Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Times Goes East to West

As finals week heats up, there may be a shortage of posts-- here's a few to tide you over.

Life in Vladimir Putin's Russia isn't conducive to constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. It's under no small thanks to the powerful Russian Orthodox's close (political) relationship with Putin. Below, a story depicts the tough times for Russian Protestants.



Below, I posted a couple of Jill Freedman's 1970s NYC pics. Here's an accompanying video profile of Freedman. She's simultaneously charming and kind of heart- breaking.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pic of the Day 4/ 28: In the Year 2012

Digital artists at Pop Photo have altered images of the remaining presidential candidates to show how they'll probably look in four years.



The stress of the presidency certainly ages you. Just look at George W. Bush and imagine if he hadn't spent half his time on vacation.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

NY Times' Jill Freedman Retrospective


Before its 1990s revival, New York City was a concrete jungle, teeming with nefarious characters and activity. Perhaps no photographer captured its landscape better than Jill Freedman in the 1970s and early 80s.

In its Sunday edition, the New York Times ran a story and retrospective of the self-taught photog's best work. Here are some of my favorite images.


Jill Freedman's New York was a blemished and fallen apple strewn with piles of garbage. Prostitutes and bag ladies walked the streets, junkies staked out abandoned tenements, and children played in vacant lots.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Brief Forecast of 2009's Job Market

video

Above is a funny take on what we all can expect next year when looking for work, it's about a minute long and is good for a laugh.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

There's Bad, then There's Baaaad

Running for President of the United States (or POTUS, for those "in the know") opens all kinds of doors, especially for the losers. Whether Senators Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama win the nomination, the loser will have a rich future. Leadership opportunities within the Congress and party, private sector positions from board seats on up, and probably even a free gig writing for, oh say, Newsweek, every 2-3 weeks (just to let us know (s)he's alive), among many other prominent opportunities. Mrs. Clinton will probably lose the nomination, which means Senator Harry Reid of Nevada should seriously fear his Majority Leader status. And, if by some profoundly racist maneuver, the Democratic party dismisses Mr. Obama, well, in the words of Nas "the world is yours."

Losing a primary contest, especially after making huge headway, is a feat only a fortunate few experience. Unfortunately, sometimes imbeciles do pretty well in elections, and they, too, are privy to the luxuries of losing. Some losers, no matter how unfit, can even become party chair. People, I'm speaking of DNC head, former governor of Vermont (where Killington rules!!!), and a man who, at one point, was the leader in the '03-04 primary. Howard Dean, America. Howard effing Dean.

In the wake of the Democratic party's '04 Bull Run, with the defeat of Senator John Kerry, and dozens of Rep's in the House and Senate (particularly then Minority Leader Senator Tom Daschle), Dean was elected its chairman. Forget that his brand of liberalism was as unpopular then as in any other time in modern history. Forget that he showed an inability to run a national enterprise under positive circumstances (i.e. his campaign in early December 2003), let alone the dismal times the DNC was in. Forget that his opponents were Donna Brazile, a party strategist who knows her stuff, and Tim Roemer, former Indiana Congressman and 9/11 Commission member. Despite a prairie full of obstacles, Dean was elected party chair.

The consequence was seen in the '06 midterm elections. With several upsets brewing in traditional Republican districts, and Democrats poised to take back key moderate ones, Dean was slow to release DNC money to help push the results over the edge. In many cases, he simply never got money to some campaigns. Former Clinton strategists James Carville and Paul Begala blamed Dean for the party's failure to take dozens of additional seats. They openly questioned his ability to run the party effectively, and considered him a dreadful mistake.

Now, we're at a moment where neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama seem poised to drop out. Mrs. Clinton's nomination might seem impossible to attain, yet calls for her to drop out are wrong. She's won Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, and then some. Would you drop out, with the kind of following she has, with those victories under your belt? I wouldn't. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is in the lead. Say what you want about his obstacles, he's in the lead.

Reverand Wright and "Bitter"?

He's in the lead.

Black and middle name Hussein?

