Sunday, August 31

:: The Gander and the Goose

The email I received this morning from NJDC began:

Senator John McCain made his first critical presidential decision with his selection of his Vice Presidential running mate.  McCain's judgment appears lacking.   In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain chooses a running mate with zero foreign policy experience and a brewing scandal which is being investigated by the Alaska state legislature...
Hold it right there, I thought.  Surely you're not saying that foreign policy experience is essential to holding the second highest political office in our country?  
Because if that were the case, one would expect it to be doubly, triply, exponentially more important for the actual highest office.   Clearly a great many Democratic voters and, more importantly, a deciding majority of Democratic superdelegates think differently.  

Is the argument that it is more important for the Vice President than for the President to have foreign policy experience?  Or that a lack of foreign policy experience only matters when the candidate is a Republican?  

Either way, I'm not buying it.  What's good (enough) for the gander is good enough for the goose.

As for the scandal, I have very little information to go by - how do you decide what news source to trust in this situation? - but it certainly appears to be a non-issue.  Best I can tell, the root of the problem is an Alaska state trooper, Mark Wooten, who used to be married to Governor Palin's sister, Molly McCann.   Wooten was the subject of an internal investigation:
The troopers' investigation into Wooten began after Chuck Heath -- Wooten's father-in-law and Palin and McCann's dad -- alerted troopers about a domestic violence protective order McCann had obtained against Wooten on April 11, 2005. McCann filed for divorce the same day, according to the court docket.

The trooper had not physically assaulted his wife but intimidated her and threatened to shoot him, Heath told troopers, according to a memo about the complaint.

The same day, a concerned neighbor of the couple called troopers with more accusations, including alcohol abuse, based on what Heath and McCann had relayed to him. Wooten seemed "disconnected" lately, the neighbor said. He told troopers that Heath and McCann were afraid to call troopers themselves.

"Extreme verbal abuse & violent threats & physical intimidation," McCann wrote in her April 11, 2005, petition to the court. He had driven drunk multiple times, threatened her father, told her to "put a leash on your sister and family or I'm going to bring them down," her petition says. A judge issued a 20-day protective order to keep Wooten away.

In written orders to Wooten sent the next day, trooper Capt. Matt Leveque echoed the court's directive. Leveque, now a major, also told Wooten to give up his department-issued guns, badge, credentials and vehicle during his off-duty time, while the order was in effect.

On April 27, 2005, trooper Sgt. Ron Wall began the internal investigation, interviewing and re-interviewing more than 15 people over a period of months. Witnesses included Palin, her husband, Todd, two of their children, Heath, McCann, her son, Wooten, friends, neighbors, a bartender, and other troopers.
The investigation into Wooten and the process of divorcing him unfolded side-by-side. Custody of their two young kids was a major issue.
Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:

• Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.
• He illegally shot a moose.
• He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.
• He told others his father-in-law would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force [in 2001]...

Those incidents included: a reprimand in January 2004 for negligent damage to a state vehicle; a January 2005 instruction after being accused of speeding, unsafe lane changes, following too closely and not using turn signals in his state vehicle; a June 2005 instruction regarding personal cell phone calls; an October 2005 suspension from work after getting a speeding ticket; and a November 2005 memo "to clarify duty hours, tardiness and personal business during duty time."
To sum it up....
"The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession," Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days.
The union backed Wooten up, and had his suspension reduced to 5 days.  They said the investigation and punishment were fair.
Now this is the scandally part. No, its not the rogue cop getting a five-day slap on the wrist.  A different scandally part.  

Palin encouraged and assisted the police investigation - before she began her gubernatorial campaign. After she became governor, she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, Alaska's "top cop" - which was entirely within the scope of her power. Some people, including Monegan, believe she fired him in retaliation for not taking a harder line with Wooten. The Alaska state legislature is spending $100,000 to investigate this claim.
At issue is whether Palin, her administration or family improperly pressured Monegan to fire Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, the ex-husband of Palin's sister, and whether Palin fired Monegan when that didn't happen. Palin's sister, Molly McCann, and Wooten are divorced but still battling in court over custody and visitation.

Before she was governor, Palin pushed for a trooper investigation of Wooten over a number of matters, including using a Taser on his stepson, illegally shooting a moose, and accusations of driving drunk. At one point, Palin and her husband, Todd, hired a private investigator.

Troopers did investigate, and Wooten was suspended for 10 days, later reduced to five.

Palin initially said that after she took office in December 2006, she broached the subject of Wooten with her public safety commissioner, Monegan, just once, when they discussed her security detail. She said that she told Monegan of threats Wooten had made against her father and also that Wooten had threatened to "bring me down." She said she thought that was the end of it.

