Saturday, March 1, 2008

Walk A Day In My Shoes

Now here's an Obama video that I can post proudly. It was made by SEIU, one of the unions who have endorsed Obama. I found it over at Firedog Lake.

An explanation of its content:
I was looking at YouTubes this morning with DeVeria who does FDL's accounting and I showed her this Obama video that the SEIU did as part of their "walk a day in my shoes" program. Basically, the union made all of the presidential candidates working for their endorsement spend a day with one of their members. The Obama video they created was especially touching, and when I showed it to DeVeria she said "you have to put that up on your website."

I also bring it up because although I know the Obama campaign didn't make it, I think the creators are barking up the wrong tree with all the celebrities in this. The concern and respect that Obama shows for ordinary working people in the SEIU video is infinitely more moving.

How Do You Know She's A Witch?!?

The Scottish parliament considers joining the 21th century.
Plea for 'witches' to be pardoned
Campaigners have submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the last woman convicted under the Witchcraft Act to be pardoned.

Helen Duncan spent nine months in Holloway prison after being found guilty at a trial in 1944. She had told a seance a warship had sunk before the news had been officially announced.

This new document calls on the Scottish Government to urge the Home Secretary to reconsider the case.

Mrs Duncan, born in Callander, Perthshire, held a seance at which the spirit of a dead sailor was said to have revealed the loss of the battleship HMS Barham with most of her crew.

The sinking had been kept secret by the authorities to maintain wartime morale.

Sacred? Profane?

Edifying or entertaining sacred texts you’ve never read.

Jewish Support For Obama

Pushback over dirty anti-Obama smears circulating in the Jewish community.
We are American Jews. We enthusiastically support Barack Obama
We have decided to issue this statement because, increasingly, we are seeing inaccurate and often scurrilous attacks on his positions circulating on the internet. We are not interested in stimulating an endorsement war with any other candidate. We are interested in setting the record straight.…
Read the whole thing.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Random Fact of the Day

Q: Why are movie previews called "trailers" when they show up before a movie starts?

A: "Trailers or previews are film advertisements for films that will be exhibited in the future at a cinema, on whose screen they are shown. The term "trailer" comes from their having originally been shown at the end of a film programme. That practice did not last long, because patrons tended to leave the theater after the films ended, but the name has stuck. Trailers are now shown before the film (or the A movie in a double feature program) begins.

"Prior to the 1960s, trailers were mostly created by National Screen Service and consisted of collections of slowly edited scenes, often without narration, but with large graphic words splashed across the screen. Those that did have narration used stentatorian voices.…" (

For more on their history click here.

Hat tip: Annie McIntyre

Neural Harmony

Interesting new finding about neurotransmitters from Science Daily.
Neurons Use Chemical 'Chords' To Shape Signaling
To propagate a nerve impulse within neural circuitry, one neuron launches a burst of chemical signal called a neurotransmitter at a receiving neuron, where the neurotransmitter attaches to a specific receptor--like a key fitting a lock. That neurotransmitter-specific receptor is activated to trigger a nerve impulse in the receiving neuron.

Such nerve impulses, however, rather than being the electrical equivalent of a shotgun blast, are precisely modulated signals, like the finely shaped notes of an orchestra.

My Favorite Phlog

Another beautiful shot from Stuck In Customs.

A Timeline Of Team Clinton Spin

Via DailyKos.

Bill Supports Barack II

This is from 2004.

My Ears Are Ringing...


And response:

The Obama campaign turned that around in well under 24 hours! That's incredible response time. Another indicator of why he's going to win this thing.

My Strange Inner Life…

Or How I Slept With Anne Boleyn and Was Tortured By Henry VIII

I had the weirdest nightmare last night. I was friends with both Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Such good friends that I actually slept with Boleyn when she wasn't with the king. (Literally slept with, I was just a confidante—she had other men for sexual partners.) Well, for some reason Henry became paranoid, soured on Anne, and cut a marriage deal with the mother of a young princess from some other country—one of those political marriage pacts. He married the girl and instantly began a purge of his former friends and consorts. 

I didn't realize exactly what was happening at first. The night of the marriage I visited Anne's room to discover that she was to be secluded before her impending death. She began to show me what he'd already done to her. She had torturous looking S/M gear over her body, things that might be sexy in a different context, but were awful to see in this one. One example: nipple clamps attached to a chastity belt. Anytime she made any but the slightest movement the clamps would tug downward and cause pain to her breasts, while also digging painfully into her genitals. I could barely look as she showed me; it caused me too much pain to see her in so much pain. I actually cried out in sympathy. My noise caught the king's servant's attention and I was taken from her room for a visit with the newly married king. 

Henry proceeded to tell me that I was to be exiled from his court, that I had to leave the next morning. He presented an inauthentically sad front, the kind of pseudo-emotion that villains often exhibit in movies. There was also a menacing undertone to his words. He gave me a bear hug toward the end of our conversation. As he hugged me I could feel a sharp piercing into my skin. I assumed it was a piece of his clothing that he was using to underscore his message that I'd better leave or end up dead. 

