Saturday, February 23, 2008

Time To Fade Out Again

Image credit: screenshot by Cujo359.

[This is a screenshot of the Dr. Who episode "Boom Town". This site is in no way associated with either the program or the BBC. I'm just a fan.]

For the next couple of weeks, I'll either be too busy or too isolated from the Internet to write much. Just as the Doctor always shows up for another episode, I'll be back, too.

Meanwhile, as another British gent would say, behave!

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Watertiger has another funny caption.

UPDATE 2: Bustednuckles has some wonderful observations about cats. You can tell he's lived with them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Must Read For Brain Fans

Image credit: WriterHound at Wikipedia.

Oh, OK, I'm having trouble with titles today. Over at Firedoglake, Dr. Kirk Murphy provides a tutorial on brain trauma:

We all like to think we're special. And we are - we're all unique individuals. So we all believe our brains and even our assholes are special. On the individual level, our brains and assholes are indeed special - and disease that affects my brain (or my asshole) will affect me in a unique and special way. Yet as biological organisms, we humans are pretty similar to one one another. As a species, our brains appear to share the same stucture and function ...

Every politician - even Dan Quayle - has a brain. Senator McCain has a brain, too. And Senator McCain would take his brain along with the rest of him to the Oval Office were he to win election (or 5 votes from the Supremes).

McCain’s Brain - How’s It Doin?

Then he touches on something I've been wondering about, but hadn't mentioned for obvious reasons:

And - sadly - torture can also predispose victims to brain disease. The resulting impairments can take the form of psychiatric disease (especially PTSD), cognitive impairments, or both. The experience of being a POW has - in WWII POW's - also been shown to be associated with neuropsychiatric impairment (although the same study found the difference between POWs and non-POW's from the same combat theatre was realtively small).

McCain’s Brain - How’s It Doin?

I've written about PTSD a time or two, so I certainly had wondered whether there might be some PTSD in McCain's past. I'll just add, for emphasis, that if Kirk Murphy isn't qualified to give a diagnosis about this condition, then I certainly am not. It's possible that he functions at a high enough level that he could manage as President. I'll just say that this gives extra meaning to who ends up being McCain's running mate.

Click on the links and read. It's a fascinating article, dosed with a bit of humor.

It's That Time Of Year

Image credit: Fortes

Safeco Field, Seattle. Soon, the Mariners will be playing here again.

It's that time of year again, when optimism that will soon be dashed in the bitter aftermath of hope binges that we call "reality" still runs strong. No, I'm not referring to Presidential politics, but that other passtime where America periodically indulges in outright fantasy - baseball season.

The same instinct that makes me shudder when I see Barack Obama speak makes me cringe when I read this about my home team:

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a top-heavy rotation, a precise closer and a lineup blending speed and muscle, the Seattle Mariners should win a lot of games.

And there's someone in their camp who perhaps can teach them to even win some games they shouldn't.

Phillips been everywhere, done that

Here's the translation for all you foreigners who might have wandered here by accident:

We don't have enough good pitchers among our candidates to choose a staff, we don't have enough hitters or enough good baserunners, and our ace relief pitcher may get far more work than is good for him.

Or something like that. Baseball talk isn't an exact science, but that's the idea.

The best news here, if you're a Mariners fan, is that Ichiro is back:

The most exciting baseball player in the world will be expected to also be the most expressive player in the Mariners' clubhouse this year.

Ichiro Suzuki, at the crest of the Japanese wave still rushing Major League shores, enjoys unique status. While other Japanese players have blended in, only Ichiro stands out as the dominant personality on his team.

Ichiro makes noise just by showing up

Considering that Ichiro's one of the league's best players, with a well-known work ethic, his being a dominant personality could actually be a good thing.

Let's return to the bad news, shall we?

During a 2,315-game career, he started 250-plus games at six different positions. He stole 10-plus bases in 12 seasons, homered in double figures seven times, and drew 100-plus walks five times. However, nobody could keep count of his number of shouting matches.

"You knew where Tony [Philips] was all the time," McLaren said. "This guy would scream at anybody. Someone would yell at him [from the opposition dugout], and he'd challenge the whole bench.

Phillips been everywhere, done that

Yes, for those of you not well-informed about this game, 2,315 games is a long career. Phillips is now 48 years old, and considered a prospect nonetheless. When a middle-aged utility guy with anger-management issues has a chance to make your team, you have a few holes in the roster.

Who knows, the guy might turn out to be OK, but the Mariners seem to lack both pitching and hitting, at least one of which is usually needed for a winning season.

The grass will be lovely, though. And tickets will be easy to come by in August.

UPDATE: Added links to Philips and Ichiro's "career" statistics. I put "career" in quotes, because in Ichiro's case he played in Japan for several years before coming to America. Those link strings look complicated, so I hope they work.

Obama's Lead Widens, Or Does It?

Image credit:

[Click on the image to see it full size]

This Friday's Pollster graph seems to show that Barack Obama's lead over Hillary Clinton has windened compared to last week. The gap is now 47.8 - 44, or 3.8 percent. As you can see from the chart, some of Clinton's support has wavered. This is to be expected when she hasn't won in a while.

There are two interesting things about the poll results, which you can view here. First, it looks like the number of undecideds is going up again, and the latest polls mostly show Clinton and Obama in a dead heat. One recent poll, the Feb. 15 Gallup, has Obama up by seven points, but the remainder from the week show it neck-and-neck. Obama's line is still going up thanks to that one poll, I think, plus "momentum" provided by the smoothing algorithm. It may be that Obama has gotten as popular as he's going to.

Obama is running into more trouble, but as in earlier times, his disciples seem to be able to ignore it and press on. This week, his ties to William Ayers, a former Weatherman, became more evident:

Obama tries to dismiss the tie to Ayers by claiming he was only eight years old when Ayers was planting bombs in the United States. That is true. But when Barack subsequently met Ayers he knew about Ayers’ past and Ayers’ belief he had nothing to apologize for. So here we have a guy who dreams of running for president and he does not understand the implications of letting an unrepentant terrorist raise money for him?

Obama Tries To Hide Ayers Tie

I doubt this will affect Obama supporters much. Reality seldom seems to intrude on their political beliefs. Unfortunately, middle America won't feel the same way. What they'll see is that he is a lawyer who let himself be connected politically to a terrorist, and an unrepentent one at that.

