Sunday, August 31, 2008

Playing politics with a disaster, by pretending not to

Um, okay, this is completely ridiculous.

Hint: If you explicitly use your alleged "non-partisanship" as a partisan bludgeon to score points against your opponent by arguing that he isn't being as non-partisan as you, then YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY BEING NON-PARTISAN AT ALL, you freakin' jackass. You are, in fact, using the natural disaster for political gain by pretending not to do so and then using that pretense as a political weapon.

These McCain people really have trouble with subtlety, don't they? First the P.O.W. thing, then Sarah Palin's ham-handed Ferraro & Hillary references, now this...

Anyway, McCain needs to denounce his campaign manager's comments immediately, as they completely undermine his claim to be taking the high road by putting aside partisanship during Gustav. Good grief.

Week 1

Between blogging Gustav and playing with Loyette, I didn't get to watch very much of the USC-Virginia game today, but it was a fantastic start to the season as the Trojans crushed the Cavs, 52-7. w00t!

Elsewhere, the ritual humiliation of the Michigan Wolverines was carried out admirably by Utah, 25-23 at the Big House; a pair of ranked BCS teams lost to unranked non-BCS foes (#17 Virginia Tech to East Carolina and #25 Pitt to Bowling Green); #6 Missouri beat #20 Illinois, 52-42; #24 Alabama upset #9 Clemson, 34-10; #21 Oregon crushed Washington, 44-10; Washington State couged a chance to earn Pac-10 brownie points, losing 39-13 at home to Oklahoma State; and Appalachian State wasn't so HOT! HOT! HOT! this time around, losing to #7 LSU 41-13. (Full scoreboard here.)

Oh, and in the one game that's still underway, it's, um, Arizona 70, Idaho 0, with 5:20 remaining. No, that's not a typo. And yes, Idaho is a Division I-A (or FBS) team, nominally at least. Wow.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Only in America

An excellent point:
Palin's story is about as different from Obama's as one could imagine. Yet both are quintessentially American. As the man said, "What a country!"

It's Saturday!

More specifically, it's college football Saturday.


Fight on Trojans, Beat the Cavs!!

"I don't mean to be disrespectful about your sexiness"

From Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show show last year, Sarah Palin as "naughty librarian":


Yup, she'd be a VPILF, all right. ;)

P.S. America's Hottest Governor!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I have to admit...

...that when Sarah Palin emerged on that Dayton stage, to the strains of the theme music from Rudy, with all the flags waving and the crowd cheering, and as she smiled broadly and waved to the adoring masses, I was totally ready to shed my undecided status, run out onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium, walk proudly into a voting booth on the 50-yard line :) ... and cast my ballot for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The feeling passed. :) But the Rudy music was a brilliant touch, at least for this ex-Domer, and helped create a more goose-bump-ish moment than anything at Invesco Field last night. It was a better musical choice than anything the Dems' convention deejay came up with, certainly. (The musical selection at the DNC was consistently pretty awful, no?)

That said... take a listen to what that noted liberal Obamaphile, Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review Online, had to say about Palin in a scathing critique this afternoon:

Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue.

As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.

And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either. (On the other hand, as Kate O’Beirne just told me, we know that Palin will be ready for that 3 a.m. phone call: She’ll already be up with her baby.)

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan -- to whom, thanks for the link, BTW.)

Ponnuru (who, for those with malfunctioning sarcasm detectors, is most definitely not an Obama guy) also calls Palin a "token," asking: "Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?" Well, no. Of course, Obama wouldn't be the nominee if he weren't black, Hillary wouldn't have nearly become the nominee if she weren't a woman (and an ex-president's wife), Biden wouldn't be the veep nominee if he wasn't an old white guy, McCain wouldn't be the GOP nominee if his plane hadn't gotten shot down, Romney wouldn't ever have been considered for the presidency or vice presidency if he didn't have a gajillion dollars, Bush wouldn't be president if his dad hadn't been president, etc. etc. Nobody in national politics advances purely on political merit. But this case is a bit different than most of those, because Palin wasn't chosen by the voters; she was hand-picked by one man. That makes the "token" charge more likely to stick.

Some women will see the pick as condescending, and be offended. Others will be thrilled. Still others will have mixed feelings. Among the women on the unhinged-feminist PUMA fringe, I imagine there will be something of a split: some will slam McCain, while others will praise the Palin pick and feel that it vindicates their belief that Obama's a male chauvinist jerk -- after all, he didn't pick a woman, and McCain did!

The supreme irony there is that, if Obama had picked a woman with experience equivalent to Palin's -- or even vastly superior, a la Kathleen Sebelius -- there would have been near-unanimous howls of protest from these same PUMAs, who would have regarded such an pick as a shameless and condescending act of tokenism by Obama. For them, the only acceptable female choice on the Democratic side was Hillary. But McCain -- for whom Hillary herself was obviously not an option -- will probably get a lot more credit from some of these folks, at least at first (e.g., until they learn Palin's position on abortion), for doing precisely the same thing they would have denounced Obama for doing.

Meanwhile, with regard to my prediction that the Obama campaign wouldn't play the "experience" card offensively, and that the McCain camp would stop explicitly playing that hand as well, the initial returns are not looking good.

Time to leave New Orleans?

Dr. Jeff Masters hits the "get the hell out" button for New Orleans -- and I follow suit, sorta kinda.

Details, and continuing updates, at Weather Nerd.

The Palin gamble

Here are my initial thoughts on Sarah Palin and the "experience" question:

It is true, as various conservatives have pointed out, that Democrats cannot exactly attack Palin for her inexperience, per se, when they have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. The Dems can't "go on offense" with regard to the experience issue.

It is also true, however, as various liberals have pointed out, that Republicans will now have a harder time explicitly advancing the "inexperience" argument against Obama. The NRO argument -- "if you think experience is important, would you rather have it as at the top of the ticket or at the bottom?" -- only goes so far.

Bluntly, John McCain is old. He might die. If you're going to hang your hat on the "Ready To Lead" mantra, as essentially the central organizing principle of your candidacy, and then you pick a veep who is quite clearly not "Ready To Lead" by the standard you've set, it is not a particularly convincing defense to say, "But she's only running for vice president." Vice presidents can become president, sometimes quickly. Voters instinctively understand this, particularly when the presidential candidate is the 72-year-old cancer/torture survivor McCain (to whom, incidentally, Happy Birthday!).

Thus, although the Dems can't use the "inexperience" card offensively against Palin, they can use it defensively, to shield Obama from further direct attacks on this front. Anytime McCain says Obama isn't ready to lead, and uses his slim resumé to support this point, Palin will be the obvious rebuttal.

This rebuttal will pose a serious problem for McCain, message-wise. Some folks are suggesting that Palin's "executive experience" as a small-town mayor and a half-term, small-state governor is some sort of trump card. But that's implausible on its face. As for the notion that "but, but, she's only the veep" -- this is an inherently defensive argument. It's nitpicky. It doesn't sound good. It's bad for the "narrative."

As Andrew writes, "Sure, the GOP can find ways to excuse Palin's inexperience, trump up her experience, and continue to attack Obama on the basis that he's a presidential candidate with limited experience whereas Palin is just the VP candidate, but that message has to be too nuanced and contextual to be effective. The voters need simple messages that resonate, not complicated ones that must be digested and contemplated."

To be clear, the thrust of the Dems' argument will not be that Palin is too inexperienced; it will be that McCain is being disingenuous when he argues that Obama is too inexperienced. This argument will gain wide acceptance among the pundit class, and it will also succeed with voters -- largely because it is correct, and obviously & instinctively so.

McCain will not be able to spin the contradiction away. I think he's smart enough to know this, and will not try.

In short, I think McCain just knowingly, willingly surrendered the ability to continue directly, explicitly using Obama's inexperience as the line of attack at the heart of his campaign. Why?

I think McCain has concluded that he has already successfully framed Obama as being too inexperienced to be president, and that this framing is already so cemented in the minds of voters that McCain no longer needs to explicitly make the argument. He only needs to tacitly allude to it, in ways sufficiently indirect that Obama won't be able to pin him down and point out the contradiction, and the media won't call him on it (much like his patriotism double-talk).

Furthermore, I think McCain believes that voters who have accepted and internalized the "Obama is too inexperienced" meme, will not be bothered by the cognitive dissonance inherent in: 1) continuing to believe this, while 2) being unbothered by Palin as veep. Part of the reasoning here is that because nobody will be directly attacking Palin's inexperience (see "Dems can't use it offensively," above), the inconsistency won't really occur to many voters, especially low-information voters. And if it does, they won't think about it too hard. (If they thought about it too hard, the age problem I mentioned earlier will come into play.)

Is McCain right in these conclusions that I believe he has reached? I don't know. Nobody can know. This is why I titled this post "the Palin gamble." McCain is gambling that he -- with a huge assist from Hillary Clinton, circa March, April and May -- has already successfully defined Obama as "too inexperienced" and "unready to lead," and that Obama, having just finished his convention, has failed to re-define himself so as to shed or at least weaken this label. McCain thinks he's won this argument, and so can now afford to stop making it. Whether he's correct in that assessment may determine who wins in November.

Or, I may be completely wrong, and McCain will just plow ahead with his "Ready To Lead" messaging in spite of the inherent contradiction, believing that voters will truly make a total and complete distinction between the top of the ticket (experience is the be-all, end-all) and the bottom of the ticket (experience does not matter at all). But I don't think so, because I think McCain & co. would look disingenuous and parsing and defensive if they have to try and make this distinction, and I think they know it. The punditry certainly would not buy the argument, and I don't think voters ultimately would, either. Again, I think the McCain braintrust is smart enough to know this.

Anyway, game on.

P.S. With regard to the idea that Palin has "more experience" than Obama, one important fact to consider: Palin hasn't been running for national office for 18 months. Obama has. Running a presidential campaign is a form of "executive experience." At the very least, I'd say reasonable people can disagree about which type of experience is more relevant to serving (or potentially serving) as president: being mayor of a tiny town and governor of a tiny state (population-wise), or being "chief executive" of what has been, by most accounts, a massive and pretty damn well-run national organization that has successfully dethroned the Clinton Machine and remade the Democratic Party in its image.

I'm not insisting on a particular answer to that question, but certainly, the "experience" analysis must include Obama's experience running his campaign. It is no small matter.


From the Chicago Tribune:
A Republican source confirms that John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Campaign officials, however, remain mum this morning.
(Hat tip: Rodrigo, via a Twitter search for "Palin.")

P.S. The same search also turned up this: "Palin's staff just said...they don't know where Palin is...LOL!" That would contradict the earlier report to the contrary, and vindicate FlyOnTheWall's guess about the reliability of said report.

UPDATE: CNBC says it's Palin. Drudge linking.

UPDATE, 10:38 AM: CNN Breaking News: It's Palin!

Not Palin?

Now it's being reported that Palin is still in Alaska, and Drudge is hinting Lieberman.

Incidentally, that Palin button is from, which made similar buttons for all the veep contenders. It has been around since at least March.

UPDATE: Politico says no Lieberman. If not Lieberman, Palin, Romney or Pawlenty, then who? Ridge? Barbour?

P.S. Whitman? Fiorina? Crist? Hutchinson?? Giuliani?? (New campaign slogan: "P.O.W.! 9/11! P.O.W.! 9/11!")

UPDATE 2: In comments, FlyOnTheWall writes:
Oh, it's Palin. Between her newly-permanent chief of staff, the airplane flights, and the increasing number of reports, it has to be. Besides, it's not like anyone can verify her location. It's 5AM in Alaska; you think someone knocked on her door? They asked a spokeswoman, who probably told them what she honestly believed, because she's not in on the pick.
And Craig writes: "I agree w Fly. It's Palin. McCain would not let the expectations mount for so many hours for Palin while many of his voters are likely watching Fox continue to speculate on Palin."

Vice President Palin??

On Drudge right now:

Will this be another false alarm, like the Obama-Bayh bumpersticker? Maybe -- and indeed, Drudge doesn't say anything about where the button image is coming from.

But, unlike the Obama-Bayh fakery, the McCain-Palin button actually looks genuine. [UPDATE/CORRECTION: As noted above, the button is from, which made similar buttons for all the veep contenders. It's been around since at least March. It's not real.]

Moreover, there's a flight plan to back it up. And between Drudge's "NO ROMNEY," Politico's report that it isn't Pawlenty, and yesterday's report that it'd be a "traditional" pick -- i.e., no Lieberman -- Palin seems as good a guess as any.

Seems like a Palin pick would eviscerate McCain's ability to use the "not ready to lead" argument, but hey, what do I know?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Buffalo 42, UTEP 17


A big season-opening win for UB. Go Bulls!

DNC liveblog

Liveblog here tonight, 9pm EDT

The CoverItLive "liveblog" software that Eric Berger used for his Gustav live chat is so cool, I'm going to try using it, instead of Twitter, when I do my Obama acceptance-speech liveblog tonight. I think it'll be more interactive & fun. Even if it's just me and Herbert talking to each other...

Anyway, I encourage y'all to stop by here at 9:00 PM EDT tonight and participate! (I may start even sooner, but I'll definitely be liveblogging by 9:00.)