Lead!

In these moments, tough standards need to be applied. Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to create one standard by suggesting Super-delegates support the candidate with the most delegates. Of course, the Clinton machine quickly put her in her place, essentially undermining the first female Speaker's position in her party... how ironic.

As party leader, Howard Dean should have seen this problem from the jump. When it was clear Mr. Obama was going nowhere by mid-February, he should have set the standards as to what constitutes victory. Whether it would have been like Pelosi's or not, it's important to have an end- game. As party leader, he should have dealt decisively with Florida and Michigan, which are now albatrosses for the party. Mrs. Clinton now claims those delegates although Mr. Obama, obeying party rules, didn't even campaign there. Mrs. Clinton's claims on the states, despite party rules, only further confounds the process. Simply saying that things must be settled by July won't make it so.

Of course, Dean can't be blamed for the closeness of the primary. But his incompetence and ineptitude does nothing to bring it to an end. Rather, his mere presence (or lack there of) seems to embolden the Clintons, and makes Obama hope for his quick resignation from the party, or the planet.

Either will do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All Work and No Playboy

Rep. Paul Broun (R- GA) has sponsored a bill to prevent soldiers serving overseas from buying magazines of a "sexual nature" like Playboy and Penthouse. The Military Honor and Decency Act (H. R. 5821) would ensure "taxpayers will not be footing the costs of distributing pornography on military bases."

When informed that the service was paid for out-of-pocket by the soldiers, Rep. Broun pointed out that tax payer money is "used to pay military salaries, so taxpayer money is, in effect, being used to buy these materials."

So Rep. Broun believes he can dictate the purchases of government employees.

Rep. Broun, whose salary is paid by taxpayers, gives an excellent sense of his priorities on the front page of his website. There, you'll find the Broun 4 point test for when he'll take action:

1- Is [the issue] right/ moral?

2- Is it Constitutional?

3- Is it necessary?

4- Is it affordable?


So let's take a look at the Military Honor and Decency Act as Rep. Broun must have:

1- Is this issue right? Well, Rep. Broun obviously thinks so! And that's good enough for me...

2- Is it Constitutional? Clearly! What kind of constitution would let people to buy dirty magazines?

3- Is it necessary? Absolutely.

4- Is it affordable? It'll come at the cost of damage done by stressed out, horn'd up guys with guns... but you bet!

Thanks, Paul Broun, for stopping those who serve our country from buying periodicals that "give prominence to nudity or sexual or excretory activities."

So, as Gawker.com warns, "Cancel that subscription of Deuce Aficionado, Lieutenant."

Times Op- Ed Slams Hill for Ad

The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece this morning slamming Hillary Clinton's campaign tactics before her Pennsylvania primary victory. The Drudge Report wondered if it was a withdrawal of the Times' earlier endorsement.

The column took issue with the TV ad that "featured" Osama bin Laden, and said it was part of a pattern to divisive tactics, and Clinton "took the low road to victory." The sentiment echoed stances by the Huffington Post and Keith Olbermann, among others. It's a sentiment I disagreed with here.

The Times wrote:

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
In the 2004 campaign, Rove's tactics related fears of terrorism and to the Iraq War. He used scary images to drive up support for Iraq and the incumbent president who started that war, of whom voters otherwise didn't approve or trust.

Senators Obama and Clinton have nearly identical positions on Iraq and Afghanistan, so if an image of bin Laden drives voters Clinton, it has less to do with them being scared into something against their better judgment, but affirms that voters see her as better equipped to deal with threats in a dangerous world.

Furthermore, bin Laden should not be off limits. We want a president that can catch him and deal with his threat; just as we wanted a president to see us through a devastating economic crisis, or nuclear missiles off our shore, or an Evil Empire-- crises this column suggests should be off limits.

Headlines: He won't win, She won't lose


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's at Stake

As the Pennsylvania primary results pour in tonight, here are a couple of figures to put some perspective behind just what's being decided tonight.

(From a USA Today/ Gallup poll)

69% of Americans surveyed say they disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job. That's the highest disapproval rating for any president ever, in the history of the Gallup poll.

