Archive for February, 2008

Nader decides running preferable to sitting at home alone and sobbing
February 24, 2008

Apparently Ralph Nader has decided to throw his weary, hollow, broken shell of a hat into the 2008 general election. I’m pretty torn about this: on the one hand, there’s a lot of understandable bitterness towards the guy coming from the left, since his run tightened the 2000 election enough for the Supreme Court to swoop in and hand it to the completely wrong guy. With the stakes so high in this election, nobody wants a repeat of that, unless the Republicans get some kind of crazy third-party evangelical run as a handicap to even things out (I’m looking at you, Sam Brownback).

Nader’s also got the really annoying tendency of always claiming that there’s no difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees, and while he has kind of sort of a point as far as parties are concerned (look at our Democratic Senate, which is only a very tiny, marginal improvement over the Republican Senate), saying there’s no difference between Obama and McCain is like saying you’re having a hard time choosing between Gandalf and Saruman. They’re different. Maybe Obama’s not as far to the left as Nader would like, but at what point do you say, “Okay, fine, good enough?”

On the other hand, Nader’s running is a positive thing insomuch as it’s good for the mental health and personal well-being of Ralph Nader. Because come on, what else is he going to do? Guy doesn’t even have any friends in the Green Party anymore. Nobody came to his last birthday party. The week before he was on Meet the Press to announce his candidacy, he was probably watching Meet the Press in his bathrobe and debating whether or not it was even worth showering and shaving that day. This is a sad, sad man. Look at this, for Chrissake:

Nader’s debating goddamn dolls now. So it was either start another presidential campaign or show up at the animal shelter with a wad of bills and finally become the crazy cat lady that he’s been slowly transforming into for the past eight years.

Callin’ out, y’all
February 24, 2008

Happy birthday to Matt Zeitlin, who today has officially made the transition from blogging wünderkind to blogging wünderlegaladult. Since he’s blogging from roughly around the Bay Area, I recommend celebrating with some Lyrics Born:

Music Video Saturday
February 23, 2008

Because it looks like this is becoming a regular thing. This week, it’s up and comer Bon Iver (pronounced like Bonne Hiver).

The album has an incredible backstory, which I’ll just quote at length from the AV Club article that turned me onto this music:

Singer-songwriter Vernon holed up in his father’s cabin in northwestern Wisconsin for several months after a series of personal setbacks, including breakups with his band and girlfriend, and a lingering bout with mononucleosis that attacked his liver and kept him in bed for three months. Vernon whiled away the days recording lonely folk songs, radically altering the way he approached songwriting and singing, and subsequently producing a hauntingly beautiful record far removed from his previous work.

Holy crap, right? And if you look at how he’s dressed in the video, I don’t think our sad acoustic friend ever truly left the woodland cabin. Good stuff.

We’re done with letting the VP do stuff, right?
February 23, 2008

If it’s true that Harry Reid is soon going to be resign (and believe you me, I’m already writing to Santa for that one) then please, for the love of god, give Clinton the VP slot. After a couple years of letting Reid basically surrender on Iraq and then actively campaign against members of his own party to ram the desires of the White House when it comes to domestic wiretapping through Congress, I don’t think replacing him with a Senator who voted for Kyl-Lieberman, introduced a flag burning bill, and went totally AWOL during the FISA debate is going to cause a good deal of change.

On the other hand, Schumer’s lusting after the seat as well, apparently. Which would be a whole four times as bad. Seriously. It’s mathematically verifiable.

What about that Chris Dodd dude? I’ve been hearing good things about him.

50,000 words
February 22, 2008

Yep. The book, tentatively titled Epic Summer, is now past the 50k mark. 50,000 is a good milestone, because now that I’ve passed it, it’s pretty much a sure thing that I’ll now finish at least the first draft. I can’t not finish it. I’ve already written 50,000 words, for Chrissake! Giving up now would mean a huge waste of time and mental investment.

The weird thing is I’m nowhere where I thought I would be around 50,000 words in terms of the plot. I think this thing is starting to get a little bloated. But it’s probably nothing I can’t fix in the second draft with a merciless attitude and a machete.

This thing might actually be publishable by the time I put down that machete. And that would be awesome.

Dude. Seriously.
February 22, 2008

Via Greg Sargent, the NYT reporters and editors who wrote that whole McCain mess up are taking questions. Cool. I’ve got a few questions for the editors.

1.) “Dude. What the hell?” Pause. “Dude.” And then just a long, disappointed gaze.

2.) So when were you guys planning publishing this story if The New Republic hadn’t lit that fire under your ass? January 20, 2013?

3.) If this story’s been brewing for three months, why does the final product look like something I might produce after an all-nighter when the dining hall’s run out of coffee?

4.) Seriously, dude. What the hell?