Are you ready for some football?

Although the biggest event on a football field tonight will be some guy giving a speech, there will also be 14 college football games played at stadiums across the country, from sea (Oregon State at Stanford) to shining sea (N.C. State at South Carolina).

Admittedly, the matchups may not exactly be scintillating -- no offense intended, Eastern Illinois at Central Michigan -- but hey, look at the bigger picture. It's college football season again!!

Moreover, both Becky's and my "home" teams, Buffalo and UConn, will be in action tonight. The UB Bulls, #92 in the CBS Sportsline 120, host #83 UTEP at 7:00 PM. This is actually kind of a big game for UB, as it's one of their two realistic shots at a non-conference win this season. (Their other OOC games are against #115 Army and two teams in the AP Top 25: #6 Missouri and #25 Pittsburgh.) So this could be big for bowl eligibility down the road. As for the UConn Huskies, the Big East defending co-champions host Division I-AA Hofstra in what should be a cakewalk. That game is at 7:30 PM.

Go Bulls! Go Huskies! And (just to get a head start) FIGHT ON TROJANS, BEAT THE CAVS! and (an even bigger head start) GOOO IRISH, BEEEAT AZTECS! Let the season begin!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC live-Twittering, Wednesday edition

Here we go...

You can read my updates on my Twitter page, or you can view the 25 most recent updates below.

UPDATE: Quick summary: Bill Clinton's speech was unbelievably good. It was everything Hillary's wasn't, and then some. He is just such a great speaker. The commentariat will be buzzing over this speech right up until Obama takes the stage at Invesco tomorrow night. It was the highlight of the convention to date.

John Kerry's speech was also stunningly good. (Remember, I'm saying this as a proud "Kerry Hater for Kerry" from '04.) He framed McCain better than any other speaker has, and did so in precisely the right tone, with excellent delivery -- in Karen Tumulty's words, "Zell Miller without the mean." See for yourself. He really gets going around the 3-minute mark:

It took him a couple minutes to get his bearings, and he goes on a bit too long with the patriotism stuff at the end, but otherwise, just excellent. Where was that Kerry in 2004? (And who knew he was capable of such fantastic self-deprecation?)

[UPDATE: TNR's Michael Crowley makes a good point: "Kerry's speech recognized the best way to undermine McCain's formidable image of integrity and honor is through plain and indisputable facts about his record -- not ad hominem shots that allow McCain to flash his POW card." Yes.]

Joe Biden's speech was pretty good as well, and the surprise appearance by Obama afterward was very effective. Oh yeah, and the nomination by acclamation went off without a hitch.

Bottom line, tonight the Democrats finally decided to show up and throw a freakin' convention.

Meanwhile, John McCain has picked his veep, and will reportedly tell the person tomorrow and announce it Friday morning. It's believed to be either Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Joe Lieberman.

P.S. If McCain picks Lieberman, fully 1/25th -- four percent -- of the U.S. Senate will be running for president or vice president. And surely this would be the first time in U.S. history that all four national candidates in the two major parties have been sitting senators?

Gustav to the Big Easy?

A major hurricane hitting New Orleans on the first day of the Republican convention?

It's too early to say, but the forecast looks increasingly ominous.

Full details and ongoing updates at Weather Nerd.

P.S. Already, the Democratic convention is being affected by Gustav, as New Orleans mayor -- and superdelegate -- Ray Nagin is leaving Denver to head back home and help the city prepare for a potential hit. "Nagin said he had been looking forward to being a witness to history Thursday night when Barack Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination the first African-American nominee of any major political party. But he said that there's no doubt in his mind that he needs to return to New Orleans quickly."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary's half-hearted endorsement

With the exception of Fox News, the pundit class appears to be highly impressed with Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, believing it was an incredibly amazing display of graciousness and unity, a remarkable rhetorical achievement, and an enthusiastic endorsement that no one could possibly find any fault with. Afterward, CNN's analysts were falling over themselves to praise the speech. Marc Ambinder compared it to Obama's rousing, career-changing convention speech in 2004. Tom Bevan declared, "Obama supporters should be more than happy with Clinton's speech." TPM said "it can't be overstated how badly Democrats, at this juncture in the campaign, needed an adrenaline boost like the one Hillary provided tonight" with "her full-throated and unequivocal endorsement of Obama." The current Huffington Post headline is: "HILLARY DELIVERS -- AND THEN SOME." From what I've seen, this appears to be the nearly universal opinion in the media.

Well, the media is a cheap date.

As I mentioned in my Twitter liveblog, Hillary Clinton basically told her supporters tonight that they should vote for Barack Obama in November because he's not John McCain. She said that loudly, clearly, unequivocally and repeatedly. But that's all she said.

She conspicuously didn't tell her supporters -- many of whom personally dislike Obama -- that they should vote for Obama because of anything in particular that's good about Obama. She didn't talk about his ability to inspire people, his remarkable life story, his own "historic candidate" status, his reaching-across-the-aisle cred, or anything like that. Nothing. Not a word. Heck, she didn't even call him a "friend" (something she did call McCain, albeit as the setup for an attack).

She praised Obama only as a generic Democrat, and as an alternative to four more years of Republican rule. She really didn't mention anything specific that makes him, or his positions on the issues, particularly appealing. Again, mostly just that he's not McCain. Her speech could have just as easily referred to practically any Democrat. It was not Obama-specific.

Most importantly, she didn't repudiate any of her earlier remarks -- now being used in campaign ads by McCain, and cited by many PUMAs as their rationale for remaining dubious of Obama -- about his inexperience, lack of readiness from Day One, failure to "pass the commander-in-chief test," and so forth. The McCain campaign gleefully pointed this out in an insta-response via press release:
Sen. Clinton ran her presidential campaign making clear that Barack Obama is not prepared to lead as commander in chief. Nowhere tonight did she alter that assessment. Nowhere tonight did she say that Barack Obama is ready to lead.
The McCain campaign is right. Moreover, as Michael Crowley says, the argument that Obama was unprepared "was always her central critique of him," so the lack of any attempt to "alter that assessment" is a pretty glaring omission. By choosing not to alter it, Hillary not only failed to help quell swing voters' doubts about Obama's readiness to be president; she also failed to help heal the festering wounds of those feminists who resent Hillary's loss to a "less qualified man." On that front, her speech will have done nothing to appease the most irrational and intransigent of the PUMAs.

Maybe Hillary couldn't, in all honesty and good conscience, walk back her "inexperience" talk. Of course, moral scruples never stopped her from being dishonest before... but leaving that aside, even if she just couldn't bring herself to explicitly retreat from the "not ready from Day One" stuff, at least she could have supplemented her attacks on McCain, and her generic praise for Obama-as-Cardboard-Democrat, with some kind of specific, individualized praise of Obama as a person and candidate and potential president! As a woman who once said she was "honored, absolutely honored to be here with Barack Obama," surely she could have thought of something. But no.

It wasn't a terrible speech. Yeah, she clearly and loudly endorsed him, and asked her supporters to vote for him. But let's be clear. Hillary did the bare minimum she "had to do," and not the slightest bit more.

P.S. Jonathan Chait makes an argument that I can sort of buy, certainly moreso than this phony-baloney "full-throated endorsement," "AND THEN SOME" nonsense:
Hillary Clinton obviously doesn't like Barack Obama, and she's clearly hesitant about the prospect of him as president--either because she doesn't trust him, because his victory would probably bar her path to the presidency, or because she's convinced herself of the former in service of the latter. But she delivered the best speech she could honestly give for him. ...

[G]iven all [her] clear reservations, Clinton managed to deliver a strong and coherent case for her supporters to elect Obama. ... If she was more enthusiastic, it probably would have sounded phony. But Clinton did seem to realize that politics is about more than herself, and she did her best to persuade her supporters of the same.
UPDATE: Marc Ambinder writes:
There's a debate about whether Hillary should have vouched for Obama's commander in chief credentials.

Here is why, according to an aide, she did not.

Had she done that, all the media would focus on is the disparity between her convention praise and her primary criticism. And she would not have sounded genuine. It would have been contrived.
Ambinder says that Biden's speech, tonight, is the one tasked with "vouch[ing] for Obama as a commander in chief."

Meanwhile, Josh Green writes of Clinton's speech that "true sentiment toward Obama was hard to detect. Clinton does magnanimity like Robin Williams does understatement: it doesn't come naturally." Heh.

Bonus: Green refers to Dennis Kucinich's speech thusly: "[he] hopped and screamed like a meth-addled Smurf." LOL!!

UPDATE 2: Mickey Kaus points out something else Hillary didn't say last night: "Obama won fair and square." He's right. I hadn't thought of it, but that, too, is a gaping, glaring omission, given all the anger that she willfully (and dishonestly) whipped up among her die-hards on that point.

DNC liveblogging on Twitter

I tried this last night and got annoyed with it, but I'm going to try it again tonight: liveblogging my viewing of the DNC on television (primarily C-SPAN) via Twitter.

You can read my updates on my Twitter page, or you can view the 25 most recent updates below.

UPDATE: I've removed the Twitter-Blogger posty thingy for now. If you want to view last night's liveblogging, just go to my Twitter page. :)


Talking about blood for oil!

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

UPDATE: Now that was a "red meat" speech. ("Wake up, America!") LOL!! He looked like he was about ready to jump off the stage and start body-surfing through the crowd. (Delegate-surfing?) Tee hee. Awesome. Back to the mothership, Dennis!

P.S. "Up with the rights of workers! Up with wages! Up with fair trade! ... Up with health care for all! Up with education for all! Up with home ownership! Up with guaranteed retirement benefits! Up with peace!"

UPDATE 2: Here's the speech:

UPDATE 3: Josh Green says Kucinich "hopped and screamed like a meth-addled Smurf." LOL!!

Fear, fire, foes, awake! Here comes Gustav

Move over, presidential politics. Tropical weather is about to re-assert itself at the top of the news.

Hurricane Gustav has formed in the Caribbean Sea, and he's already approaching Category 2 status. The hype machine is in full gear with this storm, sweeping up even the anti-alarmists like Alan Sullivan. It's easy to see why: Gustav appears to be "the real deal." It's likely to become a major hurricane, maybe even a Category 4 or 5 monster, over the next few days -- and the computer models show an ominous track toward the central Gulf Coast:

Such a track would take Gustav over the warmest waters in the entire ocean, which is why there's so much concern about the potential for massive intensification. As I wrote over at Weather Nerd, the NHC says "MOST INDICATIONS ARE THAT GUSTAV WILL BE AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE IN THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA IN A FEW DAYS."

Gustav is likely to be a major hurricane in the western Caribbean, with its sights set on the Gulf of Mexico, by week's end. Considerations of life & limb aside, this could seriously steal some thunder from Obama's acceptance speech and McCain's veep selection. And a possibly devastating U.S. landfall would make the timing of the GOP convention next week terribly awkward. Indeed, if McCain is considering picking Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal or Florida Governor Charlie Crist as his veep, it's quite possible the newly minted runningmate would almost immediately have to leave the campaign trail, skip the convention, head home, and deal with an approaching hurricane.

Full coverage at Weather Nerd, which now appears likely to be my primary blogging outlet for the next week or so, notwithstanding the ongoing political conventions. Frankly, compared to those scripted quasi-events -- fun as they are for political junkies like me -- Gustav is the much bigger deal.

[Original post at 8:01 AM; bumped to top. -ed.]

The moment Hillary Clinton lost the vice presidency

First, watch this new John McCain ad:

Then, imagine how much worse it would be if Obama had picked Hillary as his runningmate.

The PUMAs who complain that Obama somehow "disrespected" Hillary by failing to pick her as his veep, or by failing to consider her seriously enough, need to get a grip. Hillary sacrificed any right to complain about not being Obama's VP when she went harshly negative against him in the primaries, particularly when she made the above-quoted statement about McCain being more ready than Obama to be president.

Remember, when Hillary made that statement (and various others like it), it was already 95% clear that Obama was going to be the nominee. And yet Hillary "went there" anyway, because she felt it was her only chance to pull off a miracle comeback and beat Obama for the #1 spot on the ticket. Fine; that was her prerogative. But you simply cannot say the things she said, in public, and then expect -- nay, demand -- serious consideration for the #2 spot. (To her credit, Hillary seems to understand this. Too many of her supporters, possibly including her husband, seem not to.)

Hillary could have run a kinder & gentler, veep-friendly campaign against Obama in the spring. She chose not to do so, because she felt it was strategically necessary to go negative. That was her decision. By making it, she effectively ruled herself out as a potential runningmate for Obama, precisely because of the devastating effect these sorts of ads would have had if she were on the ticket. So basically, it's her own damn fault she wasn't seriously considered for the V.P. spot. End of story. Enough with the hurt-feelings nonsense.

P.S. Speaking of which:
In a private meeting with Sen. Barack Obama after she conceded the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made a request: that he consider her for his vice presidential running mate, but not put her through the charade of being vetted if he was not serious.

Obama told Clinton then it was unlikely he would choose her, people familiar with the conversation said. Obama did not want to lead her on and, after campaigning against her for more than a year, already had a sense that their pairing would not be the right fit. ...