But a week after his firing, Monegan said there was pressure to fire Wooten from Palin's administration as well as from Todd Palin. The pressure continued until just a month or two before he was let go, Monegan said.

This month, as her administration gathered materials for the legislative investigation, Palin released a recording of a phone call in which one of her aides pressured a trooper lieutenant to fire Wooten. That contradicted her earlier claims that there had been no pressure. She said she was unaware of the conversation until the investigation uncovered it. She also disclosed that members of her administration had had about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about Wooten.

In the phone call, which was recorded by troopers, as they do routinely, aide Frank Bailey told the trooper lieutenant that Palin and her husband wanted to know why Wooten still has a job.

"Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?' He's a horrible recruiting tool, you know," Bailey told Lt. Rodney Dial.

Palin has put Bailey on paid administrative leave during the investigation. She said she never asked Bailey to make that call.

She has maintained that her decision to fire Monegan has nothing to do with Monegan's refusal to dump Wooten.
This is the big scandal.  At worst, she lost confidence in Monegan for the wrong reasons.  But maybe Alaska has specific rules governing the hiring and firing of appointees; I don't know.  

It certainly doesn't compare with the Rezko situation (not to mention other scandals involving elected officials - i.e. Spitzer). I don't know why the Democrats would want to raise this issue, when they so clearly don't benefit from the comparison.

McCain has set a great trap for the Democrats, and all signs point to the Dems walking right into it.  

Read more!

Friday, August 29

:: F*cking Wow

So, what do you think? You know, about Governor Sarah Palin?

Well, I'll tell you what I think. What I think is this:

Brilliant, just abso-f*cking-lutely brilliant move. I didn't think McCain had it in him. But damn! Let me count the ways:

  • she's anti-choice and gives the evangelicals the warm fuzzies
  • she's a fresh face - shows McCain is comfortable with youth, change
  • she's an outsider - enhances McCain's maverick cred
  • she's been a whistleblower - enhances McCain's independence cred
  • she can talk about energy
  • she's a woman - tells women voters - 'Obama may not care about your concerns, but McCain does"
  • she's a woman - tells moderate voters McCain is not extreme conservative

This move sets a trap for the Dems (that they are already walking into) by giving them ample opportunity to spew misogynistic crap, which will further drive women away. Even as I type they are busily trying to reduce this woman to no more than the sum of her genitals (I have a sixth sense for that kind of thing.

Further, this gives the cable networks, particularly MSNBC, the opportunity to "make up" with women viewers by being nice to Palin (I bet they'll be pointing out sexism every 5 minutes now).

On top of all that - the announcement was hook-y enough to squash Obama's morning-after lovefest coverage. The sheer audacity of this move must be a shot in the arm for the demoralized GOP.

Governor Palin's back story is pretty interesting. Here's her bio on the wikipedia. On the issues, note especially:

Palin is pro-life, pro-contraception, and a prominent member of Feminists for life. While running for Governor of Alaska, Palin supported the open debate of creationism alongside evolution in schools; however, she noted that "creationism doesn't have to be part of the curriculum" and that she would not use "religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism" as criteria for selection to the school board.

She opposes same-sex marriage, but she has stated that she has gay friends and is receptive to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination. Palin complied with an Alaskan state Supreme Court order and signed an implementation of same-sex benefits into law under protest, stating that legal options to avoid doing so had run out. She supported a non-binding referendum on whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the matter. Alaska was one of the first U.S. states to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 1998, along with Hawaii. Palin has stated that she supported the 1998 Constitutional amendment.

Palin's first veto was used to block legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to the partners of gay state employees. In effect, her veto granted State of Alaska benefits to same-sex couples. The veto occurred after Palin consulted with Alaska's attorney general on the constitutionality of the legislation.

It sounds like her position on marriage equality is the same as Obama's. Help me out here, I don't remember.

My feelings, condensed:

Well, Dems, you made this bed, you lie in it. McCain made a bold move to appeal to independent women voters. Now what are *you* going to do for us?

If I had a dog in this fight, I'd be worried. But I don't, so I'm mostly entertained. No, make that very entertained. Now that's what I call strategy.

Read more!

Thursday, August 28

:: How Was It?

Gallup has some numbers on Hillary's speech on Tuesday.

"Fifty-two percent of Americans -- and 83% of those who tuned in -- give Hillary Clinton's Tuesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention a positive review.  

"As would be expected, Democrats were especially positive about Hillary Clinton's Tuesday night address, with 69% rating it positively. But close to half of Republicans, 45%, also rated it positively.