70- number of years this survey has been conducted.

12- number of presidents who have been subject to the survey; Franklin Roosevelt was president when the survey began back in 1938.

91%- President Bush's disapproval rating among Democrats.

72%- His disapproval rating among Independents.

32%- His disapproval rating among Republicans.

28%- President Bush's overall approval rating.

69% vs. 27%- Respondents who say that the George W. Bush Presidency has been a failure vs. a success.

Considering the above numbers, it seems very unlikely that President Bush's party will be able to hold the White House. So what is being decided across Pennsylvania tonight might very well be the Democratic nominee, and if so, is almost certainly the next president.

The President on "Deal or No Deal"

President Bush made an appearance on Deal or No Deal last night, encouraging an Iraq War hero. It's hard to tell what was more awkward, the corny jokes in Bush's pre-recorded speech, or host Howie Mandel pretending to have a give and take with him, trying to make the audience think he was appearing live.

Either way, I hope the guy got paid, but if that blond in the green is his wife, he's got it pretty sweet anyway.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gotcha, Hill- Dog! Huff-Po Let Down

It's no secret that most liberal websites and blogs favor Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Sites like Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Move On all have well documented Obama- biases. In most cases that's fine. Having an opinion is OK, especially when the site is opinion- based, like Move- On and Kos (and SAM Online, for that matter). Things get a little more annoying when the site has more of a "reporter" function, like Huff- Po, and dumps daily news links under often- misleading headlines.

As a fan of The Huffington Post, I am continually disappointed when the site engages in the kind of "gotcha- politics" that it often ridicules. In the YouTube era, every misstep by a public figure is recorded and released, and those who pounce first and loudest are usually well rewarded.

This leads to non- issues and non- missteps being treated as more. It seems that Fox News, talk radio and other outlets engaging in such practices think consumers won't know (or care to know) the difference.

On more than one occasion, the Huffington Post has unfortunately joined that rank. At one point today, the site's headline (in big red letters) read: "Hillary Plays the Bin- Laden Card," along with the above image, referring to the ad posted below. The ad plays on Hillary's experience and talks about the unforeseen and serious nature of the presidency. Images from the past century's most dire moments are shown, including about two seconds of Osama bin- Laden walking through the mountains. Huff-Po's sub- headline read: "Needs Pennsylvania Landslide to Catch Obama."

The implication being that Hillary is so desperate that her ad showed bin- Laden in an underhanded attempt to scare voters into voting for her.

Here's a quick run- down of how many levels this is ridiculous on:

1) It is perfectly acceptable to show an image of bin Laden in an ad on challenges that face a president. This was a challenge that was unmet by the current president, and Democrats need this issue to win in November.

Dems need to stop being so scared of anything bin Laden, it's like they consider the issue an automatic bump for Republicans. Capturing him and his operatives should be a key goal of any administration.

2) If an image of US public enemy #1 sends voters to camp Clinton en masse, then perhaps she deserves to win the state. Again, bin Laden is an important issue, and if voters identify Clinton as better ready to meet this challenge, then she deserves that support.

3) Any attempt by the Clinton camp to manipulate the public is matched and exceeded by Huffington Post. Huff- Po wants to catch Clinton in an underhanded tactic when none is present, and spin it as part of the "She'll do anything to win" "She's unethical and manipulative" narrative.

I hate ragging on my peeps, like Huff- Po, but this headline and the Post's constant "gotcha" online- journalism is tough to take. I guess I am harder on them because I expect more.

Closing Messages

Clinton's closing PA ad:



Obama's campaign responded by citing this 2004 speech from President Bill Clinton, who made a compelling argument interpreted in its favor.

What's the matter with Novak?

Conservative Columnist Robert Novak has a piece today attacking Barack Obama. I only bring it up because he draws an interesting parallel between Obama's "bitterness" comments to Thomas Frank's 2004 book What the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

He suggests that Obama has lifted his rhetoric (and possibly his politics) from Frank, an old- school, hard- fighting liberal. Frank's best seller asked and answered: "Why do so many vote against their economic interests and support Republicans?"