Once again, Democrats have zeroed in on the worst possible candidate, it would seem.

UPDATE: Here's an example of how reality hasn't intruded. Blue Texan writes at Firedoglake:

Using words like "snobs" and "pampered" to describe Michelle Obama, who grew up the daughter of a Chicago water plant employee, and Barack Obama, who grew up without a dad and eschewed a cushy, six-figure legal gig to work as a community organizer on Chicago's posh South Side is really rich.

Peggy Noonan: The Obamas Are Unpatriotic Liberal Snobs

Anyone who thinks the once-poor can't be snobs needs to go meet a few. I don't know if the Obamas fit that description or not, but just having been poor is no proof against it. Second, most folks who eschew "six-figure legal gigs" to work as community organizers don't manage to ingratiate themselves with the corrupt local party machine. Yet Obama did. A realist would wonder why. Realists are few and far between amongst Obama supporters.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Found One

Image credit: Wikipedia

You've got to hand it to those conservatives. No sooner than you can utter the phrase "Obama is inevitable" the race-baiting starts:

Obama and I are roughly the same age. I grew up in liberal circles in New York City — a place to which people who wished to rebel against their upbringings had gravitated for generations. And yet, all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics. (During the Clinton Administration we were all introduced to then U. of Pennsylvania Professor Lani Guinier — also a half black/half Jewish, red diaper baby.)

Obama's Political Origins

Now, if you read a title like "Obama's Political Origins", you'd expect to learn about his mentors, spirit guides, or whoever it was who actually had an influence on him, wouldn't you? You wouldn't expect to read that he was genetically predisposed to believing in a thoroughly repudiated economic system. But there it is - Obama, the red-diaper baby.

So, let me see, interracial marriages up to the Seventies were the result of communist leanings. That must mean, ooh, ooh - look I found one. And you thought Nixon rooted them all out, didn't you?

Oh, wait he married her in 1987, seventeen years after the commies let go their stranglehold on interracial marriages and let just anybody do it.

My bad.

Incidentally, both Attaturk (at FDL) and Glenn Greenwald have some observations on this as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama Now Ahead For Real

It looks like Barack Obama has widened his lead in delegates substantially. Jane Hamsher has the details, and at the moment I'm not in a mood to examine them too closely. Reading comments by Obama fans is nearly as depressing as reading the ones at Red State. They're just as mindless, only a few adjectives and the occasional noun separate them.

Ordinarily, I'd say that it's wonderful that we have widened the talent pool for viable Presidential candidates to include women and black people. That would be great news, if only we hadn't managed to pick a con artist and a crazy man as the candidates. The Age of American Unreason really has arrived.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Age Of American Unreason

Image credit: The Franklin Institute

Susan Jacoby, a secularist and free-thinker, has written a book entitled The Age Of American Unreason. If you're one of those folks who think that we're becoming a more irrational society by the day, you might be comforted to know you're not alone:

BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you, Susan, that half of American adults believe in ghosts? Now I take these from your book. One-third believe in astrology. Three quarters believe in angels. And four-fifths believe in miracles.

SUSAN JACOBY: I think even more important than the fact that large numbers of Americans believe in ghosts or angels, that is part of some religious beliefs. Is the flip side is of this is that over half of Americans don't believe in evolution. And these things go together. Because what they do is they place science on a par almost with folk beliefs.

Bill Moyers Journal: Susan Jacoby

Then again, you might be appalled. I added that link, by the way. Its graphic is a chart showing belief in evolution among modern industrialized countries. Only Turkey is more ignorant than we. Sadly, the people who say they don't hold with all of that evolution stuff don't seem to be too well informed about their own religion:

SUSAN JACOBY: But you can't believe that the Bible is literally true and still believe in evolution. There's a wonderful book on religious literacy by Stephen Prothero -- you know, which sites a poll that half of Americans can't name Genesis as the first book of the Bible. Well, if you can't-- but this is part of the total dumbing down of our culture. The-- one of those books apparently that the 50 percent of Americans aren't reading is also the Bible or they would know that Genesis was the first book of the Bible. It's sort of like, you know, "I don't know what Genesis is, but I believe it."

Bill Moyers Journal: Susan Jacoby

Makes you proud, doesn't it? I'm pretty sure that most of those half of Americans who don't know Genesis is the first book of the Bible are Christians. Most Americans are, and among those who aren't, I can tell you that there are very few who aren't aware of this fact. I found this hard to believe, so I asked the crowd at Firedoglake this evening whether they knew such people. They said they did. Not a thorough survey, but at least it's some confirmation.

It seems likely there are people out there who believe that America was founded on Christian principles, but don't know what those principles are.

Jacoby continues:

BILL MOYERS: And you're pretty hard on some of them. You say they won't acknowledge the political sig-- talking about liberal intellectuals-- won't acknowledge the political significance of public ignorance. Quote, "Liberals have tended to define the Bush administration as the problem and the source of all that has gone wrong during the past eight years. And to see an outraged citizenry ready to throw the bums out as the solution." And what you say is that that's the cheap and wrong way out. Right?

SUSAN JACOBY: It's the cheap way out and the wrong way out for this reason. And we've heard it over and over in the primaries from candidates who supported the war and changed their minds. "We were lied to," they said. If we'd known then what we know now we wouldn't have done it. And they say to the public, "You were lied to." But the deeper conversation we need to be having is why were Americans so willing to be lied to, not only average citizens, but politicians. And certainly when you have legislators, many of whom didn't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, and you have a geographic Roper poll that I quote in my new book-- they polled Americans between ages 18 and 25. Only 23 percent of college-educated young people could find Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Israel, four countries of ultimate importance to American policy on the map, a map, by the way, that ... had the ... country's [names] lettered on it. So in other words, it wasn't a blank map. It meant they didn't really know where the Middle East was either. So 23 percent of the college-educated and only six percent of high school graduates. Well, I would say that if only 23 percent of people with some college can find those countries on a map that is nothing to be bragging about. And that has to have something to do with why as a country -- we have such shallow political discussions.

Bill Moyers Journal: Susan Jacoby

Less than a quarter of college-educated people can find the place we've been sending our soldiers to die and kill people for the last five years.

