Saturday, May 31, 2008

Florida and Michigan
You won't be surprised to know that I am foolishly keeping an eye on the CSpan coverage of the DNC Rules Committee hearing. Having watched some of it so far, I would just as soon they kept it closed and decided in private, if only to spare the country from clips of this debacle. The lack of vision and perspective on display is pretty stunning, a meeting of 2 interests - one that is willing to alter the rules at the last minute to achieve political unity now that certain victory is at hand, and the other, trying to exploit that willingness by insisting on a complete 180-degree suspension of those rules inside their own delusional belief that somehow the contest is still undetermined.

Clearly, in retrospect, if we had known that Senator Clinton was going to demonize her own party's rule and become a demagogue on the issue, the sanction should have been 50-percent of the delegates, relegating both to small state status, inviting and allowing candidates to campaign there and giving no incentive for any of them to remove their names from the ballot in Michigan (the only one of the 2 in which they were *even allowed* to remove it.) But now here we are with the Rules Committee agreeing to consider removing the sanction that was placed *for good reason*. It is a truly spineless act that goes against all of the standard cliches about playing the game by the rules, not changing them mid-stream, etc. Obama is willing to entertain it so as not to jeopardize November. Clinton, holding the threat of November over his head, is pursuing it because of her quixotic quest for August.

Here's my take, for what it's worth (not much). The Rules Committee, first, should not have even entertained this request, and should have stuck to its guns awarding zero delegates to FL and MI, not because that's necessarily the fairest and smartest punishment, but because those are the rules that were set out for everyone at the beginning. Force Senator Clinton, if she must, to take a fight to the Credentials Committee in August, and hope that by then the math renders that option pointless.

Second, if they are going to seat the delegations they have to at least sanction them by 50% - giving each delegate a half vote - making the rule at least mean something. If there is no sanction, how the hell will they ever, ever hold another state to the rules in the future?

But lastly, if they are going to award the half-vote delegations from both states, they have to base the allocation on the vote that has taken place. This Michigan plan to allocate delegates based on anything else - which I have been behind in the past - I have come to see as nonsense. Senator Obama made a tactical decision to remove his name from the ballot - a mistake it would seem without getting the assurance from Clinton that she would do the same. He's free to go after the uncommitted delegates (there would be 55 to Clinton's 73) and there would be lots of them that he should win.

I don't think you can have it both ways. So long as the nomination is still being contested, either don't award delegates to FL or MI as punishment for going out of turn, or award them based on the vote that has taken place - as seriously flawed as it was in Michigan - and tell those who didn't bother to vote, or who decided to vote in the Republican primary or wrote in Obama or Edwards that you didn't mean it when you voted as a committee earlier to render those 2 primaries inconsequential.

The other way which makes some sense is to award the votes 50-50 to keep from giving an advantage to one candidate or another, keeping those primaries meaningless, but allowing representatives from the state to be on the floor. But nobody sounds like they are anxious to go for that plan.

Finally, why is anyone allowed to remain on the Rules Committee who is also a campaign adviser to one of the candidates? Why is there no pressure on Harold Ickes (or anyone else working on a campaign while sitting on the Committee) to recuse himself from this process? All of these obvious conflicts of interest just make this whole event a circus, and give all the appearance of a sham.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More on Lead and Crime
Awhile back, Don blogged about the link between lead exposure in children and crime years later. A new study shows direct evidence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Laptop Update
My hard drive got the death sentence today. Ugh. The upshot is, if you have emailed me in the last 2.5 years - and with 10,000 emails on my computer I figure some of them are from you - I no longer have whatever you sent, and I don't have your email address either.

[Edited to remove some of the whining.]