"The high 83% positive rating of the speech among those who watched it is in part due to the partisan nature of the audience. The poll estimates that 49% of those who watched the Clinton speech were Democrats, 22% were Republicans, and the remaining 28% were independents. Ninety-four percent of Democrats who watched the speech rated it positively, as did solid majorities of the Republicans and independents who tuned in."

Survey Methods:   Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,023 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 27, 2008. [M]argin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

More Gallup (all direct quotes, but I weeded out some of the filler language).  This was written just prior to the findings above:

"With Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination for president -- not Hillary Clinton -- it's understandable that so much of the focus around our recent USA Today/Gallup Poll has been on the finding that 30% of Clinton's primary voters are not supporting Obama for president.

"As reported earlier this week on, 16% of registered Democrats who say they supported Clinton in the primaries say they would vote for John McCain if the election were held today, while another 14% are undecided.

"Given the apparent adulation around Clinton in the convention hall last night, however, I think it's worth noting that the percentage of Obama primary voters nationwide who harbor negative feelings about Clinton (32%) is much higher than the percentage of Clinton primary voters who have a negative view of Obama (18%). [...]

"Although 30% of Clinton voters are not supporting Obama right now, as noted only about half that figure (18%) have negative feelings about him. 

"The latest USA Today/Gallup poll doesn't show a tremendous difference in terms of the self-described ideology of Obama versus Clinton primary supporters. Clinton primary voters are just slightly more likely than Obama voters to describe their political views as conservative (21% vs. 15%).

"About half of Clinton primary voters (51%) say they are very or somewhat concerned that 'Barack Obama lacks sufficient experience to be an effective president.' Only 23% of Obama primary voters express this view."

Read more!

Tuesday, August 26

:: Magnificent

Simply magnificent. I have never been so proud of an American leader.

She could have been our president this time.

She will be our president next time.


! Read more!

:: Essential Reading

Essential reading about the Democratic Convention and the roll call process.   Read more!

:: Updating the Numbers

New national numbers from Gallup and a few states.....

White Men: Obama 35%, McCain 56%
White Women: Obama 39%, McCain 48%

They have McCain up in Florida 47 - 43%.  Male likely voters back McCain 50 – 41%, while women split 45 – 45%.   McCain's overall favorables in Florida are 55 – 32%, compared to 51 – 36% for Obama.   Goodnight, Florida gender gap.

By contrast, in Ohio Obama leads 51 – 37% among women, while McCain leads 50 - 37% with men. The overall numbers are Obama-McCain 44- 43%.  Quoth Quinnipiac: “The big question in Ohio is how much the gender gap will decide the election. Gender support for each candidate is a virtual mirror of the other. McCain is winning men by the same margin that Obama is carrying women. Something has to give one way or the other."

Pennsylvania's overall number is Obama/McCain 49-42%. Obama leads 53 – 37% with women, McCain leads 47 – 43% among men. This poll was conducted too early for the Biden announcement to register.

Read more!

Monday, August 25

:: Silencing Women

I just caught the following from Salon:

DENVER -- Some supporters of Hillary Clinton have been pushing all summer to have a roll-call vote in which Clinton is included as a candidate at the convention in Denver. As of right now, that vote will happen, but according to a new Associated Press report, it might not happen in quite the way that Clinton's backers had envisioned.

The Clinton and Obama camps "are working on a deal to give her some votes in the roll call for the Democratic presidential nomination, but quickly end the divided balloting in unanimous consent for Obama," the AP says. "The idea is that at the start of the state-by-state vote for the presidential nomination Wednesday night, delegates would cast their votes for Clinton or Obama.

"But the voting would be cut off after a couple of states, the officials said, perhaps ending with New York, when Clinton herself would call for unanimous backing for Obama from the convention floor."
Its not enough that she conceded the nomination. Its not enough that she's releasing her delegates. They want to pretend the campaign never happened. And why? Is there any doubt Obama is going to be the nominee? Kennedy's votes were counted. Why not Clinton's?

Here's my prediction.

In the end, the mostly male political establishment will silence Hillary just as women leaders down through the centuries were silenced and then erased from the history books.

It is stunning to see this historical pattern unfold in real time.

Why is it so important to bury the proof of Senator Clinton's extraordinary achievement? Why is it so important to pretend her campaign never happened? Why is it so important to prevent - on the 88th anniversary of woman's suffrage - a celebration and full reckoning of what she - of what we - have accomplished?

Why is it so important to some people that she - that we - be silenced ? Why is it necessary that we be erased?

Would that Obama, Dean, and everyone else involved in this ugly display of force and privilege stop for a moment to ask themselves:

Am I on the right side of history?

Am I walking beside my sister, or am I holding her down?

Am I listening to her voice, or am I shouting over her?

Do I honor liberty, or do I wield my freedom as a cudgel?