I read the book, and found it immensely interesting, and have recommended it many times since. Check it out here.

PA Preview: Bowlers and Gun- Owners

NBC News provides an first glance at what to expect during tomorrow's Democratic Pennsylvania Primary:

A new MSNBC/McClatchy/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette poll suggests things are staying fairly competitive in Pennsylvania. This survey of 625 likely Dem primary voters was conducted Thursday and Friday, and it shows Clinton leading Obama by five points, 48%-43%. So what happens on Tuesday? Looking inside the poll's demographics, the highest undecided totals are in the more rural parts of the state -- and that's not good news for Obama. In the so-called "T" region of the state (almost everything between Philly and Pittsburgh), Clinton leads 51%-37% with 11% undecided; this is one of the few demographic groups sporting double-digit undecided. Two other interesting crosstabs with high undecideds also signal the potential that the undecided vote will break for Clinton. Among bowlers (24% of the electorate) and gun owners (38% of the electorate), Clinton leads big among these cultural conservatives: She's up 54%-33% among bowlers and 53%-28% among gun owners. So while the poll shows Clinton with a narrow -- and arguably narrowing -- lead, the clues inside the numbers indicate this is her race to lose and that her lead could expand.

*** Will it be five points or more? Should tomorrow’s primary end up as close as this poll suggests (i.e., five points or less), then this means many of these undecided potential Clinton voters decided to stay home. If they come to the polls, she could see her lead climb to more than five points. And this seems to be why Obama has gone negative in the past couple of days: to keep these undecideds away. He might have also sharpened his tone a bit to beat back the growing post-debate perception that he was looking weak. After all, the undecided voter in Pennsylvania looks to be the type of voter that wants to see a strong walkin' and talkin' candidate. So here’s the game on Tuesday -- it’s not if Clinton will win, but how big will her victory be. She'd like to net more than 200,000 in the popular vote, which she would only get with both a large turnout (approximately 2 million total) and a 10-point-plus victory.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cool NY Times Vids

During a slow political cycle, where the main story is on the travesty of a debate put on by ABC News, the New York Times is always good for some interesting stories.

A Euro- Weekend in New York:


An Easy Recipe:


What's at stake for China with Olympic Torch:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bruce on Board

Barack Obama sured up the Chris Meehan vote today after an endorsement by Bruce Springsteen. On his website, the Boss wrote:

He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit.
In that spirit, SAM Online has compiled a list of the Top 5 Best Boss Campaign Theme songs.

Here we go...

5) Glory Days: Good fit for an incumbent. Okay, so the lyrics talk about Glory Days "passing you by," but if Ronald Reagan can try to turn Born in the USA into a pro-establishment song, anything's possible.
Key Lyrics:
We just sit around talking about the old times,
she says when she feels like crying
she starts laughing thinking about...

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days
4) Countin' on a Miracle: Perfect for an underdog campaign, especially in the primary season.
Key Lyrics:
I don't believe in magic
But for you I will, for you I will
If I'm a fool, I'll be a fool
Darlin' for you

I'm countin' on a miracle
Baby I'm countin' on a miracle
Darlin' I'm countin' on a miracle
To come through
3) Waiting on a Sunny Day: The perfect song for a challenger going up against an entrenched party or incumbent that's been unsuccessful or unpopular (so, good for Obama).
Key lyrics:
Hard times, baby well they come to us all
Sure as the tickin' of the clock on the wall
Sure as the turnin' of the night into day...

I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day
2) Land of Hopes and Dreams: Another one that would fit with Obama, talks about unity and the basic premise of our country.
Key Lyrics:
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there'll be sunshine
And all this darkness past

Big wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams
1) Better Days: The ideal song for an incumbent.
Key Lyrics:
These are better days baby
Yeah there's better days shining through
These are better days baby
Better days with a girl like you

Obama Responds

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton's campaign unveiled an ad taking Obama to task for his "God and guns" comment. Today, Obama is back with a response.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama's Problem, Clinton's Opportunity?