Once back in Anne's room, I noticed a prickling sensation in my back. I reached around and felt something sticking out, like a bee stinger or a piece of pencil which had broken off. I pulled it out and saw what looked like the end of an incense stick. It must have been lodged an inch or so into my skin. 

Then I noticed others. As I pulled them out I became aware on one after the other over my entire body. I began to panic, but calmed myself enough to pull them out. It was incredibly painful to dislodge them, as pulling the wood out created friction on my tender interior layers of skin and sometimes splintered on its way out. But it was much worse to leave them in.

Some were shallowly lodged, but others went deep into my skin. Others still were attached by string, one to another, and went all the way through one area of skin and into another part of my body, like tiny three-piece nunchucks. I was aghast. It dawned on me that he must have drugged me after (or during?) the bear hug and sent me off to be tortured. I was horrified, but also realized that if this is the treatment I got as a "friend," others must be suffering a much worse fate. 

As I pulled them out little red wounds took their place. I thought perhaps I was scarred for life, doomed to look like I had chicken pox or measles. The more I pulled out, the more I discovered. Anne, who'd been out of her room for some time, returned and I begged her to help me. She did, but even with both of us pulling them out, it took an excruciatingly long time. I hadn't even gotten to the lower half of my body before waking up. 

I could still feel the pain upon waking. As I felt around my body, though, there was nothing remotely like the sharp pain of the dream, only some dull muscle aches here and there from working out. Relieved, I got up went to the bathroom, then went back to sleep. 

Odd, eh?

Happy Leap Day!

To learn more about what you can do to help, click here.

Those Damn Obama Videos

Without a doubt he's had the best viral vids of the season. I mean, Clinton's are so bad they not only make me want to tear my ears off, but are near-universally made fun of. Obama's are fairly well done and millions of people have viewed them and love them. 

But still, I've had my reservations. Contra everyone else in the Obamaverse, I didn't really like the incredibly popular "Yes, We Can" vid. One reason I didn't bother posting it was I hated the mix, which was too muddled for my taste. But there was something else I didn't like about it, which I couldn't quite put my finger on. Until, that is, reading this e-mail from one of Sullivan's readers at the Daily Dish:
Those videos make me, an ardent Obama supporter, much LESS inclined to like him or his campaign. I am past needing cheesy songs and celebrities to confirm my political beliefs or philosophy. I don't think I'm the only one that finds them mildly offensive. "Oh Jessica Alba is a Barack supporter? The Fantastic Four was so good. I'm definitely going to vote for him."

I think it tarnishes his image as a uniter since it once again seems to be a statement about privilege, about power, access and fame.
Besides being awful music, these videos sully that notion [of community] and seek to separate the tiers of Obama supporters into the masses and the beautiful celebrities. They strike exactly the wrong note for me. And it's annoying. They feel, in fact, Clinton-esque in their self-satisfied, pseudo-hip cloying preening. [Emphasis mine.]
That pretty much sums it up for me. Here's the latest, by the way:

Goal Posts Meet Mover II

Oy! The Clinton spin! It's enough to make you dizzy (the point, I suppose). In the span of a little over a week, it's gone from Clinton admittedly needing to win both Texas and Ohio—her firewalls, remember—to Obama needing to win both. Here's their latest attempt to play the expectations game to their favor.
Clinton Camp Memo on Obama Expectations
Should Senator Obama fail to score decisive victories with all of the resources and effort he is bringing to bear, the message will be clear:
Democrats, the majority of whom have favored Hillary in the primary contests held to date, have their doubts about Senator Obama and are having second thoughts about him as a prospective standard-bearer.
That's not spin, that's spinning out of control. And it's really sad to watch.

Top Ten YouTube Moments…

Of the 2008 presidential campaign so far, according to a writer over at Burnt Orange Report. Check 'em out and see if you agree.

A Peak Inside The Black Soul Of A Fox "News" Wackjob

Hoenig: Snacky dog is property. If I want to take Snacky’s head and smash it against a brick wall (I’d never do that to you) it’s my right to do it!

Type One Civilization—Will We Make It?

What the hell is he talking about? For more an the Kardashev Scale, go here.


Time to revisit Obama's forward-looking stance of the gay community.* Among the litany of other reasons to vote for him is his treatment of gay issues. He supports the repeal of the ridiculous DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that passed under Bill Clinton's watch. He supports federal civil unions and is comfortable with gay marriage done at the state level. He is at ease both privately and publicly with his gay supporters. Indeed, he rhetorically embraces homosexuals publicly—and often in front of difficult crowds—in ways that few public officials (especially those running for high office) are willing to.

Here's an excerpt from his open letter to the gay community, but it's worth reading the whole thing:
As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.
For more on this issue, see this post from Andrew Sullivan.

Choice cut:
The Urgent, Clear Choice For Gay Voters: Obama
This is telling to me:
An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes — race, gender, etc. — that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent.

So he took a different tack: "Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday," he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers.

"I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian," he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time.
To hear someone defend gay and lesbian dignity and equality from a Christian perspective and to do so in the context of a largely African-American crowd, is much, much more than any candidate for the presidency has ever done. It's a break through. If it were just words, it would be one thing. But he has now done this repeatedly in front of black crowds, when he didn't have to. And he has put his specific commitments in writing in an open letter.

