Keith Olbermann Returning To Television

After losing jobs at MSNBC and Current, Keith Olbermann has a new television job. He will return in October as a studio host for Turner during their coverage of post season baseball. Before developing fame as a political commentator, Olbermann had  been one of the original hosts of ESPN’s Sportscenter and is considered to be knowledgeable about baseball.

Olbermann has had difficulty difficulty getting along with management, regardless of where he is. Fortunately for him, show business is an area where people will continue to take a risk on celebrities like him if they think he can draw in viewers.

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Down To Three

The Final Four is down to three. No, not basketball where Michigan and Louisville play for the National Championship in about an hour, but the final four Democratic Senators who opposed marriage equality in a recent post. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has announced that his views have evolved and he now supports gay marriage rights:

“After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation,” Johnson said in a statement released through his office. “This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”

Johnson’s decision comes in the wake of several other Democratic senators who have switched in favor of gay marriage. Just three red-state holdouts remain: Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

 

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All But Four Democratic Senators Support Gay Marriage Rights

The Final Four is about to begin play, but The Week reports on another final four. We are down to just four Democratic Senators who oppose marriage equality: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Geography clearly plays a huge role here.

Despite the views of these four, there are now 53 Senators supporting marriage equality (including two Republicans, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois).  This represents a marked change as Senators bravely follow along with the changing views of the nation.

As for the other Final Four: Go Blue!

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Bonus Quote of the Day

“President Obama filled out his NCAA tournament bracket. He picked Florida, Indiana, Louisville, and Ohio State to go to the Final Four. Crazy that it’s been four months since the election, and he still needs Florida and Ohio to win.” –Jimmy Fallon

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Football and Polls Favorable For Obama Victory

The Alabama-LSU game is getting more hype today, but the Oh0 State-Illinois game was far more important for the future of this nation. That is because a correlation has been found between winning football games and how voters feel about voting for the incumbent:

What exactly is it that makes voters reward a challenger or punish an incumbent?  Do they care about the unemployment rate, GDP, or inflation, or is it how those variables are moving? Are voters motivated by position papers or a candidate’s personal history?  Is the electorate responding to slick TV ads or how the candidates performed in the debates?

It may be something else altogether. Recent research has revealed that voter irrationality may be more arbitrary than we think. And in a razor-thin election just enough irrationality can make all the difference. Just how irrational are voters? It is statistically possible that the outcome of a handful of college football games in the right battleground states could determine the race for the White House.

Economists Andrew Healy, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Mo make this argument in a fascinating article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They examined whether the outcomes of college football games on the eve of elections for presidents, senators, and governors affected the choices voters made. They found that a win by the local team, in the week before an election, raises the vote going to the incumbent by around 1.5 percentage points. When it comes to the 20 highest attendance teams—big athletic programs like the University of Michigan, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal—a victory on the eve of an election pushes the vote for the incumbent up by 3 percentage points. That’s a lot of votes, certainly more than the margin of victory in a tight race. And these results aren’t based on just a handful of games or political seasons; the data were taken from 62 big-time college teams from 1964 to 2008.

The good news, we suppose, is that sports really can cheer us up and make the world seem like a brighter place. The sports fan is left happier and more satisfied all around, not just on the gridiron. When you are feeling upbeat and happy, you feel more satisfied with the status quo in general. And feeling satisfied with the status quo makes you more likely to vote for the incumbent politician, even if that’s totally irrational.

The study’s authors control for economic, demographic, and political factors, so the results are much more sophisticated than just a raw correlation. They also did a deeper analysis that took into account people’s expectations. It turns out that surprise wins are especially potent, raising local support for incumbent politicians by around 2.5 percentage points.

Alabama and Louisiana will go to Romney regardless of the score of a football game, but Obama has such a narrow lead in Ohio that we’ll take any benefits from Ohio State beating Illinois. Michigan is probably safe for Obama, but it doesn’t hurt that Michigan won today (despite Denard Robinson still being out after the injury suffered during the Nebraska game). Florida came back to beat Missouri, possibly delivering another swing state. Virginia beat North Carolina State, helping in the southeast swing state where Obama’s chances were already better. Miami beat Virginia Tech on Thursday, providing mixed results. Colorado was no match for Stanford so Obama better clinch reelection without waiting for the results from the western states just to be safe.