Obama advisers said they did not want to raise expectations for Clinton knowing they would probably be dashed, especially after she asked not to be put through an artificial process. ...
So basically, by not "vetting" Hillary, Obama was doing exactly what she asked him to do. And for that, the PUMAs blast him as "disrespecting" her, not giving her what she "deserves," etc. Good lord. What a bunch of myopic whiners.

P.P.S. And/but:
At the same time, aides said, Obama did, in fact, consider whether he should revisit the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket as he went through the selection process.

But in effect, he did not really consider Clinton for the No. 2 spot. Even toward the end of his decision-making process, as he was weighing alternatives and leaning toward Biden, Obama raised the idea of Clinton once more with the close circle of associates helping him make the decision -- but ultimately concluded that it was not the correct course.
Interesting, very interesting.

Meanwhile, just to prove that I don't always side with Obama in disputes with the Clintons: from what I've read, I think the Obama folks are being unreasonable in their dispute with Bill Clinton over the content of his speech. It's fine to have a national security "theme" on Wednesday, and it's fine to insist that Clinton talk about security issues at some length. But he should also be allowed to talk about other stuff, and make a broader pitch for Obama. For goodness sake, the broader his pitch, the better, from Obama's perspective!

Convention organizers get way too obsessed with their "themes" at times, and this is a classic example. Memo to DNCC/Obama: Nobody cares about your stupid theme. This is like a prom decorating committee getting all upset because somebody got the wrong color ballons. Except it has much bigger consequences: it seems really petty, and does unnecessary damage to an already strained relationship, to tell a former president he can't talk about his economic legacy in the context of whole-heartedly throwing his weight behind Obama. Let him talk about whatever he freakin' wants, so long as he's enthusiastically pro-Obama. Good grief.

Oh, and I just had a thought. Tonight, during Hillary's speech, will the Obama powers-that-be allow "Hillary" signs -- with her original typeface, not some Obama-fied version -- to be distributed on the convention floor? They should.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama assassination plot disrupted in Denver?

Um, yikes:
Federal authorities have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon amid reports that a fortunate traffic stop by Aurora Police may have disrupted an assassination attempt against Barack Obama. ...

Federal authorities are refusing to comment about why they believe the case is possibly tied to an assassination plot, but scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Police have arrested two men they believe are possibly linked to a white supremacy group in connection with a threat against Sen. Barack Obama.

For one of the men, officers found two rifles, ammunition, scopes and methamphetamines following a routine traffic stop on Sunday.

Aurora Police arrested 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell early Sunday morning and he was being held in the Arapahoe County jail. He has a felony criminal record.

A second man was arrested at Cherry Creek Hotel in Glendale on Monday. NBC News reports that when police knocked, the man jumped out a sixth floor window, injuring himself. He ran into nearby bushes where officers apprehended him. Authorities say he had weapons. ...

"We're trying to figure out what these guys had in mind," said an unnamed federal official. ...

Authorities tell NBC News they are skeptical there was anything other than some kind of general animosity and no actual plan to do anything.
(Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

UPDATE: Still more:
CBS4 has now learned at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver. All are being held on either drug or weapons charges.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass reported one of the suspects told authorities they were "going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a ... rifle … sighted at 750 yards."

Law enforcement sources tell Maass that one of the suspects "was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative." ...

Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles ... along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and methamphetamine. ...

[One of the suspects] told authorities that the two men "planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech."
UPDATE 2: Now authorities are saying it "wasn't a credible threat."

UPDATE 3: More: "it [is] unclear at present how real the plot was; further investigation could prove that it was an empty threat, or that the suspects were flakes or loudmouths." Also: "the U.S. Attorney's office says there was no credible threat to Obama, but that of course doesn't necessarily mean that this wasn't a real plot."

[Original post at 8:43 PM; bumped to top. -ed.]

"Come on, America!"

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) seemed just now to be pleading with voters to see things the Democrats' way:
John McCain is running for four more years of the same old politics and the exact same failed policies that we had under George Bush. They did tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. They did everything Big Oil asks. And look where we are! C'mon, America! Let's call on our common sense and stay focused on what's important! We cannot choose that path again. That's a risk the American people cannot afford to take.
The surrounding context made clear that the exhortation to "stay focused on what's important" (and the reference to McCain as a "risk") was intended to draw a contrast with the notion that Obama is, y'know, "risky" in various ways. The constellation of concerns falling under that label, some of which are legitimate and some of which are not, is being described as "not important." That's fair enough, but I'm not sure pleading is the best approach.

UPDATE: Did everybody catch the Pac-10 shout-out just now from Oregon State men's basketball coach -- and Michelle Obama's big brother, and introducer -- Craig Robinson? After referencing his job, he randomly yelled out: "Go Beavers!" Heh.

UPDATE 2: Thoughts on Michelle's speech? I thought it was pretty good. Nice shout-out to Hillary and her "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling."

But, um, "Isn't She Lovely"? And "Still The One" after Teddy's speech? Lame.

UPDATE 3: Kansas City, not St. Louis, Barack! Argh!

LOL, and his daughter corrected him. I love it!

C-SPAN liveblogging

AAAAAH!!!! It's John Kerry!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

(Ahem. The C-SPAN cameras found him in the crowd. I was momentarily traumatized. Flashbacks to 2004. "Reporting for duty," etc. Bleh.)

Er, anyway. Ted Kennedy is supposed to be making his big appearance in the next few minutes. It's unclear if he will actually speak. But apparently he'll at least be on stage.


UPDATE, 9:16 PM: Caroline! ... She's not a terribly exciting speaker, is she? Or maybe she's just tired.

9:19 PM: "Teddy is your senator, too."

9:21 PM: Video tribute time. Teddy on stage next?

9:39 PM: Okay, I did a brief experiment with liveblogging via Twitter, but I decided it was annoying me. Here are the updates I posted:
• NOOOO!!! John Kerry again!! 15 minutes ago
• Love the theme music on the Teddy video. 10 minutes ago
• TEDDY!!! 9 minutes ago
• He's gonna speak! 9 minutes ago
• "My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here." Will he get all fired up?? 7 minutes ago
• "I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United Senate!" Crowd goes nuts! "TED-DY! TED-DY!" Biden smiles. 5 minutes ago
• He's getting riled up about health care. w00t 4 minutes ago
• "Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will" 4 minutes ago
• Obama:Hope & Change::JFK:The Moon Landing! I love it! 2 minutes ago
• "The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on!" about a minute ago


Random observations while watching the DNC live:

* Who is this early part of the program for, exactly? None of the cable news networks are carrying it live, because it's incredibly boring. The Pepsi Center is practically empty, there are so few delegates there. Basically the only people watching are C-SPAN geeks like me.

* It appears to be "Make Your Own Lame Sign" Night at the DNC.

* Watching white Democratic delegates try to dance to soul music is entertaining.

* You can totally spot the PUMAs when the cameras land on them. They look all grumpy.

Stealth PUMA pandering?

Hmm... somebody has bought a Google Ad linking to this old article, from early March, headlined "Obama Hits Clintons on Democratic 'Dream Ticket'," and is repeating that headline as a "Sponsored Link" on Gmail:

Who might be sponsoring such an ad? Why, I can't think of any possible suspects...


For those keeping score at home, USC athletes at the Olympics won a total of 21 medals: 9 gold, 10 silver, and 2 bronze. Not a bad percentage, considering there were 41 Trojan Olympians competing in 54 events. Twenty-one medals in 54 tries -- they're batting .389!

This is nothing new for USC, of course. Trojans have historically enjoyed unparalleled success at the Olympics. There has been at least one gold medalist from USC in every Olympics since 1912.

This year, if USC were a country, it would be 13th in the overall medal count (between Cuba, with 24 medals, and Belarus, with 19), and tied with Japan for eighth in terms of golds. Only China, America, Russia, Britain, Germany, Australia and South Korea won more gold medals than "Trojan Nation."

More importantly, the Trojans whooped the Bruins in Beijing. UCLA only got 13 medals: 4 gold, 7 silver, 2 bronze. Bwah-ha-ha.

If only I'd thought to make a bet with Tran on this...

Convention drinking games

The Modern Gal is soliciting suggestions for a Democratic convention drinking game.

All I can say is, I definitely do not condone the "for every five minutes Biden keeps talking, drain your entire beverage" rule. That -- much like the "drink each time [keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani] says 9/11 or terrorist" rule for the Republican convention drinking game -- is a recipe for alcohol poisoning. ;)

P.S. Likewise, "drink every time somebody says 'change'" is out for the Dem game, and "drink every time somebody mentions McCain's time as a P.O.W." is out for the GOP game. ;)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The dream will never die...

Cancer-stricken Senator Ted Kennedy may make an electrifying surprise appearance at the first night of the Democratic Convention tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in "unity" news, Hillary will "release" her delegates -- never mind that no delegate is required to vote in any particular way, so a "release" is technically unnecessary and redundant -- and the DNC has restored full voting rights to Florida and Michigan.

The latter development was totally predictable, under the circumstances -- but tell me why, exactly, anyone should take seriously the updated primary calendar "rules" that will be adopted by the new "commission" that Obama has called for? The Democrats have just made clear that they will not enforce their own rules, so there's really no reason for states to listen to their demands the next time around.

UPDATE: V sends along some photos from Denver.

There are various shots of protesters and police, but personally, I'm just glad to know that MSNBC's mascots are fair and balanced:


P.S. Meanwhile, Flickr user Dan Patterson posts this photo:

Heh. Do they have a Tennessee chapter? :)


Just got this e-mail from the DNCC:

With Joe Biden on the ticket, the Democrats may want to give all their interns and P.R. flacks some rapid-fire training on how to spell "Delaware." :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Knoxville Photowalk

Since Glenn Reynolds mentioned that I was going on the Knoxville Photowalk today, and since it's been on my countdown sidebar for a week, I figured I should post some pictures from it.

So here's a full post on the Photoblog all about the experience. With photos, of course.


As I've mentioned before, I love my new MacBook Pro. It's super-fast, and super-awesome. I love it not just for the hardware, but also for the software: it came pre-loaded with Leopard and iLife '08, both of which I hadn't bought previously. w00t!

But... I've just discovered something in iPhoto 7 that, if I'm not misinterpreting it, is unbelievably dumb. It appears to be the case that, when you're viewing a photo at full size in regular view mode (not edit mode, not full-screen mode, just regular view mode), you cannot drag and drop it into an album. It seems you can only drag & drop when you're more "zoomed out" (i.e., viewing multiple photos at once).

Here's a video of what I mean:

Fellow iPhoto 7 users, please tell me this isn't true, and that I'm doing something wrong. Because if this is true, ARGH!!! How the hell am I supposed to move photos into various albums as I go through them one-by-one? It's incredibly asinine to have to "zoom out" each time, just to drag the photo over, and then "zoom" back in. Ridiculous!

It's 3:00 AM, and your children are safe and asleep...

...but there's a cell phone in the other room, and it's ringing. Must be one of your a**hole friends drunk-dialing you, or perhaps a wrong number from a different time zone. Wait, no: it's Barack Obama! He wants you to "be the first to know" something that CNN and the AP reported three hours ago: Joe Biden is his runningmate!

I got my text at 3:28 AM. It didn't wake me up, because I put my phone on "silent" at night. But it woke some people up, and many were -- predictably -- at least mildly annoyed.

I mean, really: 3:28 AM???

I assume Obama & co. pushed the message out sooner than planned because the news had leaked. But that "leak" was, as I suggested at the time, almost inevitable from the moment they decided to wait till morning, even after Bayh and Kaine had been ruled out and activity at the Biden house had increased. There was simply no way the media was going to sit on its hands until 11:00 AM or whatever.

The Obama camp did an amazing job of keeping this secret all week, and especially all day yesterday, but they got greedy. They were never going to be able to keep it secret right up until a few hours before the rally. If they really wanted their supporters to "be the first to know," they needed to send the text yesterday evening during prime time, at the latest.

Instead, they waited too long, then panicked, and annoyed a bunch of supporters (and news/political junkies) in the process. Idiots.

UPDATE: Lugosi is more than "mildly" annoyed:

Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate, and it just cost the Democrats my vote.

No, it's not that I have anything against Biden. My complaint is that I had signed up to get a text message the moment Obama made his choice public. And when did he decide to do this? At 3 goddamn 21 in the freakin' morning on a Saturday!?!?!?

If you decide to wake me up at such an ungodly hour, the building had damn well better be on fire, or there better be a new shot of Britney's snatch available online. That's about it.

One thing you do NOT do, however, is wake me up before sunrise just to tell me the name of your vice presidential pick. At 3:21 A.M. I simply don't give a crap about the future of our nation, or the Iraq war, or the federal deficit, or how many goddamn houses McCain owns. All I care about at 3:21 is sleeping. If you forget that, you can rest assured there WILL be consequences.

Citizen Bloomington is similarly unimpressed:

Someone should be fired. Seriously. The Obama campaign has been gifted with all this media attention over the past week about his pick. It’s talked about everywhere. And for the first time in history, people are waiting on text messages to get the announcement. We’re hovering over our phones, waiting for that nectar of press release.

So, the natural thing to do?

