it relied on statements of villagers, local officials and eyewitnesses.
That's right, they didn't even ask to at least see the graves, or the bodies of the dead. How utterly incompetent. I'll also note that it's interesting to see that they're investigating a claim against the US. How about claims against the Russian and Georgian governments? Claims against Sudan? The dictatorship in Burma? Chinese actions in Tibet? I bet those won't be forthcoming.

Why are we giving them prime real estate in Manhattan? Why are we giving them money? Surely wew could do something better with the money, such as build more Lawrence Welk Mueseums.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Judged Sports Rant - Rant [Updated]

Every two years I hear the same stupid sports rant. It always coincides with the Olympic Games. In some sports a panel of judges determines the winner. Figure skating (an anachronistic name), gymnastics, and diving are the sports most people think of as judged sports. Invariably, there are judging controversies (as in the Women's Gymnastics this year) where judges apparently get it wrong. Just as invariably this leads to comments like this:

Diving's a sport?

Seems more like ballet or dance than running and wrestling. That is, both certainly involve athleticism, but the former are primarily about aesthetics. [I]n a real sport, you don't have to vote for the winner, or wait for the results to be tallied.
Well, guess what, Numb Nuts? Wrestling is a judged sport! As is boxing and all of the other martial art based sports. It's true that a boxing match can end by knock-out, but that happens rarely at the amateur level, and doesn't happen as much as boxing fans would like.

But it's worse than that - even non-judged sports have referees determining what is and isn't fair or "legal" behavior in games. For example the USSR beat the Americans in basketball in the 1972 Olympics in Munich because of officiating errors. And even something as apparently uncomplicated as a foot race or swimming race can be impacted by judges. Two sprinters were disqualified from the 200 M Men's final at the Beijing Olympics because of judging decisions. A Chinese swimmer was disqualified by judges after winning a heat at the Beijing Olympics because she had ever so slightly jumped the starter's gun. I don't think anyone caught it live, but the officials invalidated the result after the race.

In other words, every serious sport involves officiating and judging. If you have a problem with some of them, then come up with a valid argument against them instead of some idiot rant against judging.

Update: I responded to the comment mentioned above with:
Sorry, but wrestling, like boxing, is a judged sport.
Pogo, writer of the first comment replied with:
Not the same thing. Synchronized diving by 12 year old girls and loop-de-loop banner dancing by 14 year olds is judged by aesthetics; entirely subjective.

Boxing and wrestling get points for certain moves (pins, take-downs) or punches landed. Tallying is not subjective at all. And you can always win in each by totally subduing your opponent.

You can win boxing and wrestling ugly. And the participants often bleed. Neither is possible in gymnastics winners. Never ever.
To which I retorted:
Boxing and wrestling get points for certain moves (pins, take-downs) or punches landed. Tallying is not subjective at all.

Then you show you didn't actually watch the boxing at this Olympics, as subjective tallying was once again a problem. (And is a problem with amateur boxing in general.)

And you can always win in each by totally subduing your opponent.

A pinfall in wrestling is something that is called by the referee and confirmed by the other judges. Again, officials make their presense felt.

Also, there was a big stink when one wrestler gave up his medal because he felt he had been cheated by the officials. He had also gotten screwed over in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The Court for Arbitration of Sport has ruled that the wrestler had good reason to be upset.

In other words, if you had followed Olympic boxing and wrestling you would know that there had been problems because of the judging.

You can win boxing and wrestling ugly. And the participants often bleed. Neither is possible in gymnastics winners. Never ever.

A bronze medal was won in the female gymanstics events by someone who fell on her dismount. That was certainly winning ugly. And if bleeding is a requirement for sport you may as well toss out all of the track events.

You can keep trying Pogo, but I'll out point you all night and all day tomorrow on this topic. It'll make for fine sport.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Your Spanish is pretty good."

Lawyers killed American diving.

When I was young, the USA had great divers. But as I've gotten older America has had increasingly bad results in international diving competitions. I believe this makes the second consecutive Olympic Games where we haven't won even a single medal.

Watching the Men's 10M Platform competition tonight it struck me that about 25 years ago diving boards started disappearing from American pools. That's about when we were at our peak. Since then it has been a slide to second-rate status as a diving nation. (Or perhaps even third-rate. On would expect a second rate nation to occasionally win a medal.)