This is a watershed moment. Eighty-eight years after we first won the right to vote, that right is still contested. We still have a cabal of powerful and not so powerful men who will fight tooth and nail to keep us less than equal.

This is not abstract. These men and women have names. They are in Denver. They are making this decision right now. They are deciding whether or not our votes will be counted. They are fighting the same fight that was fought a century ago.

When this is over, we will know who the heroes are. Read more!

Sunday, August 24

:: Oh God That Feels Good...

I've got a thrill up my leg, baby....

CNN reports (breathlessly) from Denver that their latest poll (RVs) has McCain and Obama in a dead heat - 44 to 44.

Its a freakin' CNN poll.  Its worthless.  I know.  But my leg....   ooo, I like it!   Here's some text:
"This looks like a step backward for Obama, who had a 51 to 44 percent advantage last month," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Even last week, just before his choice of Joe Biden as his running mate became known, most polls tended to show Obama with a single-digit advantage over McCain."

So what's the difference now?

It may be supporters of Hillary Clinton, who still would prefer the New York senator and former first lady as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

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," Holland said.
Good god, stop me before I write something obscene......................


Because I'm having a mini-bout of insomnia, and because it has been brought to my attention elsewhere that some people do not understand the basic elements of pressure politics, I add the following explanation of why this is oh so exciting news.

Pressure Politics 101

If you want the Democratic leadership to change their sorry-ass ways, you have to hit them where it matters to them. They will only change under duress.

There are only two things that matter during campaign time: cash, and poll numbers.

Right now no one can touch the Dems for money. Thus the only thing that will get the message across that they need to change their ways is a hit registered in their poll numbers.

That hit is happening now. And its happening at a very advantageous time: when a lot of feminists are in Denver trying to directly engage the party leadership in a conversation about changing their ways. A lot of people will be offering the party carrots: the Dems can win in November if they appeal to women. These bad polling numbers are the stick.

Gloating over these numbers has nothing to do with being pro-McCain. If one were truly pro-McCain, you would hope for this phenomenon *not* to show up until mid-October, when it would be too late for the Dems to do anything about it.

Feminists need to demonstrate that there is a price to be paid for ignoring our interests. Hallelujah that we have cold, hard numbers that show exactly that, on the eve of the convention, no less, and from a MSM sanctioned source.

Any issue group out there - enviros, labor, gun nuts, goat cheese partisans - would spontaneously combust in hot flaming ecstasy if they learned that they could walk into a negotiation with data that says "listen to us, or else."

- end of lesson-

CNN isn't the only media organization reporting troubling numbers for Obama.  This is what Gallup is reporting:

Whereas 84% of Republicans polled from Aug. 11-17 say they will vote for McCain in November, only 79% of Democrats say they will vote for Obama. A similar gap in party loyalty has been seen each week since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in early June. Over this period, Obama's Democratic support has ranged from 78% to 82% while McCain's Republican support has ranged from 83% to 85%.

Gallup's most recent breakout of white registered voters from their rolling aggregate count is the August 17th batch; it shows:
  • White men:   Obama, 35%    McCain, 56%
  • White women:   Obama, 40%   McCain, 47%

The initial evidence is that Biden won't hurt Obama in the election, but with only 14% of voters saying they are more likely to vote for the ticket with Biden on it, and 7% less likely, he is not positioned at this point to help Obama much either.

And with that, I've cured my own insomnia.  Thank you, and good night... um, good morning.
Read more!

:: Women Voters Non-Plussed by Biden

Its terribly early to be polling on the impact of the Biden Decision (BD), but one polling firm has taken a snapshot of the immediate reaction.  Shakesville shared data from Rasmussen this morning.  

39% Say Biden the Right Choice, Women Less Enthusiastic

On the day that Barack Obama announced Joe Biden as his running mate, 39% of voters said he made the right choice. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 25% disagreed and another 35% are not sure.

Women are notably less enthusiastic than men—33% of women say Biden was the right choice while 27% disagreed. Men, by a 46% to 24% margin, said that Obama made the right choice.

Biden is now viewed favorably by 48% of voters and unfavorably by 34%. Those figures reflect a slight improvement from Thursday night polling. He earns favorable reviews from 52% of men and 45% of women.

Just 16% of women have a Very Favorable opinion of Biden while 19% have a Very Unfavorable view.

Obama has struggled among older voters and that’s one area where Biden shines—60% of senior citizens have a favorable opinion of him.

Not surprisingly, Democrats were more supportive of Obama’s decision than anybody else—52% of those in his party agreed with his pick while 19% disagreed. However, just 43% of Democratic women said the presumptive nominee made the best pick while 23% disagreed.