Send the damn thing while most of America is sleeping! Of course: send it at 3:47AM (by my phone’s time) so people either miss it and feel left out of the glee of hearing the news, or wake up and get pissed they weren’t part of the shared experience. In my case it’s both. I woke up when it came in, and ignored the message. It’s not like my life depended on this or anything, but I’m just amazed at how stupid its timing was, given the opportunity. They don’t get to capitalize on the online posting rush. Instead, I’m sitting here typing how badly they screwed up.

Patrick Ruffini calls it an "Epic Text Message Fail."

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal says it succeeded in one thing, at least: it's netted Obama three million cell phone numbers for his database.

P.P.S. Cajun Boy suggests a funny McCain ad.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Biden

This is pretty much confirmation, no?
The United States Secret Service has dispatched a protective detail to assume the immediate protection of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a source tells ABC News, indicating in all likelihood that Biden has been officially notified that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has selected him to be his running mate.

If this is true, I think it's a great choice by Obama. Biden's not perfect, of course: I've had my issues with him over the years, particularly his sleazeball tactics in pushing the godawful RAVE Act through Congress. And of course his periodic bouts of foot-in-mouth disease are problematic. But, despite his flaws, I've been high on Biden as a potential national candidate ever since his 2004 convention speech. On foreign policy and the war on terror, Biden is a serious, sensible grown-up. You always get the sense that -- whether or not you agree with his stances -- he understands the stakes, and isn't afraid to state them clearly, which is, alas, more than can be said for many Democrats. (Republicans, by contrast, almost always seem able to articulate the stakes, even when they don't know what the hell to do about the problem, or propose a cure that's worse than the disease.) He's also got a helluva lot of experience and knowledge -- you might even say expertise -- in the foreign-policy arena, which is one key reason why I've been saying since mid-December, and more loudly since early January, that he'd be an excellent veep pick for the inexperienced Obama. And of course he's got the whole working-class, hardscrabble, straight-shooter street cred, blah blah blah. But for me, really, it's all about the foreign policy stuff. And Biden was clearly the best choice in that regard.

I didn't think Obama would pick him; I suspected the media talk was mostly hype. So I'm pleasantly surprised (again, assuming this is true). You done good, Barack.

P.S. Whether the vice-presidential battle of the Senators Joe will come to fruition, remains to be seen.

I kinda think Delaware Joe would wipe the floor with Connecticut Joe in a debate, though. Again: hardscrabble. :)

UPDATE, 12:11 AM: I'm still not completely ruling out the possibility that this whole Biden thing is a massive head-fake, and Obama will shock the freakin' world tomorrow by rolling out... AL GORE. (Does anyone know where the Goreacle is? Do we have confirmation he's not in Chicago?) But at this point, it seems like Biden would have to be "in" on the head-fake, and apparently so would the Secret Service. That's pretty hard to believe. So I imagine it's really and truly Biden.

UPDATE, 12:50 AM: I just got a text message -- not from Barack Obama, but from CNN:

"CNN confirms Sen. Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Sen. Joe Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate."

It's like I said earlier: Obama & co. were being too greedy, thinking they could keep this a secret until literally a few hours before the Springfield rally. They should have texted earlier this evening.

Anyway... Yay! Biden!

UPDATE, 12:59 AM: AP confirms, too.

Hello from iSight!

Hello from iSight

Damn, this MacBook Pro is fast. WHEEEE!!!!!

Wait till morning!

AP: "Late Friday, several officials said the text message announcement would be distributed Saturday morning, a few hours before a scheduled rally at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., where the Democratic ticket would appear for the first time." (Via Drudge.)

According to the Springfield Journal-Register, gates open at noon and Obama's speech is expected to happen around 2pm. That's 1pm and 3pm Eastern. That gives enough of a window to make an announcement "a few hours before" the rally without waking up folks on the West Coast at like 5:00 AM local time on a Saturday. I'm thinking an 11am EDT text, or thereabouts?

But, can they really keep this secret for another 14 1/2 hours??? They've gotta get the running mate to Illinois; everybody is now watching Delaware flights, candidates' homes; MSNBC has supposed crossed two of the top candidates off the list, thus narrowing the possibilities considerably; etc. Isn't the media going to figure this out definitively before morning, thus undermining the whole purpose of the "be the first to know" text message? Seems crazy to wait till morning.

UPDATE, 9:00 PM: Ambinder also reports, as of 12 minutes ago: "Source: text will be sent tomorrow am, a few hrs before Obama speaks in Springfield."

Meanwhile, MSNBC's First Read reports -- in light of the apparent exclusion of Bayh and Kaine -- "which news organization is going to irresponsibly go with Biden without confirmation from Biden or the Obama campaign -- even though they all have the same information we do?"

UPDATE, 10:05 PM: Ambinder at 9:30: "All the press corps thinks it's Biden but won't pull the trigger. No need to get this one wrong."

NOT Bayh, Kaine?

Drudge: "MSNBC: Bayh, Kaine have been informed they are not it..."

UPDATE, 8:21 PM: Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder says cryptically, "Biden on the move..." That was 27 minutes ago, at 7:54 PM.

It's heeeere!!!

My brand-new MacBook Pro has arrived!!!




I've been waiting for the last 90 minutes or so as the "migration assistant" has transferred my data from the external drive that I cloned my PowerBook onto:


Almost done now. Woohoo!!!


FlightBlogger wrote at 5:33 PM EDT: "a flightplan was just filed to Wilmington, DE (New Casltle) from Chicago, IL (Midway) on a Netjets Hawker 800. Obama has been in Chicago all day. A Delaware departure could mean Senator Biden is his number two."

The plane in question arrived in Delaware at 7:33 PM EDT. Where is Obama?? Do we know that he's still in Chicago?? Would it even make sense for him to fly to Delaware, since he's supposed to be in Springfield tomorrow with his veep? Shouldn't Biden (or whomever) be flying to where Obama is, not vice versa?

Still no text message...

UPDATE: Herbert makes a good point: "Why would Obama have to be on that plane? Maybe he sent a plane out for Biden since Biden is part of the campaign now."

Has Obama timed this so NBC will have to break into Olympics coverage?

Meanwhile, CNN's Candy Crowley just referenced both the bumpersticker and the plane.

UPDATE, 8:17 PM: Politico's Ben Smith: "I ... don't see why you'd need to fly from Chicago to Delaware in order to bring Joe Biden from Delaware to Springfield. Slightly more alluring: A redirect, briefly, from to a dead page on Obama's site. A slight downer on this front: Whoever owns the site bought it in 2005."



Picture 1

The text reads: "FLASH: Fri Aug 22 2008 17:52:03 ET /// KMBC's Micheal Mahoney reports a company in Kansas City, which specializes in political literature, has been printing Obama-Bayh material... MORE... Gill Studios, would not confirm information about the material. They would not deny it either. At least three sources close to the plant's operations reported the Obama-Bayh material was being produced..."

I'm skeptical. The font and graphic design are all wrong. Would the Obama camp really abandon their very effective and recognizable style for something so ordinary-looking?

UPDATE: Halperin's on the case. But Marc Ambinder agrees with me: "That Obama-Bayh bumper sticker is (a) too ugly and (b) doesn't have a union label. It ain't real guys." [CORRECTION: In an update, Ambinder writes: "The bumper sticker does have a uni[o]n label, it turns out. But it's still too ugly to be the real thing."]

He also says, presumably based on his sources, that "on timing: you can definitely have a liesurely dinner."

UPDATE, 8:19 PM: Politico's Ben Smith: "The oddly designed bumper sticker seems to me like an obvious red herring."

Still no veep!

The suspense is killing me!

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)


Sorry for the Obama fundraising post earlier. It was an unintended side-effect of my attempt to make Obama's VP announcement auto-post -- an attempt I've now given up on. This was a technical glitch, not an endorsement. (It took a while to correct because I was away from my computer and was unaware of it.)

John McCain would like to remind you that he was a P.O.W.

Remember when people -- particularly Republicans -- used to make fun of John Kerry for constantly invoking his service in Vietnam as a campaign credential?

The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" routinely called him the "haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam." His embarrassing "reporting for duty" shtick at the 2004 convention -- complete with a "salute" that was anything but crisp -- still gets made fun of, and rightfully so. And, of course, JibJab hilariously lampooned Kerry's over-reliance on his military resumé by making "I won three Purple Hearts!" a refrain in its classic "This Land" cartoon.

Well, in recent days, it seems John McCain has been channeling John Kerry in this regard. McCain's stint as a prisoner of war in Vietnam has apparently become an all-purpose rebuttal to any charge that the Obama campaign might throw at him, no matter how irrelevant.

First came the response to criticism that McCain acted inappropriately in offering his wife up for a topless beauty pageant at Sturgis. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, "These smears on John McCain’s character and faith ... [are] disgraceful. [Americans] know that John McCain's faith and character were tested and forged in ways few can fathom."

Then came this bizarre rebuttal to the charge that McCain heard the questions in advance at the recent Rick Warren evangelical powwow. Said McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace: "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous."

And now, this response to Obama's attack on McCain's "how many houses" gaffe: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," Rogers told the Washington Post.

Jeez. How non-sequitur can you get?

Newsweek's Howard Fineman says the McCain camp is "going to" the POW defense "way too many times ... [McCain has] wisely for many years stayed away from it as a political tool, he really did. But now it not only defines him, it’s become a crutch in the campaign. And I think he is in danger of trivializing it."

Time's Ana Marie Cox (formerly of Wonkette) calls the latest POW reference a "head-spinning non sequitur, designed to distract us from something mildly troubling with the assertion of something impressive." She says the campaign's "constant invocation of the candidate's POW past is weird bordering on irrational."

And Politico's Ben Smith writes:
It does seem like they're flirting with Giuliani/9/11 territory here, in which at subject that seems utterly immune to humor, used as a first resort, suddenly becomes a running joke among your political enemies and your late night comic friends.

McCain himself, it should be noted, doesn't tend to talk about his prisoner-of-war experience in random contexts; but his staff and surrogates have been doing it a bit lately.
As should go without saying, I have the utmost respect for McCain's service (and Kerry's, and every other veteran's). But constant and/or irrelevant recitations thereof, in pursuit of political ambition, are really quite unseemly. Discussing your service in biographical ads, or making occasional, pertinent references to it on the campaign trail, is fine. Burnishing it as a top-line credential, or as an all-purpose response to anything negative that anyone might say about you, not so much.

Moreover, attempting to declare any and all criticism, or at least "character" criticism, off-limits because McCain was a P.O.W., is no better than Obama's camp supposedly declaring any and all criticism off-limits because he's black (though, notwithstanding the hyperactive fears of Glenn Reynolds and others, this has not actually happened, IMHO).

The bottom line is this: Senator McCain, everybody knows you were a P.O.W. -- and a particularly heroic one, at that, having refused an offer of special treatment out of loyalty to your compatriots. That says a lot about your character, and we're deeply grateful for your service and sacrifice. (Senator Obama says this all the time on the stump, and he's right.) Now, tell us again, Senator, how exactly do you plan to fix the country if you're elected president? That's what matters. That's what voters care about. That's what this "swing voter" is going to base his decision on. Constructing sentences out of -- to borrow a phrase -- a noun, a verb, and "P.O.W.," is not going to convince us to vote for you.

P.S. Admittedly, the charges that McCain has been using his P.O.W. experience to rebut -- i.e., the How Many Houses gaffe, the Cone of Silence controversy, and the Cindy's Boobies kerfuffle -- are also totally non-substantive, and unrelated to the future of their country, in their own right. Both campaigns have really gone off the deep end with this sort of nonsense (which Obama once derided as part of the "silly season" in politics), and they both need to stop. But, in my mind, the silliness of the charges being rebutted only serves to further highlight the inappropriateness and unseemliness of using the "P.O.W. defense" in response to such trivial matters.

It's veepday!

Well, it's probably veepday for Obama. One thing's for sure: I'll be jumping every time my cell phone buzzes today.

(Incidentally, I've set things up so that Obama's e-mail announcement should post directly to this blog, like CNN Breaking News alerts used to. Obviously there's no way of testing this, but hopefully it'll work.)

I'm assuming, based on the reports I've read and the hints Obama has dropped, that it's either Bayh or Biden. I'm hoping for Biden. I'm guessing it's Bayh.

Apropos of which, Ben Smith writes: "Biden has been the frontrunner for quite a while in the land of baseless speculation, but keep this in mind: He's there not because of leaks from the inside, but because commentators think he's a logical choice." Yes. And, as I've said before, those "commentators" may be influenced by their own biases; an Obama-Biden ticket would clearly be great for journalists. (Case in point: David Brooks says "I hope he picked Joe Biden.")

On the other hand: "NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports that one of Biden's sons was flown in a private plane from Maine to the Senator's home in Delaware on Wednesday. Biden is 'gathering the clan,' she said." So maybe it is Biden! Or, you know, maybe that one data point is a complete coincidence.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that sources close to the McCain campaign "floated a wild-card choice" for veep on the GOP ticket: "Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq." But Halperin says it's probably Romney. we probably won't know for about another week or so.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


An evening without a computer?? Oh, the Hugh Manatee!!!