Anyhow, I'm left with a question - consider this a reader poll. Do any of you use an external drive to back up your hard drive? or maybe store your music? Do you recommend it?
The Clinton Supporter Mindset
...can be experienced here, in case you were wondering.
Blog Rec
Check out Indexed. Hand-drawn charts for thinking "relationally without resorting to doing actual math." Of the ones on the front page currently, I especially like "Out of Sight, Out of Mind."
Laptop Purgatory
My Apple would seem to be - as Cheney might say - in its last throes. Trying to figure out how to empty the trash of a troublesome file has turned into trying to figure how to get the darned thing even booted up. At any rate, online-ness has hit some serious snags in recent days. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Also, if anyone knows a Mac-related prayer, etc... I have an appointment with an Apple genius in the afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Luckily the old PC desktop can still accomplish some basic things, if inflexible to my schedule and location. Funny the things on which a life can come to depend.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day
This seems like as good a blog tradition for today as any I can think of.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Disgraceful? Or Just Stupid? [UPDATED]
I don't want to even repeat the words Hillary used today to explain why she's still in the race. I have to admit that personally, I hear them in the context of some other things I've been reading lately, due to my other blog. There are some people in America who have some truly frightening, truly hateful, truly ignorant thoughts about Senator Obama, like the pastor *who has a working relationship with the Pentagon* as outlined in this talk2action post by historian Chris Rodda. I don't know how she uncovered this sermon but lest anyone think the horrified reaction to Senator Clinton's words today is over the top, read that hateful sermon first. Might want to have a drink before you do.

[UPDATE: A Fox News contributor has made Senator Clinton's remarks look reasonable and benign. Not that you needed to be reminded, but standards of decency are no longer in effect.]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Random Late-Night Question
Given that he is a clearly hateful, bigoted individual - evident from his political history behind Nixon as well as his own hyper-offensive, calling-all-white-men campaigns for President - how and why did Pat Buchanan become an acceptable, go-to Democratic Party analyst, critiquing a black man and a woman, night after night, on my teevee?
New GI Bill Passes Senate
Democrats attached Jim Webb's powerful GI Bill for the 21st Century to the war funding bill, and threw in some home heating assistance and extension of unemployment for good measure, and several Republican Senators still felt they had to vote yes. It passed 75-22. McCain did not vote, but is on record against it. Bush has promised a veto, claiming we can't afford all of these expenditures for the troops who have served the country.

So far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get any more support-the-troops than this. As Obama said over the weekend, it is not charity. They have served us, risking life and limb in the process. We owe them decent health care and real education opportunity when they return.

We will see if the House can muster a veto-proof majority as well. Honestly, I wish Democrats would just have a straight vote on the GI bill, and not attach other things, just to force McCain and other Republicans to be against it without the cover of claiming there is all kinds of extra needless spending. But that's how the game is played, and they certainly did it to us time and time again. And I guess if it's the only way to get home heating assistance passed, then so be it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hillary is in Florida
...and she's pissing me off again.

1. First, knock off all the patriotic, principles-of-democracy crap. The nominating process is not an election run by the government. It is a selection process governed by the Democratic Party - governed with certain rules. When your vote is not counted, it's not because the government is inhibiting your fundamental American right, it's because the state-level morons working under the *party you chose to join* screwed up, and in this case purposely and defiantly so. The way we chose who was "it" in tag when I was 7 years old was also not entirely fair, but it wasn't an example of my rights being violated; it was an example of the jokers I played with not knowing anything better than the one-potato, two-potato.

Everyone is perfectly free to vote for President without participating in the party nominating process, or free to join the other party if you don't like how things are run, or better yet, join together with like-minded folks and start your own damned party and make the rules exactly the way you would like. Democratic rules are contrived and should be changed somewhat, but they were understood and accepted by all coming in.

2. What kind of person can make a straight-face argument that Michigan votes especially should be counted for anything in this process? I know that lawyers are taught to advocate forcefully with the best argument they can, but is there no shame? She thinks the "American" way to go is to crown her with a 300,000 to 0 win there?? If Obama were making this argument, she and her supporters would be ridiculing him to no end. *She was the only name on the ballot*, not unlike Saddam Hussein in recent Iraqi elections. *Of course she won* but, thankfully - because it would be so unfair - that contest was not sanctioned by the party (see #1, above).

3. By pressing this popular-vote argument, she wants a way to claim victory, obviously, so that she never ever has to concede defeat. When Obama is the nominee, she won't agree that he defeated her; she will claim that she won, but that the process selected him. This is what she wants - not to be VP, not to stand up for voter rights. She wants to claim victory, no matter who the nominee is. She's a Clinton, God love her. But in doing that, she is de-legitimizing his nomination in the minds of millions of Democratic voters who want to believe in her campaign and won't see through her lawyerly determination to make obscene arguments with a straight face. That is my fear at this point. Yes, she has stopped attacking him directly for the most part, but we risk losing millions of votes from Clinton supporters who believe - falsely - that the nomination is being stolen from her.