Overall, 32% said the selection of Biden made them more likely to vote for Obama and an identical percentage said it made them less likely to do so. Among unaffiliated voters, 25% are more likely to vote for Obama while 33% had the opposite view.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) say Biden is ready to be President while 35% disagree.

Forty-three percent (43%) now say Biden is politically liberal and 33% say politically moderate. Those figures suggest that Biden is seen as a fairly typical Democrat—41% of Democrats say they are politically liberal and 38% consider themselves moderate.
Wouldn't we all like to know exactly what Rasmussen means when they write things like "33% of women"?  33% of which women?  Dems, or all parties?  RVs or LVs?  Well, you don't get to know because you don't pay their subscription fee.  Needless to say, this steams my tomatoes.

However, if someone who worked for the kind of entity that would foot the bill for this sort of thing would send me the crosstabs, or simply post them here....  well, they don't say "Sisterhood is Powerful" for nothing, Buffy.

But at least we know someone actually asked a group of women what they thought, instead of all the "women should" BS that's flying around.

Chitlins, please read (or skim) the following study:  Sour Grapes, Sweet Lemons and the Anticipatory Rationalization of the Status Quo.  It is directly relevant to this topic.  

Read more!

Saturday, August 23

:: How To Be An Asshole, Obamastyle

Clinton's primary ad addressing Obama's inexperience with emergencies of any kind was called "3 am."

Obama's text message announcing he picked someone other than Clinton for VP was sent at:  3 am.

Obama's superficial message: "take that, bitch."

Obama's deeper message: "I lack the maturity to be president. Elect me if you want important national decisions to be made by an arrogant prick whose ego will always come first."

To be clear:  the grave problem that this stunt highlights is not a matter of one candidate insulting another.  It is the Obama campaign's insistence on insulting the millions of Democratic voters who prefer someone else even while his numbers in battleground states are deflating.  He needs these voters, but he can't get past his own bitterness.  Instead he does something that will enhance their antipathy toward him, right on the eve of the Convention.

So where does that leave us, chitlins? We can vote for:

(1) a man with a terrible temper, who will sell out the Constitution for political gain, and who may stumble us into disaster, or

(2) a man who is a shallow and arrogant prick, who will sell out the Constitution for political gain, and who may stumble us into disaster, or

(3) none of the above; we need some real change and continuing to enable the Democratic party only stands in the way.

I'm going with 3.
Read more!

Sunday, August 17

:: And now, a word on the Olympics

I have a confession, to you, my friends. And I hope you are my friends. Because I have to confess:

I am so over the Olympics. I do not have Olympic fever, unless by Olympic fever you mean an infection that you're desperately trying to get rid of with heavy doses of antibiotics.

In all fairness, it's not the games generally, just the way they are presented by NBC. There are so many interesting and bizarre sports, but what do we get to see? Swimming and beach volleyball. Swimming and beach volleyball. And more swimming and beach volleyball. We don't get to see Equestrian, archery, field hockey or badminton, unless you stay home from work, or don't sleep.

In protest (and out of boredom) I gave up on watching on Wednesday. I read the Times' Dining section and watched Project Runway. I tried to watch gymnastics, but I ran out of steam at midnight. (I really don't understand how they can call 11 p.m. - 1 a.m. "primetime.) Occasionally I watch video of the Equestrian competition online, but it's not the same as on my TV, and too hard to knit or fold laundry.

Here's my beef: NBC isn't reporting on a great athletic competition. They are reporting on world domination. Who's competing with Michael Phelps, exactly? Noone. His races have hardly even been close. Bless his heart, the man is a freak of nature. He is physically built to do what he does, and he does nothing else but what he does. If we are to believe the NBC profile, his primary relationships are with his dog, his mother and his coach. Did he even go to college? Is he in any way capable of doing anything for the world besides swimming?

And beach volleyball. Really? During prime time, the most compelling competition is beach volleyball?? Not women's soccer? Not track and field? I understand track is quite popular, and frankly, I'd love to see the high jump. I will concede that cycling is boring after about two minutes. I say this as someone who spends a lot of the warmer months on the back of a bike, and I think that's the only good spot of the race - on the back of a bike. But what about show jumping or dressage? Did you check that out? Of course not; you could only do that online and there would have been no detailed explanation of what you were seeing because NBC isn't even bothering to comment on it.

Other fascinating sports:

  • Fencing: people swordfighting!
  • Synchronized swimming: remember when you danced in the pool as a kid? An Olympic sport for kids games!
  • Diving: like the circus, only more naked and wet!
Did you know that in Rowing, for the first time in nearly 25 years, the U.S. won the gold in the Women's 8? These women have jobs, kids, families and still manage to be Olympic champions. When Michael Phelps can pull that off, I'll be impressed and glued to my television for his races. But did you see that on TV? Sure if you were looking on one of the secondary channels in the middle of the day.