(My new MacBook Pro has shipped, and should arrive sometime tomorrow.)

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

Virginia as Florida

I've said before that I don't think current polls are terribly helpful as predictors of the eventual election outcome, and I stand by that. Talk to me in October about polls. That said, it's interesting that's current map has, in essence, Virginia playing the role of Florida. Both Obama and McCain are just under the 270-EV threshold, with Virginia listed as "tied."

Deadly shooting at Knoxville high school

A student reportedly shot another student in the cafeteria at Central High School this morning. Initial reports say 1 wounded.

This comes, of course, less than a month after the shooting at the Unitarian church in town.

UPDATE: The student who was shot has died. He was 16. His name has not yet been released.

A witness says the shooter and the victim "were arguing and pushing and shoving," then the shooter "shot the guy in the chest and casually walked away as if nothing had happened."

UPDATE 2: The victim's name is Ryan McDonald. It's being described as "an isolated incident" and "not a random shooting," which comports with the witness reports.

Meanwhile, here and here, Michael Silence quotes various people's Twittering of the shooting, including this cryptic statement: "[radio host] Hal Hill reporting motive going to make story much bigger."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joementum grain-of-salt alert

Just a thought: is it possible the media's coronation of Biden as veep frontrunner is subconsciously motivated in part by reporters' belief that a campaign involving Biden would be fun to report on?

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

McCain denies attacking Obama's patriotism

John McCain, today:
Yesterday, Senator Obama got a little testy on this issue. He said that I am questioning his patriotism. Let me be clear: I am not questioning his patriotism; I am questioning his judgment. Senator Obama has made it clear that he values withdrawal from Iraq above victory in Iraq, even today with victory in sight. Over and over again, he has advocated unconditional withdrawal – regardless of the facts on the ground. And he voted against funding for troops in combat, after saying it would be wrong to do so. He has made these decisions not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't seem to understand the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq, how it would risk a wider war and threaten the security of American families. I am going to end this war, but when I bring our troops home, they will come home with honor and victory, leaving Iraq secured as a democratic ally in the Arab heartland.
Three four thoughts on this:

1) If that were truly all McCain has been saying, that would be perfectly fine. Totally legit. No problems whatsoever. We can argue over whether it's true, obviously, but it's not out-of-bounds. It's a legitimate line of criticism, and certainly not an attack on Obama's patriotism.

2) That's not all McCain has been saying. Specifically, McCain hasn't limited himself to stating that Obama "has made these decisions ... because he doesn't seem to understand the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq, how it would risk a wider war and threaten the security of American families." Rather, he has explicitly stated that Obama has made these decisions because of "ambition," and because he'd rather "win a campaign" than do the right thing for the country. And his campaign has endorsed Joe Lieberman's statement that Obama doesn't "put country first." That's all very different, and much more inflammatory, than what McCain said today. Today's statement by McCain merely questions Obama's judgment, which is fine. But previous statements did much more than question his judgment. They questioned his motives. Indeed, they didn't just "question" them; they directly impugned them. These statements clearly positied that Obama is motivated NOT by honest -- if misguided -- beliefs about what's best for the country, but by a desire to pursue personal ambition even at the expense of the nation's best interests. Arguably, this is tantamount to calling Obama unpatriotic, even treasonous.

3) You'll note I said "arguably." That's a bit less direct than what I said yesterday. This is because I've had some further thoughts on the matter, and while I still think McCain's line is low and inappropriate and unbecoming and dishonorable, I've come to the conclusion that, on the patriotism/treason question, it's not quite as cut-and-dried as I made it out to be. But I don't have time to fully explain my thinking on that just now. Maybe later.

4) Regardless, liberal though most journalists may be, they are continuing to give McCain an unjustified pass on his doubletalk about this issue. His claim today that he is only attacking Obama's "judgment" is demonstrably false. Even if you don't buy that McCain was previously attacking Obama's "patriotism," he was definitely attacking Obama's motives. That much is undeniable. And attacking a man's motives is very different from merely accusing him of poor judgment. McCain's statement today that he's focused only on "judgment," and on whether Obama "understands the consequences" of the action his proposes, is simply untrue, and such a false statement should not be repeated uncritically by journalists without mentioning the previous quotes that clearly and directly contradict it. The press is failing to do its job on this.

The PowerBook's last day?

I'm cloning my PowerBook's hard drive onto a portable, bootable FireWire drive, and have already made a separate backup as well. Once this is done, I'll wipe the machine and send it off to Apple. Hopefully I'll have my new MacBook Pro in time for convention-blogging starting Monday... :)

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The "WTF?" storm of 2008

Flabbergasted by Fay: "Throw out the rules, including the basic iron law that hurricanes only strengthen over water. It’s Fay’s world; we’re just living it."

UPDATE: Fay has finally weakened, and now appears less of a threat to significantly regenerate over the Atlantic.

Obama demands high road on patriotism

Barack Obama, speaking before the VFW today, responded forcefully -- at last! -- to John McCain's charge, repeated frequently in various forms recently (including, disgracefully, by my erstwhile political man-crush Joe Lieberman), that Obama "would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign" -- which, to be clear, is inherently an attack on Obama's patriotism. Obama said:
[O]ne of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain. When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views. You are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. But you all served together, and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag. You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America -- you served the United States of America.

So let's have a serious debate, and let's debate our disagreements on the merits of policy -- not personal attacks. And no matter how heated it gets or what kind of campaign he chooses to run, I will honor Senator McCain's service, just like I honor the service of every veteran in this room, and every American who has worn the uniform of the United States.

Now: what will McCain say? And if (when) he tries to fudge it with contradictory double-talk, as he's done before, will somebody in the media call him out on it, and make him address the contradiction inherent in paying lip service to acknowledging Obama's patriotism, while at the same time basically accusing him of treason on national-security issues?

(Mind you, attacking his positions is perfectly fine; saying America would be less safe with Obama as president is perfectly fine; suggesting he doesn't "get" the war on terror, is too inexperienced or lacks the judgment to wage it, etc., is perfectly fine ... but saying that Obama wants to lose the war, or cares more about his personal ambition than the country's national-security interests, or doesn't "put the country first," is NOT fine, at least without acknowledging that, yes, you are in fact calling him unpatriotic.)

The "Joker" strikes again

Tropical Storm Fay, aptly labeled "The Joker" by Dr. Jeff Masters days ago, is continuing to throw curveballs: now she's getting better organized over land (!), and becoming more of a potential threat to the Florida/Georgia border region later this week.

There's also some possibility of a fourth U.S. landfall (#1 was Key West, #2 was Cape Romano, and #3 would be the Florida/Georgia hit) next week along the central Gulf Coast. Hard to say how strong Fay would be at that point; my guess is not very. But maybe we should expand the parameters of my Dem convention nightmare scenario. How about two hurricanes making landfall during the convention: first Fay in New Orleans, then Gustav in Miami? Heh.

The latest, of course, is at Weather Nerd.

P.S. CAVEAT: The above discussion of potential landfalls next week, including one by a presently nonexistent storm, is complete absurdist speculation. Pay it no serious heed. I'm just goofing around.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What if...

Way out in the Atlantic, thousands of miles east of Fay, Invest 94L -- or "proto-Gustav," if you prefer -- lurks. Some computer models suggest it could be a threat to Florida in, oh, 10 days or so.

Obviously that's a long way off, an eternity in forecasting terms. But imagine it happens. And imagine Hurricane Gustav becomes a monster storm. And imagine that, on the very night Barack Obama is supposed to triumphantly accept the nomination in front of 75,000 adoring acolytes in Denver (next Thursday, 10 days from tonight), the über-swing state of Florida is getting walloped by a major hurricane.

Do you think the media might be a little distracted from Obama's big moment, in such an event? (So much for a post-convention bump!) Also, can you imagine the P.R. calamity for the Dems? Throwing a big honking party while Florida is being torn apart by a hurricane! How dare they! Oh, the humanity! But, what are they supposed to do, cancel their convention? Postpone it by a day or two? Oh, I'm sure the logistics of that would work great.

99.9% chance, this won't happen. But it's fun to speculate about. (Because in hypothetical scenarios, nobody gets hurt!)

By the way... my latest blogging on the non-hypothetical storm currently hitting Florida, Tropical Storm Fay, is over at Weather Nerd.


Drudge sirens: "PAPER: OBAMA MAY ANNOUNCE VP IN AM." Specifically, tomorrow AM. Maybe.

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

UPDATE: Drudge's initial scoop pointed to Tuesday, but now he says "the pick is more likely to come early Wednesday morning," and the New York Times article that Drudge is referencing -- now online -- says the same:

Senator Barack Obama has all but finalized his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate roll-out plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, followed by a trip to swing states by the new Democratic ticket, aides said. ...

Mr. Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Mr. Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. ...

Mr. Obama’s advisers said he reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii. ...

If all goes according to plan, the announcement will be made with text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning, in time to capture coverage on the morning news shows and take advantage of a full day’s news cycle. Mr. Obama and his new running mate will than begin a cross-country tour; current plans call for them to on the trail together for most of the time between the day of the announcement and when Mr. Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday. ...

Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning, and no later than Friday.

There's one problem with the "text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning" concept: it could wake up supporters out west, where "early morning" Eastern Time is still basically the middle of the night. Five Thirty Eight discussed this earlier:

[W]hen you send a giant, millions-of-people text message, you set off a bunch of text message ringtones that make noise. That means you ought to wait as long as possible during a day so that people are awake. While most people texting VP to 62262 are self-selected Obama partisans who won't hold a ringtone with breaking news against Obama, nobody likes to be woken up prematurely. It's a tiny, but definite negative freeroll. In terms of battleground states, only Nevada in the Pacific Time Zone and Alaska in the Alaska Time Zone pose any kind of early ringtone risk here.

Personally, I'm looking forward to receiving the big text message, whenever it arrives. ;)


UPDATE: Meanwhile, Politico reports that McCain's Veepday will be Friday, August 29 -- the day after the Democratic Convention, and McCain's 72nd birthday. He'll attempt to immediately deflate Obama's post-convention balloon by naming his runningmate at an early-morning, 10,000-person rally at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

To really make this work, in terms of wrenching the media spotlight fully over to him on Friday (and, even before that, disrupting the Dems' big week with rampant speculation about what he'll do), McCain will need to keep the name a complete secret until the 29th, to prevent an anticlimax. Can he do it?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama veepstakes predictions?

Five Thirty Eight analyzes the betting markets for Obama's vice-presidential pick, which will almost certainly be announced sometime this week.

As I've said before, I think Biden would be a great pick -- granted, he's flawed in several ways, but so are all the available options; there is no perfect choice -- but I somehow just don't think Obama will go that route. That said, I honestly don't know what he'll do. In his heart, I bet he wants to pick Kaine or Sebelius, but there are major problems with either option. Reed?

What are your predictions?


Apple is replacing my problem-plagued PowerBook with a 17-inch MacBook Pro!!! YAY!!!!! :) :) Details later.

(Posted via cell phone using Flickr.)

P.S. The photo was taken at the festival Becky, Loyette and I were attending when I got the fateful voicemail from Apple. The expression on the caterpillar's face is roughly equivalent to the expression on my face when I heard the news. :)

UPDATE: Here is the voicemail message -- containing the best news I've received via voicemail since, oh, ever -- from Curtis at Apple:

MP3 File

(I've redacted the ending, since it included Curtis's direct-line phone number and my case number.)

Anyway: WHEEEEEE!!!!!!! Dude, I'm gettin' a MacBook Pro!!!

For the uninitiated, you can read about the evolution of my PowerBook problems in this blog category, or view the summation in my manifesto to Apple, which got the attention of the "God level" techs and led to this development.

If you're wondering what took so long to get this resolved, the bulk of the delay is my fault, not Apple's. I sent my "manifesto" in August 2007, and had my hard drive and motherboard replaced in September 2007, with the understanding that my computer would be replaced if the problems persisted. However, although the problems did indeed persist -- the same delays, crashes, etc., reappeared almost immediately, and only got worse with time -- I didn't contact Apple right away because I wanted first to organize my complaints into a coherent update on what was happening, but I was just never able to make the time to do that. First it was football season and Becky was pregnant and I had a new job; then we had a baby; then it was election time (and I still had a baby, and a job); then it was March Madness; etc., etc. So, for one reason and another -- but primarily because of the baby -- I got distracted and let my computer problems fester. Even so, I kept a detailed, if rather unorganized, log of everything that was (still) going wrong with the computer, so I'd have a paper trail when I finally bit the bullet and made the call.

