Tuesday, April 29, 2008

As if this is news

AP credibly reports that Olympic torch relay begins North Korea leg free of protest as if this were a legitimate news story.

On the one hand, if it were not true, any journalist who dared to report such news to the outside world would be imprisoned on some kind of fake espionage charges, if he even managed to survive.

On the other hand, it almost certainly is true, as any protester (and most if not all of his family) would be imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

So why does the AP (and other news media, to be fair, this was just a convenient link) report this as if it is an actual news story?

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

I knew the deceased always voted Democrat

But even I'm surprised to learn that dead people also give dead presidents to the party:

Sen. Barack Obama does come from the Chicago school of politics, where historically voter turnout has been unusually high for residents of certain graveyards. And he has been unusually successful raising money.Actor Roy Scheider in his Jaws role as the local policeman He died Feb. 10 at the age of 75 but somehow one month later donated $50 to the presidential campaign of Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Chicago

Now, he's raising money by raising the dead.

The Times' campaign finance expert Dan Morain has found Obama campaign records reporting a $50 donation by Roy Scheider, who lists his occupation as actor and his home as Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Remember him from many great movies, including "The French Connection" and "Jaws" and the immortal line: "You're gonna need a bigger boat"?

According to the campaign records, Scheider made the donation March 10.

Trouble is, Scheider died exactly one month before that, on Feb. 10, at age 75. [...]

Scheider was unavailable for comment.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scenes from the class struggle in NoDal

[Followup to my earlier post on the Texas primary and caucus]

The Democrat caucus process is, as I understand it, meant to serve as a first buffer against the electorate voting in the “wrong” candidate, with the now controversial superdelegates functioning as a final trump card in case that didn’t work out either. The goal ultimately being to nominate the candidate desired by party leaders while keeping up the appearance that the people decide even in close races.

But whatever its purpose, in practice it’s a mess, at least in Texas in 2008. And from what I’ve read, that is hardly limited to one precinct or one state; it’s just the nature of the caucus mechanism.

In our case, the rule was you voted in the primary and then could come back and vote in the caucus that night at 7:00. I voted midday; there was no line at all, maybe 3-4 people there. But when I came back around 6:45 there was a huge line of people waiting to place primary votes, and those of us there to vote in the caucus were ushered into the school cafeteria.

Around 7:00, some guy (who I’ll refer to as Gay Principal because he is a middle school principal who was pretty much flaming) stepped to the podium and said that we could form three lines to vote, but could not start until everybody had finished primary voting – the doors were closed at 7:00 but anybody already in line could still vote. He explained that once you had voted, you were free to leave unless you wanted to stick around for the election of officers.

Much of the crowd got in line (not me, that place was SRO and I wasn’t about to give up my very tiny elementary school cafeteria seat). And the volunteers sitting at the tables at the front of the lines…let them start casting their votes, which turns out to be presenting your voter registration card and a photo ID (cool!), writing down your info and voting. Gay Principal’s orders were summarily ignored.

It looked like most of the people who were voting then left, a few stuck around but they were a solid minority. All the while new caucusers who had just voted in the primary were filing in, so the entrance and exit was a traffic jam.

After a few minutes of this, another guy (let’s call him Too Much Golf Guy, he had a serious face burn going on) found Gay Principal and they stepped to the podium to get everybody to STOP! voting until we give you the cue, please! So for about a half hour, maybe a little more, there were a whole bunch of folks standing in line and I was pretty damned glad that I had not given up my tiny seat and that I’d brought along some reading material.

Finally, maybe 7:45-8:00, Gay Principal stepped up to say that we could start voting again. I was still sitting, waiting for the lines to clear. At this point, or maybe even a little before, some vote sheets started circulating around the room, with some guy sitting behind me and to the left (Fake Rob Reiner) telling whoever would listen to just write in their votes on these sheets and save the trouble of standing in line.

This sounded kind of suspicious to some of us, since they were clearly checking ID and registration and just writing your info in would leave the process open to fraud. Indeed, I saw a lady with one of the sheets for a few minutes, as she shuffled through 3-4 registration cards entering info and casting multiple votes. I’m not sure if any of the traditional Democrat constituencies like dead people and cartoon and movie characters voted, but I’m going to guess the answer is yes.

Finally Too Much Golf Guy got wind of what was happening and got up to tell everybody to only vote at the front of the room, the extra sheets would not count. The problem was, the extra sheets were collected and brought to the front of the room where they got mixed in with the legitimate sheets. I later got a chance to see at a few of them piled loosely and saw that they were all 100% Obama pages, so you can guess what was going on there. Too Much Golf Guy, who appeared to be the only Clinton supporter among the volunteers, was assured that the bad pages would be thrown out…yeah, right.