So, lots of media types are asking why she's continuing, and here's my answer. I think she is doing 2 things, and both of them are a pain in the ass: she's fulfilling a personal need to (and we've all known people like this) never lose at anything, but more importantly she's positioning herself to run in 4 years, not to give herself another chance, because she will have already won once, but to give the process another chance to get it right. At this point, I think Obama could win the Presidency and she would still run against him in 2012. She'll be an annoying peanut gallery critic and then run to bring him down. Hell, I could believe she will be his Vice President for the next 4 years *and still run against him in 2012.*

Argh, wasn't I going to move on?! Why do I watch the news during the day?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kevin is Right
And it's not just about Cuba. A unified McCain-for-President rationale is becoming clear. It goes something like this: we should continue the policies that have failed for the last 50 years, as well as the newer, more spectacularly failing policies of the last 7 years, because Obama is unknown, and things could get worse. (but not global warming because we will pay lip service to that.)

It is the least hopeful, most depressing campaign strategy I can remember. And it's sure to get at least 45% of the vote.
Misdirection and a Smile That Isn't
Errol Morris' new blog post examines one of the most famous and disturbing Abu Ghraib pictures. His essay will make you re-think some of your reaction to it, and his analysis will ring true with things you already know to be true, starting with this: not all smiles reflect joy.

Some of the pictures are disturbing, and the account is horrifying, but I recommend it, if only to reshape your opinion - which like mine may have been hastily drawn - of Sgt. Sabrina Harman.

If mine was a decent blog, I would have a substantive response, something contrary or at least insightful to say. But all I know to do is point you to it and see if it might resonate in your head the way it will in mine for quite some time. It asks - I think - profound and difficult questions about a serious subject, and does it in a way that is hauntingly personal.

Here are a couple of highlights, but you really need to work through the whole thing:
There are many photographs of al-Jamadi’s body, but it is the photograph of Harman with his body that stands out among them, the photograph of a pretty American girl who is alive and a battered Iraqi man who is dead. The photograph misdirects us. We become angry at Harman, rather than angry at the killer.

We see al-Jamadi’s body, but we don’t see the act that turned him from a human being into a corpse. We don’t understand what the photograph means, nor what it is about.

Instead of asking: Who is that man? Who killed him? The question becomes, Why is this woman smiling? It becomes the important thing — if not the only thing. The viewer assumes that Harman is in some way responsible — or if not responsible, in some way connected to the murder — and is gloating over the body. How dare she? Isn’t she in the same photograph as the body? Looming over the corpse? And even if she is not guilty, she stands in (in the viewer’s imagination) for those who are.

And so we are left with a simple conundrum. Photographs reveal and they conceal. We know about al-Jamadi’s death because of Sabrina Harman. Without her photographs, his death would likely have been covered up by the C.I.A. and by the military. Yes, at first I believed that Harman was complicit. I believed that she was implicated in al-Jamadi’s death. I was wrong. I, too, was fooled by the smile.
And then there is another explanation for our visceral reaction. In the course of his work, Morris interviewed a facial expression expert, Paul Ekman, who teaches psychology at UC-San Francisco. Ekman said this:
When we see someone smile, it is almost irresistible that we smile back at them. Advertisers know that. That’s why they link products to smiling faces. And when we smile back, we begin to actually experience some enjoyment. So this photograph makes us complicit in enjoying the horrible. And that’s revolting to us.

So why it is such an upsetting photograph is not just because we see someone smiling in the context of the horrible, but that when we look at her, we begin to have to resist smiling ourselves. So it’s a terrible, terrible picture for that reason alone.
I am both looking forward to, and a little afraid of, Morris' new film on the scandal and the photographs that launched it, Standard Operating Procedure.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. Chronicles of Narnia
2. Iron Man
3. What Happens in Vegas
4. Speed Racer
5. Baby Mama

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama rally in Portland, Oregon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Republicans are Simply Batshit Insane
How else to describe this?
Short Bits
Believe it or not, lots of important stuff - actually important stuff - happened yesterday. But there's other stuff in here too.