Barack Obama's comments at a San Francisco fundraiser that middle- class Pennsylvanians "cling to God and guns" out of frustration, have had fall-out over the last few days. First, Obama said he chose his words poorly, although he wouldn't outright apologize for what he said. Second, Hillary Clinton's campaign released this ad taking him to task for the remark.

Warning: The following contains gratuitous Democrat-on-Democrat violence.



Judging by that comment, it appears that the Obama campaign failed to read SAM's February post on their candidate's only weakness.

On that note, George Will wrote an article that's kind of annoying: that Obama's comments show the candidate is on a high horse, and is far more Adalai Stevenson than FDR.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Deconstructing Keith-O

Last year, I became a loyal fan of MSNBC's Coutdown with Keith Olbermann. After class, I'd come home and watch Hardball and Countdown daily-- setting off eye rolls from my conservative roommate.

Olbermann was appealing-- brash and unforgiving, he was well- researched, intelligent and unafraid to rail against what he saw as incompetence and corruption. He gave profound soliloquies on the Iraq War, and humorous ancedots about his rival, Bill O'Reilly, or "Bill-O."

I can't stand Bill-O, and thought Olbermann a more principled alternative-- hearkening back to a time when the media held those in power accountable to the people, independent of ideology or political stripe.

But no longer.

Olbermann is so in the pocket of the Obama campaign that I can no longer watch his show. I like Obama as much as anyone, but Olbermann is not a journalist as much as a pitch- man. He has sunk to O'Reilly's level to a great extent.

During election night coverage with Chris Matthews and every night on his show, Olbermann offers remarks, sometimes over the top but usually underhanded, against Senator Hillary Clinton. They're essentially hit jobs, and even to an Obama supporter they're distracting and off-putting.

Olbermann signs off his show with "Good night and good luck," an homage to the most respected of newsmen, Edward R. Murrow. But it's doubtful that Murrow would pander to a candidate so blatantly, it'd be beneath him, and it should be beneath Keith-O too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama's Gonna Fly Now

**UPDATE** The video had been taken down but is now back up (at least for now...)

With the Pennsylvania primary right around the corner, someone put together this pretty funny video of the state's ultimate fictional hero, Rocky Balboa.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Out FOXed

Inspired by Fox News' retrospective on the Bush presidency, The Daily Show's John Oliver did a short documentary on the legacy of the Fox News Channel.

Part I:



Part II:

But Who is Benedict XVI Pulling for?

Saturday night, my two schools face off for the men's hockey national champtionship.

Notre Dame takes on Boston College in the finals of the Frozen Four. It's the first time the Fighting Irish have reached the finals. BC, on the other hand, is a Frozen Four staple-- this is the ninth championship game in school history, and third in a row-- the Eagles are looking for their first national championship since 2001, and third overall.

The game is at 7 on ESPN, and I'll be rooting for BC.

The winner gets a bronze bust of my likeness with the top hollowed out, perfect for pouring some celebratory champagne into.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

WP: Pearls Before Breakfast

The Washington Post conducted one of the most unique experiments in recent memory, as they set in motion a plan to answer-

What would happen if one of the nation's most acclaimed violinists, played history's most beautiful music on one of the finest violins of the 18th century, while collecting change before an open case in a Metro stop during morning rush hour?

The Post sent Joshua Bell and his Stradivarius to DC's L' Enfant Plaza subway stop to find out. He wore plain clothes and a Washington Nationals hat. For the next hour he played some of the finest music of the past centuries. They set up a hidden camera to capture people's reactions.

Would the music transcend the hustle of the morning commute?

Did Bell draw a crowd?

Was this once-in-a-lifetime event ignored?

Check out the article here (with video evidence) to find out.

Quote of the Day 4/ 10: Second Chances

"I quit drinking -- and it wasn't because of a government program. It required a little more powerful force than a government program in my case"

- President George W. Bush, after signing the "Second Chance Act" -- a government program to aide recovered substance abusers -- into law.

