Monday, March 31, 2008

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. 21
2. Horton Hears a Who
3. Superhero Movie
4. Met the Browns
5. Drillbit Taylor
I need some new music. Whaddya got?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy News of the Week
Your cell phone is killing you.

From the Guardian: "Mobile Phones 'More Dangerous than Smoking'."

I don't spend lots of time talking on mine, but do have it with me most of the time. Probably too late - I'm doomed - but maybe worth thinking about turning it off more often.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Are You Going Dark?
A loyal Canadian reader (is there any other kind?) emails a story about Earth Hour tomorrow, when environmentally conscious folks - and even some cities and corporations - will turn off all the lights for an hour at 8 pm Saturday. I can't seem to get my American-shaped computer to fit into the Canadian Internet tubes to read the Globe and Mail piece he sent, but here's Time Magazine.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Don't Understand Ultimate Fighting
But I really don't understand this. I can imagine the arguments for it, I guess. But none of them really work for me - not one bit. Can any of you who maybe took karate as a kid (that's the closest respectable activity I can imagine) explain why ultimate kid-fighting might be an acceptable way to corral (encourage?) the physical aggression of an 8-year-old? Whatever happened to pillow fights?
Gave a big foreign policy address yesterday. And, as Kevin Drum says, "the pandering for the independent vote has now started in earnest." The Republican primary is officially over. Indeed most of that speech is a good hopeful read. And maybe he wouldn't still be making that "maverick" label so laughable if it weren't for his Bush-hugging Iraq plans and tax promises. In other words, if it weren't for his actual foreign and domestic policies, he might just be reasonable.
Final Rev. Wright Deep Thought
E-mailing with an especially brilliant Article 19 reader (is that redundant?), about why it's somehow ok for Republicans to be associated with hate-mongering religious figures like James Dobson, John Hagee, Pat Robertson and the like, while Obama's minister is not allowed to question the country, I had a thought along these lines:

For a Republican, it's better to love the country and hate many of its people than it is to hate the country for not properly loving all of its people. For them, loving the abstraction releases you (requires you?) to loathe the particular.

But that's the final thought on this subject, because I am giving this whole episode the official Article 19 seal of *The Weathered Storm.* Obama is catching up in PA, surging in NC, and it is only a matter of time before we can get about the business of uniting around the necessary defeat of Iraq-war-loving, economy-misunderstanding, confederate-flag and religious-right-pandering, torture-flip-flopping John McCain.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Will My Team Make the Playoffs?
If you ever ask yourself that question, no matter which sport, you will agree with me that this is an incredibly cool site.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Getting Too Cute?
Bill Clinton, ever the argument-framer, on how nice a race between McCain and his wife might be:
"I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country," said Clinton, who was speaking to a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, N.C. "And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."
An Obama adviser thinks we might as well jump to the harshest possible interpretation:
Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is trying to clarify comments by former President Clinton that seemed to question Barack Obama's patriotism - comments an Obama aide likened to Joseph McCarthy.

Clinton's campaign said the comments were being misinterpreted and quickly posted a clarification on its Web site. But retired Air Force Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak said he was disappointed by the comments and compared them to those of McCarthy, the 1950s communist-hunting senator.
"It's a use of language as a disguised insult. We've seen this before, this little clever spin that's put on stuff," McPeak said. "I have no idea what his intentions are, but I'm disappointed in the statement. I think Bill Clinton is, or ought to be, better than that."
When I first read this, I thought Bill was probably getting a raw deal. He doesn't of course think that Obama doesn't love the country enough. And it would be a foolish thing to say, even if he did. But the more I think about it, it seems like he might be once again (think SC Jesse Jackson comment...) trying to hint around at a criticism without having to say it, a bit of subliminal campaigning. If a debate on issues is really what he wants, and not a distraction, wouldn't it be nice if he actually tried to set a better example?

Friday, March 21, 2008

So I Had a Pretty Good Seat... the near-historic Duke-Belmont basketball game last night - amazing seat actually, as you can see. It doesn't get much better than 5th row, courtside.

As for the outcome, I didn't need another reason to get annoyed with Duke. With 4 good opportunities (and one long-shot) in the last minute, Belmont just needed to have one of them go right to pull off the upset: 3 chances to score, one chance to defend, and a half-court heave. It couldn't have been more exciting though. Our small contingent of Belmont fans were standing and cheering throughout, but in the last 5 minutes the whole building full of mostly West Virginia fans woke up and got behind the underdogs. Atmosphere-wise, only hockey playoffs compare. Oh well.