Is it any wonder that our press spends so much time on irrelevant nonsense and so little on the important things? Is it any wonder that modern American journalism is so utterly, and appallingly bad? It shouldn't be, now, should it?

I don't know if I'm ever actually going to read this book. It sounds depressing. What's more, it won't end well. Unfortunately, one of the profoundest truths of freedom is that it requires intellectual effort. The people who founded this country were educated, despite living in a frontier society. Some, like Jefferson and Franklin, were inventors and scientists as well as politicians. The reason they enshrined freedom of the press as one of the first ones mentioned in the Bill of Rights is that they believed that the only way we could stay free was if we were able to inform ourselves so that we could decide our futures wisely.

If we don't want to do that, then we might as well find ourselves a king and start over.

(h/t to newtonusr at Firedoglake for putting me onto this.)

UPDATE: Over at his blog, Patrick Lang comments on the students he sees in his teaching job:

My recent exposure to adult American students associated with universities and the military makes me think that Susan Jacoby is largely correct in believing that we Americans are becoming more and more ignorant even as we become more and more proud of our ignorance.

What passes for education these days is largely devoid of the kind of cultural depth and richness of knowledge of the human experience that I associate with real education, as opposed to vocational training in; marketing, communications, journalism, business administration, etc., ad nauseam....

America the Illiterate

Lang's essay reminded me of one I read many years ago that was written by Robert Heinlein. The basic premise was the same - that education, including higher education, was being dumbed down. That was in the Sixties, if I remember correctly.

Things have been getting worse for a long time. It's about time we changed that, I think.

UPDATE 2 (Feb. 19): An anonymous commenter (and I'm sorry that the new comment software doesn't work better) left a note about Allan Bloom's The Closing Of The American Mind. As I wrote, I agree with at least some of its premises as presented by reviews I was able to read. It's certainly another example of criticism of the mushiness of our current educational system. People have been warning about this for some time. It shouldn't be a big shock, I suppose, to see just how bad it's become. Yet, it is, at least to me.

More Unethical Secrecy

Image credit: UNHCR

Over at Pacific Views, Mary wrote an interesting article about how all those refugees came to be, thanks to the Bush Administration's lack of interest in planning:

This week it was revealed that the Army had suppressed a RAND study that explored the faulty post-invasion planning. Truly, it was not hard to see that this administration cared nothing about the post-invasion of Iraq. Because according to their fantasies, the Iraqis would throw flowers on the American troops and joyfully accept the neo-conservative free market make-over envisioned by Paul Bremer as he and the Heritage kids reshaped their country to be a case-study of how effective the free-market ideology is at creating perfect human environments.

Too bad that reality and human beings got in the way of their magic kingdom.

Iraqis Continue to Pay and Pay and Pay for Bush's War of Choice

[link from the original]

It's certainly no surprise to me that they didn't make any plans. Rumsfeld's famous threat to fire the next general who tried to discuss the occupation of Iraq is proof both that the Bushies didn't want to hear about it, and that the Pentagon knew better. Given the Bushies' obsession with controlling the news, which once again seems to have walked right up to the line of legality, this news about the RAND study isn't surprising, either.

Now, as Mary relates, the Iraqis are paying the price for this folly. At least, they are for now. The world is a lot flatter than it used to be.

Another Dilemma

Help me out here. Which is sadder. Is it the fact that David "Bobo" Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, advised Barack Obama to "visit a factory for once" without bothering to see if he had, or that if Obama had waited a few more years, he would have had trouble finding one?

One of six major columnists couldn't be bothered to check on a statement that turned out to be contradicted by his own paper three days earlier. That this guy is taken seriously by what apparently is the most brain-damaged portion of America who still read newspapers is bad enough. On the other hand, if we lose more manufacturing jobs at anywhere close to the rate we've been losing them, nowhere near enough people will be able to buy newspapers any more. Considering that the NYT just laid off a significant part of their staff, there will come a day when they won't be able to afford idiots like Brooks, even though they seem to have some instinctive need for them.

Both of these thoughts bode badly for our future.

(h/t to Scorpio at Pacific Views for the Lou Dobbs link.

For A Good Laugh

For a good laugh, visit Watertiger.

If that's not enough, read TBogg.

Or just visit Cats In Sinks, like I did.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The "Edwards Effect"? I Wish ...

Rep. David Obey lectures a military mom about Iraq. Screenshot taken by Cujo359 from this YouTube

Over at Firedoglake, Pachacutec wondered:

So, within 48 hours after Donna Edwards trounces Al Wynn, the House decides to flip off the administration on the "Protect America Act" FISA bill with telecom immunity. OpenLeft cites Canadian broadcasting reporting, of Edwards' win:

can tell you one thing, on Capitol Hill following the Maryland primary, the elected officials and their staff members that I spoke with spent more time talking about Wynn and Gilchrist, than they did about Obama and McCain.


Donna's win represented a new model of progressive primary challenges against the corporate agenda including the netroots, progressive activists, labor (SEIU), MoveOn, EMILY's List, environmental groups and others. This is something new: there has not previously been sufficient power or a playbook in place to break the incumbency protection racket. That's enough to give House Dems pause, to say the least.

Coincidence, or not?

The Donna Edwards Effect?

Maybe. You can never discount the possibility that the Congress suddenly stopped being self-absorbed rich folks who are convinced that they're entitled to have political things their way, and become aware of who they actually work for. I suppose that's possible.

But, as a non-psychologist treading on Pachacutec's area of expertise, I'd have to say that there's at least one thing that argues against this - acceptance of a new reality is usually the third or fourth stage in this process. We still haven't gotten past anger and hostility yet.

Many of us, including folks much smarter than I have observed that this is a Congress that feels as though it's above the concerns of most of us. It really doesn't seem to give a shit about what's going on in Iraq, particularly if you look at the legislation it's passed since taking office last year. We've had to beg it repeatedly to uphold its oath in matters like FISA and torture. To them, I suspect we netroots folks, and the citizenry at large whose opinions we represent, are just troublesome little pests. For people who feel so entitled, hostility is the next step, not acceptance. We haven't seen that hostility yet, near as I can tell.