Going to more serious predictors. Obama maintains a lead in Ohio and  smaller leads in Florida and Virginia. Karl Rove says that Sandy has helped Obama. Is he preparing the spin for a loss by Romney? Authoritarian war-monger Rudy Giuliani calls on Obama to resign in a fiery speech which sounded much better in the original German. This looks like a faux issue which only those already believing the right wing alternate reality believe. A more objective view, and consideration of the facts, shows that this attempt to Swift Boat Obama has failed. Despite the attempts by the right wing to twist the facts, Condoleeza Rice  has defended the actions of the Obama Administration regarding  the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

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Three Strikes Against Romney’s Lie About Obama And Small Business

Lacking legitimate arguments against Obama from the right, Mitt Romney and other conservatives have concentrated on fabricating attacks against Obama for views he does not actually hold. The latest attacks, based upon twisting a comment from Obama to give it a quite different meaning, is beginning to backfire against Romney. While Obama  spoke about the benefits to businessmen from government infrastructure they did not build, such as the roads and bridges, Republicans twisted this into a ridiculous statement that businessmen did not build the businesses which they created. Conservatives, who believe a Randian fantasy about the economy and are often ignorant of how a market economy actually works, have been easily fooled into believing the claims from the right.

Obama’s statement should actually not be controversial at all. It is such common sense that people receive some benefits from others that even Mitt Romney expressed a similar view talking to Olympians in 2002:

“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” said Romney, who on Friday will attend the Opening Ceremonies of this year’s Summer Olympics. “For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

This no more reduces respect for the accomplishments of the Olympians than Obama’s statement shows any lack of respect for the accomplishments of creators of small businesses.

The second embarrassment for Romney is that the businessman in an ad promoting the attack on Obama turned out to have received government assistance even beyond government roads and bridges:

HE GOT HELP. In the Mitt Romney campaign web and television ads that received national attention last week, a blunt Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson tells President Barack Obama that he, his father and his son _ and not the government _ built his company.

But as it turns out, Gilchrist did receive some government help for his business, albeit a long time ago.

In 1999, Gilchrist Metal received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority “to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment,” according to a New Hampshire Union Leader report at the time.

The federal government allocates to each state a certain amount of tax-exempt bonding capacity each year for business and housing loans.

Because the bond buyers do not pay federal taxes on the interest, the interest rate for the borrower is typically lower than that of standard bank financing.

Last year, Gilchrist Metal also received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller, $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008, according to a government web site that tracks spending.

The Romney camp released a web ad featuring Jack Gilchrist last Thursday after Obama had said a week earlier that “if you were successful, you didn’t get there on your own” and added, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”

Finally, even Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, who has previously taken the Romney line even when his own newspaper showed that he was wrong, has finally done some fact checking on this Romney lie:

The biggest problem with Romney’s ad is that it leaves out just enough chunks of Obama’s words — such as a reference to “roads and bridges”— so that it sounds like Obama is attacking individual initiative. The ad deceivingly cuts away from Obama speaking in order to make it seem as if the sentences follow one another, when in fact eight sentences are snipped away.

Suddenly, the word “that” appears as if it is referring to a business, rather than (apparently) to roads and bridges…

Romney, however, descends into silly season when he extrapolates Obama’s quote and says that means Obama believes Steve Jobs did not build Apple Computers.

Here’s what Obama said when Jobs passed away earlier this year: “By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun.”

That sounds like Obama believes that Jobs really did build his company. He did not mention the roads to Cupertino.

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Penn State’s Penalties

Being too busy until his evening to post means that by now everyone who is interested has read about the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. Yesterday’s post on the topic does sort of require a follow-up so I will briefly summarize.  Penn State is being fined $60 million. This money, along with an additional $13 million due to penalties from the Big Ten Conference, are to be used for “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”

Penn State will also be on probation for five years and will not allowed to participate in bowl games or the Big Ten Championship game for four years. This, along with a loss in scholarships, will probably keep Penn State from rebuilding as a football power for many years. It is also questionable if that was possible even without sanctions due to the stigma now surrounding the school.

