The Science Debate

While the candidates are not going to participate in a live Science Debate, they did respond to fourteen questions on science in writing. The answers from Barack Obama and John McCain on science questions are posted here.

AP Investigation Demonstrates Palin Received Special Benefits as Mayor

AP shows why it is a mistake to ask someone to run for vice president with vetting. The provide examples which show that Palin was no maverick:

Though Sarah Palin depicts herself as a pit bull fighting good-old-boy politics, in her years as mayor she and her friends received special benefits more typical of small-town politics as usual, an Associated Press investigation shows.

When Palin needed to sell her house during her last year as Wasilla mayor, she got the city to sign off on a special zoning exception – and did so without keeping a promise to remove a potential fire hazard.

She gladly accepted gifts from merchants: A free “awesome facial” she raved about in a thank-you note to a spa. The “absolutely gorgeous flowers” she received from a welding supply store. Even fresh salmon to take home.

She also stepped in to help friends or neighbors with City Hall dealings. She asked the City Council to add a friend to the list of speakers at a 2002 meeting – and then the friend got up and asked them to give his radio station advertising business…Some of her first actions after being elected mayor in 1996 raised possible ethical red flags: She cast the tie-breaking vote to propose a tax exemption on aircraft when her father-in-law owned one, and backed the city’s repeal of all taxes a year later on planes, snow machines and other personal property. She also asked the council to consider looser rules for snow machine races. Palin and her husband, Todd, a champion racer, co-owned a snow machine store at the time…

Two months before Palin’s tenure as mayor ended in 2002, she asked city planning officials to forgive zoning violations so she could sell her house. Palin had a buyer, but he wouldn’t close the deal unless she persuaded the city to waive the violations with a code variance…

McCain Lies On Obama’s Record and Immigration Reform

John McCain was interviewed on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and continued to be dishonest in his portrayal of both his record and the record of Barack Obama. One lie which I found particularly irritating was this: “Senator Obama has not been involved in reforms. In fact, he walked away from the immigration reform issue.”

Obama has been involved in passing reform legislation both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate.  The votes which contributed to Obama’s liberal rating from The National Journal, which McCain cited in the debate, included support for reform legislation.

It is bad enough to deny this important part of Obama’s record, but I was particularly annoyed by the claim Obama walked away from immigration reform. As I’ve noted in the past, parts of Michigan and  other tourist areas have had problems this year since visas for seasonal workers could not be renewed  because John McCain was afraid to have immigration come up during an election year. McCain didn’t walk away–he ran away from the issue.

LA Times Poll Shows Debate Watchers Find Obama More Presidential

I’ve previously noted (here and here) how the polls have consistently showed that Barack Obama won the first debate, with this leading to a greater lead for Obama in the national tracking polls today.  Marc Ambinder observes that, “Not a single post-debate poll gave the advantage to Sen. McCain.”  He specifically notes advantages for Obama reported in a poll from The Los Angeles Times:

Forget the top-line numbers — note that the poll “indicated that the younger, less-experienced Obama has made strides since last week in convincing Americans that he can handle the toughest challenges facing the country, including the economy and international affairs. Obama was seen as more “presidential” by 46% of the debate watchers, compared with 33% for McCain. The difference is even more pronounced among debate watchers who were not firmly committed to a candidate: 44% said they believed Obama looked more presidential, whereas 16% gave McCain the advantage.”

Even some conservative pundits agreed that Obama won. Crooks and Liars has a video of Dick Morris getting Sean Hannity upset by saying favorable things about Obama such as that, “Obama came across as really knowing and caring about the problems of the average person. I also thought McCain blew it by not focusing on why he suspended his campaign, why he wasn’t going to go to the debate.”

The Truth About The Bracelet

Right wing bloggers have launched a new smear about Obama but The Chicago Tribune has the real story:

After Tracy Jopek gave Sen. Barack Obama a bracelet in honor of her son who was killed in Iraq, she asked Obama not to mention the bracelet on the campaign trail.

But Jopek told The Associated Press on Sunday that she’s satisfied with how Obama discussed it during last week’s presidential debate…

“I am a mother, a mother who lost her son. It’s hard to know what’s right, what’s wrong about this war. Very hard,” she said. “And I know there are a lot of families who lost loved ones.”

So she e-mailed the Obama campaign through its Web site asking that he not mention it during debates or speeches…

“His response in the debate was exactly that, a response, after John McCain put it out there first,” she said. “I think it was an appropriate response — he was just saying there’s another side to the story, there’s two different viewpoints.”

Obama’s comment sparked a number of angry comments from bloggers who suggested Obama was exploiting her son’s death to score political points. Jopek said those bloggers might have heard comments that her son’s father made on Wisconsin Public Radio on March 20.