America DOES still have diving facilities but these mainly seem to be pools built specifically for diving. So we have areas for a divers to train. But the lack of diving boards for public and home pools means that fewer people will take up diving in the first place. In other words we have artificially reduced the size of young divers in this country over the last 25 years. Seriously, who goes to specific diving facilities just to dive? But if you put a diving board on a public pool every kid who can swim well (and some that can't) will go tumbling off the end of that board at some point.

But diving boards have been removed from almost all pools. The liability is just too damned high, because of personal injury lawsuits. Therefore the diving boards are gone, so only a select few ever learn to dive in the first place. Damn those lawyers anyway!

And I can assure any younger readers that it wasn't always the case. When I was young my mother enrolled me in a swimming class. Part of what we were taught was how to dive off a 3 foot high diving board. This pool also had a ten foot high diving board. (It looked HUGE to me. I never even climbed up the ladder.) Here's the kicker: This pool was at a public elementary school! A ten foot high diving boards for little kids! We have really turned into a nation of weenies.

Post-script: I am 99 & 44/100s percent certain that the gist of my argument isn't original, but I'm too lazy to search for other articles.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Just for completeness ...

Here's the whole quote from the Wicked Witch of the West:

You cursed brat! Look what you've done! I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness? Oooooh, look out! I'm going! Oooooh! Ooooooh!
One of the best lines in movie history.

Synchronized swimming goes gangsta?

Oh, what a world! What a world!

Republicans everywhere will need a fresh pair of pants tonight.

Apparently Obama IS the Messiah, because he has answered Republican prayers and picked Joe Biden to be his Veep. Republicans everywhere are peeing themselves with excitement.

Whatever Biden's merits, he's got two huge minuses for Obama. First, Biden's depth of experience makes Obama look like Dan Quayle Lite. Any questions about Obama's readiness won't be quelled by having a running mate who is far more qualified for the job - it will look like the wrong name has been listed first on all the campaign signs. And second, Biden just doesn't know when stop talking. Biden needs to have Walter Sobchak follow him around, constantly telling him, "Shut the fuck up, Joey."

Obama should have picked Tim Kaine. Kaine would have been credible enough without making Obama look so wet behind the ears.

Now the ball is back in McCain's court. It's time to see if he can screw up his Veep choice worse than Obama did. I'd say it's even money at the moment.

Out with the rain, in with the stupid.

The rain is finally subsiding, allowing the stupid people out of their homes. Tonight on the local news people in flooded neighborhoods are already complaining, wondering why the government (they never distinguish which one) hasn't already removed the water from their neighborhoods. I can tell from the names that these are areas prone to flooding during summers slightly wetter than usual. But Fay was an epic storm, not just an extra-rainy summer.

Here's an example of how much rain fell these last few days. Trash is picked up on Thursday in my mother's neighborhood. So she took the can down to the street, and hauled it back up to the house around noon yesterday. The lid for this can has long since been lost (which is to say, stolen) so she was going to put a cinder block in the bottom to secure it. Since she couldn't lift the cinder block she just left it on the side of the house. She went out this morning and the can had 20 inches of water in it. And no, that isn't water that drained off the roof. That took less than 24 hours and she doesn't live in one of the more rain soaked areas.

The whole central portion of the state got soaked like this for more than three days but the idiots now wonder why "the government" hasn't waved a magic wand making the water vanish. Incredible.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fay

Tropical Storm Fay has now dumped more water on Florida than Hurricane Charlie, Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne combined. Those three storms dominated the peninsula of Florida over a six week stretch in 2004. Charlie blew by in about four hours but the other two hurricanes were over the middle of the state for two to four days a piece. The wind and tidal surge of Fay hasn't been as bad as a hurricane, but the rains have been epic. Parts of Brevard Country have received over 26 inches of rain since Tuesday and the rain still hasn't stopped. (FYI for non-Floridians: Brevard County includes Melbourne, Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

There's nothing about the following story that isn't funny.

In Panama City a female emu named Plop-Plop escaped from a farm last weekend and then holed up with a gang of horses and goats. When the police arrived Plop-Plop "went kind of crazy." So in an effort to avoid injuring the bird or themselves the police subdued Plop-Plop with a taser. Plop-Plop has since made a full recovery.