I question the meaning of vacating games already played, but Penn State has vacated all their victories from 1998. As a consequence, Joe Paterno will no longer be listed as the coach with the most wins in college football.

There are questions as to the benefits of penalizing the current students, the region which will be hurt economically, and the University after those involved might all be in prison or dead. While a legitimate question, it is hard to justify any lesser sanctions for such an egregious failure to monitor the integrity of the football program when other schools have received significant sanctions for far less serious offenses

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We Were Penn State: After Unprecedented Scandal Penn State May Not Recover For Years, If Ever

Joe Paterno’s statue is down and the NCAA is reportedly on the verge of handing down unprecedented sanctions against Penn State. We are dealing with an unprecedented failure of leadership at Penn State as University officials showed far more concern with covering up the scandal than they did for those abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  There has been speculation that the penalties, to be announced at 9 a.m. tomorrow, might  include the “death penalty” which would prevent the school from playing football for one or more seasons. ESPN says they won’t get the death penalty, but the penalties “are considered to be so harsh that the death penalty may have been preferable.” The death penalty might not have been an option according to an AP report:

The last time the NCAA shut down a football program with the so-called ”death penalty” was in the 1980s, when SMU was forced to drop the sport because of extra benefits violations. After the NCAA suspended the SMU program for a year, the school decided not to play in 1988, either, as it tried to regroup.

Current NCAA rules limit the penalty to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. But NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to use harsher penalties for the worst offenses. That includes postseason and TV bans, which haven’t been used extensively since the 1980s.

”This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we’ve dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal,” Emmert told PBS. ”Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”

USA Today quotes former NCAA investigators as saying that “Penn State is eligible for the death penalty even though it is not a so-called repeat violator because all punitive options are on the table in cases involving major rules violations.”

It is likely that the penalties will prevent Penn State from attending bowl games for one or more years. Ohio State is ineligible for bowl participation next year, leaving Wisconsin with a pretty open road to represent the Leader’s Division in the Big Ten’s second championship game next year.

Even without the impending sanctions, it is questionable if Penn State could recover from a scandal of this magnitude in the near future to become a major football power again. The stigma will probably keep away many potential recruits, and might also impact hiring of coaching staffs. Sanctions which might keep Penn State out of bowls, off of television, and limit recruiting will make rebuilding even more difficult. It also doesn’t help Penn State that they do not have a football tradition to fall back upon beyond the now tainted Paterno years. I do not think that there will be much happiness in Happy Valley for years to come, and there will be strong economic repercussions beyond the loss of a winning football team for the region.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (and Jenna) News; Green Lantern Gay; Spider-Man; Kathryn Joosten Dies; The Doctor and Captain America

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkP8W4D2k68&feature=player_embedded

Above is the Doctor Who mini-episode, Good as Gold.

Pictures have been spread on line of filming for season seven of Doctor Who. Unconfirmed but apparently reliable reports claim Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character will be named Clara. Steven Moffat has said in a recent interview that he hasn’t completed the script for the Christmas episode which Jenna’s character first appears in. Presumably the reports of filming are of episodes from later in the season.

Steven Moffat  continues to object to Elementary copying his idea of a television show based upon a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes.

A remake of Room at the Top has been sitting on the BBC’s shelf for a while but perhaps now that Jeanna-Louise Coleman has become a major actress throughout space and time there are finally plans for BBC4 to air the show. Jenna plans Susan Brown in the dramatization of the novel. Apparently the release has been delayed due to contractual problems.

DC comics are relaunching the concept of an Earth 2 with the original versions of its super heroes, but with some changes. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, will be gay. I wonder if the new origin story will include a scene where Mitt Romney pins Alan Scott down and tries to cut off his ring.

Above is a new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man

A common storyline in science fiction has time travelers change the past. I09 considers the question as to how we know whether our own past has been changed.

Kathryn Joosten, who has died at least three times  on television (Mrs. Landingham on West Wing and Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives and on Scrubs) actually died on June 2 of lung cancer.