In an interview with Glen Moberg, National Guard Staff Sgt. Brian Jopek said his ex-wife asked Obama not to wear the bracelet at any further public appearances. But Obama was still apparently wearing it, he said.

“So, that’s his own choice. I mean that’s something Barack Obama, that’s a choice that he continues to wear it despite Tracy asking him not to,” he told Moberg.

Tracy Jopek said she didn’t hear the interview but that her ex-husband, who is currently stationed in Cuba, mischaracterized her viewpoint.

SciFi Weekend: Heroes, Spoilers for Sarah Connor and Battlestar Galactica, Conservative Dystopias, Zoe Bartlett, and Sarah Palin

Heroes returned with a twist on the first season. A major even of the first season was a future Hiro coming from the future with warning, “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” This time a future Peter Petrelli comes from the future to intervene to attempt to prevent a terrible future but in doing so witnesses The Butterfly Effect. While Peter has prevented one bad future, his intervention caused other things to change, perhaps triggering a new future in which the earth is destroyed. Needless to say, we can be certain that the heroes will find a way to stop this from occurring.

The episode was also notable for reuniting Francis Capra III and Kristin Bell from Veronica Mars. With her father dead and the company now run by Mama Petrelli (who sure got around), Bell’s character Elle was fired and her future role in the show is in question. Unfortunately the role has been a waste of Kristin Bell’s talents.

Richard T. Jones, who plays FBI agent James Ellison on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, told SciFi Wire that Ellison will take the job as private security for Zeira Corp, which is working towards development of Skynet. He provides additional spoilers in the interview.

Aaron Douglas, who plays Galen Tyrol on Battlestar Galactica might have given away more than intended in a radio interview with an excerpt here–which contains major spoilers:

Q. Tell me this. Do we ever get to see the Cylon homeworld?

AARON DOUGLAS: You did at the end of the middle of season four.

Q. (pause) Wow! Really? You’re saying Earth is the Cylon homeworld?

AD: Earth, in the scriptures, is the Cylon homeworld. Yeah, they say they found evidence, they found other people, and they’re all Cylon. Or they found bones and stuff, scattered all around, and they’re Cylon.

Q. Wow!

AD: Did you not listen to that – did you not watch that?

Q. That was not made clear! Yeah, I missed that! Yeah! I saw everybody standing around …

AD: Watch the last 10 minutes. They say, when they’re digging in the, all that kind of stuff.

Q. The last thing they showed was everybody looking pissed because everything looks destroyed. I didn’t get that they were pissed because everything was Cylon. Everything was destroyed because there was like a Cylon civil war that caused them to go forth and …

AD: Tune in and watch.

The Tony Blog at Time Out New York gave some alternative Emmy Awards last weekend. They gave the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series to David Tennant of Doctor Who. After seeing Mad Med win the real Emmy for Best Drama Series I checked out the first episode of the series last night. I saw a familiar face, but it did take me a while to figure out that Peggy Olson (above) is played by Elizabeth Moss, who previously played Zoe Bartlett on The West Wing.

IO9 provides a guide to science fiction novels which contain right-wing dystopias. Books include several novels by Robert A. Heinlein and Jennifer Government by Max Berry. Getting back to filmed science fiction they note the similarities between the political situation in the second Star Wars trilogy and our current political situation. I’ve previously had more on this topic here.


The best known comedy acts involving Sarah Palin are those with Tiny Fey impersonating her–video here and here. Katherine Tate, who played Donna Noble last season on Doctor Who, is also a well known British comedian who has a running skit about the “I can do that girl.” The skits are reminding many of Sarah Palin as they feature a girl who claims “I can do that” for many tasks which she is totally unqualified for. A video of one of the skits is above.

Health Care In The First Presidential Debate

With the first presidential debate concentrating on the financial crisis and foreign policy little attention has been paid to the disagreements on health care. When speaking of the economic crisis Obama repeatedly included the problems middle class families have with paying for health care. John McCain again mischaracterized Obama’s health care plan in saying, “I want to make sure we’re not handing the health care system over to the federal government which is basically what would ultimately happen with Senator Obama’s health care plan. I want the families to make decisions between themselves and their doctors. Not the federal government.”

In reality there is nothing in Obama’s plan which hands the health care plan over to the federal government. Obama’s plan preserves our system of private medical practices, but will help those who do not have access to our health care system to do so. Obama’s plan does not call for the federal government to make health care decisions for families, while many Republican policies do intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship. It is Republican policies which interfere with end of life decisions such as with the Terry Schiavo case. It is Republicans who interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion. It is Republicans who support policies which interfere with the treatment of chronic pain.

