Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Law of Conservation of Bounces 

N'Obama bounce:

On the eve of the Republican convention, a new national poll suggests the race for the White House remains dead even.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Sunday night shows the Obama-Biden ticket leading the McCain-Palin ticket by one point, 49 percent to 48 percent, a statistical dead heat....

“The convention — and particularly Obama's speech — seems to be well-received. And the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate, also seems to be well-received. So why is the race still a virtual tie? Probably because the two events created equal and opposite bounces — assuming that either one created a bounce at all,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"Equal and opposite bounces" - I love that.

Or maybe political polls in August mean nothing.

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A test for our times 

This is the post at Daily Kos that alleges, with photographs, that Trig Palin is Sarah's grandson, not her son. It is persuasive enough that one has to allow for the possibility that it is true (partial refutation here).

One question will be whether the press leaves the story alone to bounce around the tabloids and the lefty blogs, or the mainstream media devotes resources to its resolution. Drudge has it, so the mainstream media may well pick it up.

If the story does turn out to be true, it is not obvious what the political consequence will be. I suspect it turns on how the Palin family reacts in the moment. Insofar as the story is wholly consistent with her convictions, Americans might respect her more for this.

In fact, is there a chance that the story is true and that John McCain knew it was true before he selected her? In a strange way, Palin's choice (if she did in fact falsify her last pregnancy to save her daughter and, in many ways, her grandson) is the sort of sacrifice that McCain would admire and see himself making in a similar situation. He might well have decided that if the story came out it would strengthen his ticket rather than damage it.

Brace yourselves.

CWCID: Andrew Sullivan, who has more than a little Palin Derangement Syndrome and is to some degree staking his reputation for seriousness on this story (if you doubt that, see Update #2 to this post). (MORE: Damage done, at least according to Dean Barnett.)

MORE: Sullivan is backing away, via the Anchoress.

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Fun with the McCains and the Palins 

Meghan McCain has a lot of amusing photographs of the McCains and Palins on the campaign trail. They are certainly having fun. Here's Meghan and her "puppet," Piper Palin.

Meghan McCain and her "puppet,"

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What do Sarah Palin and Keith Olbermann have in common? 

They are both excellent sportscasters!

I think the McCain campaign has faked us all out. The Palin nomination was not an attempt to attract disgruntled female supporters of Hillary Clinton; it is a bid for the vote of just about every man in the United States.

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Alan Colmes beclowns himself 

The Palin nomination really is doing a great job of detecting the rank sexists disguised as "progressives." For example, we now know exactly where Alan Colmes stands on one important topic. He believes that it is just fine to judge a woman's effectiveness in her professional life based on her strict adherence to medical advice in prenatal care.

Can you imagine the reaction if a conservative journalist -- say, Sean Hannity -- had written such a thing about a Democratic politician?

Thers at lefty blog Whiskeyfire mounts a defense of Colmes, which is all very interesting as an attack on conservatives for being hypocrites but which does not get to the basic question: Is it really cricket to inquire into a female politician's management of her pregnancy when we all know that male politicians, who presumably at least influence the prenatal care of their children, are subject to no such scrutiny? Do Alan Colmes and Thers and the people who agree with them actually believe that this is a character issue for women only, or should we voters have a chance to inquire into the obstetrical history of Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain? That, and Thers does not explain why Colmes took his post down if it was so darn reasonable.

MORE: Cassandra is pissed. Which really should come as no surprise at all.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Watching Gustav 

For near real time satellite imagery of hurricane Gustav and its deadly progress, click here.

CWCID: Anthony Watts.

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NGOs, the transnational left, and Hezbollah 

When the Los Angeles Times tells you that leftist NGOs are in bed with Hezbollah, believe it (photographs of Hezbollah's handiwork against the United States added):

Hezbollah has extended its international reach by establishing contacts with left-leaning, environmental and peace groups opposed to U.S.-led economic globalization, analysts and people tied to the group say.

The Lebanese Shiite Muslim militant organization and political party, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States, has participated through a front organization in dozens of gatherings where attendees criticized U.S. foreign policy and global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The aim, analysts say, is to rally support for armed opposition to Israel among groups that regard the West's policies as a threat to developing countries and to the environment.

"Hezbollah succeeded in incorporating the idea of resistance as part of the international anti-globalization movements," said Abdel-Halim Fadlallah, vice president of Beirut's Center for Strategic Studies, the Hezbollah-affiliated think tank that often participates in activities abroad.

"Through our contacts with these groups, we have managed to challenge the idea that Hezbollah is a dogmatic terrorist Islamist organization and convince part of the international left that we can be a strong partner," he said.

Despite significant ideological differences between Hezbollah and the groups, opposition to U.S.-led military operations and economic policies fostered by Washington has brought them together.


Hezbollah has long sought to downplay its previous calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon, where Shiite and Sunni Muslims make up more than 60% of the population. It has dramatically shifted its political rhetoric away from religious politics since the 2006 conflict with Israel and now often depicts itself as a universal movement fighting Israeli domination.

Sadly, the LAT saw no need to mention the actual NGOs with ties to Hezbollah. Perhaps it was worried that somebody would investigate them. Or criticize them.

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Walt Handelsman made a funny:

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Has Technorati ground to a halt? 

I note that Technorati, the blog search engine on which so many of us rely, has not indexed TigerHawk for more than a day, notwithstanding a lot of posts and pings yesterday. Has anybody else noticed that it is screwed up?

Regular blogging will resume when I get around to it.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eye exam 

No matter how sharp your vision, it is hard to see the difference.

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If you are in the path of Gustav... 

...it would have been smart to have ordered one of these a couple of days ago. That is, if you have not already packed your own.

Meanwhile, I think this is a wonderful idea:

The contingency plan – a worst case scenario if the storm devastates coastal areas – would turn Republicans into Red Cross-type volunteers who would help collect donations, food and goods to help storm victims.

McCain - whose campaign motto is "Country First" – said helping people during an emergency will take precedence over accepting his GOP nomination for president.

My only concern is that there are very few "community organizers" at your typical Republican convention. How are all those Republicans actually going to help people if there are no professionals there to organize them?

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"Scholars" as a political weapon 

The Politico polled four "scholars" -- all of whom with documented ties to the Democrats -- who declared Sarah Palin less qualified than any national ticket selection in "the modern era." Technically that may be true, but barely. History tells a different story. Me, this morning:

There is also the question of history. The sainted and none-too-healthy Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt picked Henry Wallace as his running mate in 1940. Here the United States was being drawn inexorably into a world at war, and apart from being an Iowan Wallace's only relevant experience was as Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture. Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's running mate, had served as governor of Indiana for less than three years. When George McGovern offered Walter Mondale a seat on his ticket in 1972, Mondale had served only one term in the Senate (perhaps he proved his wisdom by turning McGovern down). [DOH! I can't believe I forgot John Edwards! Maybe he really was sucked down a black hole...] Point is, Democrats great and lame have chosen running mates who were no more qualified than Sarah Palin.

The Politico did not mention any of these men, although it did cite Spiro Agnew, who was governor of Maryland for two years, as more experienced than Palin.

One is forced to wonder whether any of these men actually had more meaningful experience than Sarah Palin has had, even if they spent a couple more years as governor or Senator. Does anybody actually think that she would be more acceptable to these historian-shills if she had been governor of Alaska for five years instead of two? The Politico's sock-puppet argument is driven more by rank sexism -- Palin does not seem experienced if you are used to seeing men in the job -- than a fair reading of history, especially the history of Democratic running mates.

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Calling Andrew Sullivan 

For two days you have been whacking away at Sarah Palin. What is your reaction to this bit of slime?

Hope and change. Check. End the politics of personal destruction. Check.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson has confirmed -- or at least adduced email testimony -- that this site has no official tie to the Obama campaign, which is a relief. Instead, it seems to be the output of somebody with no known tie to the campaign who has built a network of web sites to generate quick responses and attacks on the McCain campaign.

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Snark disguised as hope 

Gustav bearing down on the Gulf coast, the A.P. says that Barack Obama wants us to "hope lessons of Katrina were learned" (grammarians will notice that he actually said "hopefully we've learned from that tragedy," which does not mean quite the same thing).