It's time to be candid about this - because gay voters, in my judgment, could make the difference in Ohio and Texas and Vermont and Rhode Island. There are very large gay communities in Texas' cities, and Ohio has the sixth largest gay community in the country. A plea: Do not sleep-walk into that voting booth with vague good feelings about the Clintons. Walk into that booth with eyes open and see what gay people have in front of them.

Now you may have many reasons not to vote for Obama, and no gay voter should vote on one issue. But solely with respect to gay matters, there is simply no choice here. Obama's positions, candor, courage, generation and religious embrace of us are dispositive.
* On a personal level, I'm a bit...cautiously amazed. By this time in the cycle, my preferred candidates have usually been cast aside and I've been left with whoever remained (a Kerry instead of a Dean, for example). I've never had a candidate that's aligned with me on so many issues who's actually within reach of the White House. Halle-fucking-lujah!

UPDATE: I just read that the Houston LGBT Caucus has endorsed Obama. More here

Tattoo You?

Despite being a gadget geek, this just strikes me as kind of creepy.
Electronic tattoo display runs on blood
Jim Mielke's wireless blood-fueled display is a true merging of technology and body art. At the recent Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the engineer demonstrated a subcutaneously implanted touch-screen that operates as a cell phone display, with the potential for 3G video calls that are visible just underneath the skin.

The basis of the 2x4-inch "Digital Tattoo Interface" is a Bluetooth device made of thin, flexible silicon and silicone. It´s inserted through a small incision as a tightly rolled tube, and then it unfurls beneath the skin to align between skin and muscle. Through the same incision, two small tubes on the device are attached to an artery and a vein to allow the blood to flow to a coin-sized blood fuel cell that converts glucose and oxygen to electricity. After blood flows in from the artery to the fuel cell, it flows out again through the vein. …
Go to article for a pic of the device.

Hat tip: Daily Dish

Barack Reagan

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post makes the case.
The Last 'Yes, We Can' Candidate
WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's critics bear a remarkable resemblance to the liberals who labored mightily to dismiss Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Like Reagan's enemies, Obama's opponents concede that this Democrat gives a great speech. Indeed, both Obama and Reagan came to wide attention because of a single oration that offered hope in the midst of a losing campaign -- Obama's 2004 keynote to the Democratic National Convention and Reagan's 1964 "A Time for Choosing" address delivered on behalf of Barry Goldwater.

The Reagan metaphor explains why Hillary Clinton was in trouble from the moment she failed to knock Obama out of the race in Iowa. During the last two months, Democrats in large numbers have reached the same conclusion that so many Republicans did in 1980: Now is the time to go for broke, to challenge not only the ruling party but also the governing ideas of the previous political era and the political coalition that allowed them to dominate public life.

"This is our time," Obama says in a short sentence full of meaning. The conservative age is as dead now as the liberal age was in 1980. Jimmy Carter, in many ways not a liberal at all, became the whipping boy for the end of liberalism. George W. Bush, no pure conservative, has come to symbolize the collapse of conservatism. "It is time to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history," Obama says -- exactly the sentiment of the Ronald Reagan who invoked Tom Paine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Designer Porn

Graphic designer, that is. This is a fun article for a type junkie like myself. From Virginia Postrel at The Atlantic.
Playing to Type
Nowadays, even nonprofessionals take an abundance of typefaces for granted. My computer includes about 100 English-language fonts, many of them families encompassing multiple weights—Baskerville in bold, bold italic, italic, regular, semibold, and semibold italic, for instance—and all available instantly. Basic cultural literacy now demands at least a passing familiarity with typefaces: witness a November episode of Jeopardy that featured the category “Knowledge of Fonts,” with correct responses including “What is Helvetica?” and “What is Bodoni?” A thoroughly entertaining (really) documentary called Helvetica, tracing the rise and fall and rise of the 20th century’s most ubiquitous typeface, played to sold-out crowds on the film-festival circuit last year.

The profusion of fonts is one more product of the digital revolution. Beginning in the mid-’80s and accelerating in the 1990s, type design weathered the sort of radical, technology-driven transformation that other creative industries, including music, publishing, and movies, now face. Old business models and intermediaries disappeared seemingly overnight. Software replaced industrial processes. Tangible products—metal, film, computer disks—dissolved into bits and bytes sold over the Internet. Prices plummeted. Consumers started buying directly. From their kitchen tables, independent designers could undertake experiments that had once required bet- the-company investments. “Having an idea for a typeface used to be like having an idea for a new-model car,” says Bierut. Now the distance between idea and execution, designer and user, has contracted.
And here's a clip from the documentary, Helvetica, which, much to my dismay, I haven't seen yet.

Obsolete Skills

Have fun with this list.

Barack Hussein Obama

Since we're going to be dealing with inane, racist smears on Obama's middle name for at least the next nine months, we might as well some good etymological info to innoculate ourselves with. Read Juan Cole's excellent article on the Semetic origins of several American heroes' names.
Barack Hussein Obama, Omar Bradley, Benjamin Franklin and other Semitically Named American Heroes

I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!
Barack is a Semitic word meaning "to bless" as a verb or "blessing" as a noun. In its Hebrew form, barak, it is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: "And God blessed (ḇāreḵə) them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth."
Let us take Benjamin Franklin. His first name is from the Hebrew Bin Yamin, the son of the Right (hand), or son of strength, or the son of the South (yamin or right has lots of connotations). The "Bin" means "son of," just as in modern colloquial Arabic. Bin Yamin Franklin is not a dishonorable name because of its Semitic root. By the way, there are lots of Muslims named Bin Yamin.