Obama showed how he could save money for taxpayers by ending the subsidy to insurance companies provided by the Republicans for treating Medicare patients in private plans for more money than it costs to treat them in private plans:

We right now give $15 billion every year as subsidies to private insurers under the Medicare system. Doesn’t work any better through the private insurers. They just skim off $15 billion. That was a give away and part of the reason is because lobbyists are able to shape how Medicare works. They did it on the Medicaid prescription drug bill and we have to change the culture.

Obama has previously criticized the subsidies to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage plans, as I have discussed here, and mentioned this when interviewed today on Face the Nation.  In January I summarized several previous posts on the topic for a post which was  written for The Carpetbagger Report.

Polls Show Obama Won Debate And Extends Lead Over McCain

The past week might very well turn out to be seen as the week that Barack Obama clinched the election.Going into the first debate Obama had already moved into a five point lead as voters began thinking more about who they trusted to handle the financial crisis and less about whether they identified with Sarah Palin. I already noted that three polls taken immediately after the debate showed that independents overwhelmingly felt that Obama won. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll provided similar results with Obama again winning by double digits:

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows 46% of people who watched Friday night’s presidential debate say Democrat Barack Obama did a better job than Republican John McCain; 34% said McCain did better.

Obama scored even better — 52%-35% — when debate-watchers were asked which candidate offered the best proposals for change to solve the country’s problems.

This victory has helped propel Obama to a greater lead in the national tracking polls. Today’s Gallup three day tracking poll shows the first effect of the debate, with Obama moving out to an eight point lead, leading 50% to 42%. The full effect of the debates won’t be seen until Tuesday’s poll. New events might change the polls, but if Obama continues to extend this lead as the full effects of the debate victory are included in the results it will be very difficult for McCain to alter the race.

Tina Fey Reprises Role As Sarah Palin

Tina Fey has returned to play Sarah Paliln for a second time on Saturday Night Live. The skit portrayed a fourth interview between Sarah Palin and Katie Couric. Palin discussed her trip to New York, home of the liberal media elite. She spoke of enjoying her visit to sites including Central Park and that “goofy evolution museum.” She also stated that “in an attempt to bone up on foreign I went to the Times Square area to see a film about The Bush Doctrine. It’s not at all about politics.”

Palin also discussed going to the U.N. for the first time but was disheartened by home many foreigners there were. She pledged that when she and Senator McCain are elected they will get those jobs back in American hands.

The skit satirized exchanges from the actual interview, including Katie Couric asking about how proximity to Russia gives Palin foreign policy experience and Palin’s incomprehensible comments on the financial crisis. When Palin was unable to answer a question about how she would specifically spread democracy abroad she requested to use one of her life lines to phone a friend. When told that she did not have any life lines she told Couric that she would have to get back to her, as also had to during the actual interview. In response to one question, Tina Fey repeated Palin’s answer word for word.

Update: The original video posted is no longer available but can be seen here.

Michigan Has Greatest Comeback Ever In The Big House

Saturday was the 500th game played at Michigan Stadium and the Michigan program seemed like it might be at one of its lowest points in decades, needing a win just to bring their record for the season up to .500. Michigan has a young team, a new coach, and a new offensive scheme which it has not yet recruited the players to fully implement. Michigan has the most wins of any team in the history of college football and had won 22 straight home openers prior to this game, not having lost at home since 1967–two years before Bo Schembechler came to Ann Arbor.The streak was now in question.

This time now Michigan was the underdog while Wisconsin was a top ten team and favored to win. At halftime it looked like a replay of their loss to Notre Dame with Wisconsin leading 19 to nothing–with 16 of the points coming after Michigan turnovers.

Then in the third quarter Michigan stopped beating itself and began to play. They scored a touchdown, and another, and another, and another. Michigan scored twenty-seven points (with one failed two point conversion attempt). The third touch down which gave Michigan the lead came after John Thompson intercepted a Wisconsin pass (photo above) and ran it back twenty-five yards for the score. A late fumble by Wisconsin stopped one touchdown drive. Wisconsin did score with only thirteen seconds to go but their two point conversion, which would have sent the game into overtime, was called back on a penalty. Wisconsin missed on their second try and Michigan won 27 to 25.

Regardless of how the season comes out, Rich Rodriguez started his career as Michigan’s coach with the  biggest come back ever at the big house. Ironically, former coach Lloyd Carr began with a seventeen point comeback against Virginia in 1995, which at that time was Michigan’s biggest comeback ever. Today’s game was also the second biggest comeback in Michigan history, being a couple points shy of their 21 point comeback at Minnesota in 2003.

The young team still has many weaknesses to work on, but Michigan teams have come back from two nonconference losses to win the Big Ten title in the past.Time will tell whether a team this young can improve to that degree over the course of the season, but every Michigan fan knows that Bo Schembechler shocked everyone by beating Ohio State his first year when nobody thought they could be beaten. Today’s win gives us hope for such an upset again this year.