Finally, a couple of months ago, I called Curtis and left a friendly voicemail explaining that things had never really improved, and that I had made detailed logs to prove it. I mentioned a couple of examples of the persistent problems, and asked whether we could move to the next step: replacement. I never heard back. Again, I let it fester. I finally called again in late July, after learning that my hard drive has an irreparable error, and left another message. Curtis's delay in responding to my two messages is apparently due to the "voicemail troubles" he referenced in his message today. But, again, the bulk of the long delay between September 2007 and August 2008 is my fault, not Apple's. If I'd been timelier and more persistent, this would have been resolved long ago. But as I explained to Curtis in my messages, the birth of my firstborn child caused me to be focused primarily on things other than my original "baby," the computer. :)

Anyway... you have no idea how happy I am right now. I was truly beginning to reach my wit's end with this computer. It had gotten to the point where there are some tasks I actually prefer doing on my Windows PC at work (!!). This particular computer really is just a lemon. Aside from all the crashes and bugs, it just seems SLOW. ALL. THE. TIME., like the very guts of the thing are sluggish. And it was unreliable; I could never trust that Safari, or iPhoto, or whatever app I was using, wouldn't randomly crash on me. I never had these kind of issues with my old 12-inch PowerBook (the one that got stolen in L.A. back in 2004), so I know it's nothing wrong with Macs generally -- on the contrary, I think Macs generally are great! -- nor is it unrealistic expectations or over-the-top demands on my part. This particular computer is just a bad egg, for whatever reason, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to replace it with something new and shiny. :) OMG! Yay!!

Golden boy

Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal in these Olympics last night, inspiring Matt Drudge to have fun with fonts:

P.S. ESPN writer (and mid-major basketball guru) Kyle Whellison has a blog about the Olympics -- filled with fantastic writing and storylines from outside mainstream coverage, as always with Whelliston -- and in a post yesterday he pointed out the "greatest headline of these Games," from Israel's Haaretz: "Two Jews and a black man help Phelps fulfill Olympic dream." Heh!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Tropical Storm Fay has formed, and she looks increasingly like a threat to the Gulf coast. All the latest at Weather Nerd.

Best conspiracy theory ever!

Russian state media is informing the public that "the conflict in South Ossetia was part of a plot by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, to stop Barack Obama being elected president of the United States."

But of course!

(Hat tip: Ben Smith.)

P.S. You might think Cheney is motivated by pure partisanship when he mysteriously and nefariously triggers small European wars in order to boost McCain's electoral chances. But actually, it's more personal than that. You see, a McCain Administration would undoubtedly have a lot more old people in it than an Obama Administration would -- and Cheney needs as many old people around the Beltway area as possible, because he eats their medicine for fuel!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Musharraf expected to resign

I guess I haven't been paying enough attention to international news, because I had no idea this was happening:
Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the unsettling neutrality of the Pakistani military, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is expected to resign in the next few days rather than face impeachment, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said Thursday.

His departure from office seems likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockey for his share of power. It would also remove from the political stage the man who has served as the Bush administration’s main ally here for the last eight years.

The details of how Mr. Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan or would seek residency abroad, are now under discussion between representatives of Mr. Musharraf and the governing coalition, the politicians said.

Mr. Musharraf would probably leave in the “next 72 hours,” Sheik Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in the coalition, said Thursday. ...

Last week the leaders of the two major parties in the coalition announced that they would seek Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment on charges that include illegally suspending the Constitution and imposing emergency rule last November and wrongly dismissing nearly 60 judges under that decree. ...

A senior administration official in Washington said American officials had chosen not to get involved in the deliberations over Mr. Musharraf’s fate, having concluded that his presidency was unsalvageable.

Fay to Florida?

We could soon be dealing with Tropical Storm Fay -- and perhaps eventually Hurricane Fay, maybe even Major Hurricane Fay -- potentially threatening the U.S. early next week. Check out, for instance, this scary computer-model projection for Tuesday morning:


That's just one model, and it's a five-day forecast, which is an eternity in forecasting terms. Still, it's a bit unnerving. That's a Category 4 hurricane, if you're wondering. As of now, however, the system is just a tropical wave -- but development seems imminent, and we could be looking at T.D. #6 or T.S. Fay later tonight or early tomorrow.

Track models are still very much in flux, so everybody from the Gulf Coast all the way up the East Coast should be keeping an eye on it... two eyes in Florida. Don't sleep on this thing over the weekend! It could be a big deal. (Of course, it could also fizzle.)

Details at Weather Nerd.

Rove v. Edwards? Heh.

Glancing at my countdown sidebar just now, I noticed the reference to a Karl Rove-John Edwards debate at the University at Buffalo on September 26. I had forgotten all about that. Sounded like a cool idea when it was announced. Obviously, that was well before Rielle-gate broke out into the open. Now, surely -- alas for UB -- it will be cancelled, right?

I checked, and at the moment, the UB Office of Special Events still touts this debate as the big kickoff of their "2008-2009 Distinguished Speakers Series." The Albany Times-Union says there's "no word yet" on whether the event will be cancelled.

Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that UB has a better chance of upsetting Missouri in football on September 20 than of actually seeing an Edwards-Rove debate the following Friday.

The blackout, 5 years on

It's been five years today since the Great Blackout of 2003, one of my favorite life events to reminisce about. I was there, in New York City, marveling at the chaos, liveblogging via cell phone...

...and, of course, taking lots of pictures.


As I wrote on the second anniversary, the blackout was "the ultimate 'I was there' moment for someone who really, really likes to be 'there' when interesting things happen." In fact, it remains "one of my very favorite life experiences, period. That may seem odd, but I’d always thought that it would be really cool to be in New York City during a massive power outage like the one they had in 1965. And on August 14, 2003, I found out that I was right. It was really cool."

My answer to the question "where were you?" can be found in my full account of the blackout, written the next day:

I was up on the 13th floor of the building in Tribeca where I work, sitting at my work computer — which happens to be a laptop — when the fan next to me stopped running, and the room got a lot quieter. My computer, being a laptop, seamlessly switched to battery power, so it took me a few seconds to realize that everyone else’s computer, not to mention everything else electric in the room, had shut off. Upon grasping this, I stolled out into the living room — our “office” is really a very large apartment where our husband-and-wife team of bosses, Lyn and Richard, live — to see whether Richard’s employees, who work in a separate area of the apartment, were affected too. I quickly ascertained that they were (and also glanced out the window and ascertained that nothing seemed amiss in the Midtown skyline). Not long after this, Richard proclaimed — I have no idea where he got his information — that the “whole building,” a 17-story structure that is also home to Mariah Carey, was out of power.

I went back to Lyn’s area, where I work, and started typing out a cell phone photo-post announcing that our office had lost power and we had reports that the whole building might be out. In the midst of typing this, Lyn came in and said that one of Richard’s employees had said the whole city, plus Long Island and New Jersey, was out. My immediate reaction was extreme skepticism: I asked who the employee had heard this from, and where that person had gotten his information. Lyn didn’t know, so I typed something into my cell phone that was extremely wishy-woshy on the point of whether city was out of power — I didn’t want to mislead anyone with gossip. :)

But then when I tried to put up the post online, my phone wouldn’t connect. I tried several times, with no luck. ... [Then] I tried to call the Audioblog phone number, and couldn’t get through. I tried this repeatedly, but no luck. It began to seem more and more plausible that the whole city was out of power — and that, like on 9/11, everyone was reaching for their cell phones at the same time, jamming the network.

We had no TV and no Internet, of course ... [but] it quickly became clear from the glut of traffic, the honking, and the sirens that were visible and/or audible outside our windows that something was happening beyond just our building. The extent became clear when I finally got through via phone to my dad: in what one of my co-workers later described as a “surreal moment,” I repeated aloud the names of affected cities that my dad was reading to me from a CNN article: Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Albany, Toronto, Ottawa.

Later, I describe how I turned down an offer to stay at a co-worker's apartment in Greenwich Village (I worked downtown but lived on 190th Street, about ten miles away), because "this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wanted to really experience it. I had always wondered, somewhat jealously, what it must have been like for New Yorkers in ‘65 and ‘77 to see this city in the dark, and now was my chance. So, without any clear idea where I would be sleeping or what I would do once it got fully dark, I started walking toward Times Square."

Read the whole thing. And here's my Flickr gallery of blackout photos. A few highlights:




Various anniversary-themed news articles are out today, including:

ABC News: "Five Years After Blackout: Electric Grid Still Vulnerable"

Associated Press: "5 years after a giant blackout, are we better off?"

Scientific-American: "The 2003 Northeast Blackout--Five Years Later"

Canadian Press: "Repeat of massive 2003 blackout less likely today, says power overseer"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meteor-gazing & sunrise photos

It took longer than I expected, but I've finally posted some photos from yesterday morning's Perseid-watching over on my Photoblog.

Here are a couple of the pics:

Meteor/satellite #1 (enhanced)

That's why they call 'em the Smokies

There's also a whole Flickr set: stargazing photos on Page 1, pre-dawn/sunrise photos on Page 2.

But really, just go to the Photoblog. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Perseid success

As I mentioned yesterday, this morning was the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. I saw 68 meteors -- nowhere near last year's mark of 136, but my viewing window was more like 2 hours, instead of 4 1/2. So my meteor-per-hour rate was actually higher.

Moreover, unlike last year, I'm fairly certain I got one good photo of a meteor (though I haven't had time to review my pics in detail yet). Stay tuned for that.

I also saw an unidentified satellite flying through Pegasus at 5:15 AM. It's not on Heavens-Above's list, so... a secret military satellite, perhaps?

Last but not least, I saw -- and photographed -- one Iridium flare, a whole bunch of stars (duh), several airplanes, and a beautiful sunrise over the Smokies. I'll post the best photos later today.

In the mean time, here are some other people's photos of Perseids, via SpaceWeather. See also this Flickr search.

Monday, August 11, 2008

THE highlight of the 2008 Olympics

If you missed the 4x100 free relay final at the Olympics yesterday, you seriously gotta watch it.

But first, some background information to set the stage. The favored French team -- specifically anchor swimmer Alain Bernard -- had been doing some major trash-talking in advance of this race, saying, "The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came for."

Meanwhile, as if winning a gold medal -- and sticking it to the French in the process -- weren't motivation enough for the Americans, superstar Michael Phelps needed to win this event (along with every other event he's competing in) to attain his goal of winning eight gold medals in Beijing, breaking Mark Spitz's single-Olympics record. And this is one of the events Phelps didn't win in Athens. ESPN called it the toughest of his races. So it's a big deal.

But Phelps isn't Team USA's anchor swimmer on the 4x100 free, so he wasn't the one going head-to-head with Bernard. That role fell to Jason Lezak, a less famous but still spectacular swimmer who's such a good "closer" that he's known in swimming circles as "the Mariano Rivera of sprinters." Even so, making up ground on Bernard would be a tough task for anybody, considering the French closer holds the individual world record in 100-meter freestyle.

Now, all that said... just watch the video.

What a comeback!! Pretty amazing, no? U-S-A! U-S-A! Suck it, France! ;)

(You'll need Microsoft's Silverlight plugin to watch the video. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac.)

Here are some articles about the race:

Lezak, Not Phelps, Puts On a Show --New York Times

Lezak runs down French to win relay gold for U.S. --ESPN

'No way' turns into 'no quit' for Lezak, men's relay team --ESPN's Pat Forde

Phelps wins second Olympic gold; Lezak saves --L.A. Times

Phelps, mates awed by Lezak swim to Olympic gold --L.A. Times

Lezak answers Phelps' prayers --L.A. Times's Edwin Moses

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Perseid meteor shower peaks Tuesday morning

If you want to see this year's Perseid meteor shower, you may want to get to bed early Monday night, and wake up early -- very early -- Tuesday morning. Specifically, you'll want to head outside around 2:00 AM local time, or shortly thereafter, and look up. Wherever you are, the shower's peak will happen between around 2:00 AM (which is approximately when the moon sets) and dawn.

According to NASA, there should be "plenty of meteors -- perhaps one or two every minute." That's assuming you're in a dark-sky location; the closer you are to bright city lights, the fewer meteors will be visible. Becky and I are tentatively planning to head out to a dark spot on the edge of the Smokies and check out the action. It'll be Loyette's first middle-of-the-night astronomy adventure. Probably of many. :)

If you're not willing to brave the wee hours of the morning, but you'd still like to see a meteor or two, try hunting for "earthgrazers" Monday evening:

[A]round 9 pm [local time,] when Perseus first rises in the the time to look for Perseid Earthgrazers--meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping across the surface of a pond.

"Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors," says [NASA's Bill] Cooke. He cautions that an hour of watching may net only a few of these at most, but seeing even one can make the whole night worthwhile.

Also, Jupiter and the Moon will make a striking pair in the southern sky Monday night.

Rock City & Rielle

I've added a bunch of new stuff to the Photoblog, including:


Yup -- Becky, Loyette and I finally Saw Rock City yesterday. :) Hurrah! It was fun. Although, according to Wikipedia, you can't actually see seven states. But whatever. Don't confuse us with facts! :)

Anyway, there's much more on the Photoblog, not just from Rock City but from various places. I've been taking a lot of pictures this week.

Also, on an unrelated note, several people have asked why I'm not blogging about the Edwards scandal. The answer is, I am. Just look at the Linklog (at right). I've been posting stuff there, rather than on the main blog, because I haven't had much to add to the content of the links I've posted, and because the Linklog is where I dump most political stories these days. But if you want to get a general idea of where I stand on the matter, read my comment to dcl.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Russia invades Georgia!

No, not that Georgia -- the one that wants to invade Tennessee, the one where they like peaches and bulldogs and Bob Barr. The other Georgia. And, all joking aside, this is actually quite serious:
Russia sent columns of tanks and reportedly bombed Georgian air bases Friday after Georgia launched a major military offensive Friday to retake the breakaway province of South Ossetia, threatening to ignite a broader conflict.