I guess I'm feeling particularly miffed because an African friend was ranting before the games about the particularly jingoistic nature of Olympics coverage in the U.S., ignoring so many really interesting and inspiring news stories and competitions in order to focus on a few American champions. I attempted to argue that we were hardly alone in focusing on those sports we were likely to win and of course, with a country as large as ours, that's a lot. I mean, even Olympians from other nations (including Zimbabwe) train in the U.S.!

But, as with so much in the U.S., this year's coverage feels completely out of hand, and I'm finding it really hard to defend. We're not even focusing on a range of events that Americans are likely to win. We're just focused on a couple of Americans that are likely to clean up. And frankly, I'm just over it.
Read more!

Wednesday, August 13

:: You're Going to Love This One...

From the Guardian.  They seem to enjoy publishing bad science, which is then taken apart by their fabulous columnist Ben Goldacre in his "Bad Science" column.  They've got a system; it works for them.

Contraceptive pill 'can lead women to choose wrong partner'

Pill thought to disrupt instinctive mechanism that brings together people with complementary genes and immune systems

Taking the contraceptive pill can lead a woman to choose the "wrong" partner, the findings of a study published today suggest.

The pill is thought to disrupt an instinctive mechanism that brings people with complementary genes and immune systems together.  By passing on a wide-ranging set of immune system genes, they increase their chances of having a healthy child that is not vulnerable to infection.  Couples with different genes are also less likely to experience fertility problems or miscarriages.

Experts believe women are naturally attracted to men with immune system genes that differ their own because of their smell.  The major histocompatability complex (MHC) cluster of genes, which helps build proteins involved in the body's immune response, also influences smell signals called pheromones.  Although pheromones may be almost unnoticeable at a conscious level, they can exert a potent effect.

A man's pheromonal odour is partly determined by his MHC. From a woman's point of view, a man with an alluring smell is also likely to have suitable immune system genes.  The new research provides evidence that the contraceptive pill can upset this process.

Researchers asked 100 women to sniff six male body odour samples from 97 volunteers and say which they preferred, with tests carried out both before and after the women had started taking the pill.

"The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odours," the University of Liverpool's Dr Craig Roberts, who led the study, said.

"Not only could MHC similarity in couples lead to fertility problems, it could also ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners."

Being on the pill simulates a state of pregnancy, which may reverse a woman's reaction to male odours.  Finding particular men sexually attractive is not so important once a woman is expecting a child.
In other words, the researchers used grant money to put on a speed dating event, albeit one that involved a lot of sniffing.  The whole scene sounds very "dog park" to me.  Forgive me for suggesting that the "six male body odour samples" matched their own?  I find it very easy to picture an Austin Powers-like researcher, chest rug resplendent beneath his paisley lab coat, waving a vial in front of a female text subject and saying, "does this make you horny, baby?" 

Why do I impugn the researchers' motives?  Because, like the infamous "girls instinctively prefer pink because we were bred to forage for fruit" study (um, is all fruit pink?), this one fails on a (cough) conceptual level.  The point, generally, of using the pill is so that one can copulate without conceiving.  So whether you are likely or not to zero in on the best genetic material while on the pill is irrelevant.  

In addition, I generally dismiss out of hand any report that states a social construction as scientific fact.  "Finding particular men sexually attractive is not so important once a woman is expecting a child," apparently. Says who? Why? Because by then its too late to dump him? Because pregnant women never want sex? Because the only thing a pregnant woman is supposed to be thinking about is how to be the very best baby-carrier she possibly can be? Or is it because all sex is meant to be procreative sex, so if the possibility of conceiving a new pregnancy is mooted, sex is irrelevant (and unnatural)?

Further, the study ignores the potency of confounding factors.  Just off the top of my head, they have not ruled out:
:: female fails to identify genetically-appropriate male due to blocking signals emanating from male's Nintendo X-Box

:: female seduced by false positives generated by male's liberal use of Axe Body Spray for Men

:: female's ability to correctly identify genetically-appropriate signals is compromised by two pints of lager and Springsteen's "Born to be Wild" ...
Read more!

Tuesday, August 12

:: The War(ning) in Georgia

In reading around the situation in Georgia / Russia, I came across an essay by a former National Intelligence Officer at the CIA, written post-Gulf war, about the failure of our government to correctly interpret the warning signs of aggression. It's really interesting. Read it. Because I said so. To make it easy, here's the money part.