As for an American president bearing a name derived from a Semitic language, that is hardly unprecedented.

John Adams really only had Semitic names. His first name is from the Hebrew Yochanan, or gift of God, which became Johan and then John. (In German and in medieval English, "y" is represented by "j" but was originally pronounced "y".) Adams is from the biblical Adam, which also just means "human being." In Arabic, one way of saying "human being" is "Bani Adam," the children of men.

Thomas Jefferson's first name is from the Aramaic Tuma, meaning "twin." Aramaic is a Semitic language spoken by Jesus, which is related to Hebrew and Arabic. In Arabic twin is tau'am, so you can see the similarity. 

McCain Tries The Experience Argument

Because it's worked so well for Clinton so far.

This Just In

Ralph Nader picks his vice-presidential running ma....Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

(Crickets chirping.)

UPDATE: "Yesterday, Ralph Nader announced he's running for president again. Immediately after the announcement, the guy sitting next to Nader on the park bench told him to shut up." —Conan O'Brien

Good News On The Religious Front

From the Associated Press via Ashland Daily Tidings.
Nation's religious landscape in flux
The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.

"In the past, certain religions had a real holding power, where people from one generation to the next would stay," said Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. "Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms."

Is Obama Winning Because Of His Voice?

I've half-seriously mentioned it in previous posts as an asset, but didn't really think much about it beyond that. Turns out it may be more of an asset than I realized. Here's an interesting article in Salon discussing vocal timbre and its political…resonance. 

Choice cut:
What is it about Barack Obama's baritone?

Aside from the symbolism of finding a new hero who might displace the shame and fear that has poisoned American public life since Martin Luther King's murder in 1968, there is something in the very essence of Obama's voice -- its tone, its timbre, its resonance -- that has struck deep chords among Americans and foreigners in this year's campaign season. Not since King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 has a black American moved so many other Americans, white or black. And once the matter of voice was raised for Obama, a not always flattering parallel immediately arose concerning the voice of the first real female candidate in U.S. history: Hillary Clinton.

Eager to probe deeper into the chords of the candidates, I called two of the world's specialists on what moves us as listeners to others' voices, Lotfi Mansouri and Rick Harrell, who have coached singers at the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Conservatory opera program.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Don't Try To Use It As Your Address

Some words of advice for Bill Clinton from the brilliant comedian Dick Gregory:

Watching Obama

I was recently talking with a friend about the presidential campaign when the subject of Obama's appeal came up. I'd mentioned how Obama first came to my attention during his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. My friend made the absolutely rational, though incorrect, assumption that he won because Chicagoans voted overwhelmingly for him, and since Chicago is more populous than the rural areas of the state, he won. 

But that wasn't the case at all and that's exactly why he captured my attention as a rising star. During that campaign, I read one report after another about how he, to most political commentators' surprise, connected with white rural voters in the southern part of the state. He somehow managed to put them at ease with voting for a black guy from the big city, despite what should have been an overwhelming partisan and racial divide.

Anyway, I've had my eye on him ever since. 

The keynote speech at 2004 Democratic convention—his introduction to a national audience—further underscored his skill and attractiveness. And it wasn't really surprising to see him throw his hat in the ring last year. When I learned of it I quietly suspected (and hoped) that he'd come alive and win the nomination. 

But even I was surprised by the unbridled enthusiasm that people have shown for his candidacy. And by his sheer savvy at political organization. Watching this campaign unfold has been as instructive as it's been exciting. 

With that in mind, I point you to this Time article demonstrating both his strategic foresight and organizational skills on the ground.

Choice cut:
Obama's Ohio Grassroots Advantage
One of Obama's first volunteers here was Antoinette McCall, a substitute high school teacher who has never worked a campaign before in her life. McCall became active 11 months ago, donating what little money she could to Obama's campaign. She used Obama's website to recruit volunteers and run a phone bank from her living room. She convinced friends who own beauty salons to organize their customers, and created a database of hundreds of Obama supporters.

"It's like we had this whole movement built up before the campaign staff even got here," says McCall, 36. In a few months, McCall, a political novice, has built an organization rivaling that of some state senators who form the backbone of Clinton's establishment support. "By the time they finally opened the office," she says, "this place was packed."

On Cleveland's east side, Obama's surging grassroots success has stolen Clinton's establishment base right out from under her. Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell came out early for Clinton, winning a trip to the national convention to vote for her.

Then Conwell's constituents sat him down for a little chat. "I met with my residents and tried to get them to go with Hillary," Conwell says. "Not one of them would move. All of my volunteers, all my block club presidents, every last one of them was going for Barack."