For all that he and other Democrats have spun Katrina into a partisan issue, Barack Obama had better hope that the federal and state bureaucracies run like a friggin' Swiss watch if and when his administration confronts a catastrophe.

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Thinking about attacking Sarah Palin 

Power Line has a nice round-up of pictures of Sarah Palin and her family, which tend to reinforce her personal appeal and the hard truth that she is probably not ready to be president on "day one."

Palin's inexperience is certainly risky, a point Andrew Sullivan has been pounding at so relentlessly and comprehensively that one is forced to wonder whether partisanship has not gotten the better of him. (There are too many posts to link individually; go to August 29 in his archives and scroll down to get a sense of it.)

The question for Democrats will be how best to make this point. There is the obvious problem that it reminds people that in Barack Obama they have nominated somebody of very little experience as well. Andrew Sullivan believes that any comparison between the two of them is "ludicrous," arguing that beating the Clintons constitutes experience, or at least demonstrates Obama's abilities, and there is truth in that. We will soon see whether Palin has similar, or at least comparable, abilities. The early evidence is that she is an exceedingly talented politician, at least in her context.

The truth is, if the measure of "experience" is as Andrew Sullivan suggests -- the ability to wage and survive a presidential campaign -- we will get at least some sense of Sarah Palin in the next two months. Not only will she have to make it through her speech in St. Paul, but Palin will have to debate Joe Biden. Whether or not she "wins" or gets through gaffe-free, we will all see how she handles at least one kind of pressure.

Come to think of it, Sarah Palin should immediately challenge Joe Biden to three or four debates, rather than the one that has already been scheduled. Given the huge bet that the McCain campaign has placed on her, why not split the hand?

The other problem for Democrats is that the "insufficient experience" argument is one that runs a grave risk of infuriating large numbers of women. To many of them, it is the argument that men trot out to deny women -- many of whom took time off to start families -- professional advancement when their abilities and performance qualify them. And snarky shots at Palin's beauty pageant experience will also get Obama into hot war (evidence of the low road?). Attacks on Palin's qualifications will have to be precisely on key or they will hurt Obama.

There is also the question of history. The sainted and none-too-healthy Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt picked Henry Wallace as his running mate in 1940. Here the United States was being drawn inexorably into a world at war, and apart from being an Iowan Wallace's only relevant experience was as Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture. Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's running mate, had served as governor of Indiana for less than three years. When George McGovern offered Walter Mondale a seat on his ticket in 1972, Mondale had served only one term in the Senate (perhaps he proved his wisdom by turning McGovern down). [DOH! I can't believe I forgot John Edwards! Maybe he really was sucked down a black hole...] Point is, Democrats great and lame have chosen running mates who were no more qualified than Sarah Palin.

The final response is that Palin actually has executive experience, which McCain and Obama (and Biden) only have in the management of political campaigns. Democrats, who have many fewer executives (whether business executives or military officers) in their ranks, tend to discount the importance of executive experience, as do most journalists. I do not discount it, and wish that all four major party candidates had more of it. That said, tons of executive experience did not save the Bush administration from poor decisions.

Speaking of the Bush administration, the Palin and Biden selections suggest a curious reversal of attitude about the Vice Presidency. Barack Obama has essentially praised the Cheney model (without labeling it as such). Obama, before he had announced his selection of Joe Biden:

Obama, 47, has said he does not want merely a ceremonial vice president, but is seeking an integral cog in his governing machine.

"I'm not interested in a vice president who I send off to go to funerals," he told NBC television last month. "I want somebody who is going to roll up their sleeves and be willing to work."

Obama got his Dick Cheney in Joe Biden. At the risk of committing precisely the sexism I warned of above, it certainly seems as though Sarah Palin is no Dick Cheney (for starters, she's almost certainly a better shot).

Release the hounds.

MORE: I'd be remiss if I did not link to Mark Steyn's hilarious post on the Palin nomination, which manages to do in a funny way all the things that the Obama camp will worry about doing in a serious way.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience 

I think a quick tour through Flickr photos tagged "Sarah Palin" shows that she has significant foreign policy experience:

When you add it all up, Palin has more experience than Laura Roslin had, and she saved humanity from extinction!

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Separated at Birth: Sarah Palin and...? 

I think we all know who will be spoofing Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

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Calculate your "Obama tax cut" 

Here is a calculator that purports to estimate the tax cut you will get under Obama's plan. I am too fortunate (or productive, depending on your point of view) to get any "Obama tax cut." Not surprisingly, the "calculator" does not estimate my "Obama tax increase," which I expect will be very demotivating.

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Sarah Palin on the question of polar bears and climate change 

A good sign: Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times last winter denouncing the ridiculous but ultimately successful campmaign to declare the rapidly proliferating polar bears "endangered" because of climate change.

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Rove on Palin 

Rove on Palin to Bill O'Reilly, seconds ago: "This is John McCain at his most John McCainish."

Well, that's certainly true.

MORE: The cover of this week's Economist bears the title "Bring back the real McCain." Well, the Palin selection shows that the "real" McCain is still in there somewhere, for better or for worse.

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Checking in 

We drove down from Tupper Lake this morning and only just arrived in Princeton. Yes, the McCain signs were, against all our cynical predictions, still up. But the Obama signs in the neighborhood have sprouted like mushrooms after a summer rain, so I may have to deploy some of the 25 signs that arrived during my vacation just to close the difference.

The TH Daughter and I heard the Palin announcement on North Country Public Radio, and we were delighted. We also checked in with the TigerHawk Teenager, who was in Invesco Field last night and said that it was an absolutely amazing experience. You know, it really was an historical event, and if Barack Obama wins that speech will be remembered, rightly or wrongly, as one of the hundred or so most important in American history. I am thrilled that the THT was able to be there, my disagreement with Obama's policies notwithstanding; memories like that only come along a few times in even a charmed life, and it is even more exciting when it happens to your son or daughter.

Now, here's the part when I irritate many of you. While I will almost certainly vote for McCain and Palin, I am not repelled by the prospect of an Obama presidency the way I was in contemplation of Gore or Kerry. In fact, I expect that President Obama would combine the personal charm and eloquence of Bill Clinton without the immorality and criminality. I fear for our national security (and that is the tipping point for me), but we survived Jimmy Carter in frankly more dangerous times, and I must admit that I do believe that Obama's election might -- possibly -- move our race relations to a more sensible and mature state. It will be difficult for an Obama administration to push for new race-based preferences, and only a president of African descent can roll them back. I admit it: I am curious to see an Obama presidency.

That said, I think that the McCain/Palin ticket is equally fascinating. For all that he irritates conservatives, there is no question that John McCain would do interesting things as president, just as he has done his whole career. While that may mean that he will "betray" conservatives, is it likely that he will do so more than George W. Bush and the clowns who ran the Congress when it was under GOP control? And besides, it ought to count for a lot that the McCain campaign is so aggressively positioning Sarah Palin as a practiced opponent of pork and earmarks, just as John McCain himself has been. Fiscally, this pair is likely to be much more to the liking of conservatives than any Republican president since Gerald Ford. Of course, it will be easier for them politically, at least as long as they face a Congress controlled by the other party.

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On Fridays when I'm in a procrastinating mood I pop over to Rachel Lucas's blog, where I know no punches will be pulled, no words will be minced. (If you don't like vulgar language you won't like Rachel's writing, and you'd better stop reading now.)

She recently began a new category of rant she entitles "Cats and other assholes" and I find them quite enjoyable. In this episode, she takes on squirrels.

When I was a young child, before I knew they were assholes, I thought squirrels were cute. Then one summer day, as I played innocently in the back yard with my best friend Jenny when we were about 9 years old, we became aware of a hostile chirping sound above and behind us. Jenny quickly located the source and cried out, “Ooo! It’s a cute little squirrel! Let’s catch him and raise him as our own!”

Thinking that was the best idea I’d heard in a long time, I agreed and together we crept towards Mr. Squirrel. He was on a tree branch about five feet from the ground. We’d seen Bambi. We knew woodland creatures were kindhearted and loving; you just had to gain their trust.
You can click over if you want to find out what happened next. Suffice it to say, it did not leave Rachel with a love of squirrels.

I never killed one but there is only one reason for that and it’s that I wasn’t strong enough to pump the pellet gun enough times for killing velocity after factoring in the distance from my window to the target. All I could get was about five pumps in that thing, only enough to stun the little fuckers.