As for other teams I'm watching, the Cats were dismissed without fanfare by a mediocre Marquette team (if next year is a disappointment, the coach is in trouble?) and the Predators suddenly can't win at home. They probably have to win out the last 7 to make it in the playoffs. Even then it might not be enough. All of these mini-dramas masquerading as disappointment, of course, are why they play next year. And really, so long as there is next year, who cares?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tourney Brackets
Who ya got? I'll be cheering on Belmont tonight. When they beat Duke, it will be the biggest upset in tournament history, right?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Speech Reaction
I rarely get to say this, so here goes: I agree completely with Andrew Sullivan.

I don't frankly understand why, much less how, anyone could hear the speech any differently, unless encrusted with a cold cynicism that is intractable. But alas, many do. My Hillary-supporting friend, no cynic she, who once claimed merely that Obama supporters were blinded to our deep-seated sexism, now has a more anti-Obama slant. I believe the exact quote yesterday was "He's a black separatist and he's lying through his teeth. You don't sit cheering in that church for 20 years without feeling the same way." So, there you go.

Somehow, he's got to overcome this. His speech was thoughtful and unprecedented. But what he needs now are some positive poll numbers (I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that a large group of potential voters have now simply struck him from the list) and a bit of a change of the subject. The line he is trying to walk in this race discussion is a fine one. He wants to acknowledge some difficult truths, but doesn't really want to make the discussion central to the campaign, as you can see by the end of the speech, when he encouraged us to show that we were moving forward by focusing on other things: the economy, the war, health care.

So, yes let's talk about race finally, and let's demonstrate our progress by not talking about race so much. I understand what he's saying, but it's a tough balancing act.
Why Phil?
I wonder what my Governor is up to? He has an op-ed in today's NYTimes urging a June superdelegate convention to settle the nomination well in advance of the August Dem convention. Makes sense, I guess. But why is he the one out front? I believe he could be Hillary's VP, but not Obama's. Would he put TN in play? Or could he be angling for a cabinet post? HHS?
Early Morning Deep Thought
Because of their calling - or perhaps their ego (we'll talk later about whether the one leads to the other) - many members of the clergy like to take ideas further than our comfort level, or for that matter a reasonable level. The flock generally accept what they can or will and dispense with the rest. I even know a few Catholics who are not completely opposed to contraception, for example. Failing to leave the Church over such disagreements doesn't make you a reprobate or a bad parent. It makes you a normal church-goer. At the risk of offending my ordained readers (for whom of course this deep thought does not apply), the minister and his/her preaching content is not the only reason folks go to church; nor is the sermon usually even that person's biggest selling point, much less the church's. I would say it's not even in the top 5.

I say we hold our elected officials more accountable for the wars they start than the preaching they endure. But maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Idiot Box
I have never heard commentary any stupider than the blather in these minutes waiting for Obama's address on race and, presumably, the Rev. Wright story. Geez people, he has a fiery pastor, he didn't get caught with teenage prostitutes. I really don't see why people are freaking out about this.

We'll see what he has to say.

[UPDATE: Here's the speech.]

Monday, March 17, 2008

What you been reading, listening to, watching?

Completely out of the arts loop this week. Help me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Michael Kinsley
Yeah, I was offended by the Ferraro business, but can still appreciate that this new piece by Michael Kinsley gets it about right:
Let me be absolutely clear where I stand on all of this. There is no room for sexism in a modern political campaign. There is no room for racism either. There is no room for remarks that could reasonably be interpreted as sexist or racist. In fact, given the history of sexism and racism in this country, there is no room for remarks that could even be willfully misinterpreted as sexist or racist. There is no room for rudeness, or for the appearance of rudeness. There is no room for comments of any sort by anybody a candidate might have met under any circumstances in the course of his or her life, unless they have been vetted for sexism, racism, rudeness, or the appearance of these qualities by the campaign's senior staff. There is no room for unfair accusations that the opposition candidate has engaged in sexist, racist or rude remarks, or that anyone he or she has ever met has engaged in such remarks. And of course there is also no room for perfectly fair accusations of this sort, which can be misinterpreted, and usually are.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Delegate Math Update[UPDATED]
With MS and WY settled, and a better idea of the final delegate counts in OH and the TX caucus, a revised CA count, and final results certified in CO, all the pledged delegates from states already voting have now been alloted by some news organization or another. The current pledged delegate count on that score has Obama up by 154 160, 1414.5 to 1254.5. With 566 pledged delegates still remaining, Clinton would have to win 63.5% 64.1% of them to catch him in that category.