They certainly don't view us as their equals. Remember Rep. David Obey (D-WI-07) lecturing a military mom about how difficult an issue Iraq was? How arrogant do you have to be to lecture a parent worried about her child's life being lost in a useless war about how hard it is to get him out of it? When was the last time you felt inclined to negotiate with a subordinate or a household pet? When they get uppity, the natural reaction is to scold, yell, threaten, or otherwise display hostility or anger. If you're one of those who realize that almost all dealings with your fellow creatures are a negotiation of some sort, good for you. Sadly, I think you're in the minority.

So yes, it's certainly possible that the Democrats in Congress have seen the light, but I think we're still a long way from that point. I don't have an alternative explanation, but that's beside the point. Coincidence doesn't require explanation.

UPDATE: David Obey is a Representative from Wisconsin, not Ohio. Fixed the text to reflect that.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What's Wrong With Superdelegates?

One thing I've been having trouble figuring out, when I discount the obvious political motivations, is all the yammering this week about superdelegates:

Hillary Clinton will take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote, but persuades enough superdelegates to vote for her at the convention, her campaign advisers say.

The New York senator, who lost three primaries Tuesday night, now lags slightly behind her rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, in the delegate count. She is even further behind in "pledged'' delegates, those assigned by virtue of primaries and caucuses.

But Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson.

Clinton counts on superdelegates

A political strategist has decided that a way of winning that's within the rules is OK. Yawn. What are these "superdelegates", anyway:

"Superdelegate" is an informal term for some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the quadrennial convention of the United States Democratic Party.

Unlike most convention delegates, the superdelegates are not selected based on the party primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state. Instead, the superdelegates are seated automatically, based solely on their status as current or former elected officeholders and party officials. They are free to support any candidate for the nomination.

Wikipedia: Superdelegates

In short, they're the professionals. They're the people to whom power accrues in the system anyway. The Democratic Party, it seems to me, have just found a way to institutionalize, and perhaps quantify, that influence. According to that Wikipedia entry, which is unsourced on this particular issue, the superdelegates will make up about one-fifth of the total at the convention.

What that amounts to, of course, is that in a close primary election, like this one is turning out to be, they could be the folks deciding who gets the nomination. Why is that so bad?

First of all, as I already wrote, they are people who wield considerable influence within the party already. What's more, it's pretty clear at this point that the party members can't make up their collective mind who they want. If Obama was ahead 60-40 (or vice versa) then I could see being offended by this possibility. However, neither candidate is ahead now, when you assume there's even a one percent margin of error.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there's the question of who works for whom here. As I've already mentioned, at least once or twice, they're supposed to be working for us. If we want to be effective bosses, we need to give our employees at least a little say in how they have to do their jobs. I've certainly learned in my own work that you need to listen to the people who work for you, or who will be affected by whatever you mandate. They're the ones who have to carry it out, and if they say they don't see how they can do that, you'd better discuss it with them.

So while I'd rather see this determined by the party as a whole, I don't see any reason that it's less democratic when the 0.1% of the party who end up having to do much of the work decide an outcome, as opposed to 0.1% of the rest of the party. Call me crazy, but I think either way many of us won't be happy.

UPDATE (Feb. 17): Paul Lukasiak has an interesting take on this, as well. If I can sum it up, it's that if you count actual Democratic voters who voted in the primaries so far, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote.

UPDATE 2: Via TPM Election Central, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean is quoted:

The Democratic National Committee has given me what appears to be Howard Dean's most extensive and detailed answer to date on the role of super-delegates amid the ongoing battle between Hillary and Obama for their support.

Dean's verdict: "Their role is to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and of the Democratic Party."

Howard Dean On Super-Delegates: "Their role is to exercise their best judgment"

If they're not going to use their judgement, why have them?

Obama Pulls Ahead

In the last few days, Pollster's composite poll ratings have changed to show Barack Obama in the lead nationally. If I'm reading this thing correctly (and Pollster, could you guys please try to avoid putting yellow type on a white background?) Obama is ahead of Hillary Clinton by 0.8% - 46.8% to 46.0%. As you can see, Clinton's gained a bit of support as well. Given the timing, I'd guess that was mostly due to former Edwards supporters, some of whom clearly went to Obama as well.

The main thing I take from this is that at the moment, we're about evenly divided, and that there are very few undecideds left out there. Clearly, the make up less than 7.2 percent of the Democratic voters. That's to be expected - almost half of the primaries have already happened, and most of the remaining ones will happen in the next couple of months. That leaves voters little time to make up their minds.

I Wish I'd Said That ...

In the department of "I Wish I'd Said That", we have two items today. Ian Welsh wrote this at Firedoglake:

It’s said that the genius of the American system as created by the founders is that it can survive incompetent, venal or malign office holders. The system includes checks and balances precisely so that the actions of any one or a few individuals can’t capsize it. In this it is superior to either monarchical systems or parliamentary systems (which have fewer checks – Prime Ministers are often very close to elected dictators).

There’s a fair bit of truth to the statement – or there was.

The End of America’s Genius?

How I might have put it is that we've conducted a laboratory experiment on this theory in the last seven years, and found some holes in it.

Meanwhile, Larry Johnson had this to say about Barack Obama's fans and the subject of divisiveness:

If you think for a minute that the Republican party–who used Willy Horton on Michael Dukakis to devastating effect, who portrayed triple amputee and veteran Max Cleland as a bosom buddy of Osama Bin Laden, and convinced many voters that decorated combat veteran John Kerry was a fraud–will give Obama a pass come the fall then you are in serious denial.

But, unlike the attacks on Dukakis, Cleland, and Kerry, the ammunition that Obama has provided to his political foes is significant and deadly. But try telling that to Obama disciples.

No, He Can’t Because Yes, They Will

I will, but I figure it's not going to do much good. Johnson's own experience at DailyKos is just one more case in point.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Got Into The House Today?

What got into the House today, particularly the Democrats? Looks like the Republicans got all in a snit because they couldn't scare the pants off anyone today:

House Democrats left Washington today for a week-long recess without taking action on a terrorist surveillance bill set to expire Friday night, drawing theatrical protests from congressional Republicans and a sharp rebuke from President Bush.

Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill

I also wonder who chose that headline for Ben Pershing. It looks to me like "GOP Threw A Hissy Fit" would have been more appropriate:

Echoing Bush's criticisms, House Republicans staged a full day of protests on the House floor, beginning with a controversial procedural vote called during a memorial service for the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and culminating in Republicans walking out of the chamber en masse during a vote on contempt of Congress citations against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill

[links from original]

Now, just to refresh your memories, this is the same Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers who decided not to show up when they were subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. The Attorney General at the time, Alberto "Abu" Gonzalez, decided he had better things to do than enforce a subpoena. Rep. Lantos was a holocaust survivor. Leave it to the GOP in Congress to take their sense of entitlement to the point of interrupting a funeral service for a guy who spent his formative years in a Nazi deathcamp over a couple of miscreants.

But what's truly is amazing is that this time the Democrats decided to stand up to this nonsense:

But Democrats are refusing to budge, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that while key committee chairmen would stay in Washington to keep working on the issue, the rest of the House would be going home today.

And because Bush has the constitutional authority to call the House back into session "on extraordinary occasions," the chamber will go into symbolic "pro forma" sessions rather than adjourn for the week. Senate Democrats have used similar sessions to prevent Bush from making controversial executive branch nominations during that chamber's recesses.

Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill

So, what's going on? Is it the scent of another election in the air? Whatever it is, I hope they keep this up for a while.

Christy Hardin Smith has a few pithy comments on today's proceedings. It's worth going there just to check out the picture. Oh, and if you haven't done it already, you can sign sign their petition to the House on telecomm immunity.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann delivers a wonderful synopsis of the day's events:

Richard Clarke — you might remember him, sir, he was one of the counter-terror pro’s you inherited from President Clinton, before you ran the professionals out of government in favor of your unreality-based reality — Richard Clarke wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”

You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar.

And your minions like John Boehner — your Republican congressional crash dummies who just happen to decide to walk out of Congress when a podium-full of microphones await them — they should just keep walking, out of Congress and if possible, out of the country.

For they — and you, sir — have no place in a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Countdown Special Comment on FISA: President Bush Is A Liar And A Fascist

Video is available at that link. Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Donna Edwards Of The North?

Philip Munger, who comments frequently over at Firedoglake as "Edward Teller", wrote about Slobber And Spittle Blue candidate Diane Benson yesterday:

Which brings me to reason three [why PM is happy about Donna Edwards' victory]. As I've written here before, I've been volunteering for Diane Benson since the summer of 2006. Although I respect Jake Metcalfe and have a lot of respect for Ethan Berkowitz, I don't see them as agents of change for our future to the degree Benson could be. For several reasons - most of them outside the details of these three fine Alaskans' platforms.

MD-04 - Donna Edwards - The Most Important Potomac Primary Victory for Alaska Politics

I've never met Diane Benson, but she sounds like an amazing person. She spent her twenties driving cement trucks during the Alaska Pipeline project. She has been a community organizer and volunteer for most of her adult life, and she's the mother of a wounded Iraq veteran. The link about her son is to a video of her telling the story of her son's recovery:

Diane Benson, of Chugiak, Alaska, uses her skills as a Klingit writer, poet and storyteller to bring us into her life as her son grows up and leaves for Iraq (where he is severely wounded). We fly with her as she becomes the Mom for our wounded soldiers as they are transported back for medical care. She tells the story that is left out of our newspapers and TV. This is a powerful presentation told from the open heart of a mother.

Video:: Diane Benson: Mom of a Severely Wounded Soldier

I want more people like Diane Benson in Congress - people who live the life that we do, and who have a stake in what the government does.

If you do, too, I'd like to suggest that you drop some spare change in Diane's ActBlue account. In Alaska, a little campaign money will go a long way. So far, ActBlue has raised about $8,000 for her campaign. If we can double that by election time, it might be enough. It will certainly go a long way.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Alaska's primary isn't until August. Benson looks to have a strong challenger in the primary, and if she wins there won't be much time to campaign and gather financing.

So, use the convenient form to the left to donate directly, or follow the link. Remember, a little goes a long way here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Finally, Some Good News

Image credit: Donna Edwards campaign

It may not feel like much consolation after watching the disgusting spectacle of our Senate selling our civil rights to the highest bidder, but at least one vile, and embarassing presence will be removed from the Congress today. Donna Edwards, a Blue America candidate, is way ahead of incumbent Al Wynn. At this moment, 9:00 PM PST, she's ahead 59 to 37 percent, with 51 percent of the precincts reporting. Wynn will have to stage an unbelievable comeback to win this one.

Wynn has been a first class corporate shill over his too-long career. In this election cycle, he's received support from both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Despite this, Edwards has been leading in most polls recently, and was endorsed by The Washington Post.

The Washington Post has now called the election for Donna Edwards. This quote from that article sums up why progressives are happy with this result:

Wynn angered progressives nationally by crossing party lines on several key votes and by accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate donations, including thousands in the closing days before the election.

When Edwards, the director of a well-known foundation that hands out grants to progressive causes, came within 3.3 percentage points of beating Wynn in 2006, national activists saw the race as an opportunity to send a message that they would hold wayward Democrats accountable.

Md. Challenger Edwards Wins Stunning Victory Over Long-Time Incumbent Wynn

I've observed quite often in the last couple of years that until the progressive grassroots can prove they can hurt Democratic candidates as well as help them, many Democratic politicians won't take us seriously. Today, we proved we can hurt them. In the days ahead, we'll start to see what that means.

Disclosure: I've given money to the Donna Edwards campaign.

Roll Over And Beg Award: Just About The Entire U.S. Senate

They've gone and done it:

The Senate today -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate -- led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick -- are about to pay huge dividends, as such noble efforts invariably do with our political establishment.

Amnesty Day for Bush and lawbreaking telecoms

If you aren't completely revolted by your government today, then you're operating without a clue. These people have sold us out for a few lousy campaign dollars, and the chance to make the laughable claim that they've made us safer.

For failing to remember their oaths as officers of the U.S. government, and selling out our freedoms so they didn't have to explain to the public that we wouldn't be any safer if the government was able to listen in on our private conversations when they don't know who the terrorists are in the first place, these members of our "deliberative body" have earned the least-coveted award this blog awards, the Beggie:

- All Republican Senators. Yes, we don't really expect any better of you, but you're not off the hook this time. You've rolled over and begged every time the Bush Administration has told you to do it. You guys are supposed to be the ones who are getting government off our backs. Instead, you've managed to chain them to us.