The weird thing about this story is that it's all true.

The Elitist Trope

In my previous post I called the recent exchange about McCain's houses essentially meaningless. This may seem odd as this is clearly a dangerous moment for both campaigns. Regardless, it IS meaningless because the whole thing centers on which candidate is the "true elitist" in this race. The answer, as always, is that BOTH candidates are members of the elite by definition. After all, they are the two major party candidates for the office of President of the United States of America. This is not a job that just anyone can get.

"But we're not talking about who's a member of the elite. We're talking about who understands what it's like to be a common American!"

Well, so what? Most candidates for President aren't going to be able to "feel your pain" and the ability to do so is hardly a qualification for the job. Neither Teddy Roosevelt nor Franklin Delano Roosevelt had any idea what it was like to be poor, middle class, or even upper-middle class. They had been born to great wealth and privilege. That didn't exactly hamper their ability to get the job done.

If understanding the plight of the common American were so important then we wouldn't have THESE two candidates running for office.

While it is true that Obama didn't come from wealthy background, he does have the background of a cultural elitist - his childhood was far from common, he's a graduate of Columbia and Harvard, he's been a professor at the University of Chicago. His parents were hardly common people either. (How many children have a parent who was a university professor? That is an elitist trait right there!)

It's true that he has been among poor people. But does he really know what it means to be poor? Being poor isn't about lack of money - that's a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition. Many students struggle through their college years on Ramen noodles but they know that better days are ahead. And if they had better days behind them then the temporary poverty is more of an adventure than a state of mind. And the "starving artist" whose parents are rich lawyers? They're play acting at poverty, attempting to gain street cred with other elitist snobs.

But those of us who have grown up poor (whether it be "working-class poor" as I was or something worse) know that being poor is a state of mind. It's about fear of where the next dollar is going to come from and a certainty that there will never really be enough of them. This certainty is hard to overcome. But even if one does achieve success there is still that nagging fear that somehow it will all be taken away. If you haven't lived with that fear and with those doubts then you've never really been poor. If you've ever been certain that all avenues to a decent life have been cut off, then you have been truly poor. And I don't care how many years you spend as a community organizer (WTF?) you are NEVER going to understand it.

(One could argue that Michelle Obama knows what it's like to have been middle class. But I don't really think this kind of thing transfers from spouse to spouse. Plus, attending Princeton and Harvard, followed up with an impressive career in the Chicago legal and political world she hardly seems common.)

The situation with John McCain is even more elitist. He is (famously) the son and grandson of full Admirals. He attended the Naval Academy where he was apparently one of the BMOCs. (Don't be fooled by the low class ranking - that rarely means much outside of the academic world, except perhaps as a way to puff up one's resume.) After that McCain became a Naval Aviator, and don't you dare call them mere pilots! In short, McCain has been born and bred as part of our warrior elite. And to top it off his second wife is fabulously wealthy. (Seriously, McCain can't remember how many houses they own!)

No, neither of these men have common backgrounds.

And that has been the norm in recent decades. In 2004 we had the blue-blooded John Kerry taking on the even bluer-blooded George W. Bush. The 2000 election featured the privileged son of a wealthy US Senator taking on the even more privileged son of a wealthy US President.

In 1996, however, we had a rather extra-ordinary election - neither man had an elite background. Both had worked their way up from the bottom, and it seemed that both remembered what it had been like to be poor. (Although Clinton was MUCH better at actually connecting with people than Dole.) In 1992 we had Clinton versus another son of a wealthy US Senator. Perhaps the real reason Bill picked Al to be his running mate was so he could appeal to the much coveted Children of Wealthy US Senators demographic. And 1988 saw Bush against a Harvard educated lawyer who was the son of a Harvard educated doctor.

So in the last six Presidential elections we've had two candidates who could credibly claim to have non-elite roots. In other words, the McCain/Obama spat about who is more "in touch" with the common person doesn't really mean a thing, and by our selection of candidates over the last 20 years we should all understand that it doesn't mean a thing.