"Now that I've been with both campaigns, I see that Obama's has a lot more volunteers, and they're all grassroots people from the neighborhood," Conwell says. "I didn't think this movement would grow. I was wrong. It's strong."
And this one from Teagan Goddard's Political Wire demonstrating how he's using his million-strong small donor base to his advantage:
Obama Blitzes Airwaves
First Read: "Watching local TV here in Ohio, it feels like Obama has a 4-to-1 advantage -- with SEIU, UFCW and Obama just blitzing the airwaves compared with Clinton. It's happening in all four states. In fact, per TV ad expert Evan Tracey, Obama has outspent Clinton $23 million to $14 million in the last 30 days. How is she expected to hold a big lead if she gets outspent this badly? The third party groups are like salt in the Clinton wound."

Meanwhile, Ben Smith notes Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald said that "between Obama's own spending and two unions spending on his behalf, Clinton is being outspent four-to-one in Ohio and between two-to-one and three-to-one in Texas."

Said Grunwald: "They're trying to crush us."
He's out-strategized, out-maneuvered, out-campaigned, out-organized, and out-speechified Clinton And now he's starting to outspend her. It's not exactly hyperbole to at least begin thinking of his campaign as a juggernaut.

One Million And Counting

That's the number of Obama campaign donors—not donations. Simply remarkable.

A Great Awakening? III

Another case of anomalously heavy voting. This time in Texas. Courtesy of Burnt Orange Report via DailyKos
Texas shattering early voting records

Click on the link to get the full effect, but those early numbers in Texas are off the charts. In the top 15 counties with registered Democratic voters, there have been 419,904 early votes cast. Four years ago, the number was 72,688. What is that, six times the previous numbers? In voter-rich Harris County, home of Houston, it's a 10-fold increase.

And it's not just an excited base.
Dallas County broke the '06 total vote yesterday, with over 57,000 early votes (not counting the mail ballots). We've looked at about 55,000 of those, and as best we can tell, virtually half have no '02, '04 or '06 primary history. Less than 3,000 have previous R primary history over the same period.
Half of them are new voters?
Harris County -- the third largest county in the United States-- is on pace to shatter the total vote from 2004 just with early voters. Harris County is working to turn blue in November, much like Dallas did in '06 and Travis did in '04, and this record turnout is sure to help that.
Travis is Austin, now a Democratic stronghold with few peers. Dallas notched dramatic Democratic gains in 2006. If Harris County follows suit, we're looking at another big step closer to turning Texas into a bona fide swing state. Not in 2008, mind you, but perhaps by 2012.

This is long-term thinking and building in action, the hallmark of a real 50-state strategy.
See earlier Great Awakening posts here and here.

Being Human Is Overrated

The much-reviled Clinton campaign strategist (yes, I love that phrase), Mark Penn, defends himself, his strategy, his candidate. It's thick with self-serving and denial. Read it and enjoy a heaping helping of schadenfreude.

Choice cut:
Micro Mark
A source in the campaign, speaking on background, said that Mr. Penn’s philosophy was perfectly represented by a comment he made during one of Mrs. Clinton’s debate preps at campaign headquarters in early winter. About 15 staffers were in a room with Mrs. Clinton discussing how she could best respond to a particular line of attack. One of the aides, the source recalled, had an idea.

“I think you need to show a little bit of humanity,” said the aide.

Mr. Penn interjected. “Oh, come on, being human is overrated.”

“No one ever expected the campaign to be this big and in this many states,” he said.
Enough said.

The Final Debate (Hopefully)…Or How I Spent An Hour And A Half With A Total Ass Clown

Well, we've finally reached the last of 20(!) Democratic debates. No new ground broken. Nothing learned. Obama could've had a better night, but held his own and delivered a few good lines. Clinton didn't deliver a knockout punch to Obama. In the circumstances that makes it a win for Obama.

The most remarkable thing about the night was Tim Russert's bottom-of-the-barrel performance as co-moderator. When I heard last week that he and Brian Williams would be moderating I groaned, knowing it was going to be a tedious night. Sadly, they didn't disappoint. 

The absolute nadir of the evening was Russert's grilling Obama on Louis Farrakhan's recent words of support. Not only did the gasbag play gotcha with Obama, but the skeeve took the opportunity to gleefully reiterate some of Farrakhan's choice hateful phrases. Russert proved beyond a shadow of doubt what many in the blogosphere have said for some time now: that's he's a total ass clown.

Thankfully, and to his credit, Obama handled it pretty well. Initially he was a little soft in his distancing, but toughened up late in the exchange, giving a great rejoinder to Hillary when she piled on in an obvious and cringe-inducing pander to the Jewish community, saying not only denounced Farrakhan's support but rejected it as well. (You really had to see that particular exchange to get how terribly Clinton came off and how well he parried her semantic bullying.)

It was a childish and dishonorable series of questions, clearly the lowest point in a pretty lousy debate filled with them. 