Gay and lesbian couples are lining up (again) in CA to get married now that the state's Supreme Court dramatically ruled marriage a basic civil right under state law. Of course, detractors have already prepared for this, with petitions ready to go that will put the issue to a ballot test in November as a constitutional amendment. Apparently, this is a little different from the Mass. decision, every couple - not just residents of the state - can go to California and get married, even though your state may not recognize it. You can read the opinion here (pdf), if you are into that.

The Farm Bill passed. And it's set to override Bush's veto. The compromise is essentially this: we don't get a needed major overhaul of the bloated, backwards, damaging commodity subsidy system in this country, but we do get a huge increase in food and nutrition programs. The awe-inspiring group Bread for the World calls it "half a loaf." Better than nothing.

Mark, this one's for you, er, for us. Michael Pollan ("Omnivore's Dilemma") wrote a great piece in the NYTimes Magazine a few weeks ago that I keep forgetting to link.

Bush - still a jerk, but at least being called on it.

The woman who drove a teenage girl to suicide by posing as a teenage boy admirer in a scheme of humiliation was indicted by a federal grand jury. She deserves whatever she gets, even if it's just the hassle of beating the charges.

If you lost your dog and you are in Florida, maybe the pythons ate it. If you live in Houston and your computer doesn't work, maybe "crazy rasberry ants" ate it.

If you have 7 minutes or so to spare, you should watch the Daily Show's coverage of West Virginia's primary - the show at its hilarious and depressing best.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Time To Move On
I have to say that it's just a couple of days in a row, but now that she's stopped the Obama attacks and nasty politics herself, I don't much care that she hasn't conceded and think what she's doing is fine. Pile up delegates, shoot for a resolution of FL and MI and wait for enough superdelegates to come in for Obama that it's decided. Her constitution won't let her say "I can't win, so I quit." She wants him to have to win. Fair enough. So long as she keeps up the party unity talk, and emphasizes that she thinks she would be better, not that she thinks he can't win or would be some kind of scary disaster for Democrats, it bothers me far less, because it's easier to ignore. In fact, I updated my delegate obsession post below today, but am thinking it will be the last update. Because it's pointless (maybe one more check in after we see what's going to happen with FL and MI). Obama will be the nominee. On to McCain!!
VP Choices
Obama needs to win. He needs to pick a VP candidate that doesn't just make him feel good and compatible, but one who will help win electoral votes in a map that will probably still be pretty divided. So which ever one of the following can *most likely deliver* the state(s) in question should be the pick.

Hillary Clinton - uniting the party, overcoming Obama's lack of support among elderly and poor working-class voters to win FL (27) and/or OH (20)
Claire McCaskill - Missouri (11)
Jim Webb - Virginia (13)
Tim Kaine - Virginia (13)
Kathleen Sebelius - Kansas (11)
John Edwards - North Carolina (15)
Bill Richardson - New Mexico (5) plus, maybe Colorado (9)?
Ted Strickland - Ohio (20)
Phil Bredesen - Tennessee (11)
Sam Nunn - Georgia (15)
Ed Rendell - Pennsylvania (21)
Evan Bayh - Indiana (11)

So, which makes the most and least sense? And most likely to deliver? We all know the issues surrounding Hillary. I think she would make a smart and safe pick for one big reason: this primary has been unprecedented, and we just can't be sure that the Party will come together like everyone expects. To not pick her at this point will come across as a rejection of her, in the eyes of her supporters. The election will be close enough, can we afford to risk any slippage in the base? Sure, they will probably come around anyway, but if 20% of Hillary voters really support McCain, we have lost. But, I digress. How about the other possibilities?

The new fashionable pick after yesterday is to go back to Edwards. I do think he makes a better team with Obama than he did with Kerry, and would campaign better - as he did for President - than last time around. But can he really deliver NC? The Obama Map already hopes to put that state in play. If Edwards was good for a couple points it might work. Still, I'm not sure he can. Did he boost Kerry's play in the South at all?

Bredesen may deliver Tennessee, or come close, and Bayh might do the same in Indiana, as would Sebelius in Kansas, but at the expense of boring and/or turning off the rest of the country? Bayh would have the most national campaign skills out of those three and would add a Hillary supporter to the mix.