I finally got in line after it got really short and got to the front where I found a table full of people wearing Obama pins (as was Gay Principal, it turned out). Oddly, I was asked who I was voting for, said Clinton and was given a new blank page with no grid to write in my info as the volunteer said they were out of sheets. I later saw blank sheets on another table, so I suspect that my voting on a no-vote sheet I was ultimately disenfranchised. Such is the fate of the white male in America.

A word on the voters, based on talking to people, looking at sheets and the later officer voting where supporters of the candidates split up. You could pretty much tell whom a given voter was supporting just by looking at them.

No, no, not that. There were a decent number of black Clinton voters and white Obama voters. I’m talking about how they were dressed. Anybody wearing a nice suit or designer casual wear was for Obama, as was anybody wearing any expensive jewelry or shoes. The Clinton voter was wearing jeans and a t-shirt or cheap collared shirt. I fit the stereotype, as I voted for Clinton while wearing jeans and my Bush (the band) t-shirt just for mischief’s sake.

After all of the votes had been cast and the only the hard cores were left, maybe 8:45 or so by now, we began the process of selecting officers. Obama supporter Gay Principal and Clinton supporter Too Much Golf Guy tried to get things going by collecting the vote pages to be delivered to the party. Too Much Golf Guy protested because the sheets that he had been promised would not be counted were left in, with Gay Principal and a vocal guy sitting in the front (I’ll call him Coming to America, after the genius Eddie Murphy movie) basically shouting him down with the justification that they would let the party officials sort it out as they verified absentees and such. Too Much Golf Guy looked totally beaten down right then, I felt sorry for him.

Lots of high-minded comments about how the only thing that mattered was to get it right were heard from the peanut gallery, hilarious since it was obvious to anybody paying attention by then that in this particular precinct caucus the fix was in for Obama. Nobody does cognitive dissonance like the Dems…

Following a handful of procedural motions and votes, it was time to select the officers who would represent the precinct at a state caucus meeting a few weeks down the road. The important one was chairman, since that would be who got to explain the extra sheet kerfuffle to the state party guys.

Gay Principal was nominated, as was an Asian girl (Obama supporter) and a guy who looked like a former college football player to get at least one Clinton supporter into the vote. In the first round of voting, the Clinton guy got the most votes and was declared the winner briefly, until somebody declared that the winner had to have a majority and not just a plurality (an idea which was never voted on or suggested until the possibility of a non-Obama chair emerged).

So Gay Principal dropped out, and a second vote was taken – tie! And another vote and another tie. Then they had the supporters of each candidate move to opposite sides of the room to make sure it was really a tie, which it was. And then, I’m not sure exactly how, the Obama girl was named the winner – I guess they found another vote somewhere à la the last Washington governor’s race. As if there could have been any other outcome in this group.

After that, there were less contentious votes for vice chair and secretary, and…then it was getting to be 9:15 and time for me to go as I needed to get on to the more important matter of the 9:30 Lakers game, so I missed the probably mundane conclusion.

All in all, a fascinating and at the same time hilarious experience. What I learned is that primaries are the only part of the nominating process that has much legitimacy; caucus results (not all, but this one was hardly unique from what I read) are suspect at best and the superdelegate process even moreso. It should surprise nobody that the party that privately (and, in an increasing number of slipups, publicly) holds most of the population in contempt would seek to hedge its bets by creating a multi-tiered nominating process. If only the had a way of getting around the people’s will in November…

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lesser of two evils

Today’s Pennsylvania primary reminds me that I never posted on my experience at the Texas Democrat primary and caucus on March 4.

I did not vote in the Democrat primary in some kind of strategic attempt to lengthen the process and cause chaos within the party, as has been advocated by some talk radio figures and pundits. That’s an entirely appropriate thing to do in a state with an open primary; after all it is Democrats and Independent voters that made McCain the Republican nominee, and it is Republican and Independent voters who have driven Obama into the lead in the Democrat race (Clinton is leading by a significant margin among Democrat voters).

No, for me it was purely a matter of principle. Had there been a competitive Republican race, I would have likely voted for somebody there, but that race was over. So I chose to vote in the Democrat primary.

My reasoning was simple. It was (and is) a two horse race, and while I am no fan of either of the candidates, I find one of them downright scary, and cast my vote for the much lesser of two evils.

Clinton is what she is, and what her husband was – a dishonest hack who grew out of the new leftist movement of the late 60’s. But it seems unlikely that she would fully pursue the kind of reckless foreign policy agenda that her opponent has been promising on the campaign trail. The Clintons are just too risk averse. She may give lip service to loony left demands for US surrender in Iraq and appeasement everywhere else, but I can’t see her actually opening herself up to being the one history holds responsible for the consequences of such actions.