Adding superdelegates who have endorsed, Obama's lead is cut to 117 124 125, 1623.5 to 1498.5. There are 342 341 of those yet to endorse. To catch him in the overall count, Hillary will have to win 56.4% 56.8% 56.9% of the remaining 908 907 delegates, pledged and superdelegates combined.

All of that contingent on whatever they do with FL and MI.

[UPDATE: First of all, when an update gets updated, you know that the original suffered from bad timing, which this one did. Here's what happened: Iowa's county caucuses took place on Saturday, and in all of the hullabaloo Obama gained 1 of Clinton's delegates (don't ask me how that happens. I don't know.) and 8 of Edwards' for a net gain of 10. Meanwhile, that revised CA count got revised again but in Hillary's favor (net O loss of 2), and DC may have moved from 12-3 Obama to 11-4 (another loss of 2). Overall a net Obama gain of 6. Numbers updated above to reflect.]
Science Friday
EPA scientists recommended new and slightly more limiting ozone restrictions in conjunction with their mandate under the Clean Air Act. From the Washington Post:
Under the Clean Air Act, the federal government must reexamine every five years whether its ozone standards are adequate, and the rules that the EPA issued Wednesday will help determine the nation's air quality for at least a decade.

Ozone, which is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and other chemical compounds released by industry and motor vehicles are exposed to sunlight, is linked to an array of heart and respiratory illnesses.
Sounds good, right? Except of course when your President is George W. Bush. He stepped in and significantly crippled the ozone standards suggested by the EPA scientists. That's against the law, of course, but hey he's the President and on his way out anyhow, so who cares?
EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.
Oh, and while on the subject of Bush, did I mention yet today that he is a monumental, hypocritical, embarrassment?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ferraro Flap
I have lots to say about Ms. Ferraro's rather vile dismissal of Obama, but little to no time to type it. In short, I think she's essentially saying he's nothing but his race - nothing of substance underneath. And it's only a short walk from there to the idea that he's nothing *because* of his race. It's not just a crass, divisive, hateful, Republican style of politics, it's effectively a denial of his humanity. He's just an empty black suit.

It really pissed me off, obviously.

What say you?

[UPDATE: Keith Olbermann's passionate statement on the issue is here.]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stupid Questions
The answer to this is no.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If You Care About the Torture Issue
Read this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Important Spitzer Question
All evening I haven't seen anyone explain what the heck kind of federal investigation is it that goes after a prostitution ring? ABCNews is on the case and through TPM comes the story: the feds were called in because of the suspicious money transfers. They thought they had the Gov in a bribery or money laundering case, but after some investigation and a wiretap they figured out where all that money was going: seriously over-priced sex.

What an idiot.

And for a guy who spent his career prosecuting white-collar cases that involved similar kinds of evidence, the stupidity is that much more pronounced.

I have lots of sympathy for all kinds of personal indiscretion. You know, people make mistakes, and have issues. But this is so profoundly dumb, and shows such incredible hubris, it's a bit hard to fathom. You don't get to that level of public service by yourself, but on the backs of lots of people who pour their hearts and lives and pocketbooks and reputations into helping you get there because they believe in you and what you can do for the public good. To then - after all that - be willing to risk throwing it all in the toilet for something so asinine, and throw your wife under the bus with it (she surely held down the family while he was out being Eliot Ness and running for Governor) in public pretty well boggles the mind. There's gratitude for you.

All that being said, if Senator Craig and especially Senator Vitter didn't have to resign, I don't see why Governor Spitzer should have to. After all, he didn't in fact launder public money or engage in a bribery scheme, like they thought. He paid for sex, just like Vitter. And went so far out of his way to hide it, that he was caught. Would have done better to go out Hugh Grant style. But then, wouldn't we all.
What have you been listening to, watching, reading?