This reminds me of one of my first posts on this blog, way back in August 2004. What goes around comes around I guess.

Alright, back to work.

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Our Town 

Tigerhawk posts about the Adirondacks. The Drecks retreat to this town. Extreme!

[warning: language]

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McCain's camp does not leak by mistake 

With only a few hours before the scheduled announcement of John McCain's selection for vice president, there still has been no leak from the McCain camp and no reporter has uncovered the truth. We knew about Joe Biden at least six hours in advance of the actual 3 am text message; the press had staked out the houses of all the short-listers, Drudge was posting every rumor, and reporters all over the country were looking for clues. Is the difference because team McCain has more message discipline than Obama's campaign, a different strategy for announcing the decision, or is it because the mainstream media is not interested enough to dig for the answer?

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The good jobs here in America thing 

When Barack Obama said tonight that he would give tax breaks to corporations "that create good jobs right here in America," I wonder if this is what he meant?

Of course, foreigners employed here might still count as "good jobs right here in America," as well they should! Or maybe it is that "artists" just get a pass from all this populism.

It will be interesting to seem him spell out the details behind these paragraphs:

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital-gains taxes for the small businesses and the startups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

If I read this right, it means that a job created in a "startup" will confer a tax advantage (in the form of eliminated capital gains taxes) over a job created in a mature company. If I am correct, that would seem like a basis for hurting him with workers for smokestack companies in places like Ohio. And if I'm wrong, then what exactly does the paragraph mean?

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama delivers 

Well, I thought that Obama's speech met the very high expectations that had been set for it. The substance was the usual Democratic food -- everybody is helpless, except for a few corporate tools who manipulate the system to their own advantage -- but he is an appealing guy who manages to prepare that food in the most digestible way. And he managed to rebut, or pre-rebut, virtually everything that the Republicans can throw at him. He will get the bump.

MORE: Of course, your results may vary.

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Torturing "America the Beautiful" 

Who signed off on Michael MacDonald's horrendous arrangement of "America the Beautiful" in the middle of the DNC? This is a setback for the Democrats; nobody wants to hear our few sacrosanct national hymns, including this one, sung any way other than straight and true, the way we were all taught in school. It is always a bad idea to art up the patriotism, especially when your own bona fides are your opponent's constant theme.

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Gore's speech 

Gore's speech is a stemwinder, and will fire up the faithful. But is it really wise to hammer the coal industry in this context? Granted, that's Gore's thing, but with West Virginia hanging in the balance do you really want to say that the Republicans are in the pocket of Big Coal? Or have the Democrats written Appalachia down to zero?

UPDATE: All in, the consensus up here in the 'Dacks is that Gore gave a great speech.

MORE: Missed this -- we should not have fought the Mexican war? Well, if we had listened to Lincoln on that one there would be no Senator from Arizona, so I suppose I see the point, but still. Opposition to the Mexican War is not the reason why we remember Lincoln, or think that he was great.

NOTE: The permalink at The Corner seems to be blown, so go to the main page and scroll down.

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Distributive justice quotation of the day 

From Will and Ariel Durant's The Lessons of History:

Every advance in the complexity of the economy puts an added premium upon superior ability, and intensifies the concentration of wealth, responsibility, and power.

There is a lot to argue over in that sweeping generality, but I'm fairly sure I disagree with it as a matter of historical fact. Holding everything else constant, though, it might be true.

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Carpetbombing Stanley Kurtz 

The National Review has just published an editorial that describes Stanley Kurtz' research into the links between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama and the Obama campaign's outrageous personal attacks on Kurtz in response thereto. Dig the whole thing.

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Layers of editors and fact checkers, none of whom do math 

On the opening of the "northwest passage", Der Spiegel Online blows it (emphasis added):

This route is radically shorter than the normal trip through the Suez Canal. From Hamburg to the Japanese port city of Yokohama, for example, the trip using the northern route is just 7,400 nautical miles -- just 40 percent of the 11,500 nautical mile haul through the Suez.

Candidly, I expect more from Germans.

CWCID: Regular commenter DEC.

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Why didn't we think of that? 

Bloomberg reports:

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan set a floor for stock prices on the benchmark exchange, moving to halt a plunge that has wiped out $36.9 billion of market value since April.

Securities can trade within their daily limit of 5 percent ``but not below the floor-price level'' of yesterday's close, the exchange said on its Web site, without giving details.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if we hear FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair recommending this sort of thing for the US housing market. This is exactly the kind of "solution" she has been looking for.

(CWCID: Calculated Risk)

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Convention So Far 

[Editors note: The TH Teenager has been out in Denver participating in a leadership camp associated with the Democratic Convention, and his been updating this post regularly rather than starting a new post (THT: Feel free to start a new post!). Anyway, I've bumped it again. Scroll down for the new stuff.]

Here's what I have experienced in Denver over the past few days.

Day 1:

My journey over there started off pretty cool. I saw Jon Stewart at the gate, he went on my flight, and our paths kept crossing all the way to the baggage claim in Denver.

Dinner that night was kicked off by an extremely left senator, Jamie Raskin of Maryland. It seems this guy believed every single left thing he read on the Internet. Fortunately, I met a Republican girl and a libertarian guy to help me survive that.

Then we were told all of the things we couldn't do (drugs, physical harassment, or.......nevermind). We were also told to avoid the protesters/hippies at all costs, because they're trying to get their cause on TV and the easiest way to do that is to punch a teenager's lights out.

Day 2:

We visited the Colorado State Capitol to learn about how local and state government works. After that, we went back to the hotel, and we did mock primaries and elections. We have three candidates. We also have special interest groups, too. They're representing the opposite sides of several issues: Education, National Security, and Foreign Policy. The "candidates" are supposed to win our favor during our free time in the week.

I forgot to mention Michelle Obama's speech, amazingly. I thought it was quite good, and inspiring for many people. She said, plus or minus one or two: Change = 4 times; Hope = 10 times; Belief/Believe = 5 times. I could have counted "hard work" but that isn't a catchphrase specific to Obama and his campaign.

Day 3 (today):

We went to our state delegate breakfasts today (had to get up at 5 this morning). They were very nice and acommodating. We met Jon Corzine as well, and he seems to be doing fine. The breakfast wasn't particularly interesting, it seemed like all they did was mention how historic Obama's nomination was, and PSE&G (New Jersey's primary energy company) mentioned how important energy is.

Later, we attened a forum on National Security. Edward Collins, Phillip Crowley, Richard Falkenrath, Dr. Stephen Flynn, Dr. Douglas Jackson, James Witt, Major General Mason Whitney, and Suzanne Mencer were the people present. Richard Falkenrath of the NYPD and Deputy Commissioner on counterterrorism, had the best ideas and arguments, in my opinion. Overall opinion showed that we can better prepare ourselves against terrorism and extreme weather (like Hurricane Katrina) by merging private and public sector, and by improving the responses of local and state governments. Different ways that ordinary citizens could contribute were also mentioned.

Later that night, we watched Hillary Clinton's speech on a huge screen in a park, with lots of drunk and baking hippies. It started to rain, so it transformed more into "listened to the speech under some cover" but it amounts to the same thing since visuals are unimportant when it comes to speeches. I thought the speech was quite good, and it did the job the Democrats wanted it to do: unite the Hillary supporters and Obama supporters. However, it basically just repeated what every single Democrat politician has been saying this whole time.

Day 4:

Today, we listened to a lecture by John Rogers, who runs a stem-cell advocacy group. We learned about his cause, and the strategies employed by advocacy groups, such as who to support and where.

However, the best bit of news came before lunch today: we managed, through some miracle, to get tickets to go to the actual convention itself and watch Obama give his speech! Alright, I managed to dump all of the pictures on the memory card onto my laptop, so I'll be able to take some more pictures.

We went to the DNC Watchfest earlier tonight, which essentially means we watched CNN the entire time. Fortunately, CNN was acting more like C-SPAN that night, and was continuously covering the convention without any commentary in-between speakers.

Basically, everyone was saying the same things over and over again. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden were very well spoken however, and John Kerry, of all people made some of the most poignant comments, mostly by making fun of himself. He described how McCain is guilty of "Flip-flopping", being "for it before he was against it, and vice-versa", and how there is a massive difference between McCain the Senator and McCain the Candidate.