In short, while she gets most things wrong I believe she will ultimately get the biggest thing mostly right and end up continuing to fight global jihad. It is possible that Obama would as well, but I am much less confident given his background and his foreign policy demagoguery over the last year. This is a man who has said that an Iraqi genocide was acceptable if it would get us out of there, that we should unilaterally invade a fragile (and nuclear!) ally in Pakistan, and who promises to give anti-US totalitarians the propaganda bonanza that would be the only outcome of meeting with them.

His pronouncements display such a childlike naïveté that I don’t think it’s just thrown out there for the benefit of the hate-America faction that is his base, I think he’s just really that clueless. This is a man who would be seriously out of his depth as the leader of the free world.

This is getting long, so I’ll get to the reason I started this post – to recount my experiences at the caucus – in the next post.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

NBA back to backs are nothing

I cringe sometimes at some of the back to back games that have teams catching overnight flights and settling into their hotels near dawn, but they don't have it so bad.

Last night I saw proto-punk/new wave/glam rockers the New York Dolls (including both of their living original members) at the Granada. Great show, a real slice of rock history, and as I've become really interested in the roots and early years of the punk and new wave movements this was a real treat.

But here's the thing - David Johansen pointed out that they were doing the second of their own back to back - Sunday in Dallas after Saturday in Buenos Aires! That's 5267 miles according to an online calculator, in any case that has to be a hellish flight. If only they had brought along Gabriela Sabatini, maybe a little nicer.

Anyway, I'll try to refrain from bitching about the Lakers some New Orleans-Minnesota back to back in the future.

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Hammer, nail, head

From a TrueHoop reader...truer words were never spoken:

On to my frustration: the Spurs are huge babies. This applies to Popovich, Duncan, and seemingly every other player on the court. Duncan has his Duncan Face everytime he doesn't get a call. Ginobli lays out every single play that he is even slightly touched as if he is in a soccer match. Oberto definitely does a lot of acting to get Shaq in foul trouble each time these teams play. The trend I've seen is really disturbing though. The players and Popovich complain to the refs in the opening quarter and it seems to make the refs subconsciously favor the Spurs on the calls from then on out. Don't the league execs heavily monitor these games to ensure that the refs are calling the games right? At this point doesn't someone have to crack down on all the bs that the Spurs players employ in order to get cheap fouls called in their favor. These games are all unequivocally amazing to watch and they get ruined because of ridiculous foul calls.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Signs you should not be in the NBA

Eddie Jones and Juwan Howard play 3 minutes, 45 seconds.


In a playoff game.

And not in garbage time.

The last time this would have been a good idea, we had never heard the name "Monica Lewinsky."

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Signs you should not be in the playoffs

1. The rotting corpse of Eddie Jones plays 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
2. The rotting corpse of Juwan Howard plays 5 minutes, 1 second, of which 3 minutes, 45 seconds are not garbage time.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Useful idiots at the LA Times

This April 5 correction to a March 28 "news story" from the LA Times reads like something from the Onion, but it's real:

Guantanamo Bay: An article March 28 in Section A about a typical day in the life of a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, as gleaned from reporting trips over the last three years, made several observations that Pentagon officials and officers of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo say are outdated or erroneous. The article said that reveille was at 5 a.m., when guards collect the bedsheet from each detainee. There is no reveille sounded at Guantanamo, and officials say the practice of collecting bedsheets ended in late 2006 for compliant detainees and last May for everyone else. The article said that lights were kept on in the cells 24 hours a day for security reasons, and that some prisoners grew their hair long to shield their eyes to sleep. Since September, all detainees have been issued sleep masks. The article said that detainees at Camps 5 and 6 could see each other only during prayer time when an aperture in their cell doors was opened. The prisoners can also see each other when being escorted to showers or interrogation, during recreation time and when the aperture is opened for meal delivery. The article referred to "the hour for rec time"; in fact, prisoners are allowed at least two hours of recreation daily. The article said the prison library had 2,000 books and magazines; it has 5,000, including multiple copies of many titles. The article said that once a prisoner had skipped nine meals he was considered to be on a hunger strike and taken to the medical center where he was force-fed. Medical officials say hunger strikers are force-fed only when their weight has fallen to 85% of their ideal body weight and a doctor recommends it. The article said that prisoners at Camp 4, a communal compound, were awaiting transfer home. Camp 4 holds prisoners judged to be compliant with camp rules.

For those of you scoring at home, that's eight outright falsehoods in a single, and not particularly long, article.

You know that the Times is going to publish enemy propaganda; it's central to their editorial agenda. But would it be too much to ask that they fact check al Qaeda press releases, instead of just running them as is?

Hat tip: James Taranto.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Déja vu

4th quarter of a big game, Shaq dominating Duncan on both ends of the floor...now where have I seen that before?

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