The law is a prisoner re-entry program that helps convicted felons transition back into society and provides additional federal funding to reduce prison populations by creating job training programs, along with substance abuse and family stability support.

This is the third time he has brought up his history with drinking publicly in recent months.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Picture of the Day 4/9: Creepy Cover


I'm constantly passing this issue of the New Republic at my school, and it is constantly weirding me out. It's crazy what you can do with photo-shop... this issue tackles the implications of a split Democratic party over Clinton/ Obama, and tells Dems "We have to choose one."

Turning Points

Roger Simon, of Politico, wrote a very interesting piece asking "Where did the tables turn?" for Hillary Clinton's campaign. How did she go from "inevitable" to campaign life- support?

Simon points to her loss in Iowa, where it's questionable if she should've campaigned in the first place, as the moment when Hillary's campaign got away. They underestimated the power of younger voters, and overestimated their own organization.

Somehow, they lost Iowa, Simon says, and allowed a well- financed and talented candidate in Barack Obama to start his foray into national politics with a running start.

But, I would argue that she began her downward spiral earlier, at the Halloween debate with her now- infamous response to a question on NY state's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. She stammered and failed twice to give a clear response, saying she understood and sympathized with the problem and the plan, but did not fully support it.

Even her husband said it was a bad answer.

Before that, she'd been running a near perfect campaign. But that opened the door, confirming for many their greatest suspicion about her-- that she'd say anything to get elected, and would duck important issues in the process.

In retrospect, there were factors beyond her control: John Edwards' popularity in the state, and the huge turnout of young voters. But that question... it was so revealing. That was the moment I decided I couldn't vote for her in the primary, and I don't think I was alone.

Up to that point, Edwards and Obama were each jockeying to be the alternative to Hillary, but it didn't seem like the Democrats wanted or needed one. They were on board with the whole inevitability thing, but that question raised doubts:

We're about to anoint this woman our nominee, but she can't even talk straight. Let's shop around.

Soon, she'd lost her lead in Iowa, and although she rebounded in New Hampshire, things were never the same. Millions of Democrats across the country had looked elsewhere and found something, someone they could believe in.

In the end, the inevitability that marked the early part of Clinton's campaign was her greatest strength, but led to her downfall. The only way she could beat out a more politically talented opponent was to never let him get on his feet. And the only way to do that was to stay perfect. Once she lost perfection, she lost the race.


In another debate some three months later, Democrats were asked if they could have one response back from all the questions they'd been asked in debates thus far, what it'd be. The crowd laughed and the camera panned to Hillary. She smiled knowingly and put on a brave face, giving a decent answer.

But it was the question that spoke volumes.

Most Americans didn't need to hear her response, they'd heard a more telling one back on Halloween night, and they already had their answer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Olympic Boycott? PTI's Take

The best sports debate show on television (which also revolutionized political TV gab fests) ESPN's Pardon the Interruption discussed the controversy around the 2008 Olympics.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton called for a US boycott of the opening ceremonies.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Picture of the Day 4/7

From the New York Times:



The Olympic torch was extinguished several times during demonstrations in Paris that denounced China, host of the Summer Games, for its policies in Tibet. In the end, organizers canceled the final leg of the torch procession through the city. Police officers apprehended an advocate for Tibetan rights who was waving the Tibetan flag. The protests turned the torch relay into a chaotic series of stops and starts.

Dick Cheney: That's Funny!

Quote of the Day 4/7: Approaching normal

"[Recent reductions in violence have left Iraq] approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi.

Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local, provincial, grassroots level... Sunni and Shi'a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning. The 'Sons of Iraq' and Awakening movements, where former Sunni insurgents have now joined in the fight against Al Qaeda, continue to grow."

- John McCain on what he sees happening today in Iraq. His presidential bid is largely tied to the stability of the country, and the American public's willingness to stay there for "maybe 100" more years.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NY Post Assembles Killer Jokes

The NY Post actually did something constructive-- they asked some of the country's top comedians for the best joke they've heard in the last year. Several of the best responses were political. Below are my favorites, you can find the full article here.