Tommorrow will be very interesting, and I'll have the camera ready and charged.

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Linkage and other short notes 

I have accumulated a few items of interest to brighten your Thursday morn:

  • What do the Democratic National Committee and Enron have in common? Their logo!

  • Jeffrey Rosen argues that in the case of both the Bork and the Thomas hearings, Joe Biden actually did what he could to diminish the partisanship and personal attacks. I have always thought that Rosen was a pretty sober fellow for a liberal MSMer, so I'll go with this story until I hear a good refutation of it.

  • In case you had not noticed, the Obama campaign is going after National Review's Stanley Kurtz absolutely hammer and tongs for his dogged pursuit of the connections between Barack Obama and unapologetic Weatherman Bill Ayers. The left wants you to believe that there is a "smear" at work, but Kurtz has been nothing but judicious in his work so far. Dig it!

  • On the one hand, Arctic sea ice is bottoming out for the year, and there is around a half million more square kilometers of it than at this time last year, dire predictions notwithstanding. On the other hand, it is still at the second-lowest level recorded by satellites, which have been around since 1979. On the third hand, aggregate global sea ice was above the "baseline" level as recently as this spring because there is extra in the southern hemisphere.

  • Increasingly, atmospheric scientists do not believe that the decline in the snowpack in the Cascades is the result of anthropogenic global warming.

  • Most people are excited to hear Barack Obama tonight. The better opportunity for explosive blogospheric controversy, however, lies in Al Gore's speech.

  • An MIT study says that the United States could cut gasoline consumption by 35-50% by 2035. I would like to see more cuts and faster, but to do that we will have to create powerful incentives for investment and plow the roads in front of the entrepreneurs.

  • If this is not a sign that our team is winning in Iraq, I do not know what would be:
    Iraq is calling on companies to submit designs to build a giant Ferris wheel in Baghdad — the latest in a string of lavish proposals painting the capital as a leisure friendly city.

    The Ferris wheel, dubbed the Baghdad Eye, will soar more than 650 feet over the city and feature air-conditioned compartments that would each carry up to 30 passengers, Baghdad municipal spokesman Adel al-Ardawi said Wednesday.

    Dubai on the Tigris! Note, by the way, that if constructed the Baghdad Eye would be half again as tall as the London Eye, which is one huge ferris wheel.

  • We will return to our regular programming when we get around to it.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Foot. Horseback. Whatever. 

    "National security night" at the Democratic National Convention was incoherent, at least to me. The party's leaders seem to lack a framework for thinking about America's geopolitical interests, so they resort to endless naked assertions about the damage the Bush administration has done to our national security, as if constant repetition of the conclusion obviates the need for evidence in support of the proposition. Since their "strategy" is about what they are not -- "more of the same" -- it comes out as nonsense, to wit:

    First Obama flip-flopped on it; now Biden and Kerry have praised his Georgia policy in opposite terms. Kerry: Obama has avoided McCain's "Cold War" mentality. Biden: Obama will "hold Russia accountable."

    Maybe he's going to "hold Russia accountable" in a strictly non-Cold War way. Or maybe they are just flapping gums. The point is, John Kerry and Joe Biden were supposed to be the "witnesses" tonight who told us to trust them, Barack Obama does indeed have a clue. Their speeches were undoubtedly vetted by the same staff for consistency with the evening's talking points, which is that McCain supports the failed policies of the Bush administration. The problem is that Obama's first position on Georgia was the same as Bush's, and McCain was more hawkish than either of them. The only way for Kerry and Biden to attack both Bush and McCain (who took different positions in the crucial first days of the war) was for Kerry to attack the hawkish McCain position and for Biden to attack the less confrontational Bush/Obama position. Of course, the press is hardly interested in pointing out this incoherence, and certainly would not notice that pretty much everybody from Bush to Obama to the European Union has moved toward McCain's initial position in the three weeks since. But we noticed.

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    National security night at the DNC 

    I missed Bill Clinton's speech this evening, but the CNN commentariat seem to think that it was very good. John Kerry devoted his talk to national security, and it became obvious watching the post-Kerry chatter that the talking points for the evening were that Obama "was right on opposing the war in Iraq, was right to demand a timeline, was right to emphasize Afghanistan, and was right to call for direct talks with Iran."

    Point is, the fretting of Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan that the Donks would fail to whack away national security seems to have been misplaced. Sullivan was particularly harsh in his stress:

    With the sole exception of Michelle Obama's superb speech, this convention has been McCain's dream. Yes, there's Biden and the chance that someone - who knows? - might actually attack the worst national security record of any administration in modern times. And then there's Obama on Thursday. But the way they have set up the speech all but ensures that Obama cannot defeat expectations. Maybe Obama can overcome the obstacles this setting will create. He will have to be one hell of a politician to pull this one off.

    There is a lot there, but I'll pick on the hyperbolic claim that the Bush administration has had "the worst national security record of any administration in modern times." Worse than Lyndon Johnson, who could decide neither to win Vietnam or withdraw from it? Worse than Jimmy Carter, who could not bring himself to retaliate for the kidnapping of our diplomats, and whose most visible response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was to boycott the Olympics? Worse than Bill Clinton, who allowed al Qaeda to stitch its battle flag to terror victories in Mogadishu, at the Khobar Towers, against our embassies in Africa, and against the USS Cole, and failed to respond effectively to any of them (because, respectively, he did not understand what happened in Mogadishu, did not have adequate "proof" and did not want to pressure the Saudis to obtain it lest they increase the price of oil, thought it important to warn Pakistani intelligence that we were going to launch cruise missiles against al Qaeda, and did not want to offend Yassir Arafat)?

    Gimme a break.

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    Building a better power grid in a hurry 

    Both Glenn Reynolds and Tom Maguire are writing about our low-tech electricity grid, and the limits that it imposes on our ability to get wind and solar power from the windy and sunny places to the cities and the suburbs. The occasion for their posts is an article on the subject in today's New York Times.

    The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

    The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

    As it happens, this was also the subject of a special survey on energy published in The Economist of June 21st 2008. This passage seems particularly on point:
    [E]lectricity grids are about to become bigger and smarter.

    Bigger means transcontinental.... The new grids would use direct, rather than alternating, current. AC was adopted as standard over a century ago, when the electrical world was rather different. But DC is better suited to transporting power over long distances. Less power is lost, even on land. And DC cables can also be laid on the seabed (the presence of all that water would dissipate an AC current very quickly). In the right geographical circumstances that eliminates both the difficulty of obtaining wayleaves to cross private land and the not-in-my-backyard objections that power lines are ugly. Indeed, there is already a plan to use underwater cables to ship wind power from Maine to Boston in this way.

    As it happens, Europe already has the embryo of a DC grid. It links Scandinavia, northern Germany and the Netherlands, and there is talk of extending it across the North Sea to the British Isles, another notoriously windy part of Europe. By connecting distant points, this grid not only delivers power to market, it also allows the system some slack. It matters less that the wind does not blow all the time because it blows at different times in different places. The grid also permits surplus power to be used to pump water uphill in Norwegian hydroelectric plants (a system known as pumped storage), ready for use when demand spikes.

    Smarter grids, however, would help to smooth out such spikes in the first place. The ability to accommodate inherently intermittent sources such as wind is only one of several reasons for wanting to do this, but it is an important one.

    A smart grid will constantly monitor its load and (this is the smart bit) take particular consumers offline, with their prior agreement and in exchange for a lower price, if that load surges beyond a preset level. For this purpose, a consumer may not necessarily be the same as a customer. The grid’s software would be able to identify particular circuits, or even particular appliances, in a home, office or factory. Their owners would decide in what circumstances they should shut down or boost up, and the smart grid’s software would then do the job. Water heaters and air-conditioners might stock up on heat or cold in anticipation of such shutdowns. Fridges would know how long they could manage without power before they had to switch on again.

    Reducing spikes in demand that way will cut the need for what are known in the industry as “peakers”—small power plants such as pumped-storage systems that exist solely to deal with such spikes. Parts of America’s existing dumb and fragmentary electricity grid are so vulnerable to load variations that their owners think they may be able to cope with no more than about 2% of intermittent wind power. Clearly peaks will never be eliminated entirely. However, Mr Abate reckons that a combination of smart grids and gas-fired peakers should push the potential for wind power up a long way.