Also, I second all of Greg’s questions.

The 1st Annual Russert Award for Courage in Journalism
February 21, 2008

Goes to the editors of the New York Times. When I suggested that they were sitting on the McCain affair story until they were sure it wouldn’t affect the primary, I understated the whole thing. Now it looks like they were basically willing to sit on the story forever.

Radar reports that the Times, which has been chasing this story at least since December, only published now because it was forced into it.

Yep – NYT uncovered a bombshell of a story and then decided to keep it under wraps only until someone else decided to do a story on the story and they published the original story to preempt it. And when they finally did publish the story, they apparently left out the part where they make any conclusive statements about anything – the whole thing is describing peoples’ reactions to something that the Times stops just short of saying every actually happened.

This is pretty straightforward, people. If there’s no story, don’t print a story. But if there is a story, and it’s a big one, then it sure would be nice of you fellas to let us know what’s up. To report it, to put it another way.

The Slashdot candidate
February 21, 2008

There’s been quite a bit of buzz on the Internet these past few days about this Lessig fellow considering a run for Congress. I knew of him passingly as the mind behind the Creative Commons license, and with his focus on reforming copyright laws and promoting net neutrality and the free exchange of ideas online, it’s no wonder that the wonkosphere is pumped at the thought of a Lessig run. I mentally filed it away as a race that, like the Donna Edwards race, I would follow with interest but not necessarily blog about.

Then I saw the above New York Times article, with this passage inside:

The potential campaign would be part of a national effort, called Change Congress, to have politicians swear off lobbyists’ money and Congressional earmarks and embrace public financing of campaigns.

Woohoo! This guy’s like the patron saint of geeky pet issues. Lessig for Congress!

That being said, I’m going to preemptively disassociate myself from any efforts to turn the online grassroots effort for Lessig into the second coming of the Ron Paul campaign with all of the obnoxious comments spamming that implies. I appreciate voter enthusiasm as much as the next guy, but when I read the comments on YouTube for dramatic prairie dog, I really don’t care about who you’re voting for. I just want informed, intelligent commentary about dramatic prairie dogs, dammit.

The gift that never, ever stops giving
February 21, 2008

I feel Robin Wright’s pain. She’s written an important story that’s going to get completely drowned out in the next news cycle because John McCain’s been accused of shtupping a lobbyist.

Once a month, Pakistan’s Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, in support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

No receipts are attached.

Helping a corrupt despot like Musharraf combat Al Qaeda because it’s the lesser of two evils is one thing. But this is basically handing him fistfuls of money because somebody over at the Defense Ministry knows how to enter big numbers into Microsoft Excel. How much money are we talking here? $5.7 billion. $80 million a month.

So what does the Bush administration have to say for themselves?

“It’s a big job to go through and figure out what the Pakistanis have spent. The State Department doesn’t know the toys,” said the second U.S. official familiar with policy.

He added: “The embassy doesn’t have the manpower or expertise to tell whether an aviator widget doohickey costs 50 or 50,000 rupees, or to find out if they really burned out four aviatics packages in an Apache helicopter and, if so, could we see them because maybe they only need maintenance.”

An aviator widget doohickey?!

Listen, Secretary Rice, I think I can help you out here. See, I’ve got this magical anti-terrorism stick that I’m willing to sell you for the low, low price of $20 million. Hell, that’s less than you give to Musharraf in a week. Anyway, think about it. You have my number.

McCain gets Lewinsky’d
February 21, 2008

Well, not exactly. But sort of. I mean, Jesus Christ.

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

I wonder how long the New York Times has been sitting on this? I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to keep this in their back pocket until the Republican primary was basically over. Not because they endorsed McCain, but because those guys have shown a pretty remarkable aversion to printing news when that information could, you know, dramatically impact something.

This is already spreading across the blogosphere faster than herpes, and you can expect it to dominate headlines for a good while. That’s why the Lewinsky analogy makes so much sense – not because it’s another example of prominent American politicians gettin’ it on with people not they’re not married to, but because it’s another instance in which the PG-13 nature of the scandal is going to drown out the reason why it actually matters. See, I may wake up tomorrow morning to find myself in the minority of public opinion, but I really don’t give a damn who McCain (allegedly) deploys his surge into after hours. No, this is the reason why this should be news:

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

The article goes on to detail McCain’s involvement in the apparently long-forgotten Keating Five Scandal. That’s worth reading about as well. The point is that McCain’s not so hot at living up to his own standards of ethical conduct. Regardless of whether or not he’s in bed with lobbyists in a literal sense, he most certainly is in the metaphorical sense. That should be the story.

But what angle do you think the networks are going to want to go after? Boring old political corruption? Or a septuagenarian US Senator ravishing a lady who’s clearly not Mrs. Septuagenarian US Senator?

Yeah, I thought so.

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