Incidentally, I don't mind these elitist guys running for office. But what DOES piss me off is when they try to act like they're the salt o' the earth. Kerry SHOULD have trimmed his finger nails in 2004 just because of all the hands he would shake. But he SHOULDN'T have done it to hide his fondness of playing classical guitar. And Algore's story about ploughing the back 40 in 2000 was the lamest part of that exceptionally lame campaign. The current President Bush has also reworked his own public persona. In his first political campaign he got his ass handed to him by an opponent who billed Bush as an out-of-touch elitist from Harvard and Yale. (Yeah, that dumb Texan act is just that. Amazingly almost all of his opponents have fallen for it.) Just 'fess up to the background, guys. Most likely your opponent will be every bit the elitist SOB that you are.

Gaffe & Counter-Gaffe

So McCain pulled a two-fer on the gaffe front in recent days. First McCain made the $5,000,000 a year comment, which he followed up with the "I'll have my staff get [back] to you" comment about the number of houses he owns. While the first comment was supposed to be a joke it didn't play well. Following it up with the forgetfulness about the number of homes he and his wife own makes him out to be horribly rich, which as we know means he's worse than Hitler.

Today, however, Obama personally delivered a counter-gaffe for the McCain campaign to use against him. According to the Washington Post, this morning at a rally in Virginia Obama said,

"I guess if you think that being rich means you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong. But if you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective."
My immediate reaction was that Obama had screwed up. As I continued reading the Washington Post article I was shocked to see that McCain's campaign had actually been smart enough to seize the opportunity!
"Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?" asked McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.
Yowza! I cannot believe that Obama was stupid enough to bring up his own home in this context. Now he has opened the door for McCain to hammer him on his ties to Tony Rezko - an attack that will bring home the point that while Obama talks about "change" he's really just a crooked Chicago pol.

I imagine that this (essentially meaningless) exchange will favor McCain. McCain has been around for quite a while now. We already knew McCain was rich, although I doubt most knew how rich. We also know that he came by his money honestly - he married it. But Obama has been running as the outsider and the agent of change. The Rezko stuff has been kicking around but not everyone has been paying close attention. Now the McCain campaign is likely to start using some of their money to start pounding Obama on his close financial ties to a crook.

Now the proper way for Obama to have handled this gift from McCain would have been to say as little as possible, and he should have NEVER mentioned his own home. It would have been easy enough to get some common American to ask him about McCain's comments at a campaign stop.
Average American Voter: Senator Obama, John McCain thinks that the cut-off for rich is at $5 million a year. Now we know that he doesn't even remember how many houses he owns. What's your reaction to that?

Obama: [Shrugs shoulders and just smiles at the voter]

Audience: Laughs
It would have also been fine to have surrogates go out and blast McCain about this just so long as they don't mention Obama! They did get one thing just right, though - the ad that Obama's campaign put together is excellent.Almost perfect. It doesn't mention Obama at all (except for the "approve this message" crap). The only way this would have been better is if they had played audio or video of McCain's hemming-and-hawing answer. I presume they didn't have access to such material.

But now they have given McCain a gift. The McCain campaign seems to have realized this. Now we simply have to wait and see if they're clever enough to exploit it well.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, this heavily favors Obama in the short term. Medium and long term this may cut against him.

New Seattle

With the arrival of the Permanent Tropical Storm Fay the city of Orlando has turned into New Seattle - all it does is rain. Orange County (which contains Orlando) is now under a Tropical Storm Wind Warning until 8 pm Friday. That's actually optimistic as the storm just hasn't moved in the last 24 hours and has barely moved in the last 48. It's been here over two and a half days no with no signs of leaving. This is the weirdest tropical weather system I have ever seen.

Olympic Perspective

National Football League Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw has died. Currently CNN has this news in the big red Breaking News headline at the top of their page.

Michael Phelps had to become the most decorated modern Olympian to get similar treatment. In other words, in America the best Olympian of the modern era is just about as important as a behind the scenes apparatchik from the NFL. The fact that this great Olympian also happens to be American just underscores my point. This partly explain why we're getting clobbered in the Olympic Gold Medal count.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What the hell.

I'm thinking I may as well run for President. Based on the current crop of candidates I'm over-qualified. Besides I already know which music to use at my rallies.

I'll enter to "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta" by Geto Boys.

I'll exit to "I wanna grow up to be a politician" by The Byrds. (The clip is obviously Roger McGuinn working solo but I would use the original version.)

Between entering and exiting my rallies I would dazzle everyone simply by not sucking as hard as the other candidates.