    As it also happens, just two days ago I had a conversation that touched on this topic with Carter F. Bales, a retired McKinsey & Co. partner who led that firm's climate change initiative and who authored an optimistic article on "Containing Climate Change" in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs.


    From the discussion in news media, it does seem that one need not believe in anthropogenic global warming to support a reconstruction of our national power grid. Not only is it essential to the exploitation of energy that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil (a salutory goal in and of itself), but it would save an enormous amount of energy regardless of its source (making the economy much more efficient). The question is, how do you rebuild the grid in a hurry? Well, the same way you build a lot of anything in a hurry -- you grant a very attractive tax incentive to people with capital. My proposal is simply this: Authorize accelerated depreciation of qualifying grid infrastructure for federal income tax purposes and full deductibility of the resulting passive losses against ordinary income. Just as these twin devices, which together constitute a "tax shelter," resulted in a massive boom in construction spending back in the 1970s and 1980s, they would unleash a gusher of capital into "smart" grid redevelopment. Yes, they would amount to "tax cuts for the rich" which at least one presidential candidate purports to oppose, but there is no question that they would get the grid rebuilt far faster than any centrally managed government program or process that depended on the balance sheets of public utilities.

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    This just in... speech didn't heal! 

    Washington Post:

    For Clinton's supporters, it was difficult to accept her speech as the public finale of her campaign, because this moment once held such tremendous potential. Shelby Leary, a delegate from West Virginia, stood to watch a video tribute to Clinton's success as a trailblazer and then chanted "Hillary" for 30 seconds with the rest of the crowd. Anne Price, from Washington state, wore a dozen Clinton buttons and wiped tears from her eyes.

    It seemed a particularly resonant moment Tuesday night, which marked both Women's Equality Day and the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage.

    "There's no way this night couldn't be emotional," Leary said. "A lot of us loved campaigning for her, and it's hard to watch it end. But after something like this, you have to have an emotional end for people to come to terms with things."

    Clinton said Tuesday night that it is Obama's convention. But many of her supporters came here exclusively to honor her. One group traveled from New York and built an impromptu museum commemorating Clinton's historic campaign. Another lighted thousands of candles in a park to symbolize her widespread support.

    "A lot of people came here just because they wanted to celebrate Hillary," said Elizabeth Fiechter, a New York City lawyer who helped organize the parade. "We get criticism because there's this idea that the election should move on and just leave her behind. We're not going down that quietly."

    "It just makes me upset because Hillary would have been the perfect woman to do this job," said Katherine Vincent, from Colorado. "I'm a Democrat first, but it's just difficult to get over."

    "I hate Obama so much that I'm going to devote as much time to McCain as I did to Hillary," said Adita Blanco, a Democrat from Edward, Okla., who has never voted for a Republican. "Obama has nothing. He has no experience. The Democratic Party doesn't care about us. You couldn't treat [Clinton] any worse."

    Perhaps the best example of the persistent divide in the Democratic Party came after Clinton's speech Tuesday night. The lights went down in the Pepsi Center, and some influential Democrats left downtown for good. They planned to head for the airport and fly home, long before Obama accepts the nomination in a speech at Invesco Field on Thursday night.
    Reading these quotes just reinforces my relief that she's out. The Clintonistas are certainly a narcissistic lot, even by today's standards. It will be nice to close the book on them, at least as far as presidential politics are concerned.

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    Remember, the British voted out Churchill 

    Rasmussen Reports reports that voter confidence in the American war effort is at an all-time high:

    Voter confidence in the War on Terror is at the highest level ever recorded since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking in January 2004. Fifty-four percent (54%) of American voters now think the United States and its allies are winning the war. The previous high-water mark for optimism--52%--was reached a handful of times in September and October 2004.

    Optimism about the situation in Iraq is also at an all-time high. Forty-eight percent (48%) now expect the situation in that troubled country to get better over the next six months. Only 17% expect things to get worse. In addition to being the most optimistic assessment ever recorded, these numbers reflect a remarkable turnaround over the past year.

    None of this is redounding to the benefit of George W. Bush, however:
    President Bush isn’t getting any credit from the changing political environment. Just 30% rate President George W. Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq as good or excellent while 47% say he has been doing a poor job.

    Effective leaders cannot, virtually by definition, always do the popular thing, and voters rarely reward effective leaders with popularity. See, for example, the British rejection of Winston Churchill in the wake of the Allied victory in Europe, or Harry Truman's incredibly low approval ratings (23% in November 1951) during the last year of his presidency. Both Churchill and Truman are, of course, now regarded by historians and amateurs alike as great leaders.

    History tends to judge presidencies by one or two critical decisions. The place of the presidency of George W. Bush in history will almost certainly turn on the state of the Middle East in another generation. If the ruling class in the region remains a teeming hive of scum and villainy, then Bush will land in the lower ranks of American presidents (although not "the worst president ever," insofar as it would be virtually impossible for Bush to sink below James Buchanan). If, however, the major governments in the region have become more representative, more transparent, less corrupt and less oppressive, history will remember that George W. Bush was the first world leader to declare that end as his aspiration.

    Sadly, Bush will not live to see the result. It takes around half a century for history to judge an American presidency. People have to die, records have to be declassified, and, most importantly, the judgment must be rendered by historians who were not themselves caught up in the partisan politics of the day. The book that first places the Bush administration into the context of history will be written by somebody who was born no earlier than 1998. If you are less than 50 years old, you may read that book in your dotage.

    CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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    Who mourns for Adonis? 

    Barack Obama's campaign overflows with Star Trek imagery. First we had the "O" salute, strangely reminiscent of the great original Trek episode "The Way To Eden." I wondered about this, since Democrats usually appeal to Herbert. Now, Fausta points out, Obama has borrowed the set from "Who Mourns For Adonis?"

    Please offer your own suggestions for additional Original Trek imagery that ought to be incorporated into the Obama campaign (and, no, references to "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" are not welcome).

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    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    ExxonMobil sponsoring CNN's coverage of the Donks? 

    ExxonMobil is sponsoring CNN's coverage of the Democratic National Convention? After having been used as the stand-in corporate whipping boy of every leading Democrat including particularly Barack Obama, perhaps XOM's PR folks are trying to blunt the attacks heading into the general election campaign. But still, it's gotta hurt ExxonMobil's dignity to have to strap on the big kneepads for the Democrats.

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    Hillary's speech - the liveblog 

    Bit of live-blogging here, until I cannot take it anymore.

    First, the clothes. Something I've never thought before: You can have too much orange. Goddamn, not the suit I would have worn.

    She's a "proud mother, a proud Democrat, a proud citizen of New York, and a proud supporter of Barack Obama." My uncle: "Pride is one of the seven deadly sins." Good point, Uncs.

    The look on Michelle's face is priceless, watching Hillary's every move, every word, every facial twitch.

    "You haven't worked so hard to suffer through more failed leadership. No way, no how, no McCain. Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president." Good lines, strong applause, she's firing up the crowd. Hillary is going to make a few people regret that she is not the nominee, which certainly helps her.

    Now for the miserable-people-with-no-health-insurance anecdotes. I understand why they are required, but they are definitely weighing me down.

    "Sisterhood of the traveling pant suits" is a good line, and a tip of the hat to Hillaryland.

    I could do without the "green collar jobs" metaphor. It is just dumb.

    So, she runs through a long list of struggling people -- "the mother with cancer raising tons of children" and so forth -- but then says we have to get optimistic again. How are we supposed to get optimistic when you are constantly bringing up metaphorical miserable people.

    Apparently she thinks that we are "giving windfall profits to the oil companies." I was not aware that any gift was involved. Here I thought that when I delivered money to oil companies, I was receiving value in return. [UPDATE: I am like so saying what Jonah is going to say before he says it tonight.]

    In goes the knife, with the tribute to Bill, followed by the tribute to Barack, followed by the vision of Obama signing into law a healthcare plan that will give insurance to "all" Americans, a key point of disagreement among them.