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SciFi Weekend: What the Awake Finale Means; Doctor Who News; Warnings of Daleks and the Tax Implications of a Zombie Apocalypse; House and Holmes Fake Deaths

Following the series finale of Awake I found many sites were interpreting the final scene as meaning that it was all a dream, and the accident did not occur. I posted my disagreement with this interpretation. Subsequently interviews with Kyle Killen  (such as here) verified my interpretation and answered additional question. The finale went into a different form of dream after Britten was in jail in one of his realities. In this dream, Britten actually met with his self from the other reality, was followed by both of his psychiatrists, and had an unusual meeting with his wife. It might be argued the Britten in jail was the real Britten, having dreams of solving the crime and being the hero in the other reality, and developing a new dream to cope with the reality of being in jail.

Regardless of whether this was the real Britten or a dream within a dream, the episode ended with Britten speaking with Dr. Evans. She attempted to convince Britten that the world with Hannah was just a dream, but Michael then questioned what the “rules” were. Britten never had been interested in finding which reality was true–his desire was to have both his wife and son back alive. His mind coped with the death of one by creating a second reality in which the other survived. His mind now realized that he could create an even better fantasy in which both his son and wife were alive. The immediate feeling upon watching this episode was that this was a happy ending with Britten getting what he wanted. It is also an ending in which Britten is even more out of touch with reality.

Killen described it this way:

Some fans saw the final scene — Britten (Jason Isaacs) seeing both Rex and Hannah in the house — and mistook it as a copout ending revealing the detective had dreamt the entire 13 episodes. “The idea that we’re saying nothing happened, this is St. Elsewhere, was something we actively fought against. You can still hate the finale, you just can’t say that that’s what it did. It’s just wrong and can actually be disproven watching the last four minutes,” Killen says. The show was always conceived as the way that one particular man dealt with grief that he was completely unprepared to handle. “That’s how the season ended — while he’s able to see his wife and child together, if you take a step back, what it really represents is a further fracturing of his psyche,” he says. “You understand that you don’t see your partner in a penguin suit in any version of reality — that grew directly out of the red world in which Hannah is alive [seemingly] revealing itself to be a dream. He just can’t accept that, and then [in the conversation with Dr. Evans] backs into the idea of, Wait, what if I fell asleep in my cell and then everything that happened after that was a dream? What if for the first time I had dream-like dreams in between being awake and being asleep? Once he does that, it’s almost as if his brain seizes that moment and creates precisely the thing that psychologically he’s dying for — and that is a moment with everyone together.”

One big question all season has been whether one reality was true and the other a dream, if there was some sort of quantum universe explanation in which both were equally valid, or whether there would be a conclusion like on Life on Mars in which nothing was real. Watching week by week I found that the evidence was contradictory as to which reality was real and suspected they were equally valid or both unreal. In interviews leading up to the finale Killan had said that one was real and the other was a fantasy which Britten developed due to the horror of losing either his wife or son. The reason that there was such contradictory evidence now appears to be that Killan and the writers did not have a conclusion in mind which settled this:

The show’s producers all had their own pet theories, but nothing was written in stone. “Most people felt like the red world was more likely to be real, just from a logical basis that the death of a child is something that’s out-of-order with nature and much more difficult to deal with than the death of a spouse. It felt like the death of a child is one that you might create a world to undo. So it felt a little bit like the balance was tipped in the red world’s favor, but we constantly adjusted that. One of the things we talked about was if ultimately the green world with his son was real and the red world was his imagination, was it that he couldn’t let his wife go until he’d psychologically worked out something that was unresolved with Hannah? There were arguments for why he simply could not let go of one or the other. We didn’t feel it was necessary to decide which one was his imagination now. We didn’t have a big sitdown and say, ‘This is what Rosebud means.’ We just didn’t approach it that way.”