Hundreds of civilians were reported dead in the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won defacto independence in a war against Georgia that ended in 1992. Witnesses said the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was devastated.

"I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars," said Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, who had fled with her family to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia. "It's impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged."

The fighting broke out as much of the world's attention was focused on the start of the Olympic Games and many leaders, including Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Bush, were in Beijing.
As Andrew wrote in comments, "Russia invaded Georgia on the day of the opening ceremonies. How Soviet-style is that?"

Anyway, here's an analysis of why -- in addition to the general carnage, death and destruction, of course -- this matters:
It would be a serious mistake for the international community to regard the dramatic escalation of violence in Georgia as just another flare-up in the Caucasus.

The names of the flashpoints may be unfamiliar, the territory remote and the dispute parochial, but the battle underway will have major repercussions well beyond this volatile region.

The outcome of this struggle will determine the course of Russia’s future relations with its neighbours, will shape President Medvedev’s presidency, could alter the relationship between the Kremlin and the West and decide the fate of future energy supplies from the Caspian basin. ...

America and Britain are particularly closely involved in providing military assistance to the Georgians in the form of arms and training. The support is aimed at encouraging the rise of Georgia as an independent, sovereign state. But the help is also partly a means of protecting the oil pipeline across Georgia that carries crude from the Caspian to the Black Sea, the only export route that bypasses Russia’s stranglehold on energy exports from the region.

For all these reasons, the stakes in this mini war could not be higher.

If Georgia succeeds in reimposing its sovereignty over South Ossetia in the face of Russian opposition, it will be a huge setback to Russia’s influence in the region. It could also embolden other former Soviet republics, like Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, who are also seeking to break out of Moscow’s grip.

A defeat for the Georgians could well signal the end of [President Mikheil] Saakashvili and set back severely Georgia’s efforts to establish itself as a modern Western-looking democracy.

Either way, the conflict risks further undermining already strained relations between Russia and the West and encouraging those on both sides who would like to see a return to Cold War suspicion and rivalry.
Interestingly, the Georgian army has 2,000 soldiers currently serving alongside U.S. and other allied troops in Iraq, part of the security force in Baghdad. This is part and parcel of the close alliance between Georgia's government and the Bush Administration. But, er, I'm thinking those boys may need to go home.

She's baaack?

Talk of a possible Clintonian plot to steal the nomination from Obama is blossoming into a blogospheric boomlet.

Color me highly skeptical; I suspect this round of speculation says less about the Clintons than it does about the boundless creativity of bored political junkies in the dog days of August. That said, I don't put anything entirely past Bill and Hillary. I have no doubt they'd try it if they thought it would work.

(Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Upset Thursday in Tennessee? [UPDATE: or not]

Could a major upset be brewing in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Tennessee? Although six candidates were on the ballot in today's election, it had been widely assumed by the state media and other observers that this was a two-man race between Robert Tuke of Nashville and Mike Padgett of Knoxville. But with 38 percent of the precincts reporting, Gary Davis of Nashville -- who lost the 2006 Senate primary by a whopping 79%-10% to Harold Ford, Jr. -- has a slight lead with 25.3 percent of the vote to Tuke's 24.6%. Padgett trails with 21%, and Mark Clayton isn't too far behind him with 18.7%.

[UPDATE: As more precincts report in, it looks like Tuke is pulling away. However, it appears that Davis will finish a strong second, and Padgett is in a close race for third with Clayton. That's quite surprising, methinks.] [UPDATE 2: Final numbers: Tuke 32%, Davis 22%, Padgett 19%, Clayton 18%. The Tennessean agrees that Davis's strong showing was a big surprise.]

More locally, an upset also appears possible on the other side of the aisle, in the Republican primary for State Representative in the 18th District -- my district. Early returns show a surprisingly tight race between incumbent Stacey Campfield -- he of the red Mustang and the giant red signs all over town -- and challenger Ron Leadbetter. Based solely on early-voting ballots, the tally is Campfield 49.6%, Leadbetter 47.3%. Updated results are trickling in here.

[UPDATE: Once all the results were in, Campfield ended up winning fairly comfortably, 54% to 43%. And maybe the relative closeness wasn't quite as surprising as I thought: apparently Leadbetter outspent Campfield 2-to-1.]

I met both candidates at the polling place tonight, and chatted at some length with Rep. Campfield. Turns out he has a blog, and he recently linked to my Flickr gallery of election photos. I guess he's something of a controversial and polarizing figure, but he seemed like a nice guy in person. Anyway, I could be entirely wrong about this, but I don't think he expected to be in a close race for his political life tonight. Back in 2006, he received 76% of the vote running against a pair of primary challengers. He won the 2004 primary more narrowly, 50.2% to 45.5%, but he wasn't an incumbent then; he was running for an open seat. (I mention only the primaries because they're the real test for a GOP candidate in the 18th legislative district -- a.k.a. "the fightin' 18th" -- which, like most of this area, is overwhelmingly Republican.)

Here are a couple of relevant photos from this evening -- of Campfield campaigning at the Cedar Bluff polling place (which is, according to Campfield, the largest precinct in the state), and of Campfield and Leadbetter side-by-side there:

IMG_0245.JPG IMG_0247.JPG

I've published more election pictures in a post on my Photoblog.

Meanwhile, in the county general election, it looks like the Republicans will maintain their tight grip on Knox County government, despite the recent scandals. All the GOP candidates for countywide office are winning with at least 58% of the vote.

UPDATE: Yup. For better or worse, the "kick the bums out" sentiment of February's primary seemed to totally disappear in the general. Despite pleas from some commentators asking voters to "finish what you started," turnout was a paltry 18 percent, and all but one of the folks targeted by the website "Remember Black Wednesday" were victorious. (Commissioner Chuck Bolus was the lone exception, losing to Amy Broyles.)

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
[Democratic sheriff candidate Randy] Tyree said that low voter turnout Thursday compared to the Feb. 5 election might have been to blame for his loss.

"My hunch is that scandal fatigue set in," Tyree said, referring to the political turmoil that has shaken Knox County for the past year and a half. "What has happened between now and Feb. 5? There's obviously been a huge drop in the interest of the voters who are out there. ... We are all just sort of mystified and deeply disappointed with the voter turnout."
Robert Bratton, the Democratic candidate for county trustee who I photographed greeting voters last night, also sounds rather disappointed, and perhaps a little bitter about his 61%-39% loss:
"There was never any dispute that the offices were overstaffed, that there's cronyism everywhere," Bratton said. "I was surprised that the public said that's OK. It was basically, do you want experience and keep everything the way they are, where they're hiring their cousins and brothers, or do you want less experience and change? I guess people think our county offices are running just fine."
I express no opinion about whether these results are good or bad, but they're certainly interesting, and perhaps a bit surprising, at least in terms of the margins. If there was ever going to be an election when the Democrats could gain some power in Knox County -- or at least do a little better 38-42 percent in most races! -- this was it. And it didn't happen.

P.S. One blogger writes:
Many "reformers" are bemoaning the election of Sherry Witt, Fred Sisk, and JJ Jones as signs that the voters don't care about the Black Wednesday scandal. This is simply not true. ... I heard Scott Emgee being interviewed on WNOX during the campaign process and he couldn't even articulate what it was that the Register of Deeds did. Sherry Witt was obviously the more qualified candidate. The same holds true for Fred Sisk, and for JJ Jones.
P.P.S. There was at least one major upset in East Tennessee last night, though -- in the far northeastern corner of the state, in a Republican congressional primary:
Being linked to "big oil" turned into a big problem for Tennessee freshman Rep. David Davis, who became the first congressman from that state to lose in a primary in more than four decades.

Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe beat Davis by a 500-vote margin Thursday in the solidly Republican 1st District in the northeastern corner of the state. ...

Congressional incumbents from Tennessee are rarely voted out of office. Statewide, the last time an incumbent was defeated in a party primary was 1966 when Democrat Tom Murray lost to Ray Blanton in what was then the 7th District. Blanton won the general election then became governor in 1974.
The unofficial final vote tally is 25,916 to 25,416. (Hat tip: my dad.)

P.P.P.S. Meanwhile, in West Tennessee, voters -- in Michael Silence's words -- "turned away a race-baiter and re-elected a Jew in a predominantly black district."

Election Day

It's Election Day in Tennessee, as citizens head to the polls to vote in congressional and legislative primaries -- most notably the battle between Mike Padgett and Bob Tuke to become the Democratic sacrificial lamb challenger to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander -- as well as the general election for various county and local offices.

Here in Knox County, today's election is the final chapter in an extraordinary political battle that's been raging for more than two years. I won't bore you with the details, but you can read this New York Times article if you're interested, or just Google "Knox County Black Wednesday." If you really want details, here's a long list of posts about the controversy.

Anyway, I photoblogged the election over the weekend; you can view my full Flickr gallery here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Moon shadow, Moon shadow

I mentioned this on the Linklog already, but it's worthy of a post on the main blog: a group of eclipse-chasers up in Nunavut, Canada, got some absolutely incredible photos and video -- taken from their airborne perch inside a small twin-engine plane at 27,000 feet -- of the initial "touchdown" by the Moon's shadow during last week's total solar eclipse.

Not only could they see the Sun disappearing behind the Moon's disc, but they could clearly see the umbra itself as an elongated shadow, with sunlight on either side. Here's their video (with some excited expletives) of the experience:

Here are their photos. (Hat tip: SpaceWeather.) And here are some more eclipse photos, by other folks in various places around the world.

I have to wait another nine years before I get to see a total solar eclipse. But early tomorrow morning, I'm planning a little sky-watching of my own, as a pair of very bright Iridium flares -- one of them a -9, which is the brightest I've ever heard of, and the other a -8 -- are supposed to happen about 2 1/2 minutes apart over East Knoxville. I'm planning to wake up early (very early) and, if the sky is clear enough to make the trip seem worth it, drive out to the vicinity of Johnson Bible College to watch and take pictures of 'em.

I know, I'm a huge dork. :) But a magnitude -9, followed immediately by a -8! That doesn't happen every day. And hey, I can get to work early, come home early, and spend more time with Loyette. Everybody wins!

(For those needing a refresher, here's an explanation of Iridium flares. My previous posts about them are here, here, here, here and here.)

UPDATE: When I woke up, it was cloudy, but it looked like the clouds would clear in time for the flares. So I drove out to the spot. But it was still cloudy. The sky cleared about 30 minutes too late. :( No Iridium flares for me!

The "unlawful photographs" -- revealed!

Scott Conover, the man arrested for "unlawful photography" because he took a picture of a police officer on a public road, has his court date today in Johnson County General Sessions Court.

[UPDATE: Conover's court appearance has reportedly been delayed until Wednesday, September 3.]

Meanwhile, on the eve of that next chapter in this infuriating story, blogger and photographic freedom activist Carlos Miller has published a lengthy post containing more details on the events of June 8 -- including the photos themselves, the collections of pixels that started all this nonsense.

Deputy Starling McCloud, left, handcuffs Scott Conover, right, while Deputy Ben May, center, looks on. Photo taken with Conover's iPhone by Conover's 12-year-old daughter, who was then herself threatened with false arrest for this instance of "unlawful photography." Reprinted with permission from Carlos Miller. (The original photo that got Conover arrested actually didn't turn out nearly as well. But you can see it on Miller's site.)

Miller interviewed Conover about what occurred, as well as the background underlying it. Turns out, Conover has been something of a thorn in the Johnson County Sheriff's Office's side -- which, I hasten to point out, doesn't make him guilty of anything. Quite the contrary, in fact, if Conover's tale is true.

According to Conover, a few years ago, he witnessed a pair of officers "beat the sh*t out of" a man in front of a bar he owns. He gave a witness statement to the man's attorney. Upon seeing the statement, the police "came by and asked me why I was getting involved.” From that point on, according to Conover, the police began routinely harassing customers leaving his bar, stopping people on suspicion of drunk driving without any just cause for doing so. Conover eventually "sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum," he says.

That helps explain why Conover took the "offending" picture on the night in question:

[Ahead of Conover on the road] were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

“The lady who was driving doesn’t drink,” [Conover] said. “Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.”

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his iPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

“Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.”

A quick note here: whereas the officers' accounts made it sound like Conover was insolently taunting the officers when he announced he was going to take their picture, Conover's account makes it sound like he was actually trying to reassure them that he was merely pointing a camera at him, not something more sinister. That's actually a pretty responsible thing to do.

Now, obviously, I don't know for sure who's telling the truth -- but since it's already known that Officer McCloud has made at least one false statement under oath (i.e., claiming that Conover's iPhone pointed a red light at him, causing him to fear for his life -- something that iPhones cannot do), I daresay he doesn't have too much credibility. Between McCloud and Conover, Conover is the one who hasn't yet been caught in a lie.

Anyway, back to the article:

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud - who has been on the force only 18 months - told him that photographing him was illegal.

“I asked, ‘what planet are you from?’,” Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo...