    A strong Hillary speech, filled with yelling, bulging eyeballs, lots of feminism, but very few references to Barack Obama [UPDATE: Post-mortem reviewers disagree, counting "at least ten" references to Obama. It would be interesting to compare to the other speakers.]. And the periodic cuts to Michelle's facial expressions are beyond priceless.

    That's it.

    POSTMORTEM STUFF: David Gergen is spinning this powerfully for Hillary, calling it the greatest speech of her career, a dignified end to her campaign, and big for Obama. Ed Rendell, check. Paul Begala, a famous Clintonista, check. But I still love the look on Michelle Obama's face! [UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds noticed the same thing.]

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    Watching Warner lay an egg 

    I worked my way to the only television within reach, and am watching a bit of the Democratic National Convention. I am struck by the bland milquetoastnitude of Mark Warner's keynote address. His speech is so rife with platitudes it sounds as though it was written by computer. My cousin says Warner's speech "could have come from either side." Verily. And he is barely even criticizing Republicans -- normally I get at least a little irritated at these things, but Warner is not even raising my blood pressure. The crowd senses it; there is no electricity, and the applause is pro forma. There is simply no risk that Mark Warner is improving his own presidential prospects the way Barack Obama did in 2004.

    GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE: Jonah Goldberg agrees.

    MORE: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, on the other hand, fired up the crowd and kicked some tail. This guy should have been the keynoter, and comes away from this convention a much bigger name than he went in.

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    The Obamas: Did Condoleezza Rice plow the road? 

    Blake Hounshell at FP Passport makes an interesting point that I have not seen elsewhere (emphasis added):

    Michelle Obama got some of her biggest applause last night when she thanked "People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher." Against the backdrop of a press- and chattering-class fueled story about an enduring split between die-hard Hillary backers and Barack Obama, it was a deft political move.

    Watching Michelle, I couldn't help but think that she might also have given a shout-out to Condoleezza Rice. Isn't it likely that Americans, accustomed to seeing an assertive African-American woman on TV every night for the past seven years, are more comfortable with Michelle Obama as a result? After Michelle's speech, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC were marveling at the fact that six years ago, it would have been hard to imagine an African-American family up on the stage as a possible first family. For that, the Obamas may have Rice to thank.

    It is almost certainly true that Condoleezza Rice, leading by both example and precept, has plowed the road for the Obamas. It is a bit much, perhaps, for Michelle Obama to enrage so many of her husband's supporters by saying as much at the Democratic National Convention, but it would be interesting to know whether she would admit as much in a different setting. Some reporter should put the question to her. Her answer, almost no matter what it is, would be instructive.

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    War guilt 

    Michael Totten knows who started the Russo-Georgian war, and it was not Georgia. He must be on to something, because the post seems to have earned him a denial-of-service attack.

    Read the whole thing, if for no other reason than to understand who we are dealing with.

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    Sauce That's Good for the Goose 

    One hopes that this incident leads people to use university speech codes to prosecute the offender and bring in all sorts of external interested parties. Is it too much to hope that the ensuing chaos exposes the sham that speech codes represent?
    Jesus Christ had a homosexual relationship?

    Those words, written on a poster above the image of a topless man tenderly kissing Jesus on the neck, angered dozens of students Thursday night at Lorain County Community College....

    The sign went up about 4 p.m. in College Center student commons as part of Club Awareness Week, along with many other displays advertising student-run extracurricular organizations....

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    We indulge in easy, cheap laughs 

    The 7 Most Retarded Ways Celebrities Have Tried to Go Green
    Via Bros Judd.

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    I was away from the television last night and will have limited access for the rest of the Democratic convention, but plenty of other people watched the show, including particularly Michelle Obama's speech. Andrew Sullivan has a nice round-up of reactions from reasonable bloggers of the left and right, plus this observation:

    Ambers gets at something here:
    [Michelle Obama] is the most modern of first ladies-in-waiting, but the Obama's marriage and family life are the most traditional of any presidential candidate's family in recent memory.

    There's no question that if you judge the candidates on their actual lives, rather than mythologies, the Obamas are extremely mainstream and conservative. Married for life, great parents, very humble beginnings, driven meritocrats. No divorce or adultery - and regular religious attendance and faith. And yet they are tagged as elitists and radicals. Yes, they're liberals in policy, although not radically so. But they're conservatives in their lives.

    Withhold the snarky comments about Andrew Sullivan and traditional marriage -- you know his point, and it is tough to argue with. Fortunately for me, I am the unusual conservative, apparently, who does not care to hear about the state of anybody's marriage.

    Looking around this morning, the reaction to Michelle's speech seems almost universally positive, at least from people trying to make a fair judgment rather than a partisan one. See, e.g., Rick Lowry of the National Review.

    In some ways, Michelle poses a greater challenge for white acceptance than Barack does. She was raised in a black family, makes no attempt to appeal to the white roots she does not in any case have, and she's the "candidate" for first lady. Americans seem to have an ideal in mind when they think about the first lady; the job has been tough enough on women who did not fit a particular model, and great offenses are often ascribed to them in the popular imagination (see, e.g., Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton, not that I am defending any of those people). First Lady Michelle Obama would be a dramatic, jarring, revealing, awakening, slap in the face for Americans who want their first lady a certain way. That might be just what we need.

    Too bad they're such lefties.

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    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Open thread: How are the Donks doing tonight? 

    I attended a lecture on climate change at the Wild Center this afternoon, and then used its open "guest" wifi to catch up on email and news. As you can see from the picture below, it is a pretty nice place whence to blog.

    Blogging at the Wild Center

    We had a family bithday celebration after a reception at the museum, so I'm plenty liquored up and have no access to a television. I am counting on you to post your impressions of opening night in Denver, including particularly Michelle Obama's speech. By all means post your observations on that subject or anything else that catches your fancy.

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    The Democratic National Convention Schedule, sort of 

    Christopher Buckley has edited the speaking schedule at the Democratic National Convention this week. It is hilarious ("Opening Ceremony -- Dignatures who have flown into Denver on private jets will parade to the Pepsi Center in alternative-energy vehicles, including solar-powered Segways, prairie dog drawn-carts and Tibetan goats"). That the editors of the New York Times felt the need to warn us that it is a "mock" schedule is both a sad reflection of our age and further evidence that many people who imagine themselves intelligent -- the core readership of the Times -- are nevertheless too unimaginative to know satire when they see it.

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    Dispatches from Upper Moonbatia 

    LGF has some great photos from yesterday's left-wing demonstrations on the occasion of the Democratic National Convention. There are some nice pictures of the counter-demonstrators, too.

    It will be interesting to see whether these same clowns congregate in Minneapolis, or whether they are particularly drawn to the Democrats.

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    That's silly 

    neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Political disagreement: can these marriages be saved?
    I know a not inconsiderable number of people who’ve been divorced in recent years and report that political disagreement wasn’t just an issue, it was the main issue. I haven’t found any statistics on this, but my anecdotal experience is that a larger number of my acquaintances report significant marital stress over politics, especially in the years beginning around the 2004 election. The widening of the political divide seems very real, and it affects some people on the most personal level of all.

    My wife and I have been cancelling each other's votes out for years. You have to have some serious identity issues to let our politics ruin your marriage.

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    At least she's consistent 

    Madonna mixes Hitler, Mugabe, McCain on tour - USATODAY.com
    The first show of Madonna's world tour Saturday night made a foray into U.S. politics with a none-too-subtle dig at U.S. presidential hopeful John McCain.

    Images of destruction and global warming flashed on to a screen during a video interlude. Those were followed by pictures of Adolf Hitler, Zimbabwe's authoritarian ruler Robert Mugabe — and McCain.

    A later sequence showed slain Beatle John Lennon, climate activist Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi and finally McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama.

    Once the interlude was over, Madonna threw herself into a rave-inflected rendition of Like a Prayer. She finished off the concert with her thumping Give it 2 Me from her new album I.

    If I were to be Godwinized, I'd want it from someone who thinks those songs are actually a contribution to our culture.

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    In the market for a used boat or RV? 

    Repossessed Toys Are A Booming Business

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    Bitter Butter Battle 

    Kevin Drum, in his new digs at Mother Jones, states:
    On trade and economic issues, the left and right of the party have both moved in each other's direction since the early 90s and the remaining disageements are pretty moderate. Nearly everyone is united on some form of liberal internationalism as our favored foreign policy stance, and nearly everyone wants to withdraw from Iraq. Social issues have largely sorted themselves out. There's surprisingly broad agreement about what our energy policy ought to look like. And there's virtual unanimity on the broad contours of how we should tackle healthcare.