Film Recommendation
The Bank Job is actually pretty good. A little worried at first, but it warmed up. Also saw Waitress over the weekend. Funny in spots, a little trite and caricaturish in other spots, but overall thumbs up.

More Books About Food
I hear from a well-read (and good lookin) loyal blog follower that Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma) has a helpful follow up book called "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"
What Are Baptists Up To?
The front page of the Tennessean ran a story today, as did the NYTimes, on a declaration signed by several Southern Baptist bigwigs - including the current President of the fundamentalist convention - which says essentially this: global warming is likely real and likely a problem and so we should address it as a moral imperative. Since the religious right has pretty well been front and center of the global warming denier's caucus, this could be a significant development. The signers here include not just high ranking officials but influential poobahs as well.

I have to assume, frankly, that they are up to something, but what's the angle? The NAE's Richard Cizik has been trying to move conservative Christian groups in the direction of, well, conservation, for a while now and has been practically drummed out of the club for it. What's changed?

Reasonable Baptist Robert Parham seems to think they are inserting wiggle room by refusing to acknowledge that global warming is a man-made phenomenon. Yes, that's a problem of logic (how are we supposed to address it if we aren't the ones that have been contributing to it?), but I don't see a real strategy there. I can think of 3 possibilities:

1) They sense drift in their membership, especially young people. Are member churches letting leadership know that their congregations want to see action on global warming? Honestly, I don't think that's it. Without being too insulting about it, the Southern Baptist churches that have clung to fundamentalist rule aren't exactly ones for stepping out against the leadership and forming a grassroots push-back.

2) Trying to bigfoot the New Baptist Covenant meeting on Wednesday? The leaders of the recent New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta are getting together Wednesday to discuss next steps. It wouldn't shock me if they are intending to come out in full support of policies aimed at the climate crisis. By releasing this declaration today, the SBC can claim to be leaders and not look like followers here.

3) The McCain Factor. This is where I'm leaning. Whichever President we have after the November election will not be a global warming denier. McCain's not as good on the issue as Obama or Clinton, but he's not completely anti-science about it, and ackownledges it is a problem to be dealt with. So, I'm thinking the SBC sees the writing on the wall. As (even crazier) nutjob John Hagee is endorsing him, it could be that Convention strategists, keen on maintaining a high level of political sway, want to get ahead of the curve and move in a way that will help McCain embrace them back. Together, fundamentalist Christians and reasonable Republicans may believe they can shape policy and make the defeat of global warming a conservative triumph (surely, looking to addressing the issue in a way that keeps oil companies happy as well) rather than fighting the wave of public sentiment.

They support him on global warming and he will support them on, what, judicial appointments? gay rights? And the SBC jumps ahead of some other perennial Religious Right powerhouses like James Dobson, the Family Research Council, etc. in White House influence?

Friday, March 07, 2008

I've Got Nothing Today
Nor, obviously, yesterday. It's a Friday in March and afer a tease of spring on Monday, we're supposed to get 3-4 inches of snow overnight tonight. Everyone's freaking.

Most of my thoughts lately are toward various races: Will Obama win enough to take the nomination? Will Kentucky win enough hoops games (maybe just one more?) to make it into the NCAA tourney? Will the Predators win enough hockey games to sneak into the playoffs? Can my alma mater Belmont win 2 more games this weekend and go to March Madness for the 3rd straight year?
My predictions are: yes, probably, probably not, and I'm afraid they're due for an upset.

Obviously, I'm in a win-or-lose frame of mind. I'll depend on you for substance and nuance. What are you reading or thinking about out there heading into the weekend?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

State Projections Look Pretty Good {Edited to Fix My Screwup KennyB Caught}
In my delegate obsession update below, part of my calculation is a 3-poll average of upcoming states, plus allotting the leftover to Clinton 2:1. That ended up pretty close to the actual results last night. Below are the popular vote results, with the projection in parenthesis.

Vermont Obama 59 - Clinton 39 (59.3 - 40.7)
Ohio--Clinton 54.3 - Obama 44.0 (54.4 - 45.6)
Rhode Island--Clinton 58 - Obama 40 (54.9 - 45.1)
Texas--Clinton 50.9 - Obama 47.4 (51.8 - 48.2)

The delegates are a little different story. From the looks of it, Hillary gained maybe 5 in RI, 4 in TX and 11 in OH. Obama gained 3 in VT and will likely gain a few in the TX caucus as results come in the next few days. Let's just say that Clinton gained somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 for the night, reducing Obama's pledged delegate lead to about 135.