Added: Here's a potential campaign slogan, although I would have to buy the rights to use it:

OUTIS in '08:
'cause when the shit jumps off what the fuck you gonna do?

"Anyway, my opinion is that this will all be moot by 2040 because new technologies and wealth will allow us to solve a lot of our social problems."

I read the quote above in a comment section over at iSteve. I'm 40 years-old now. I remember when I was a child that I heard comments like that all the time. In the 32 years since I haven't seen technology solve any "social" problems. Hope springs eternal....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

When the going gets tough...

... global money flees to the currency of choice. Here's a big heart-felt thanks to Russia for strengthening the dollar!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yesterday's depressing news today!

The Dead Zones just keep spreading. From the AP:

WASHINGTON - Like a chronic disease wasting a body, ocean "dead zones" with too little oxygen for marine life are spreading around the globe, researchers reported Thursday.

The experts counted 405 dead zones in 2007 — a third more than their 1995 survey.

"The number of dead zones has approximately doubled each decade since the 1960s," the researchers wrote in the journal Science....

Some of the increase is due to the discovery of low-oxygen areas that may have existed for years and are just being found, Diaz said, but others are newly developed....

Fertilizers, fuel, sewage blamed
Pollution-fed algae, which deprive other living marine life of oxygen, is the cause of most of the world's dead zones. Scientists mainly blame fertilizer and other farm runoff, sewage and fossil-fuel burning.
The biggest problem with the global warming debate (which ultimately is a debate about computer models) is that it detracts from evironmental causes that are more observable and far more troubling. These oceanic Dead Zones are more important concerns than Global Warming, also more immediate.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unfortunate headline, or intentional joke?

Currently on Sports Illustrated's home page they have the headline "US POUNDS GREECE". That is not the headline they're using on the story page itself so I can't really link to that. Regardless I am once again reminded of Men on Vacation. "Well we both know what time that was."

Dave Schuler does the impossible.

He actually gives me a reason to consider voting for Obama.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Notes on the Olympic Games

  • During the Parade of Nations portion of the Opening Ceremony I noticed that half of Zimbabwe's athletes were white. Also, the Flag Bearer of Botswana was white. I guess it's true what they say: Minorities really ARE good at sports.
  • When the French team entered the stadium the announcers mentioned that there's been talk in China of boycotting French companies because of French actions concerning Tibet. China, here's a tip: start calling deep-fried potato slices Freedom Fries instead of French Fries!
  • The Polish team has many attractive female athletes, and only some of them are lesbians.
  • When Estonia entered the Stadium during the Parade of Nations Matt Lauer dug deep into the trivia vaults. He informed us that an Estonian and a Finn contested the longest wrestling match in modern Olympic history in 1912: The two contestants went at it for ELEVEN HOURS in a Greco-Roman wrestling match. (Somehow this makes me think of Men on Vacation.) The execrable Bob Costas tried to upstage Lauer by adding, "That will rank as the longest Olympic contest of all-time unless they ever add Cricket." Well, Bob, you pusillanimous jerk, Cricket has already been contested at the Olympics. In 1900 the British convincingly beat the French in a two day contest. Just shut the fuck up, Bob.
  • The French stink at trash talking.
Finally, the Opening Ceremony was freakin' awesome. It was a fine mix of the massiveness of Humanity's imperial agrarian past with the technology that stemmed from the more indiviualistic scientific/industrial era. It will be interesting to see if China can successfully fuse these concepts on a more permanent basis. (They've already failed at this a couple of times, but perhaps the third time will be the charm.)

"Back up in your ass ..."

"with the Resurrection!"

Saturday, August 09, 2008

NBC Sports sucks ass. Again. Still.

I'm watching the Olympics tonight. During the Men's Gymnastics performances NBC keeps putting up this annoying logo that covers almost a quarter of the screen. It is actually covering a significant amount of the competitors during their performances. Another thing is that NBC is screwing around with when and how they show the scores.

These are just two of the reasons NBC Sports sucks. Forget energy policies, I want the Presidential Candidates to present plans to free the Olympics from the evil clutches of NBC.

Incidentally, the NBC hi-def broadcasts in Korean and Mandarin (which I'm assuming are simply feeds from Korean and Chinese broadcasts) are much better even if I can't read most of the graphics or understand any of the commentary: at least the graphics aren't hiding the competition!

