Paranoia From A Big Fat Idiot


Al Franken, who can finally take the Senate seat he narrowly won, began in politics by writing the book, Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. This seems like a good time to provide today’s example (via Mark Halperin) which shows how big an idiot Limbaugh is:

You have to wonder if Obama is just trying to lay a foundation for not being a hypocrite when he tries to serve beyond 2016. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next number of years there is a move on the 22nd Amendment, which term limits the President of the United States. He may not do it that way, he may not openly try to change the Constitution. But there might be this movement in the country from his cult-like followers to support the notion that a democratically-elected leader who is loved and adored has carte blanc once elected. Just serve as long as he wants because the people demand it, because the people want it, because the people love it.

And I wouldn’t put it past Obama to be plotting right now how to serve beyond 2016 and I think the way he’s reacting to what’s happening in Honduras – Look, they’ve got a constitution, they’re a democratically-elected set of officials down there and you had a guy running the country, Mel Zelaya, who was just going to basically rip that country’s democracy to shreds and the country moved in to stop in him from doing it and Obama sides with the guy who wanted to rip up the constitution. He sides with other dictators in the region. Regardless, I mean, one thing is clear here: Obama is nothing if not a hardcore liberal. Always, always more sympathetic, appearing to side with the bad guys on the world stage.

And I’ll tell you folks, this business about running beyond 2016, you know, the thing that when you look at Obama’s followers – and we’ve discussed it here – they are a cult-like bunch and their attachment to him is not political, it’s not ideological, it is not issue-wise, it is cultish. It includes a wide percentage of minorities, by the way, who for different reasons, who will come to think that he simply cannot be replaced. Let him succeed with amnesty, for example, and all the illegal aliens who are instantly made citizens. He’ll be too important. Just like right now he’s too big to fail as far as the drive-bys are concerned, he’s too important to be replaced. No one else can lead the nation,  they will say. And they won’t care a whit about the legalities that might be trampled. Half of the legalities if they don’t even know about them because they haven’t been properly educated. I think this situation in Honduras is very instructive. Anybody who thinks that he intends to just constitutionally go away in 2016 is nuts … These are people who seek power for reasons other than to serve. They seek to rule.

While his ideas for beyond 2016 are absurd, it is interesting that Limbaugh assumes that Obama will be reelected in 2012.  Robert Gibbs did respond to a question with regards to repealing the 22nd amendment:

I think the President is firmly in support of an amendment that would limit his time in the presidency to eight years if he’s given that awesome responsibility by the American people.

Senator Al Franken


The 2000 presidential election seemed to go on forever, but it was a short affair compared to the Minnesota Senate race this year. Like in 2000, the end came with a court decision–except this time the state’s Supreme Court’s decision prevailed, and the result was much fairer. Eight months after the election, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Franken’s favor and declared he was entitled to an election certificate. While some Republicans wanted him to fight on, Norm Coleman conceded.

The Palin Fiasco


Todd Purdhum has an article in Vanity Fair which summarizes all that went wrong with the McCain campaign after he made the mistake of choosing Sarah Palin to be his running mate. He raises the question of how such a huge mistake could have been made and how someone like Palin could have even been considered for the position:

What does it say about the nature of modern American politics that a public official who often seems proud of what she does not know is not only accepted but applauded? What does her prominence say about the importance of having (or lacking) a record of achievement in public life? Why did so many skilled veterans of the Republican Party—long regarded as the more adroit team in presidential politics—keep loyally working for her election even after they privately realized she was casual about the truth and totally unfit for the vice-presidency? Perhaps most painful, how could John McCain, one of the cagiest survivors in contemporary politics—with a fine appreciation of life’s injustices and absurdities, a love for the sweep of history, and an overdeveloped sense of his own integrity and honor—ever have picked a person whose utter shortage of qualification for her proposed job all but disqualified him for his?

McCain picked Palin as a gamble without knowing much about her. Among her problems, Sarah Palin plays loosely with the truth, and didn’t even bother to study the actual facts that mattered outside of Alaska:

…no serious vetting had been done before the selection (by either the McCain or the Obama team), and there was trouble in nailing down basic facts about Palin’s life. After she was picked, the campaign belatedly sent a dozen lawyers and researchers, led by a veteran Bush aide, Taylor Griffin, to Alaska, in a desperate race against the national reporters descending on the state. At one point, trying out a debating point that she believed showed she could empathize with uninsured Americans, Palin told McCain aides that she and Todd in the early years of their marriage had been unable to afford health insurance of any kind, and had gone without it until he got his union card and went to work for British Petroleum on the North Slope of Alaska. Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along. She insisted that catastrophic insurance didn’t really count and need not be revealed. This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small. By late September, when the time came to coach Palin for her second major interview, this time with Katie Couric, there were severe tensions between Palin and the campaign.

By all accounts, Palin was either unwilling, or simply unable, to prepare. In the run-up to the Couric interview, Palin had become preoccupied with a far more parochial concern: answering a humdrum written questionnaire from her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman. McCain aides saw it as easy stuff, the usual boilerplate, the work of 20 minutes or so, but Palin worried intently.