Barack Obama bowled a 37. Is he black enough for you now?
- Bill Maher

John McCain is so old that running for President is on his bucket list.
- Jeffrey Ross

I think I might vote for Barack Obama. Because I live in New York City and have been giving black guys change for the past 10 years. I want to see what it feels like for a black guy to give me change.
- Nick Dipaolo

During a "Weekend Update" segment about Eliot Spitzer: And you wanted to have sex with a hooker but you didn't want to wear a condom? Really?!? That might not be scary if you were client number 1, but you were client number 9. I wear a condom if I'm ninth in line at the deli.
- Seth Meyers

My girlfriend said, "I hate it when you finish my sentences." So I said, "Period."
- Sean Keane

Gasoline prices are highest in Hawaii, closing in on $4 a gallon. President Bush said, "See, I told you it wasn't only in our country!"
- David Brenner

Have you heard they're doing a sequel to "Brokeback Mountain?"

No, what's it called?

"Brokeback Mountain 2."
- David Wain

Clintons Are Rich (SNL)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

2 Elections Halfway Around the World

The New York Times has these two video profiles of current elections: the Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania, and the Presidential Election (the first full democratic election) in Zimbabwe.

The stories are striking in both their similarities and differences. And their short, so worth the watch...



Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday's Big Numbers **Updated**

80,000- US jobs cut in March

81%- of respondents say the country is on the wrong track, the highest percentage since CBS/ NY Times began polling in the early 1990s.

4%- of respondents in the same poll say the country is better off now than it was 5 years ago.

37- Barack Obama's bowling score through 7 frames at a Pennsylvania alley.

152- What I bowled last night in the law school playoffs, a personal best.

70,000- number of troops Obama advisor Colin Kahl says should stay in Iraq after 2010, at odds with Obama's stated plan to pull combat troops out within 16 months of taking office. Kahl said his position does not reflect that of the campaign.

$20,000,000- Amount raised in March by Hillary Clinton's campaign for president, $15m coming online.

$40,000,000- Amount raised in March by Barack Obama's campaign for president.

**UPDATE** There's one other "Big Number" that came out today:

$109,200,000- Amount of money earned by Bill and Hillary Clinton since 2000.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Say Hello to Bush's "Little Friend"

After months of lobbying European allies, President George Bush is positively giddy that French President Nicholas Sarkozy has agreed to send 1000 troops to the front-lines of the war in Afghanistan.

The news comes on the heels of Canada's announcement that they will be withdrawing troops.

Bush commented that the French president's recent US visit was like that of the "latest incarnation of Elvis." In a seeming acknowledgment of improved Franco- American relations since Sarkozy took over for Jaques Chirac, Bush called the 5' 7" leader his "good luck charm" and his "little friend."

Quote of the Day 4/3: So?

"So?"

- Vice President Dick Cheney being confronted with the statistic that 2/3 of Americans feel the War in Iraq is not worth it. See below...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Reality of the "Big Mo"

What is primary momentum in reality? The dictionary says that momentum is "force or speed of movement; impetus, as of a physical object or course of events." In the political dictionary next to the definition of momentum it says: "The popularity or acceptance of the person who won the last state's caucus/primary."

However, let's be honest, in reality the idea of momentum is a stupid one. What it says is that people in state eight cannot come up with their own ideas or opinions about a certain candidate and instead just take the word of the past seven states before them. The sarcastic and skeptical say all that time, "Why are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina sooooo important? They are just the start." The answer, it seems, for the average voter is that they are important because they are choosing who you will eventually vote for.

If states were truly committed to being independent about who they choose for the most powerful position in the land then it is highly unlikely (in an election of two equally qualified and legitimate Democratic candidates) that one of them should win eleven in a row except for that fact that State X simply decided to vote the same way State X -1 voted for.