There are 338 left to come. To gain 135 and take the pledged delegate lead, she will have to win them 247-91, 73% of the remaining delegates. And there's this: she's not going to win WY or MS this weekend, so that number will go up.

{That was wrong - way wrong. Here are the real numbers:
There are 611 left to come. To gain 135 and take the pledged delegate lead, she will have to win them 373-238, 61% of the remaining pledged delegates. As it is not looking likely that she can gain during the 45 coming up this next week, she will have to win at least 62% of the delegates in states beyond that. She has only captured 62+% of the vote in 1 state thus far: Arkansas.

Her chances are better than I credited earlier when I typed the original version, but I still believe she can't win the pledged delegate vote without re-opening FL and MI and getting some big wins along the way. Maybe it's fair to make him prove he can close the deal, but it seems selfish and hurtful to the party, given that she insists on praising McCain's experience in comparison, and play coy about Obama's religion.}

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4 Predictions
Based on very little:
Clinton wins RI and OH 53-47, and TX 51-49, but Obama gains more TX delegates, and gains more in VT delegates than he loses in RI, so delegate picture stays roughly the same after tonight. She'll gain less than 20, and as Jonathan Alter points out, the race is over. Will Hillary be the last to acknowledge it?

Monday, March 03, 2008

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Homage to the Heist Movie
Terrence Rafferty in the NYTimes ahead of the upcoming "Bank Job." I think he leaves out some pretty good ones, but it's a nice piece. What are your favorite robbery flicks?

Monster Cables: Not All That Special
from BoingBoing
A reader forwarded us a post from the Audioholics Home Theater Forum... He says his brother ran an experiment on him and four other audio aficionados listening to a new CD from a new group blindfolded. Seven different songs were played, each time heard with the speaker hooked up to Monster Cables, and the other time, hooked up to coat hanger wire. Nobody could determine which was the Monster Cable and which was the coat hanger. The kicker? None of the subjects even knew that coat hangers were going to be used.
Article 19 Movie Warning
Don't see Vantage Point.... you have been warned.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Delegate Obsession Update [UPDATED Thurs 5/1. 2 PM]
It will take 2,024 delegates to win the nomination. That number goes up and down slightly as superdelegates are added and removed for various reasons.

Article 19 Delegate Projection (current pledged count + superdelegate projection + projection of upcoming states that have been polled)
Barack Obama--2053
Hillary Clinton--1955
(John Edwards--19)
Obama +98

Details below...

Current Pledged Delegate Count [UPDATED Sat. 4/26 3 PM to reflect PA results.]
Obama 1490
Clinton 1336
Obama +154

Current Superdelegate Count (and superdelegate projection, supposing the remaining split evenly)[UPDATED: Thurs 5/1 12 pm]
Obama 244 (389)
Clinton 260 (405)
Clinton +16 (+16)

Projection of upcoming states which have been polled (based on average of 3 recent polls, plus assuming undecideds break for Sen. Clinton 2:1) [UPDATED Thu 5/1 2 PM to reflect new polls in NC and IN.]

NC (115): Obama - 51.2 - 48.8 (59-56) O +3 [O +36k of 1.5m]
WV (28): Clinton - 67 - 33 (19-9) C +10 [C +134k of 400k]
IN (72): Clinton - 55.8 - 44.2 (40-32) C +8 [C +104.4k of 900k]
KY (51): Clinton - 69.9 - 30.1 (36-15) C +21 [C +199k of 500k]
OR (52): Obama - 54 - 46 (28-24) O +4 [O +48k of 600k]
SD (15): Obama - 52.6 - 47.4 (8-7) O +1 [O +4.2k of 100k]
PR (55): Clinton - 58.7 - 41.3 (32-23) C +9 [C +156.6k of 900k]

Obama 174
Clinton 214
Clinton +40
Clinton +505,800

Total (current pledged + projected superdelegate + projected polled states)
Barack Obama--2053
Hillary Clinton--1955
Obama +98

What's left to consider[UPDATED Mon 4/26 3 PM to reflect polling in PR, SD, OR]:
That still leaves 20 pledged delegates yet to be assigned from those yet to vote for which there are no polls: Guam (4) and Montana (16).