    It's not all sweetness and light, but aside from optics and personality issues, liberals really are remarkably united this year. It's kinda scary in a way.

    It has been suggested, from time to time, that such agreement is a precursor to intellectual stagnation.

    On a more serious note - is this true? We're seeing Obama reel back earlier promises on trade, Iraq and taxes, aren't the positions that he is revising embedded in his base somewhere? I know all the wacked out lefties on a community bulletin board I subscribe to are seething at anticipated treachery from Obama.

    Despite all this supposed agreement, animosity and intra-party disagreement continue::
    Sixty-six percent of Clinton supporters, registered Democrats who want Clinton as the nominee, are now backing Obama. That’s down from 75 percent in the end of June. Twenty-seven percent of them now say they’ll support McCain, up from 16 percent in late June.

    “The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most although not all of the support McCain has gained in that time,” says Holland.

    As they say, the smaller the stakes, the nastier the argument.

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    Obama and the Chinese infrastructure gaffe 

    Mindles linked to this clip of Barack Obama praising the great Chinese infrustructure he must have seen during Olympics coverage -- “Beijing looks like a pretty good option. Why aren't we doing the same thing?” Dan Riehl cuts him up for it, with links to stories that describe how the Chinese built such nice infrastructure:

    Obama is either incredibly naive, terribly misinformed, a communist, just flat out dumb or all of the above to be caught on tape making a statement like that.

    I'm going to climb out on a limb and say that there is a nugget of truth buried inside Obama's thought. It has become extremely difficult to build new public works and private projects of great magnitude in many parts of the United States, and that has made our economy more sclerotic than most of us on the right would prefer. I am not a development expert, but my strong sense is that the main obstacle to big and otherwise useful projects is litigation or the political equivalent of it (land use hearings, tough zoning requirements, and the like).

    Litigation in opposition of development does not have to be ultimately victorious or even meritorious to stop a project. It only needs to extend the schedule long enough to make the project's cost in capital and management time unacceptable to investors.

    In rough terms, anti-development litigation derives from two different impulses. The first is, ironically, a new and more expansive definition of "property rights" that has gained currency in the last generation. Increasingly, courts are granting property owners "rights" that heretofore needed to be purchased, and the enforcement of those rights can derail development. So, for instance, plaintiffs or complainants are arguing that they have rights in the "view" from their property even though they purchased no restrictive covenant to protect that view. Sympathetic courts or local regulators will hear these claims -- which should be regarded as asinine on their face -- and in the process delay or defeat the project. The political and legal opposition to putting wind power generators in Nantucket Sound -- an obviously great place for a wind farm -- is a famous but hardly unique example.

    The second source of anti-development litigation comes from the environmental laws passed in the 1970s. In particular, the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA", the law that requires the preparation of an "environmental impact statement" for most public infrastructure projects) has become a favored vehicle for anti-development litigation. Not only does the environmental impact statement take a great deal of time and money to prepare, but citizens have standing to bring cases that challenge the process or result.

    There is no small irony here. If you believe, as Barack Obama does, that we must restructure our economy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are going to need massive investments in environmentally intrusive infrastructure. We will need wind farms off our beaches, nuclear power plants along our rivers, and solar collectors in our deserts. The most effective means for blocking these projects will be the laws put in place to, well, protect the environment.

    So rather than saying that Barack Obama is an idiot, I would ask him a follow up question: What specific changes in law and regulation would he propose that would significantly accelerate (and thereby massively lower the capital requirements of) major infrastructure projects, whether to improve American competitiveness or reduce GHG emissions?

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    Internets memory hole: Biden on McCain in 2004 

    This exchange on "Meet the Press," May 16, 2004, has turned out to be quite interesting:
    Russert: Senator Biden, what do you think of John McCain as a Democratic candidate for vice president?

    Biden: I think John McCain would be a great candidate for vice president. I mean it. I know John doesn't like me saying it, but the truth of the matter is, it is. We need to heal the red and the blue here, man, the red states and the blue states. And John McCain is a loyal Republican. God, he drives me crazy how loyal he is as a Republican as much of a friend as he is. We disagree on a lot of things, but I'll tell you, the fact of the matter is that we've got to bring together the red and the blue here. This is a divided nation. And I think that--I would still urge John Kerry to pick up the phone and call John McCain. He'll say no probably. But I think John Kerry has an obligation to do that for the way he wants to heal. And I know John will listen. He'll say no, but I'm going to tell you, I'm counting on him being a more loyal American than he is a loyal Republican.

    And, John, I'm not so sure you're so happy about the Senate. I'd like to see you president instead of the guy we have now. So--but you're a great senator. But I think you'd also be doing a great service. Do I think it's going to happen? No. But I think it is a reflection of the desire of this country, and the desire of people in both parties, to want to see this God-awful, vicious rift that exists in the nation healed, and John and John could go a long way to healing that rift.

    Russert: Senator McCain, as an American, you can stay a Republican. You can be a loyal Republican. It would be a fusion or a unity ticket. Would you contemplate it in any way, shape, or form? Would you take Senator Kerry's phone call if you knew he was calling about it?

    McCain: I will always take anyone's phone calls but I will not--I categorically will not do it. But I would like to add one additional quick comment. Joe's right, there's too much partisanship in America and there's too much partisanship in the Senate and there's too much partisanship. We've got to have people sit down and start working on issues that are not partisan in nature and start working on them so we can do our job as legislating and working for America. And I'm very disturbed about the level of partisanship which has led to gridlock. And we're not doing our job as our constituents expect us to do.

    Russert: All right, Biden. McCain is out. Who is in?

    Biden: I'm sticking with McCain. It's safer right now.

    Get ready for frequent protestations that "this is not the John McCain I knew for 20 years."

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    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Day 1 (before the actual convention) 

    Hello, I, Tigerhawk's son, am going to attend the Democratic National Convention. I'll be blogging stuff that I find interesting and funny. And I'm going to try and keep a tally of the number of times the power words CHANGE and HOPE are invoked.

    So. Today was spent traveling. Nothing particularly exciting, but I WAS on the same flight as Jon Stewart. Presumably he's going to cover the convention as well. Now, since this is the internet, the demand "pics or it didn't happen" will come forth, but unfortunately, the memory card on my camera was full, and my cellphone was out of battery, so you're going to have to take my word for it.

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    Clark Rockefeller 

    Somebody smart is going to make a movie out of the bizarre story of "Clark Rockefeller". Teaser:

    By the early 1990’s, Mr. Crowe had become Mr. Rockefeller and was spending time in Manhattan, joining a Fifth Avenue church and rubbing elbows at the Metropolitan Club.

    “He lived as Clark Rockefeller and he presented that and his whole persona was that,” said Robert Beau Leonard, a lawyer who met Mr. Rockefeller at church. He even gained admission to the exclusive Lotos Club, whose 2003 yearbook lists Clark Rockefeller on the same page as Laurance S. Rockefeller, a grandson of John D. Rockefeller.

    It was as Clark Rockefeller, apparent member of America’s aristocracy, that in 1993 he met Sandra Boss, a graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School and seven years his junior. Connecting with Ms. Boss, who eventually became a partner at McKinsey, where salaries can reach seven figures, seemed to enable Mr. Rockefeller to play out his upper-crust fantasies.

    Ms. Stone, the Upper East Side art dealer, recalled meeting him when they were walking their dogs in Central Park and he instantly recognized that her husky, Leyster, was named after a little-known Dutch Master, Judith Leyster. She was impressed.

    He told her he advised small countries on financial problems. Ms. Stone and her husband, Mr. Steigrad, were soon dining and socializing with the couple. “He came to a lot of our parties,” Ms. Stone said. “He met a lot of people we knew. He was a nice, intelligent, charming sort of eccentric individual. He just seemed real.”

    Mr. Rockefeller volunteered to create a Web site for the Steigrad gallery. When the couple offered to pay, he said, “ ‘Well the only thing I really need is two tuxedo shirts,’ ” said Ms. Stone, so they sent him to their tailor. “I know he was very difficult about the order. He drove the poor guy nuts.”