In retrospect, my Staff and I viewed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as a classic warning episode. Indicators were assessed early and accurately. Our prior assessment of time lines for war preparations proved correct. Collection was honed and focused; coordination with the analytic community was constant; and policy officials were informed of our conclusions at each major stage in the development of the threat, personally as well as in writing. Nevertheless, the warning messages of the NIO for Warning -- both warning of war and warning of attack -- were not heeded, either by senior intelligence officials or policymakers.

As a postscript, at a session of senior military and civilian officers at the Pentagon, General Butler, the J-5, stated that the NIO for Warning had provided warning of war and warning of attack, but that he was not taken seriously because senior US officials talked with, and accepted the judgment of a number of leaders in the Middle East as well as the Soviet Union, all of whom were of the opinion that Saddam did not intend to attack.

After our disastrous history in warning -- Czechoslovakia in 1968; the October war in the Middle East in 1973; Afghanistan in 1979; and others -- the Intelligence and Policy Communities still seemed, in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, to lack a fundamental understanding of the causes of strategic surprise. The factors that inhibited effective early warning in this crisis corresponded closely to those that led to warning failure during the October 1973 War in the Middle East.

In both crises, separated by 17 years of improvements in intelligence collection and training, most intelligence analysts and policy officials underestimated the political intentions of the aggressor; minimized the aggressor's possible military objectives and the probability of war; downplayed the significance of the military indicators of threat; and gave excessive weight to the, ultimately, mistaken opinions of the foreign leaders and foreign intelligence services most directly threatened by aggression.

In 1973, no warnings were issued by any intelligence agency. In this crisis, the NIO for Warning and the National Warning Staff provided repeated warnings, but these could not compete with the more reassuring messages provided by others.
Read more!

Sunday, August 10

:: A Brief Word About Elizabeth Edwards

Given that the woman is dying, I don't think anyone needs to make a huge deal about this. But - while John Edwards is the real villain in the debacle he instigated, it would be a mistake to equate Elizabeth Edwards with women like the wives of Eliot Spitzer, Jim MacGreevey, or even, perhaps, Larry Craig. Those women woke up one day to find their lives had been thrown into a blender. Elizabeth had a traumatic wake-up call, too, but she had two years to adjust before the media set in.

For two years John Edwards - and Elizabeth Edwards - kept the secret of his affair, and went ahead with his presidential bid anyway. Knowing, knowing - they had to have realized this - that the story would come out.

We already know John is a big fat liar - but remember that Elizabeth too campaigned, asked for and received donations, dealt with staff - every day she looked people in the eye who were working their hearts out for a man that she knew was going to be road kill, sooner or later. They convinced people to vote for him knowing he was a dead-ender, when those votes might have gone to a different candidate. She listened to a lot of people call her husband a good man, a paragon of virtue - and she withheld information from them just as information had been withheld from her.

This is a tragedy in two acts. In the first act, John is the villainous doer of evil deeds. In the second act, he is still the villain in covering up his deeds and running for president anyway, but he is joined in this villainy by Elizabeth. Read more!

Saturday, August 9

:: Say What?

Senator John Edwards has confirmed that he had an affair with a woman who had been a videographer for his campaign.  At first glance, the situation strikes me as sad, primarily for the Edwards family and their supporters, in a life-can-be-so-brutal kind of way.  Sigh.

However....  this side point seems worthy of further exploration:
The revelations came as pressure was building on Mr. Edwards to address the matter publicly, not only from the news media but also from the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois. The Democrats are holding their nominating convention in two weeks, and though defeated candidates usually have a speaking role, Edwards associates said the Obama campaign was wary of scheduling Mr. Edwards to speak while he was under a cloud. He said Friday that he would not attend the convention.
I'm certainly not going to take the NY Times' word for it, but if true it sounds pretty brutal.

I will say that I hope every one of those ignorant surrogates and commenters on various blogs who condemned Hillary for "standing by her man" and praised Elizabeth as "a better role model for women" or "the better feminist" take a deep look within at how stupid they are. 
Read more!

Thursday, August 7

:: Let Us Now Praise Bob Somerby

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler is a righteous man.

Thursday's Howler starts with a section titled "PROGRESSIVE SKANKIFICATION." The jumping off point is a typical example of journalism's top talent twisting a politician's comment in order to liven up a column:

COLLINS (8/7/08): "This is energy week on the campaign trail. In honor of the critical nature of the debate, let's try to clear our heads of all thoughts of Paris Hilton ads, and questions of whether McCain knew, when he expressed a yen to see his wife compete in the bikers' Miss Buffalo Chip beauty contest, that the contestants frequently went topless."