My favorite debate commentary of the night comes from a poster over at Burnt Orange Report:
MSNBC is carrying the debate. My prediction: I will throw something at the TV as I yell at Tim Russert within the first 20 minutes of tonight's debate. If I could have one wish for tonight's debate, it would be for that gasbag to be met with a similar fate as South Park's character Chef.
Second favorite from DailyKos diarist MissLaura:
Last thread, Scout Finch said:
"I'm not sure which is worse.....Russert moderating or Matthews analyzing afterward."
Well, now we know what's worst of all: Russert and Matthews analyzing it together. Two such stupid men so pleased with themselves, their grins wrapping around their entire damn heads as they stroke each other's egos.
But the best serious commentary is from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

Choice cut:
I discussed this in the live debate blog. But I think it's worth going back and watching Russert's run of shame here. I would say it was borderline to bring up the issue of Farrakhan at all. But perhaps since it's getting some media play you bring it up just for the record, for Obama to address.

That's not what Russert did. He launches into it, gets into a parsing issue over word choices, then tries to find reasons to read into the record some of Farrakhan's vilest quotes after Obama has just said he denounces all of them. Then he launches into a bizarre series of logical fallacies that had Obama needing to assure Jews that he didn't believe that Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness".

As a Jew and perhaps more importantly simply as a sentient being I found it disgusting. It was a nationwide, televised, MSM version of one of those noxious Obama smear emails.
Here's a clip of the debate:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This gorgeous shot is from my favorite phlog, Stuck In Customs. In addition to taking great shots, the guy is an absolute master with his technique.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deliver Us

Wow, just saw the latter half of a documentary called Deliver Us From Evil, which documents the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal. It focuses on one priest in particular, Oliver O'Grady, who abused dozens of Northern Californian families over a period of two decades. The good father abused people who's ages ranged from nine months old to the middle-aged mother of a younger abuse victim. The film also follows the journey of two survivors and their families and interviews several former priests, lawyers, and Father Thomas Doyle—a priest who warned the church of the issue 20 years ago and who's been at the forefront of seeking justice for the survivors of clergy abuse for years. 

It's really just a heartbreaking and anger-inducing film to watch…and captivating as hell. O'Grady actually agrees to be interviewed for the movie. He showed little understanding and no remorse while discussing the abuse he perpetrated; he was disconcerting and creepy to watch. Instead of being in prison where he belongs, he's living in Ireland on a church stipend or pension. 

It's impossible to watch this film and not become incensed. The amount of abuse is just stunning, as is the decades-long cover ups. The stonewalling and denial of church officials is maddening to observe. (Reading about it in the papers was one thing, seeing it a whole different experience.) Even knowing the organization's long and nefarious history, the church's reaction and behavior (and denial) is shocking.  

Here's link to the website, I recommend checking it out. And definitely check out the Abuse Map—it's shows how widespread the offenses were and how many per diocese. Los Angeles alone had 247 accused priests. 
Below is a screen shot of the map. 

The Eyeborg

Way cool...
Cyborg Enables Color-Blind Artist to Hear His Palette
Neil Harbisson was never a fan of Mark Rothko. Or any abstract artist for that matter. Harbisson's extreme color blindness - a congenital condition called achromatopsia - dulled even great works based on shape and tone rather than pictoral image.
But now his life - and his art - have been transformed by a device called the Eyeborg, which enables him to perceive color by sound, and to - quite literally - "compose" paintings….
Check out his work here.

Hat tip: Daily Dish.

Just Because

Photo Flap

So Obama, accepting a gift, is dressed in traditional Somali (or is it Kenyan) garb on a visit to an African country. Politicians and leaders dress in countries' attire all the time. It's a gesture of friendship and respect. 

This is such a non-story I don't really want to comment on it other than to say, it's beneath contempt. Regardless of who leaked the photo (Clinton campaign is taking the brunt of the heat), it's a pretty lame attempt to smear Obama and one that's likely to damage Clinton (and McCain in the fall) than it will Obama. For more on the subject, though, go here, here, here, or here

Here are some other "offensive" photos: 

Obama Is A Cyborg Sent To Destroy Us All

Best Political Pic Ever

Even if it is Photoshopped. (Courtesy of The ITT List.)

Clinton V. Obama: A Kossack Vets Their Records

A very, very detailed comparison of Clinton's and Obama's legislative records from Grassroots Mom over at DailyKos. So detailed, in fact, that I'm not even going to excerpt it. Go here if you're interested. 

Hat tip: 2parse/blog

Jimmy Kimmel Gets His Revenge

…by fucking Ben Affleck. Click here to refresh your memory.

What a fucking hilarious couple.

Clinton Stabs Obama

Okay, not really. But is this what we can expect from a Clinton presidency?
Law Political Dispute Ends In Stabbing
UPPER PROVIDENCE, Pa. (CBS 3) ― The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is investigating a politically motivated stabbing that left one in-law hospitalized and another in prison.

Authorities said brother-in-laws Jose Ortiz and Sean Shurelds were involved in a verbal altercation over Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton when the argument escalated into a stabbing inside their family home on Honey Locust Court in Upper Providence.

Authorities said Ortiz, a registered Republican and Clinton supporter, allegedly stabbed Shurelds, an Obama supporter, in the stomach.

Shurelds was flown to an area hospital and was listed in critical condition.

Ortiz was jailed on $20,000 bail. If convicted of a felony crime, he will not be able to vote in the upcoming election.
Okay, my lead-in sentence is obviously absurd. But no more so than some of the attacks the Clinton campaign has thrown around. (And you'll notice that it was the Republican and the Clinton supporter who had to resort to violence.)