Added: While I've been typing this NBC has gone to the studio with Bob Costas and Chris Collinsworth. The first two minutes of THAT were all about - Bob Costas! Make that THREE reasons NBC Sports sucks ass and I'm only mentioning stuff that I'm seeing right now.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Shakma!

Perhaps the greatest movie ever filmed in Orlando, Florida.



Second best part of the trailer: "Starring Christopher Atkins, two-time recipient of the National Association of Theater Owners Star of the Year Award - first for The Blue Lagoon, now for Shakma!"

Best part: "SHAKMAAAA!"

I wonder if anyone has ever walked up to Dennis Haysbert with a copy of Shakma and asked for him to autograph it. He does GREAT work in this trailer!

H/T to my good friend H5N1 for pointing out this post by Ken at KENNNNNNNN BLOGGGGGGG.

Added: I used to do a pretty good Shakma imitation. Here's how I did it: Find a sturdy, locked, solid wood or solid metal door. Start screaming at the top of one's lungs while waving one's arms about frantically. Throw oneself against the door repeatedly. Keep this up until a concusion has been achieved. THAT is how one does a primo Shakma imitation.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I hate Brett Favre.

Alternate Title: Die, Favre, DIE!

Reasons why:

He can't even spell his own name correctly.

I am tired of the "Will he/Won't he retire?" Saga we endured for SEVEN FUCKING YEARS!

I am even more tired of the last two months of that inconsiderate drug addict fucking over his old team while acting like a victim.

I am tired of every stupid sports reporter in the USA telling us how fantastic this idiot is.

Example of the last point: While flipping channels tonight I caught a brief bit of the New Orleans Saints/Arizona Cardinals preseason game on ESPN. It was half-way through the second quarter and all they were talking about was Brett fucking Favre. They had spent an hour on the game and apparently the only thing they bothered to discuss was what a wonderful guy Brett Favre is.

Well, he's a drug addict (recovered, allegedly) and a horse's ass who screwed over his old franchise by spending years of saying he would retire and THEN NOT RETIRING. That means that for the last several years Green Bay has had to plan for Brett's departure only to have him say "Just kidding!" Now he's acting as though they are the ones that forced him out. Hey asshole, if you didn't want them to plan for a future without you, you shouldn't have spent every fucking year from 2001 through 2007 saying, "Well, I think I'm going to retire after this" only to not retire.

I only hope that someone rips his fucking legs off and beats him to death with them during a game this year. Given that he's now in the same division with New England this may well happen. Belicheat likes to coach dirty and it's easy to image the pride he would take in being the coach to end Favre's career. I can only hope....

Added: Bascially Favre has been a bigger distraction to his team than T.O. has been. But unlike T.O. Favre is also a drug addict. Advantage T.O.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

McCain Contributions (Part 1)

I'm not sure how many (if any) parts there will be, but via Instapundit I saw a post on Townhall.com asking about certain alleged McCain contributors mentioned in a Washington Post story.

The WaPo article mentions the following people:

Nadia and Shawn Abdalla
Ibrahim Marabeh

The Townhall post points out that they can't find these people listed as McCain donors on OpenSecrets.org. I just wanted to confirm that I can't find McCain contributions in the raw data from the FEC either. (Using files that cover all contributions through June 30, 2008.)

On the other hand these other people mentioned in the WaPo article do show up in the FEC records:

Abdullah and Miriam Abdullah
Faisal Abdullah
Nader and Sahar Alhawash

It's not really that helpful but I have looked at the raw data, instead of looking at the Open Secrets data.

Additional Notes: Open Secrets is pretty good, but it is not infallible. For example look at this listing of contributions from people with the last name of Anderle. There have been several contributions from Charles K. Anderle. Open Secrets lists C. K. Anderle as living in both Chagrin Falls, Ohio and Chagrin Falls, South Carolina. Looking at the actual data from the FEC, however, I can see that Anderle has listed both Chagrin Falls, OH and Beaufort, SC for his home town. He seems to have moved sometime between June of 2007 and January of 2008. This example shows a small problem, of course, but it does demonstrate that data need to be examined carefully. One shouldn't just take stuff on faith.