In essence there is no way for true state primary independence can coexist with the ever powerful "primary momentum." The ideas are opposite. This is hard because there really is no way to fix this problem. The only way to do that would be to have all the primaries or caucuses on the same date. However that would take away what I think is an important part of the process which is to give the smaller states their seat at the table. A simple concession by states eight through fifty that they all sit and wait to see what the first seven do is all I ask.


Divided Are We?

Über geek- chique mag the Economist commissioned an extensive study to compare its native Great Britain to its great grandson, the United States. The impitus for this survey was a pair of press conferences by foreign leaders. At Camp David, in July of last year, President Bush called his country's relationship with the UK their "most important bilateral relationship." For his part, new UK PM Gordon Brown commented on the two countries "shared values... the belief in the dignity of the individual, the freedom and liberty that we can bring to the world..."

However, French President Nicholas Sarkozy also spoke of his country's "fraternité" with Great Britain, because of their similar cultures-- tastes in music and literature-- that is independent of the United States.

So, the Economist had this poll done to see just how similar citizens of the two countries think. After all (as has been pointed out many times) we share the same language, values, and the most famous Briton of the 20th Century was 1/2 American.

Its results showed that Britain seems more European than American, as it's far more liberal. This chart is somewhat difficult to read, but it shows the disparity within each country's conservative and liberal elements (notice Britain is more intellectually homogenous), and then compares the corresponding factions against each other. Kind of convoluted, yes, questionable because the poll notes no margin of error, yes again, but interesting nonetheless.

For a complete breakdown of how each country stands on specific issues, consult the table to the left. It's too small to read, so check out the article, here which has a link to the full image toward the end of the page (left side).

Letterman & McCain trade Barbs

Senator John McCain went on Letterman last night, despite the late- night comics constant jokes about his age. He showed good humor, especially for a guy whose high school nickname was McNasty.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Would Jesus Vote? Nation Re-Considers

Last night at Notre Dame, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne began his lecture with the same story that opens his book, Souled Out:

Mrs. O'Reilly was dutifully being taken to the polls on Election Day by her son [Bill?]. Mrs. O'Reilly always voted straight Democratic. Her son, a successful member of the upper-middle class, had become an Independent, and often voted Republican.

As was their routine, the son asked his mother how she would vote, and, as always, Mrs. O'Reilly responded, "Straight Democratic." The exasperated son replied, "Mom, if Jesus came back to earth and ran as a Republican, you would vote against him." His mother shot back, "Aw, hush, why would he change his party after all these years?"
Later, Dionne declared, "The era of the religious right is over." Although Dionne acknowledged the movement's death knell has been rung incorrectly before, a true testament to its power of "resurrection," he insisted that this time is (mercifully) different.

Democrats like Barack Obama and Tim Kaine feel comfortable talking about their faith publicly, in a way their predecessors did not a generation ago.

Dionne, a liberal Catholic, also foresaw a shift in the way divisive topics like abortion are dealt with in this country. For 35 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land, ensuring a woman's right to have an abortion. For just as long, the religious have sought to criminalize the practice and looked to the Republican party for salvation.

Yet, after millions of votes, dollars and volunteer hours, Roe does not appear to be going anywhere. And even if it did, Dionne notes, the number of abortions is very unlikely to fall. So the best way to tackle what Christians consider to be an immoral practice, is to focus on why there are more abortions here than in other countries where they're legal, and to try and reduce the number.

Additionally, the American religious have refocused on economic morality. The widening gap between rich and poor is at frightening levels (one British paper said it's caused another Great Depression), and Republicans still push capital gains tax- cuts and trickle- down theory. As a result, the Democratic tent bulges with the faithful, intent on a greater commitment to issues like poverty, climate change and third- world relief.

Even the most socially conservative Republican in the '08 field, Mike Huckabee, talked about economic responsibility. As Arkansas governor, he raised taxes for what he claimed were "moral" reasons, and got no endorsements from traditional Christian leaders, but found surprisingly ample support from voters.

Overall, Dionne's take is cutting edge, and his assessment is well- grounded.

So, while Jesus might never change parties, it appears some of his followers have.