Richardson would sew up New Mexico, and help with Obama's problem among Hispanic voters across the country, but he can be a bit of an embarrassment on the campaign trail. NM only counts for 5 and is a state we should really be able to win anyway this time around. He's definitely auditioning for the part.

Rendell would lock up Pennsylvania as would, probably, Strickland in OH. Both Governors are relatively popular. We've got a better chance of winning PA in either case, so I'd elevate Strickland here.

Nunn is an intriguing case. He's got serious national security credentials, and having him on the ticket along with libertarian Bob Barr, also from Georgia, taking Republican votes away, just might give Obama Georgia and blow a hole in the Republican map. But he would be 70 years old and I haven't seen him lately. Is he still an effective, energetic figure?

Jim Webb can come off as a bit eccentric but to me he's an obvious choice. He puts VA in play (though Kaine would be a surer VA winner) but more important, he adds key military background and, as Reagan's former Navy Secretary, would provide an avenue of appeal to Reagan Democrats. He's a forceful advocate, a Vietnam Veteran, and I believe counters every bit of McCain's perceived strengths of experience.

McCaskill says she doesn't consider herself a smart choice, which is saying something. She could probably ensure Missouri I would think, and salve the wound of some Hillary supporters who want a woman on the ticket. But she does nothing for Obama's experience gap - no executive experience and a new Senator.

I have to rank them this way right now:
1. Hillary
2. Jim Webb
3. Ted Strickland
4. Tim Kaine
[UPDATE: 5. Joe Biden, who doesn't really play into the win-a-state theory, since Delaware will surely go for Obama no matter, but he would still be on my list.]

Yeah, to be sure, having Hillary on the ticket will be a pain in the ass at times. But the positives outweigh the negatives. Obama could quickly put to rest concerns that there is friction or a compatibility issue. But Webb would be fun to watch.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spiritual Warfare
Kenny B send along this interesting story worth a read (and a visualization). In an almost entirely unrelated note, at my other blog today, I'm a little uneasy over the blatant religious appeal in Obama's Kentucky advertisements. But my concern turned into a big laugh when imagining a presidential candidate (Ross Perot? Ron Paul?) using similar literature but as a member of the Jedi church mentioned in Kenny B's story. Try it yourself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good Election News Tonight
West Virginians didn't give us any good news, but Democrats gained a House member with a special election in Mississippi. A district that went for Bush with 60+% just elected a Democrat. So, now there are 796 superdelegates, and the number needed to win the nomination is up to 2025 from 2024.5.

More important, D's now outnumber R's in the House 236-199, and outpace them 3-1 in...Mississippi, of all places.
Who Will Kill The Electric Car This Time?
In today's NYTimes, a major car company promises affordable cars you can plug in, and soon.
The Nissan Motor Company plans to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan by 2010, raising the stakes in the race to develop environmentally friendly vehicles.

The commitment — expected to be announced Tuesday by Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn — will be the first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market. Nissan also expects to sell a lineup of electric vehicles globally by 2012.
I would normally file this under I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it, but it makes so much sense I don't really understand what's taking so long. Drug companies fall all over themselves rushing to advance delivery systems and fill needs (even if they have to create the need first), but car companies have seemed unmovable on a technology that seems basically available and would be in high demand, I would think. Has an industry ever been so slow in advancing its product's efficiency?

And if this happens - or when it does - credit where credit is due: Israel stepped out and has prepared itself to be the first mass adopter of electric car technology, devoting resources to infrastructure that will be ready for it. Nissan's partnership with Renault to bring plug-in cars to Israel just may be the springboard the rest of the world needs.

One of these days we are going to look back and wonder what the hell took us so long.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. Iron Man
2. Speed Racer
3. What Happens in Vegas
4. Made of Honor
5. Baby Mama

Metacritics says...
Among films in the top 20 this weekend, go see The Visitor. But don't see 88 Minutes. Among recent album releases, listen to Bon Iver. But don't listen to the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

MM - It's Summer Edition
Come on people, let's get the recommendations out there. Summer reading, summer music, summer movie rentals. How will Article 19 readers know what to consume if Article 19 readers aren't out front telling them?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Feel-Good Note For Your Weekend
On August 28, Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for President in Denver. It will occur on the anniversary of something else important in our history. I guess that will be a tough ticket.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I Disagree with Kos
He says no, but I think Hillary is the clear no-brainer VP choice for Obama. And it's a no-brainer that she should accept.