As time went on, members of McCain’s campaign realized they made a huge mistake:

As Palin has piled misstep on top of misstep, the senior members of McCain’s campaign team have undergone a painful odyssey of their own. In recent rounds of long conversations, most made it clear that they suffer a kind of survivor’s guilt: they can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be. They quietly ponder the nightmare they lived through. Do they ever ask, What were we thinking? “Oh, yeah, oh, yeah,” one longtime McCain friend told me with a rueful chuckle. “You nailed it.” Another key McCain aide summed up his attitude this way: “I guess it’s sort of shifted,” he said. “I always wanted to tell myself the best-case story about her.” Even now, he said, “I don’t want to get too negative.” Then he added, “I think, as I’ve evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears … the after-election events have confirmed that her more negative aspects may have been there … ” His voice trailed off. “I saw her as a raw talent. Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better.”

They had hopes but also understood the ramifications of this mistake:

They all know that if their candidate—a 72-year-old cancer survivor—had won the presidency, the vice-presidency would be in the hands of a woman who lacked the knowledge, the preparation, the aptitude, and the temperament for the job.

Understanding Ancient Technology


Sometimes I tell my daughter about the olden days when computers filled an entire room and we had no method of recording any of the four television channels we received. Then there’s the difference in portable music. Years before the iPod, the Walkman seemed like a tremendous technological advance. We could carry around music by listening to cassettes through a box which is many times the size of even the largest mp3 player. The BBC tried giving a Walkman to a 13-year-old. Besides being laughed at on the school bus, he had some difficulty understanding such old technology:

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don’t have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, “Walkmans eat tapes”. So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day.

His misunderstanding of the tapes reminds me of the scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Scotty tried to use a 20th century computer. Seeing the mouse he figured out that it is an input device–and tried speaking into it. With everyone now getting DVR’s it won’t be long until few can figure out how to program an old fashioned VCR (which, come to think of it, might not be all that different from how things used to be).

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Vote For Obama And Your Granddaughter Will Wear A Burka

Thomas Sowell provides this nonsensical warning:

Perhaps people who are busy gushing over the Obama cult today might do well to stop and think about what it would mean for their granddaughters to live under sharia law.

Don’t conservatives realize that such statements might fire up the base, but make virtually everyone else question both their fitness to govern and their sanity?

Crazy Libertarian Talk

Consider how many people are calling themselves libertarians while supporting the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and often the full agenda of the GOP, it is good to see some  “crazy libertarian talk” such as this. Jason Kuznicki attacks traffic lights.

Actually this isn’t all that crazy, and not necessarily even a libertarian argument as opposed to a question of the best way for the government to handle traffic. He points to this article from 2006 showing that roundabouts are safer and handle traffic better than traffic lights. This is not the only source arguing this, and many cities are turning more to roundabouts. I’ve personally noted them from coast to coast (in Michigan that is, from suburban Detroit to Muskegon on the coast of Lake Michigan). He also notes some government action regarding traffic which is counterproductive.

John Edwards and Rielle Hunter, the Movie

We knew that  John Edwards brought Rielle Hunter into his campaign as a film maker but it turns out that she made a a film that was previously kept secret. An upcoming book  by Andrew Young, an aide to John Edwards, includes information on a sex tape made by Edwards and Rielle Hunter:

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young says the ex-senator and his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, once made a sex tape, according to someone who has seen Young’s book proposal.

St. Martin’s Press just inked a deal with Young, who also says in his proposal that, contrary to his public statement last year, he is not the father of Hunter’s infant daughter — Edwards is. Edwards has denied that.

Young says that his belief in Edwards ran so deep that he agreed to take the fall for the candidate, inviting the pregnant Hunter to live with him, his wife, Cheri, and their three children. Later, after Hunter delivered the baby, Young and his family moved to a different home in California.

While he was unpacking, Young discovered a videocassette, according to the book pitch. Hunter had been hired by the Edwards campaign to videotape the candidate’s movements, but this one is said to have shown him taking positions that weren’t on his official platform.

The purported sex tape confirmed to Hunter that Edwards was even more reckless than he thought.

According to our source, Hunter confided to Young that she and Edwards talked about getting married should the candidate’s cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, pass away, even discussing what music they’d play at their wedding.

SciFi Weekend: A Virtual Wreck; The Next Doctor


Ron Moore’s Virtuality was shown on Friday night and, after viewing, I can see why Fox left it to die by airing it on a Friday night in June. Moore just tries to throw too much into this, which perhaps would have left him with many avenues for future television series but it leaves the pilot looking like a mess.

The premise is that a ship is on a ten year mission to another solar system and, to keep the crew from going nuts or killing each other, virtual reality is used. This is to keep the crew from feeling claustrophobic and to allow them to interact with other people, even if only computer generated. The claim is that this is not a series of holodeck stories because each crew member uses their own goggles (like the virtual reality in Caprica) as opposed to being in a specific room as in Star Trek. That hardly matters.