Obama Responds

Another pitch-perfect response to a ridiculous attack. Click here to see what he's responding to. 

I'm an Evangelical—and a Liberal. Really.

A good article on what was lost when Democrats ceded religious ground to the radical right.
As an evangelical who worked in Democratic politics before entering journalism, I'm used to getting looks from liberals who are embarrassed for me when I use the E-word to describe myself. Confusion flickers across their faces as they instantly reassess my political leanings and intelligence. People who have known me for years start asking whether I watch Fox News and brace for spontaneous proselytizing.

And then there is the more dangerous sort of bias. A few months ago, while participating in an early-morning panel discussion in the heart of Manhattan, I was startled fully awake when a man stood up to declare that Democrats who reached out to religious voters, especially evangelicals, were akin to those who collaborated with the Nazis. I put on a sweet smile of Christian charity and counted to 10.

Comments like that explain why so many of us liberals who also happen to be evangelicals have stayed in the closet for so long. It is hard to overcome decades of suspicion, much of it richly earned by leaders of the religious right who used faith in the cause of a political power grab and in the name of intolerance and fear. But the lingering misconceptions are also painful reminders of the price people like myself have paid for staying silent while others claimed a monopoly on faith. And the country has paid, too.

Like A Virgin, Hey

A cool article on parthenogenesis in the natural world from the New York Times.
Birds Do It. Bees Do It. Dragons Don’t Need To
Keepers at Wichita’s zoo got a surprise last year when they found developing eggs inside the Komodo dragon compound. Komodos are large rapacious lizards naturally found in Indonesia, but increasingly populating zoos around the world. Finding fertile embryos of dragons is a joyous occasion — there are only a few thousand of the lizards in the wild and captive breeding may be the only way to keep the species around.

But these eggs — two of which hatched a few weeks ago — were unusual: they developed from a female that had had no male of the species in close proximity for more than a decade. Judging from similar occurrences over the past two years in Britain, it appears that these lizards sometimes use a form of virgin birth in which eggs hatch without conception. The embryos are genetic clones of the mother.…

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some Horseshit Like That

Ralph, Ralph, Ralph...

Here's Matt Stoller's take on Nader's run over at Open Left:
Yes, he's running for President.

Nader created a good deal of the antipartisan organizational apparatus of the 1970s and 1980s. What he did in his career was remarkable, and yet, now on TV he's taking no responsibility for his lies during 2000. Watching him on TV, it's clear he hates the Democrats and just won't recognize that it's a different Democratic Party, one that is much more movement-based, than it is when he ran in 2000. Nader is part of the TV cult of personality model of politics, similar to Dennis Kucinich, and he sounds kind of pathetic.

Nader's not wrong on a lot of his charges, but he's also in his own increasingly irrelevant way part of the problem.

UPDATE: Perhaps some more pungency makes sense - I don't see Nader as particularly progressive, and I do see him as a pathologically dishonest diva. That shouldn't take away from his very real accomplishments, but his claims in 2000, that there were no differences between Al Gore and George Bush, were lies and he is appropriately held accountable for them. As for his ideological stripes, Nader was on the wrong side of the Schiavo controversy, and that suggests a basic lack of concern for how to treat human beings. Working with religious wackos to invade someone's privacy at their most vulnerable moment, and lying about the Democratic Party to put George Bush in charge and hewing to those lies are not ok in my book.
Here's my less eloquent take. And this from the way-back machine.

UPDATE: Here's a post from James Fallows, a protege of Nader's on his decision to run.
I have liked and admired Ralph Nader so much. I first worked for him when I was in my teens (and he was in his 30s). …

Nader was funny, warm, brilliant-seeming, and, yes, caring. He visited my wife in the hospital after our first child was born. For years after that, he never failed to ask about both of our kids (or my wife) whenever I talked with him. I say all this as an indication of why Ralph Nader has so many people who actually are loyal to him -- and who wish they didn't have to face the reality about the choices he has made over the last eight years.

That he stayed in the race in 2000 was tragedy. (See: Invasion of Iraq, 2003, and subsequent occupation.) That he came back in 2004 was unfortunate; his entry in 2008 is farce. Farce because it suggests detachment from political reality (the differences between the Republican and Democratic nominees are so faint that we can say, What the hell!) and, worse, narcissism. The fact that it won't make any difference in the outcome actually is sad.

Purple Lame, Purple Lame

Holy shit! I'm getting old! How can I tell? Prince—Prince!—is getting a goddamn hip replacement. I need a drink...and a double dose of Celexa. 
Prince crippled by sexy dancing
Pop legend Prince is having a secret hip replacement at the age of just 49—after being crippled by years of sexy dancing.

The pint-sized US star would develop a severe limp and have to use a walking stick without surgery.

Why The Press Loves McCain

From Ezra Klein at The American Prospect.

Choice cut: 
There are a lot of dimensions to the press's adoration of McCain, but this is a significant one: The qualities we most admire in others are those we don't have, or fear we don't have, in ourselves. The press isn't impressed by smart, cerebral candidates because the press is full of smart, cerebral, people, who sort of believe they are smarter and more cerebral than the politicians they cover. There's almost a resentment there, and it comes out in the reporting which often tries to show that the reporter is smarter because they can take down the candidate. They can win the debate, poke flaws in the argument, identify inconsistencies.