The choice is about winning the election. We need a bulldog to go after Republicans (see last 2 failed Dem choices) and someone who can win a state or 2. Hillary and the Clinton team know more about defeating Republicans than anyone. And she's proven a strong campaigner (as opposed to Richardson who proved to be embarrassingly inept). If there was somebody out there who fit the bill who could definitely bring a big swing state like Ohio or Florida, I'm all for it. Virginia's Jim Webb seems like the strongest choice on that front to put that state in play. But Hillary is the choice that gives us the best chance for victory.

Yes voters tend to unify around the nominee by November, But we can't afford to find out if this is the year that Hillary supporters live up to their word in not supporting Obama, anymore than Hillary would be able to afford to pass over Obama if she were the nominee. If it weren't for McCain being the opponent, with his bogus reputation as an independent type, I wouldn't feel as strongly about it. But rightly or wrongly he gives wavering women and working-class voters an excuse to bail on the Democrats.

We need Bill and Hillary and their supporters to be strong advocates for the ticket, not just on our side but on our team.

The dumbest reason not to pick her would be concern that she might overshadow Obama. Huh? Obama is a dynamic political figure with no need for such a worry. Slouching to this kind of critique would be a sure show of weakness. Could he really be so fragile as to not be able to stand up in front of Hillary? Picking a weak and timid personality (e.g., Sebelius) would be the move that diminishes his stature.

There's nothing to be afraid of here. Pick Hillary.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What I'm Watching For Tonight [UPDATED after Results]
Delegates--Any gain in pledged delegates by Obama is a good thing, but since NC is considered his likely win, and it's a bigger state, I am hoping for him to gain 50% more there than Hillary gains in IN. Still, any gain by Obama is a good thing and pushes her farther away from the nomination than she was yesterday. My poll-based projections below have Clinton gaining a delegate after winning 4 in IN and losing 3 in NC. But I'd say that's a pretty rosy estimate for her, and it still leaves her well behind in delegates. Even with that pace I projected, it leaves Obama to need only 100 superdelegates (out of about 278) after all the rest of the states (and Puerto Rico) have voted. [UPDATE: Obama netted 11 pledged delegates, +17 in NC, -6 in IN]

States--Obviously, they're expected to split the states. I assume they will. If he manages to win NC by more than he loses IN, he will have won the night clearly. But if the split holds up, things won't be much different tomorrow, as Hillary insists in going on and urging superdelegates to wait to declare their support. [UPDATE: They split but it was darned close in Indiana]

Popular Vote--The estimates I saw coming into today were for 1.5 million in NC and 900,000 in IN. If Obama wins NC and more than that come in, it will help him blunt her argument to the superdelegates that she can win the "popular vote". Similarly, if IN comes in higher than 900,000, it could help her case. If you follow the poll-based projections below, Hillary would gain 27,000 after combining tonight's 2 states, putting her on pace to still be about 30,000 votes short of Obama once future primaries are factored in, and that's only if you leave out caucuses that didn't report individual vote totals (estimates add about 100,000 for Obama in those few states). [UPDATE: The total was indeed much higher than estimates for Indiana, but it was so close that didn't help Hillary much in the popular vote count. Meanwhile, in NC, Obama won by more than 200,000. His net gain was around 200,000 for the night, pushing his popular vote lead back out to 700,000.]
Today's Ritual
Al Giordano knows what's going to happen today. You should read it. via Atrios.
The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Republicans are voting in droves today in the Democratic primary. Hillary's win there will be padded by a significant mischievous vote that wants to keep her fighting longer. Sure, some Republicans are wanting to vote for Obama, but I'm sure the vast majority are simply following (Rush Limbaugh's) orders.

I really disapprove, and not just because it goes against my candidate. Voting is an important civic duty that should be taken seriously. I'm not really crazy about any of the solutions, but I wish there was a good way to put a stop to it. The best would be more of a national primary. Republicans can screw around because they are done. If the votes in both parties still mattered, they wouldn't feel the luxury.