    Most mysterious was the impressive collection of paintings in his East 56th Street apartment. Mr. Hrones, Mr. Rockefeller’s lawyer, said the paintings were not originals, just very convincing “derivatives.” But Ms. Stone and Mr. Steigrad, who saw them, say that does not make sense.

    “I don’t care how fake he is, but the paintings, the art — that was right,” Mr. Steigrad said. “If he’s not a Rockefeller, where the hell did he get the paintings?”

    Mr. Rockefeller even contributed an essay to ARTnews, published under Ms. Boss’s name, about the hazards of owning dogs in an apartment with a Rothko and a Clyfford Still. “Whenever we speak to our restorer,” Mr. Rockefeller wrote, “he asks which paintings need drool removal.”

    Even weirder, the guy is a German who came to the United States and learned the culture so well he was able to perpetuate serial frauds that required a detailed grasp of American social structure. A strange and evil genius.

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    My oh-so sophisticated schadenfreude 

    Baseless condescension provides succor for idiot pundit.

    This part is laugh-out-loud funny:
    My own theory is that the US has never quite grasped the give-and-take character of world sport. Countries devoted to soccer, cricket and rugby play regular international fixtures; they win some and lose some, and learn to live with that. The biggest US sports (American football, baseball, basketball) are particularly their own and primarily domestic. Neither their athletes nor spectators are well-prepared for the Olympics.

    Yes, an excellent theory, supported empirically by the behavior of European fans at World Cup and tennis matches around the world.

    Whatever he put in his tea, I'd like some.

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    The New York Times Magazine's cover story on Barack Obama's economic philosophy is well worth reading. Barack Obama will cut taxes more deeply for 80% of Americans, and tax the top fraction of 1% very heavily to pay for it. No, the story is not fair and balanced in numerous ways, but it does expose the richness of the economic debate among Democrats and the poverty of ideas among Republicans. If Republicans do not come up with a cogent plan for ending the perception and, yes, the reality, of income stagnation in middle America, they will be in the minority for a long time to come.

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    A glimpse inside the lefty sphere at party time 

    Jane Hamsher, the founder of "netroots" blog Firedoglake, describes her exciting first day in Denver. The post is a festival of new media elbow-rubbing:

    Our stay there was mercifully short and we picked up Anita Thompson (Hunter's widow) and pushed on to the Salon party, which was held in a lovely condo that Jeralyn said was the Compton of Denver. Glenn Greenwald and Joan Walsh were amongst the Salonistas who were staying there, and the place was full of familiar faces -- Atrios, Tom Tomorrow, Rachel Sklar, Jeff Toobin, Kay Steiger, Walter Shapiro, Tom Schaller, Eric Alterman, Jeffrey Toobin and a bunch of others.

    Joe Klein was there and I thought about going up to him and telling him I liked many of his recent McCain critiques but then I realized I'd probably have to tell him we were having dinner together on Sept. 8th and it might ruin his night. John Amato, Ezra Klein and I recalled that we first met each other (and Arianna) at a party at SteveAudio's in the San Gabriel valley some time in 2005. Everyone was lukewarm on Biden, but agreed there was something to be said for a guy who united behind a rallying cry of "at least it's not..."

    "Salonistas"? Something tells me we are not going to read posts like that from righty bloggers next weekend.

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    Publicity photos as an important source of intelligence 

    Arms Control Wonk (a group blog that with some very serious expertise) has an interesting post about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's habit of having his picture taken in front of Iran's latest scientific accomplishment. Apparently, these publicity photos actually convey useful information about the extent of Iran's weapons development:

    President Ahmadinejad of Iran has a much appreciated habit of going to his country’s most advanced centers of technology and having his picture taken in front of the most interesting items there. Not only does this serve to advertize the advances Iran is making in a variety of technological fields (his visit to the Natanz enrichment facility comes to mind), but it provides a wonderful opportunity to analyze just how far Iran has developed!

    Of course, in addition to pointing out to Iran that President Ahmadinejad might want stand in front of less cutting edge stuff, ACW provides Iran with all sorts of presumably useful feedback on its missile design, including suggestions for improvements. We all would be a bit better off, perhaps, if we were not so eager to reveal how smart we are.

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    Lincoln and Reagan and Iran 


    The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) Carrier Strike Group has joined the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy reported.

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    If you do not occasionally scroll through the Fail Blog, you are missing out on some cheap laughs.

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    The Trains are running on time 

    So Obama thinks we cantake a lesson from China?

    An awful lot of the left-leaning criticism of our current system is that we have become corporatist, coddling and protecting companies at the expense of individuals. They believe corporatism leads to fascism.

    There's some truth to that. I think the mess we've gotten into with Fannie and Freddie is a symptom of corporatism. What so many fail to realize is that it's even easier to approach this sort of fascism from the left.

    Can you imagine if the government here decided to tell you when and how much you could work and produce in a vain attempt to show clean air to the world?

    Maybe Tim Noah was wrong. We do need Jonah Goldberg's book. As I said in the linked post:
    The real point is that social engineers, imperialist and racists need the coercive power of government to realize their plans. That way lies the Road to Serfdom. It is certainly not a road paved with free markets and individual rights. From an ideological perspective, the latter are the only reliable contra-fascist indicators. Ideologies that subordinate these principles hazard becoming fascist.

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    "Research" my derriere 

    UPDATE: An anonymous commenter on this post asks for a present value analysis. For a while I thought they were using lottery accounting (play SS Mega-Thousands!) Checking the study, the CBO does use a PV analysis, but they discount at the Treasury rate. YMMV.

    Economic Policy Institute
    In fact, the CBO report says, “future Social Security beneficiaries will receive larger benefits in retirement…than current beneficiaries do, even after adjustments have been made for inflation.”

    The report, which forecasts out 75 years, finds that while the accumulating surpluses in the trust fund will be exhausted in 2049, ongoing revenues will still be sufficient to fund about 81% of promised benefits at the end of the 75-year period (in 2082). The reason for this is that wages and Social Security revenues will continue to grow as the economy grows. The trust fund will cushion the large baby boom retirement, as it was designed to do, but most benefits will continue to be funded by direct transfers from workers to retirees, as they are now.

    They don't bother to link the study. A quick look at the opening graph will give you a sense of why. Remember that solid GDP growth is only a few percent, that one percent of GDP is more than 5% of the tax burden, and look at the difference in outlays as a percent of GDP.

    Or look at the replacement rate tables, showing how less and less of one's income is replaced by SS benefits, for all the income cohorts.

    How is it that we are going to start converting the ~$2 trillion "Trust Fund" to debt in 2017, and people who otherwise complain about increases in government debt levels somehow think that's a non-event.

    The benefits are projected larger because SS benefits are linked to wage increases not CPI, and the former has been faster, and is projected to be faster. The language stating that benefits are higher makes it clear that is because people will live longer and receive lower benefits for more years, summing to more 'lifetime benefits':
    # High earners receive higher benefits than low earners do, and future generations will receive larger benefits than current beneficiaries do, even after adjustment for inflation and even if benefits cannot be paid as scheduled once the trust funds are exhausted.

    # Conversely, low earners have a larger percentage of their earnings replaced by Social Security than high earners do, and current beneficiaries have a larger percentage of their earnings replaced than future generations will.

    # Future beneficiaries will not only receive higher annual benefits than today's beneficiaries but will live longer, on average; thus, they will receive greater total benefits over their lifetime.

    # The payroll tax is a constant percentage of taxable earnings, which means that because taxable earnings are projected to rise over time (even after adjustment for inflation), future generations will pay higher taxes.

    Basically, this is a report that shouts out how incredibly expensive this program is going to be, even though it is falling away from its original promise of income replacement. The EPI thinks the increasing outlays are somehow indicative of financial health. By this logic, a sudden upward reset of someones adjustable mortgage is an indication that their balance sheet is in good shape.

    What sort of 'research' institute is this?

    I once calculated my projected return on contributions to Social Security using their numbers. My return is negative unless I live into my 90s. Don't you think we could create a bit more wealth some other way? While Medicare is a much deeper hole, SS is poorly conceived, poorly executed, and sequesters money in an unproductive low-returning sinkhole. Time to stop.

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