What very few (male) reporters feel comfortable with is their personal physical courage. Their ability to fare well in a bar fight, or make a credible threat to someone stalking their wife, or endure five years of torture in a Vietnamese prison camp. McCain has something that they don't understand, and that they want. And it's one reason they like him. Because not only does he possess those qualities, but he also appears to like them. And that validation from a tough guy is reassuring.

Quote Du Jour

"I can't wait until it's Obama vs. McCain. It's gonna be YouTube vs. Feeding Tube!" —Bill Maher

The Mice

From the website, Astronomy Picture of the Day.
These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as " The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. 
Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.

The Frog From Hell

Scientists unearth prehistoric 'frog from hell'
It dined on baby dinosaurs, was wider than a rugby ball and had a predilection for cannibalism: meet Beelzebufo, or the ‘frog from hell’ – the world’s most aesthetically challenged ancient amphibian.

Fossils of the 70 million-year-old giant carnivore have been unearthed by scientists in Madagascar, giving weight to the theory the island off Africa’s east coast was once part of a super-continent linking India and South America.…

You Won't Have To Go Any Further On The Map

A profile of Mark Penn, Clinton's much-reviled chief campaign strategist. 

Choice cut: 
While not her campaign manager in name, Penn controls the main elements of her campaign, most important her attempt to define herself to an electorate seemingly ready for a Democratic president but possibly still suffering from Clinton fatigue.

In the four months since Clinton officially became a candidate, Penn has consolidated his power, according to advisers close to the campaign, taking increasing control of the operation. Armed with voluminous data that he collects through his private polling firm, Penn has become involved in virtually every move Clinton makes, with the result that the campaign reflects the chief strategist as much as the candidate.

If Clinton seems cautious, it may be because Penn has made caution a science, repeatedly testing issues to determine which ones are safe and widely agreed upon (he was part of the team that encouraged Clinton's husband to run on the issue of school uniforms in 1996).

If Clinton sounds middle-of-the-road, it may be because Penn is a longtime pollster for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council whose clients have included Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).

If Clinton resembles a Washington insider with close ties to the party's biggest donors, it may be because her lead strategist is a wealthy chief executive who heads a giant public relations firm, where he personally hones Microsoft's image in Washington.

And if some opponents see Clinton as arrogant, her campaign a coronation rather than a grass-roots movement, it may be because of the numbers wizard guiding her campaign and the PowerPoint presentations he likes to give on the inevitability of his candidate.
And I love this:
Penn did not anticipate that another Democrat might come along with a similar ability to fit that bill -- as supporters of Obama, who would be the first black president, believe he can…

"When you look at this thing nationally -- how is she going to win -- I think it's really important to look at what were the two groups that defected from the Democrats in 2004 to give it to Bush," Penn said. "And those were women and Latino voters. And almost all the change in that election from 2000 was among those two groups, and those are her two strongest groups. And I think that's some of the reason you see her doing so well in places like Ohio and Florida -- because I think those are both states that she could take."

And then, he said, "you won't have to go any further on the map." [Emphasis mine.]

Campaign Critique

Another assessment of recent Demo campaign history from Paul Jenkins at the Huffington Post. 
Clinton, on the other hand, did not see Obama coming and dismissed him as an arriviste who would soon enough realize that he should wait his turn and embrace a Clinton restoration. This lack of vision by the candidate herself was compounded by her senior staff, a deeply unappealing group whose arrogance continues to damage her campaign, and who seem unable to convey the most basic truths to their boss. That she has surrounded herself with relative incompetents such as Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Patti Solis Doyle is obviously one of her biggest failings, and should give pause to anyone reflecting on the kind of staffing choices she would have to make as president.

Clinton's post-Iowa reworked message morphed into increasingly personal, angry and entitled attacks on Obama as a talker not a doer. It is at that point, especially as South Carolina was looking to be a complete bust, that the campaign should have felt that primary voters would not tolerate the type of aggression that the Clintons practice as a matter of course, especially since Hillary wasn't under unusually belligerent pressure. But the Clintons and their court simply don't know any better, and it is far too easy to picture a Clinton White House in 2009 that throws us back to the darkest dysfunction of Bill's presidency, and the inevitable political paralysis this would cause.

To this day, the campaign just doesn't get the silliness of slogans that, for instance most recently, paint Clinton as a hard worker (we ASSUME presidential candidates are hard workers; are they saying Obama has been on vacation for the past 15 years?). The Clintons don't get that the constant petty jabbing and maneuvering (plagiarism! hot air! disenfranchised delegates!) should be way, way below them and that, in the end, it irredeemably cheapens her candidacy, making her look anything but presidential. It is a remarkable feat that it also makes her husband, a two-term president, look anything but presidential. And it plays into the worst stereotypes of Hillary as a small-minded and dishonest conniver who doesn't understand why she may be denied what she deems to be (and has been told is) her due. With this in mind, how on earth do we expect that a Clinton presidency could take anything but the low road, with little to show for its fights except power itself?

A Damning Mash-Up