- Majority non-Leader Harry Reid, for allowing this vote to happen over the objections of his own party, and

- These Democratic Senators, who all voted for cloture. They're the other ones who let this bill pass:

  • Max Baucus (D-MT)

  • Evan Bayh (D-IN)

  • Thomas Carper (D-DE)

  • Robert Casey (D-PA)

  • Kent Conrad (D-ND)

  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

  • Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

  • Tim Johnson (D-SD)

  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)

  • Joe (Short Ride) Lieberman (ID-CT)

  • Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)

  • Ben Nelson (D-NE)

  • Mark Pryor (D-AR)

  • Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

  • Ken Salazar (D-CO)

  • James Webb (D-VA)

  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Many of these folks are repeat winners of this award, including Harry Reid. I'm ashamed to admit I helped support James Webb, thinking him a better alternative to the reprobate George Allen. Never again. This vote is unforgivable.

As you're no doubt aware, the "Roll Over And Beg" award, is awarded at random times to politicians whose pandering to absurd constituencies really honks me off. Winners of the award are entitled to an extra large dog biscuit, procurement of and payment for which is the responsibility of the awardee.

Enjoy your biscuits, ladies and gentlemen.

UPDATE: A couple hours after this article was posted, it received a couple of visits from the U.S. Senate that were within a minute of each other. Presumably, a couple of Senators' staffs thought this article quite amusing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If It's Tuesday, Then ...

Image credit: National Archives

If it's Tuesday, it must be time for Senate Majority non-Leader Harry Reid to have another go at pushing that travesty of a FISA bill through the Senate again. Here's text of an e-mail that Sen. Patrick Leahy sent to supporters on the subject:

Tuesday is a critical day in our fight to stand up for American values and preserve our freedoms while protecting our national security.

Tomorrow the Senate will vote on amendments to FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law governing the use of wiretaps and other means to conduct surveillance of foreign threats.

Unfortunately, the new FISA bill we'll be voting on Tuesday still has many problems. I will do everything in my power -- including joining my colleague Chris Dodd in a filibuster against this legislation -- to fix it.

Now I need your help to encourage more of our House and Senate colleagues to stand with us.

Tell Congress that any new FISA bill must both protect our national security and preserve our civil liberties. Please email your home state Senators and Member of Congress now!

I strongly support surveillance targeting foreign threats and terrorists who wish to do us harm -- but we must take care to protect Americans' liberties in the process. That's what the FISA amendments we passed through the Judiciary Committee would have done.

[emphasis mine]

As you can see, Sen. Leahy has vowed to support Sen. Chris Dodd in a filibuster, if it comes to that.

After his last defeat, you'd have thought that Sen. Reid would get tired of trying to foist this thing on us, but apparently his motivation to make our government less free is bottomless. That means ours must be, too.

So, get on the e-mails and the phones.I imagine that the list of Senators who need special attention in this article is still valid. You might want to check Firedoglake this morning for updates.

UPDATE: Matt Browner-Hamlin, who used to work for Chris Dodd's Presidential campaign, has written a rather long article to explain what's likely to happen tomorrow. Sadly, he concludes:

At the end of the day, to defeat retroactive immunity and to uphold a filibuster, Chris Dodd needed more support for his efforts than exists in the Senate. He needs 40 other Democrats and the sad reality is that there are not 40 other Democrats who are opposed to retroactive immunity. Dodd was our strongest ally in the fight, but he couldn’t win it on his own. I respect and appreciate the work he has done and though I wish the outcome were different, though I wish he could have done something to else to stop this legislation from moving forward, the obstacles set by Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, and an all-too spineless Democratic caucus were too much for him to overcome.

FISA Process, Unanimous Consent, & Dodd’s Filibuster

I don't think this lets us off the hook just yet, though. As far as I'm concerned, any Democrat who votes in such a way as to allow this thing to pass will not have my support. Letting them know that, particularly the ones on that list I referred to earlier, is especially important. If there aren't forty Senators who are willing to stand up for the Constitution, we need to have a new bunch of Senators. I say we select them from Subphylum Vertebrata this time. At the risk of sounding biased, but it's quite my favorite.

UPDATE 2 (Feb. 12): Jane Hamsher reports:

Woo hoo! You lose. Dodd's amendment to strip retroactive immunity fails spectacularly, 31-67. I have to say that what constantly amazes me is just how damn little it costs corporate America to buy our elected officials. Pennies on the dollar, really, for what they get.

FISA Fiasco Live on CSPAN2

We all lost today. It's just that some of us are too foolish to know it.

UPDATE 3 (Feb. 12): I should have pointed this out directly, rather than counting on readers going to Firedoglake. They have an online petition for the House about FISA. If you haven't already, please sign it.

Five Years Later

Just after the five year anniversary of the speech Colin Powell gave at the United Nations declaring that Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction, Mary observed at Pacific Views:

Yesterday was the five year anniversary of the column that made me realize that the East Coast punditry was imbibing deeply in the terrors of the day and where I found myself asking Bill Keller, what the hell have they put in your water? From my email to Bill Keller, Feb 8, 2003:

The most dangerous thing about this administration is how closed it is to outside input, how sure it is that is has all the answers and how unwilling it is to listen to any points of view beyond their own. I don't understand how it is possible for anyone to feel comfortable with how decisions are made by this administration. They subvert science when it doesn't conform to their views. They subvert international treaties because they have no trust in relations and believe we can live in this world by ourselves. They propose budgets that are worse than a joke. And yet you think they can make a decision to go to war?

I am amazed that you guys in the media all seem to march to the same track. When do you get your own opinions that are not shaped by the people you talk to everyday? Perhaps you should read some more foreign press? Or if you would like, we in the hinterland could try to feed you a little bit of reality?

...I would not trust this government to boil water, much less lead our troops into war.

The column I felt compelled to respond to:

The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-A-Hawk Club

Remembering Bill Keller's Column From Five Years Ago

Her conclusion bears repeating - this was, even at that time, a government that had already shown a profound intolerance for opinions not its own, and partly as a result had shown itself to be spectacularly incompetent at anything not related to putting out its own spin on things.

That so many in the press were willing to overlook all that is troubling, to say the least. Nothing since then has convinced me that they've learned a lesson from all of that.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I Went To This Caucus Today, And ...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," they said, "that all men are created equal." Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had ever bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up.