In North Carolina, the primary is closed, so we don't have that same problem. Registered Republicans may not vote.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hillary...Losing Her Grip
...on reality. Suddenly, Senator Clinton is Dr. Strangelove.
What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

How Do You *Feel* About Your Car?
Stanley Fish wonders about the advertising effectiveness of those new Avis/Infidelity commercials, you know the ones where the narrator is someone's old car realizing that the owner is about to, or has been, traveling around (disloyally, from the car's pov) in a fancy rental. Fish confesses to an irrational (and familiar) sensation: that of a certain guilt over trading in, or otherwise abandoning, a car that's been with you a long time. He thinks this strange-but-true emotional instinct just might work against these otherwise brilliant pitches.
Strange to say, these are not good ads precisely because they are so good. The point of a commercial is to make the viewer fall in love with the product, in this case the hot cars Avis is pimping. But the viewers of these commercials are more likely to give their affections to the product’s victims, for it is from their point of view that the narrative has been presented.

While Avis’s intention is, no doubt, to advance its corporate fortunes through these commercials, the image the ads project is less than flattering. Avis comes across as the supplier of temptation, the enabler of seduction, a corporate madame. Its stable of “hot cars” lure men and women to default on their responsibilities, to throw away the tried and true, to surrender to the meretricious glitter of the new. But these wiles are defeated by the sympathy we are made to feel for those who have been harmed by them.
Weekend Box Office
1. Iron Man
2. Made of Honor
3. Baby Mama
4. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
5. Harold and Kumar...

Article 19 Film Recommendation
Lewberry and I saw Iron Man over the weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. Genuinely funny in spots, the outfit and gravity-defying effects were pretty cool (and that's just Gwyneth Paltrow's contribution -- rimshot -- but seriously folks). There's not too much to the film, of course. And it would have been nice if a few of the Afghanis were not terrorists. But Robert Downey's real good, and at least the American weapon manufacturer is the biggest villain at the end of the day. Pretty good summer super hero fare, if you're into that.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Because the People Demand It [UPDATED-Tue 5/20 9AM]
A delegate projection update. Currently, it takes 2025 to win.

Current Pledged Delegate Count + Superdel. Endorsements
Obama: 1612.5 + 302.5 = 1915
Clinton: 1442.5 + 276.5 = 1719
Obama + 196

Upcoming Primary Projections (based on recent polls for KY, OR, SD, PR, worth a combined 388 delegates)
Obama: 77
Clinton: 96
Clinton +19

Obama 1992
Clinton 1815
Obama +177

What's left? 16 pledged delegates in Montana + 217 Superdelegates. Assuming he gets 8 in MT as he should, Obama would need only 25 of the remaining 217 superdelegates to reach 2025. That's 11.5%.

(Even if Florida and Michigan are added, with Obama receiving the 55 uncommitted delegates from MI, he would under this scenario need only 75 of the remaining 247 superdelegates. Hillary would need 193 of them.)

State projection details below:
KY (51): Clinton - 67.6 - 32.4 (34-17) C +17 [C +176k of 500k]
OR (52): Obama - 54.9 - 45.1 (29-23) O +6 [O +58.8k 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]

Clinton gains 268,400 in the popular vote in these 4 contests, putting her about 328,000 behind Obama in the popular vote total of contested states where we have individual vote totals. If you add some reasonable estimates (by RealClearPolitics) of the caucus states that do not report individual vote totals this leaves her about 438,000 behind. Even adding Florida to this group will leave her 143,000 behind. That's out of more than 33 million votes. Pretty close, but Obama wins by any remotely fair count if these polls and turnout models hold up.

Friday, May 02, 2008

1 in 5
I guess this counts as progress, reported in today's NYTimes:
In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.
I say "I guess..." because..geez still only 1 in 5? That still seems like quite the small percentage to me, especially compared to the rest of the world.

But beyond that, depressingly, it sounds like the reason for this consumer shift is related not directly to high gas prices, and definitely not a result of environmental consciousness (which alone should have accounted for that magnitude a shift, right?), but because of the sorry economy. People just can't afford larger cars, or are worried they won't be able to.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bush - New Poll
His unpopularity still gaining. How low can he go?