Of course something goes wrong  in the simulations (as in Life on Mars). As this was intended to be a pilot we have a lot of mysteries and no answers. We don’t know if it is a computer glitch, a crew member messing with the programs, or perhaps Cylons influencing the ship. Crew members are attacked in their simulations, and one is even raped.  One good aspect of the show was to treat the virtual rape as meaningful to the woman involved as it had the same psychological impact as if real.

The virtual reality simulations aren’t the only place where something goes wrong. Perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL is involved as there is even a murder involving the air lock.

If this already seems to be throwing ideas from many sources together, it gets worse. The crew is also being filmed as the cast of a reality television series. It was amusing when Doctor Who used reality series for one episode (Bad Wolf), but this was too much for a pilot. The idea is that the company running the mission might also be playing mind games with the crew to affect their behavior and improve ratings.

If they haven’t already thrown in enough, there is yet another crisis. After they left it was suddenly found that global warming is real and life on earth is doomed (especially if you live around London or Florida).

With all this, the show still managed to deal briefly with events of the space mission. A lot of time was spent creating false drama as to whether the mission would go on or return to earth as they approached their last moment  to decide this. Of course viewers realized they would go on. Even when the captain announced this to the crew there was still false drama when they complained that the captain made the decision to go without consulting the crew. There was more time wasted as everyone got a chance to vote, and all voted to go.

This was intended to be largely a show about people in space but with twelve crew members it was difficult to really get interested in any of them. Perhaps if the show made it as a series this would have provided for more potential stories.

BBC America aired the first of this year’s Doctor Who specials. I previously reviewed The Next Doctor here when it originally aired on the BBC.

Will the Left or Right Kill Health Care Reform?

It is far from certain at this point whether health care reform will succeed. Most insiders believe that Congress will enact some form of comprehensive health care reform but it is easy to envision scenarios where they are not successful. The opposition comes mainly from the right, but there is also the view (perhaps as this is more of a man bites dog storyline) that it is the left which will cause health care reform to fail. Cici Connolly of The Washington Post examines how some activists are targeting Democrats:

In recent days — and during this week’s congressional recess — left-leaning bloggers and grass-roots organizations such as, Health Care for America Now and the Service Employees International Union have singled out Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) for the criticism more often reserved for opposition party members…

Much of the sparring centers around whether to create a government-managed health insurance program that would compete with private insurers. Obama supports the concept, dubbed the “public option,” but he has been vague on details. Left-of-center activists want a powerful entity with the ability to set prices for doctors and hospitals.

But in the Senate, where the Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster, members are weighing alternatives such as a nonprofit cooperative or a “fallback” provision that would kick in only if market reforms fail.

Pushing for the public plan does have popular support but Connolly notes that this does not mean that a majority supports the entire agenda of those on the left who see a public plan as a means of transitioning to a single payer plan. She notes that, “While recent polls show high initial support for a government option, the number declines if told the insurance industry could fold as a result.” Many who support providing the option of a public plan also desire to continue with their current insurance.

There are signs that this pressure is influencing some Democrats but others fear this is counterproductive:

One Democratic strategist who is working full-time on health reform was apoplectic over what he called wasted time, energy and resources by the organizations.

The strategist, who asked for anonymity because he was criticizing colleagues, said: “These are friends of ours. I would much rather see a quiet call placed by [Obama chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel saying this isn’t helpful. Instead, we try to decimate them?”

If this effort is based upon pushing Democrats to support the public plan there should not necessarily be adverse consequences on the success of health care reform. Of greater concern is talk among some progressives of voting against a health care reform bill which does not contain a public plan. I can envision scenarios where Republicans have enough votes to filibuster a bill which contains a public plan, but a bill without a public plan could also fail if both Republicans and some progressives vote against it.

The goals should be to reduce the number of people who lack insurance and to reduce insurance problems such as people being cut off when they develop a serious illness. These are serious problems which need to be addressed and there are multiple possible solutions. Ideological battles such as over whether to have a single payer plan should not be used to prevent meaningful reform, even if the reform will inevitably fall short of what some desire.

Obama and the Superdelegates

Last year the talk was whether Hillary Clinton could manage to win the Democratic nomination due to having a greater number of superdelegates. That turned out not to be a factor as superdelegates shifted towards Obama along with the primary and caucus voters, and now its Obama’s party. The Democratic National Committee is looking at how to change the process and one idea is to reduce the number or outright eliminate the superdelegates.

Touching on what may prove to be one of the more contentious issues considered by the DNC, one presenter, Democratic Party activist and Harvard University lecturer and former superdelegate Elaine Kamarck, suggested that it may be time to completely eliminate superdelegates since most of those party leaders clearly determined their role in 2008 to be one of ratifying the decision made by voters in primaries and caucuses.

“We can probably let go of the superdelegates,” said Kamarck.

“Their deliberative role,” she added, “has in fact been supplanted by a very very public process.”

Other matters under discussion include starting the process later in the winter and the always controversial question of who gets to go first.