-- President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing

Yes, I used that quote before. Sue me. It's as relevant to this as it was then.

I went to my first caucus today. Partly, that's because I think this is a particularly crucial Presidential election coming up, and partly because this year the Democratic party in Washington is ignoring the results of the primary. In short, this was my chance to make a difference.

For those who haven't attended one, caucuses are like meetings, or really badly organized trade shows. You go find your precinct's table, and then after you've all introduced yourselves and decided who will take notes, you discuss whom you want to vote for and why. Then you vote to determine which candidate or candidates will earn delegates from your precinct. Delegates are awarded on a percentage basis. In our precinct's case, there were four delegates chosen, with two alternates.

Keep that number of delegates in mind. In the case of our precinct, ten people showed up. Our precinct consists of approximately 200 apartment units and 100 houses. Conservatively, you'd have to figure that there are at least 400 adults in this precinct. Yet only ten of us decided which of one major political party's candidates for President would have delegates in the next round of regional caucuses. For the math-impaired, that's 2.5 percent. While that might have been a somewhat lower than average turnout, I think the best-represented precincts at my caucus location had twenty people.

This is why I'm reusing that quote.

Over at her blog, Taylor Marsh remarked on the caucus system today:

Long before the first votes were counted in Iowa, I weighed in on this issue. Caucuses are undemocratic. Many people do have to work and can't show up for hours to vote in them. So they don't have near the weight or clout that primaries do, because they don't reach out to near enough voters. Caucuses disenfranchise voters. We need to go to an all primary slate next time.

Kansas, Nebraska, Washington, and Hillary's GE Wild Card

She has a point. To participate in this thing, you had to have your Saturday afternoon free. You have to be interested in discussing politics with other people, which not everyone is inclined to do. If my caucus is typical, you also have to be willing to speak up and look around until you find your table, and you have to be willing to do all that in a crowded, hot, and noisy environment. Lots of folks would shy away from this on that basis alone, I think. Being in a crowded place makes me nervous, and I suspect I'm not the only one in my precinct.

In short, caucuses are small, self-selecting populations who probably don't accurately represent the districts they are supposed to represent. Don't get me wrong, I liked this process far more than I figured I would. For folks who are really interested in politics, it's somewhere between tolerable and fun. But for most folks, it's clearly way more than they can, or want to, do to make their voices heard.

By the way, I'm sure people are wondering, so my guess is that the vote will be pretty evenly split between Clinton and Obama. Clinton people were more in evidence there - many had hats or T-shirts advertising their candidates. There were quite a few Obama supporters there, too. Our precinct ended up sending two delegates for each candidate. If we're at all representative, nothing much will be decided today.

UPDATE: If Goldy is right, my precinct wasn't typical. Looks like it will be about 67-32 in favor of Obama.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Aftermath Of Super Tuesday Storm

The photo caption reads: James Devaney searches through the debris of his daughter's home on County Rd. 183 in the Aldridge Grove community of Lawrence County, Ala., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008. Devaney's daughter Becky Coleman was killed along with her son Gerreck and her husband Greg when the tornado hit at 3:06 a.m. (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.)

Per unit area, there's probably no weather phenomenon that's more devastating than a full-force tornado. Hurricanes can devastate large areas, but F-5 tornados, packing winds of up to 300 MPH, can literally wipe buildings off the map. At least one F-4 storm, with winds of more than 200 MPH, struck western Tennessee Tuesday during the Super Tuesday storm:

The tornado touched down in Madison County Tuesday night around 7 p.m. and left a 35-mile path of destruction, according to Paul Latture, public information officer for the Jackson-Madison County Emergency Operations Center.

"We did have an EF-4 tornado, which means winds were anywhere between 207 to 264 miles per hour," Latture said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

'It is time to get cleaned up now and rebuild,' mayor says

Reuters describes the damage done by Tuesday's tornados:

Communities across the U.S. South grieved for the dead and tried to pick up their lives on Thursday after the deadliest round of tornadoes in nearly a quarter century killed 57 people.

Damage was likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Tennessee's Madison County alone estimated it had suffered $47 million in property damages.

Two additional deaths were confirmed on Thursday, one each in Tennessee and Alabama. Tennessee counted 32 dead, Arkansas 13, Kentucky seven and Alabama five. There were many injuries, with some survivors reported in critical condition.

Death toll rises to 57 in U.S. tornadoes

CTV reports on one tornado in Tennessee:

Reporter Tony Reed, of Tennessee's Jackson Sun, has been covering the devastation firsthand and described the scene at Union College, where 13 students were trapped inside crushed dormitories, to CTV Newsnet on Wednesday.

"We started off the day thinking maybe we'd be missed and then later last night it happened," said Reed. "The dorms are gone. There is no place for these students to stay. We are very blessed that no students lost their lives."

Tornadoes leave at least 55 dead in southern U.S.

The AP adds:

Tornado warnings had been broadcast for hours Tuesday, and when the sirens finally announced the twisters had arrived, many people across the South took shelter and saved their lives. But others simply had nowhere safe to go, or the storms proved too powerful, too numerous, too unpredictable.

54 dead in twisters’ wake

That picture is from Columbia, South Carolina's The State. Click on the link above for the full size version.

Things seem to be especially bad in Tennessee. Tennessee blogger Monkeyfister reports:

Tragic. I pray that peace, kindness and hope can find each and every one of those touched families.

I've been looking around for some local centralized relief group/agency... Someplace.

Right now, I recommend the:

American Red Cross
Mid-South Chapter
1400 Central Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104

United Way of the Mid-South phone in a donation at (901) 433-4300.

They take DIRECT donations, so you can skip all the National-level waste and delay, AND they serve nearly every community in the effected radius.

I don't ask for much from my readers, but I sure would appreciate some link love on this post-- or better yet-- if you'd work-up something of your own linking to the Mid-South Red Cross Chapter to help this area get back on it's feet, re-building, and healing. It'd mean an awful lot to many. A bit of a small-blog swarm would be a mighty thing.

The Toll Is At 54 And Rising...

[links from the original]

As usual, our government offers nothing more useful than prayers, so it's up to the rest of us to help.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On Attendance, Revisited

As I've mentioned before, one of the things Sitemeter can tell me is how folks end up at this site. There are numerous reasons, of course, referrals from other sites, e-mailed articles, search engine results, and just plain bad luck. When you don't have many visitors, it's easy to watch these things.