Yes, that’s just minor skankification—and later, Collins says this, although coyly: “I truly do not believe he knew about the topless part.” Please don’t make us waste our time explaining the sheer stupidity here.
Then Somerby takes it to another level, and says exactly what needs to be said about misogyny among media hacks.
But we did want to make a note about a few of our skanky male “progressives.”

Oh heck. Let’s restrict it to Olbermann.

For the past two nights, our own Mister O has pimped this matter extremely hard on Countdown. He keeps played his bump-and-grind footage of women competing in the “Miss Buffalo Chip” contest—and he has mentioned this nonsense endlessly. On Tuesday, we were surprised to see Rachel Maddow take part in an entire segment on this topic—the segment which ended the program. “These pictures are very distracting,” she said at one point, as Keith-O returned to his bump-and-grind footage. But Maddow spent an entire segment promoting this skankified nonsense.

In our view, Maddow does excellent work; we’d even throw her Meet the Press. But she’s willing to stoop for the team. This is twice that she’s done it.

The bump-and-grind footage continued last night, as Keith-O rewarded his young male viewers. And let’s say it again: He has pimped this nonsense over and over in his programs of the past two nights. On Tuesday, he promo’ed the topic five separate times before he did that final segment. When it comes to issues like this, he’s as big a creep as they get.

Two points:

First: Older men should be dragged out and whipped when they teach younger men to look down on women. For younger men who are heterosexual, their ability to respect those younger women will define a great deal of their happiness. And of course, it isn’t great for younger women when younger men are trained to despise them. But Olbermann pimped this disrespect for years with his nightly sneering at the young blondes—presumably, a tasty treat for the foolish young men he was recruiting to drive up his ratings (and his salary). That pleasing feature was dumped this year, as MSNBC tried to stave off complaints about its endless, blatant misogyny. In the last two nights, Keith-O ran as fast as he could to get back into the game.

Second: If you don’t understand how all that gender-trashing could have been dumped on Hillary Clinton’s head, Olbermann showed you again this week. Simply put, many men just don’t respect women. The problem seems to be bred in the bone; it has always bedeviled progressive movements, and the problem recurs in each generation unless young men are taught to be more wise. Clinton had all that gender-trashing dumped on her head because many of our “progressive” men have the retrograde attitudes of a loser like Olbermann. Gender-trashing ran wild at his network. Perhaps by coincidence, it seemed that Jack Welch had hired those kinds of guys.

Earlier this year, Olbermann had to stop mocking the young blondes each night—but it seems he was awaiting his comeback. His show has now bumped and ground for two nights. “These pictures are very distracting,” one bold progressive guest said.
Not only is Mr. Somerby a mensch; he makes being a mensch look easy.  

Read more!

Wednesday, August 6

:: On a Lighter Note...

What kind of pal would I be if I neglected to share the three funniest sentences I've read in a week?

From the blog I Blame the Patriarchy...
As you know, feminists expend 90% of their feminist energy giving feminism lessons to dudes. The remaining 10% is spent giving feminism lessons to other feminists (there are some feminists who give 110%. You hear about them only infrequently, and only then because they’ve scared the shit out of everyone).
Oh yes, the 110-percenters - giving till it hurts (you).  Where would we be without them?  

Read more!

Monday, August 4

:: Surrealism as Campaign Tactic

Just had time for a quick peek at the news... and golldurnit if this wasn't the first thing I saw.

The AP says McCain "surrogates contended...that the Arizona Republican's turn toward drilling, which he had once opposed, showed how McCain would respond decisively to a crisis," while Obama's supporters "argued that his willingness to consider a bipartisan proposal including more drilling showed how the Illinois Democrat would pursue compromise to achieve results."
These two are running so hard to the "center" that they've actually smacked into each other and merged. Surely it must have occurred to Team Possum that by echoing McCain's positions, they are validating him? In other words: if Obama is sounding like McCain (a faux moderate) in order to appeal to the center, he's affirming that McCain *is* the center. This is one of the reasons the Obama campaign is (barely) winning the battle but losing the war - he may gain a few percentage points now, but the center, and thus the playing field, shifts to the right. He's letting McCain define what "moderate" means. And that's a long term loser for those of us who believe electoral politics is the means and issues are the end. [Of course if you think issues are the means and electoral politics the end, you don't care.]

Just to throw a bit of Orwell into the mix, here comes Tom:
Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, on Fox News Sunday meanwhile, claimed Sen. Obama "has always been in favor of offshore drilling." Daschle explained that Obama previously favored additional drilling once the land already in use was fully exploited.
Very well. And I have always been in favor eliminating restrictions on gun ownership and distributing firearms to every citizen over the age of 18.

After the Russians invade, of course.

I'm having a news embargo for the rest of the day. Read more!