At this point, I want to stop again, and reiterate something I mentioned previously: it doesn't matter if you approve of Conover's actions. It doesn't matter if you think he was being rude, or a jerk, or whatever. It doesn't even matter if you're inclined to give the officer the benefit of the doubt when making snap judgments in the line of duty, particularly with regard to citizens who are annoying him. Whatever your position on those issues, the fact remains that, under any possible interpretation of the facts (as recalled not just by Conover, but by the officers themselves in their statements), it can never, ever, ever be acceptable for a police officer to "threaten to arrest [a citizen] if he [does] not delete [a] photo" -- which the officers admit occurred. Such a demand is never justifiable, because, again:

"If Officer McCloud honestly thought, due to legal ignorance or heat-of-the-moment misjudgment or what have you, that the photo was either contraband (i.e., illegal in itself) or evidence of a crime, then deleting it would constitute destruction of evidence. And if the photo was neither contraband nor evidence, then by definition, the police obviously had no right to seize it or otherwise make any demands about it. So, no matter how you frame the issue, McCloud can't win."

And if McCloud was flustered by Conover's (perfectly legal) actions, too freaking bad. That's no excuse for using the power of his badge to make illegitimate, illegal, arguably unconstitutional demands, on pain of imprisonment. He's a police officer. His job is to serve and protect the public, within the bounds of the law. He is required to respect the public's rights, even when the public is pissing him off. He doesn't get to just make up new laws because some guy was annoying him.

So don't make this about Conover. Don't you dare. It's not about Conover, or his actions, or his character. It's about Officer McCloud. Even if you don't buy Conover's explanation of his actions -- and, personally, I do, but even if you don't -- Conover still didn't commit a crime by taking that picture, and McCloud did commit a crime by threatening to arrest him if he didn't delete it. McCloud should be punished. Conover should not. Period.

Anyway, continuing with Conover's story, as told by Miller:

Conover’s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the iPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn’t delete the photo. [It's worth reiterating that McCloud's own account confirms this, as does Lane's account. -ed]

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

“I threw the phone back to my [12-year-old] daughter and told her to keep taking photos.”

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May ... McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

“He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, ‘You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems’,” he said. [The statements by McCloud and Lane do not mention this statement, but they say Conover was "irate," "cussing" and "cursing." -ed.]

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

“He then turned to me and said, ‘I’m charging you with disorderly conduct’.”

Ah, "disorderly conduct." That, I suspect, is the charge they will try to stick Conover with today, given the transparently bogus nature of the other charges ("unlawful photography" and "pointing of laser at law enforcement officer"). And, as Miller notes, "disorderly conduct is a charge that police use when they can’t think of an actual crime committed."

But let's be clear about something. Annoying a police officer is not "disorderly conduct." Being insubordinate to a police officer -- who is making demands that he has no right to make -- is not "disorderly conduct." Being rude to a police officer is not "disorderly conduct." Even cursing at a police officer is not "disorderly conduct," unless I missed the memo where the First Amendment was repealed.

Nor is rudeness or vulgarity to an officer even particularly worthy of moral opprobrium, in my view, when it was clearly provoked by the officer's own illegal actions, his unjustifiable threats, his blatant abuse of power (and, no doubt, his own rudeness). It's always better not to be rude, of course, but I imagine few of us would be able to contain our anger at the officer in that situation. I'd probably be rude, too. And that's not a crime.

Now, threatening a police officer with bodily harm is a crime, and if the D.A. can manage to portray Conover's alleged statement (which neither of the officers considered important enough to include in their accounts of the incident) that "you better not go back there [into the back seat, where the 12-year-old daughter was sitting] or else we’re going to have some real problems" as a true threat of imminent bodily harm -- which I'm going to say is a real stretch -- then they might be able to get him on a technicality.

But let's be honest, and keep things in context. On the one hand, you have three armed officers clearly and straightforwardly threatening a man with false arrest for doing something perfectly legal (taking a picture on a public road). On the other hand, you have, arguably, a vague "threat" by an unarmed citizen who is distraught because his civil rights are being trampled, his car is being trespassed upon, and his 12-year-old daughter is now also being threatened with a false arrest. Between the officer making threats under color of law to protect his ego, and the father making "threats" to protect his daughter, who is the real criminal? Who's truly "threatening" whom?

The answer is obvious. If Conover's account is even remotely accurate -- and it is consistent with the accounts by Officers McCloud, Lane and May -- the only person who committed a crime here was Officer Starling McCloud. The only "disorderly conduct" that occurred was the ridiculous violation of an innocent citizen's rights by three officers of the law. And it will be an absolute disgrace if Conover is charged with any crime today. Even moreso if he's charged with something and McCloud is not.

What should happen is this: Conover should be released with the county's apologies. McCloud should be arrested and charged with false imprisonment, false arrest, perjury, violations of two citizens' civil rights (Conover's and his daughter's), and any other crimes he may have committed (I suspect there are several others I'm not thinking of). He should be fired immediately. And the Johnson County Sheriff's Office should apologize to the entire public -- their employer -- for this egregious abuse of power, and should institute new policies and training programs to ensure that a similar outrage never happens again.

Anyway, read the whole thing. And I'll keep you updated as soon as I hear anything about how Conover's court appearance went down.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering what "disorderly conduct" actually means, here's the statutory definition under Tennessee law:

§ 39-17-305. Disorderly conduct

(a) A person commits an offense who, in a public place and with intent to cause public annoyance or alarm:

(1) Engages in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior;

(2) Refuses to obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard or other emergency; or

(3) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose.

(b) A person also violates this section who makes unreasonable noise that prevents others from carrying on lawful activities.

(c) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

I can imagine a couple of possible tortured arguments for justifying such a charge against Conover. But those arguments ultimately should not carry the day -- both because they are ultimately wrong on the law, and also because they completely miss the point of what occurred, by all accounts.

Any alleged "disorderliness" on Conover's part -- and, again, I don't think his conduct, as recounted by all parties, actually meets the legal definition in any event -- occurred after the officers engaged in blatantly illegal bullying behavior under color of law, and threatened McCloud with an transparently false arrest for the perfectly legal action of taking a picture. If McCloud got a little "disorderly" in response to their egregious actions, well, there's a good reason for that. If you want your citizenry to stay "orderly," don't trample all over their legal and constitutional rights. When police blatantly abuse their power, a little bit of disorderliness is completely justified.

But, hey, if they want to charge Conover with "disorderly conduct" on some technicality, I won't have a huge problem with it -- so long as they also charge Officer McCloud for all the far more serious crimes that he committed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Paris Hilton for President!


Reporter seeks bar-exam earthquake, uh, survivors

A reporter for the National Law Journal, Amanda Bronstad, contacted me today because she is working on a story about the California earthquake's impact on last week's bar exam -- a topic that spurred a lengthy blog post here, as you might recall, which got Instalanched and is now ranked #1 if you Google "california earthquake bar exam" -- and the ensuing controversies surrounding the possible impact on exam results, alleged unequal treatment, etc. She's looking for people to interview about the issue, particularly those with first-hand accounts.

Sooo, if you were taking the bar during the earthquake, and you'd like to talk to Ms. Bronstad for her article, please contact her at 213-620-1204, or at She's working on the story today and Wednesday.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

T.S. Edouard forms, threatens Houston area

It may become a hurricane before landfall. Check out my PJM hurricane blog, Weather Nerd, for the latest.

Count every vote, yada yada yada

Now that their votes are a mere technicality, Obama wants the Michigan and Florida delegates seated in full.

This will raise eyebrows and cause some snark and snickering on the right, but really, it's precisely what everyone always expected would happen: the presumptive nominee would insist that all the delegates be seated, with full votes. The only glitch was that the "presumptive nominee" took so long to determine, and it seemed for a while like there might be a floor fight (i.e., the delegates' votes might actually matter, and thus, the delegate-stripping penalty might actually mean something). It would have been totally unethical and wrong to give Michigan and Florida full votes in such a floor fight, given that they willfully broke the rules knowing that delegate-stripping would be the consequence, and the voters in those states acted with that knowledge. However, now that there won't be a floor fight (indeed, Hillary won't even be nominated), there's no compelling reason to maintain the penalty. At this point, it just doesn't matter.

I have a question, though. What about the various states that the Republicans penalized in precisely the same way the Dems ultimately penalized Michigan and Florida, by cutting their delegations in half? This has gotten almost no notice in the press, because it didn't spark a huge controversy, but the GOP did this to not just Florida and Michigan, but also New Hampshire, Wyoming and South Carolina. Will McCain insist that they be seated with full delegations? (Possible answer: no, because those states actually adjusted the number of live human beings selected as delegates, rather than giving each delegate a "half vote," as in the Dems' ad-hoc penalty. I don't know if this is true, but I bet it is, and if so, it might not be feasible to retroactively double the delegations' size. But I'm just guessing. Does anyone know?)

Obama to announce Evan Bayh as veep in Elkhart on Wednesday?

With the Beijing Olympics set to begin Friday, and continuing until the day before the Democratic National Convention starts, Barack Obama's last chance to make a pre-convention vice-presidential selection without competing against the Olympics in the news cycle would be early this week... say, Tuesday or Wednesday.

So: where will Obama be on Tuesday and Wednesday? In the land of the Fighting Irish:

[T]he traveling press registration e-mail has us flying to South Bend at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and not leaving until 3:25 p.m. the next day.

As the article notes, 21 hours in northern Indiana "seems like an awfully long time to be in one place." (Memo to the press pool: if you're bored Tuesday night, head on down to the Backer -- which will be townie-dominated, what with Domers on summer break -- and get a window into the "white working class"...)

Anyway, what could this mean? A long, mid-week visit to Indiana, right before the Olympics? Could this be the big announcement at last? Obama-Weis '08? ;)

Actually, the speculation is that it could mean Bayh's the guy:

The visit...could be to announce the selection of Senator Evan Bayh as Obama’s running mate. ... Democratic sources say Secret Service is working out details with local police that would include a motorcade. ... Sources say the details appear to be different than a normal presidential candidate visit.

There will be a rally in Elkhart on Wednesday morning, according to the South Bend Tribune. There is no official word yet on whether Bayh will be in attendance. The event will be open to the public. (Hat tip: Herbert.)

Needless to say, if Obama ends up announcing his veep selection just down the road from Notre Dame, it will only add to my jealous angst over the amount of awesome election-related activity happening this year in every place I've ever lived, except East Tennessee.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Democracy in action

Over at the Photoblog, some pictures of early voting in Knoxville... and a little bit of fun at Barack Obama's expense.

Quoted without regard to context

"There will be no haboobery in this house!" --Becky

Friday, August 1, 2008

Top Ten Signs Barack Obama Is Overconfident


(Hat tip: Gateway Pundit, via MumZ.)

See also: Top Ten Ways John McCain Can Appear More Youthful. And don't miss the additional items in the "Top Ten Extra," some of which are funnier than the "top" ten. For example: "Challenge Obama to a winner take all game of Guitar Hero" and "Begin every speech with, 'My fellow dawgs'." Heh.

P.S. Strangely, the Obama list has gone missing from the official Late Show site, even though it clearly used to be there: Gateway Pundit has a screenshot, and a cached version can be found via Google. So, where'd it go? I blame the vast left-wing conspiracy! :P

P.P.S. Courtesy the Google Cache, the "Extra" items on the Obama list include: "Visiting White House this weekend to learn how to use Bat-Signal" and "His MySpace mood: presidential."

Sometimes, the best beaches are in your head

Thursday morning on Facebook, Becky changed her status to:

For her, it was just a silly little thought, a passing fancy, a fleeting mental image of a much-needed vacation. But for some reason, it inspired me, and made me want to think of some way to bring Becky's tropical fantasy to life, in some shape or form.

On short notice, and with limited resources (our apartment here in Knoxville is not exactly, er, beachfront property), I had to improvise a bit. But I figured our front porch could substitute for the beach in a pinch. The more important element -- in addition to the element of surprise, of course -- was the fruity drink with the umbrella in it. I definitely needed that, plus anything else I could muster to create a tropical "feel."

So, on my way home from work, I stopped at Party City for some supplies, and also picked up the drink in question. I then hurried home, shepherded Becky onto the porch with a cryptic promise of a "surprise," put a few things together in the kitchen, made her close her eyes as I came out to join her on the porch, until finally... voila!


Admittedly, a virgin strawberry daiquiri picked up from Applebee's Carside To Go probably doesn't count as a "strong" cocktail. ;) But I needed something I could grab on the drive home -- and hey, it was fruity, at least. And tasty!

More importantly, by pouring the daiquiri into a wine glass from our kitchen (well, two wine glasses, actually; I had a daiquiri, too), I was able to ensure that the glass did, in fact, sweat. This was crucial. :) The umbrella straws were also a big hit, as was the lei.

The timing was perfect, too: it just so happened that Loyette was taking a brief late-afternoon nap when I got home, so Becky and I were able to have a lovely little "beach" vacation together, just the two of us. We enjoyed our daiquiris, and each other's company, for 15 minutes or so, before returning to reality and waking up the baby (who, incidentally, turned seven months old on Thursday!)

It was a wonderful little escape from our routines. And I'm pretty sure, listening really closely, we could almost hear the waves crashing against the shore...