An interesting thing has happened recently, and I'm not sure why. Up until a week ago, people who visited the article On Attendance did so because they wanted to know about Barack Obama's attendance record, which, as I observed was pretty normal for a Senator who is a presidential candidate. This week, though, people have showed up because they were interested in Hillary Clinton's record, which I'd call better than average.

I've just looked at the Washington Post article on vote attendance, and it appears little has changed. Clinton's record is still better than Obama's, which is much better than John McCain's. Considering how long ago he dropped out, I'd say their records were both better than Sam Brownback's.

I don't understand the sudden shift in interest, but it's been remarkable.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And The Winner Is ...

Image credit: University of Wisconsin

Well, we're not sure. Hillary Clinton appears to have won more delegates on Super Mega Frickin Tuesday than Barack Obama. The Associated Press, via the Los Angeles Times, reckons that Clinton won 354 to Obama's 315, with some change still possible. Not all results were in when that story was filed, which was around 11PM PST. It's not exactly a resounding victory, though. At this rate, John Edwards or Bill Richardson could be the guys who swing the convention. The Times goes on to say:

Clinton won support from about 6 in 10 Latinos and also led among voters most concerned about the economy, who made up half of the Democrats voting Tuesday. Obama led among those most concerned about Iraq, who made up about 3 in 10 voters surveyed.

Clinton, Obama both claim Democratic victories

This sounds like good news for Clinton, since the economy is going to be looming larger as a concern in the coming months. And frankly, anyone who thinks Obama's going to do any more about Iraq hasn't checked his voting record on Iraq. Sooner or later, reality may intrude on that fantasy.

The Boston Globe observes:

Democratic voter turnout increased dramatically in Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, among other states. New Jersey went so far as to quadruple its 2004 Democratic turnout, in part the result of moving its primary up from the back end of the schedule in June to center stage on Super Tuesday.

Obama, Clinton fight to be favorite

Despite my rather pessimistic prediction this morning, it appears turnout was very good, even considering that the schedule is different this year.

Clinton can be proud of one victory, though. Despite the endorsement of Obama by Ted Kennedy, she has won Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Obamamania might be bumping up against a different reality soon. B-Merry has just started a blog called Rezko Watch, after our favorite Obama supporter. B-Merry has quite a bit of material already, and I suspect we're nowhere near the end of that saga.

UPDATE: Changed the credit for that delegate count to the Associated Press. It was just in the Times article that I read about it.

Larry Johnson serves up some more reality for Obama supporters. He points to an article about Obama by Peter Hitchens, which is well worth a read.

Super Mega Frickin' Tuesday Is Here

Geoge Caleb Bingham's The County Election

It's finally arrived, the day when the fate of American civilization will be decided by the handful of people who show up:

Democratic and Republican White House hopefuls are making their final Super Tuesday pitches as voters in 24 states and American Samoa are heading to the polls.

Super Tuesday is virtually a national primary day, and some of the biggest prizes of the primary season -- California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Georgia -- are up for grabs.

White House hopefuls make Super Tuesday pitches

Of course, Super Tuesday wasn't always quite so super. Wikipedia explains:

The phrase "Super Tuesday" has been used to refer to presidential primary elections since at least 1984 as dates when a large number of states held presidential primaries. In fact, the 1984 primary season had three "Super Tuesdays," ending with "Super Tuesday III", when Walter Mondale finally secured the Democratic nomination.

The phrase "Super Tuesday" was next used to describe the primary elections that took place on March 8, 1988, in the Southern states of Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia leading up to the 1988 election in November. Southern Democrats came up with the idea of a regional primary in an effort to nominate a moderate candidate who would more closely represent their interests.

Wikipedia: Super Tuesday

Now, almost half the delegates to the Democratic convention will be elected today. No candidate is going to win the nomination today, but if there's a clear winner it's going to be much harder for the other candidate(s) to catch up.

Right now, the Obama campaign is trying to spin a close loss as a win:

The Obama camp welcomed new polls showing him closing the gap with Clinton on the national level. But the former first lady's formidable lead in many states voting today means that for Obama, finishing up to 100 delegates behind Clinton could be seen as a win.

From Georgia to California, candidates prepare for Super Tuesday

They might not be far wrong. If it's close, then both candidates still have a chance. Supposedly, Obama's been gaining momentum, but I'm still waiting for the Rezko bomb and other little issues to rear their heads. The press has really only started to cover Obama seriously in the last few weeks.

Obama has been gaining in the polls, that's for sure. This rather complicated chart from Pollster shows that most of the more recent polls have shown Obama gaining ground. But in only two states, Georgia and Illinois, is he clearly ahead of Clinton.

It looks like Clinton will come out ahead, but unless she's way ahead, she may want to alter her strategy a little.

If you're in one of those states, don't forget to get out and vote, while you still can.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Football's Almost Over ...

There's one more game to go. You might not have heard any mention about it, but it seems likely that New England will win:

A three-point loss to New England five weeks ago and a record 10-game road winning streak give hope to New York Giants fans that their team will halt the Patriots' quest for a perfect season in today's Super Bowl.

Forget it, say Las Vegas oddsmakers and many former players. The Patriots are too good not to win the National Football League championship.

Patriots Will Win Super Bowl, Ex-Players, Vegas Say

A cursory inspection of sports headlines would seem to suggest that this is a common opinion. Now you can just ignore the game and do something constructive for the next few hours. Sadly, I'll be doing something constructive for the next few hours.

Speaking of which, I want to welcome folks who have traveled here from Taylor Marsh's site today. Someone's decided to hold some sort of blog amnesty day, and Taylor decided to do something different, and that's why you're here. Good for her. If there's one thing I know from my own experiences it's how much the world appreciates contrarians.

Sorry the place isn't more up to date, but on the rare occasions when I haven't lacked time to write I've lacked motivation. If nothing else, the Slobber And Spittle Blue ActBlue page is new.

So stay safe on Super Duper Bowl Sunday, or whatever it's called ...

UPDATE (Feb. 4): It appears that New England failed spectacularly to cover the point spread. Congratulations to the New York Giants. I'm sure the other Eli will be pleased ...