(Incidentally, the FEC records are a mess too. I'm still trying to figure out how to clean it up efficiently.)

Also? Chagrin Falls is a great name for a town!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama - Making the Tough Calls

The most gracious and beneficent Barack Obama has decided to allow the little people in Florida and Michigan to have a voice at the Democratic Convention. It's good to see him taking such a bold stand on the issue - months after it no longer matters.

OTOH it's still better than his asinine comments about properly inflated tires.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tito!



Tito remixed:



Whoa!



Wrong Tito. Interesting soundtrack though.

Speaking of Presidents with funny sounding names...

Does Barack Hussein Obama sound any funnier than Millard Fillmore?

Campaign Contributions

I've been intermittenly working on some analysis of Obama's and McCain's campaign contributions. However, the FEC data has to be scrubbed before any decent conclusions can be made, and that is a bear of a project. Sorry for the delay.

Newspeak

"Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible." - George Orwell, 1984
Increasingly I find myself identifying Barack Obama with Big Brother. Obama, like Big Brother, is never wrong. Even when it seems that Obama has changed his position (if not his mind) Obama insists that nothing has changed. The most recent example of this (that I'm aware of) is Obama's 180 on offshore drilling. Here are a few selected quotes from a CNN Political Ticker piece:
Obama said Friday that he would be willing to compromise on his position against offshore oil drilling if it were part of a more overarching strategy to lower energy costs.

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama told The Palm Beach Post early into a two-day swing through Florida.

...

The senator from Illinois has railed against offshore drilling since Sen. John McCain in June proposed striking down the federal moratorium banning offshore oil and gas drilling to help alleviate high gas prices.

"When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts," Obama told reporters in Jacksonville in late June. "That's how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good."

Even as recently as Thursday, Obama refused to cede any ground, calling McCain's proposal "a strategy designed to get politicians through an election."

"It's not going to provide short-term relief or medium-term relief or in fact long-term relief. It won't drop prices in this administration or in the next administration or in the administration after that," Obama said while campaigning in Iowa.
Okay, so all of that is simply an example of Obama changing his position over time. The problem is that he insists his position hasn't changed:
But on Saturday morning, Obama said this "wasn't really a new position."

Another example this week has been Obama's injection of race into the campaign, only to insist that he hasn't injected race into the campaign, McCain has. It doesn't matter that Obama actually did it first. The mere existence of McCain/Goldstein is evidence enough of McCain/Goldstein's treachery.

I can't even call this stuff rhetorical contortionism. Instead Obama is bringing the techniques of the Ministry of Truth to modern American campaigning - we have always been at war with Eurasia despite any evidence to the contrary.

Added: Perhaps Obama is the Evil Love Child of Big Brother and Nathan Thurm.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A brief comment about Doctor Who

I just watched the finale of season 4 of the new Doctor Who series. Once again, Dalek butt was kicked.

At some point in the penultimate episode the Daleks announce that they are responsible for stealing the Earth (just go with it) and that everyone will be exterminated. All of the Doctor's one-time associates start acting as though they are doomed. But I was thinking that if I were in their shoes I would be thinking, "Damn, Daleks again? I'd better put on the steel-toed boots for the duration."

Which leads me to my fantasy episodes for the fifth season of Doctor Who. (Yeah, I know that Brits would call that the fifth series, but my ancestors fought two wars against the British so we wouldn't have to speak bloody English.) I don't really have specifics for what would happen but it would go something like this:

At the end of, say, episode 8 it would be revealed that all of the bad things in the previous few episodes had been leading to the Daleks.

Daleks: Exterminate! Exterminate!
Doctor [looking up]: It can't be. They were all destroyed. Again!
New Companion [looking at Doctor]: But .. who are they?
Doctor [looking at New Companion]: Daleks.
New Companion: And what does that mean?
Doctor [camera pans in to close-up on Doctor's face]: The end of the world.

Cut to the "Scenes from next week" montage, chock full of Dalek/Doctor goodness.

Roll end credits.
Then at the start of Episode 9, the whole Dalek crisis gets wrapped up with hardly any fuss before the opening credits roll! Two minutes to save the Universe, tops. The rest of the episode has an entirely different story with no mention of the Daleks save this: the Doctor limps through the rest of the show complaining of a sore foot - sore from repeated kicking of Dalek butt.