Watching the finale I had also wondered whether this was written after Killan knew the show was cancelled and was intended to be the ending, or if this was written previously with plans to move on from this point in a second season. Killan revealed that he planned to pick up the second season from this point if the show was renewed:

The finale was written and filmed before the show’s cancellation. “I don’t know how the show could have gone on if the fundamental thing that made it work was taken away,” Killen says. He believes you can make the argument that the world in which wife Hannah survived — the red world — was the real one with just as much vigor. “Look at the state that Britten is in [there]. He’s lost. The woman who destroyed his family has gotten away with it. He’s in prison and he seems to have no hope of getting out of there. He’s essentially indicted himself with his own behavior. So if ever there were a place where you could reach a low that would cause you to create through a psychic break a world in which you do solve all the problems, and you do get the bad guy, and everything does turn out okay… I would think that would be an argument for the red world actually being real and requiring the green world as a dream to make going on seem possible. We, at least internally, made sure we could argue it both ways because going forward, we didn’t intend to have that mystery sewn up in this episode.”

Killan went on to describe how the second season would have picked up the story:

“The discussion was always that that’s where he finds himself when he woke back up in red world. It would be as if all of the dream-like elements had in fact been a dream, and he’d closed his eyes just before the guard knocked on the door and told him he had a visitor [Harper], and we’d treat it as that was the moment he went to sleep. He would know that he’d caught Harper in the other world and that he seemed unable to do anything in red. Ultimately, he would have relied on Vega to help him extricate himself from that situation.”

At that point the narratives would have proceeded in both realities (or technically one reality and one dream state) we saw in the first season, with the addition of the third state seen at the end of the finale:

“You still would have had red and you still would have had green,” Killen says.”We left ourselves open to the possibility that [producers/writers plotting out season 2] would have had a really interesting pitch for what to do with that third space, and whether there was an ongoing narrative we wanted to tell there or whether we wanted to use it as simply a surreal dream space that we could access when we wanted to and how we wanted to that let us bring other weirder elements into the show that we’d always wanted to try.” He suspects it would have been the latter. “Twin Peaks being a show that was very close to my heart and a seminal thing in my childhood, the third space was sort of our Black Lodge. It was a place where almost anything could have happened. What happened initially was he found himself in his house with his wife and his child, but there were a lot of other places we would have taken that dream space. I don’t know that it would have always been that linear or happy. I think it would have been a place where he had a lot less control than he thought.”

If the show continued, Britten would have also had a relationship with Rex’s tennis coach, Tara, as was hinted at in the first season:

“It always felt too soon and difficult to explain. If it’s about a man overcoming the loss of his wife, he’s only overcoming the loss for 12 hours a day. So most of us deal with that by not needing to get into another relationship. What ultimately was needed to really jump-start the alternate relationship was some sort of fracturing in the Hannah-Britten story. That’s exactly what you see us building to at the end of the season,” Killen says. “Once he’s imprisoned and he’s considered essentially a mad man and there’s not really a clear way out, we would have used that and Dr. Evans to really try to convince him that that was his imagination and there was a psychological reason that he was holding himself there. That would have opened the door enough for us to begin something with Tara. And then by the time the red world resolved itself and he was extricated from prison, without really meaning to, he would have gotten himself in two different relationships. By the time things were repaired with Hannah, he would have already begun a relationship with Tara because he had been leading himself to believe that Hannah wasn’t real and it was something that he needed to get over. By the time that flipped on him, he would have been a man divided. That was something we were really eager to explore in the second season.”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith presented Steven Moffat with a well-deserved special BAFTA Award. Video of the presentation, including clips from Moffat’s work, is above.

Matt Smith carried the Olympic Torch this week. Pictures and an interview with Smith were posted here, and above is another news clip.

If you every wondered how all eleven Doctors would look if they were dinosaurs, an entire set of pictures can be seen at I09.

Christopher Eccleston continues to insist he will not appear in a 50th reunion episode. He has previously explained this by saying, “I never bathe in the same river twice.” This never sounded like a satisfactory reason, and he has subsequently elaborated without much detail saying, “I know what went on and the people who were involved know what went on. That’s good enough for me. My conscience is completely clear.” Obviously there were problems which have not been made public.

Karen Gillan on her final script for Doctor Who:

I literally couldn’t read it without crying … It was the most highly-charged read-through I’ve ever experienced. But I couldn’t have asked for a better exit. I don’t think it’ll be what people expect.’

Gillan leaving means that Jenna-Louise Coleman has started filming. Her initial filming was behind closed doors so we do not yet know how her character will look.

Merlin is filming season 5.

Sign seen in Colorado above. If Daleks were there, it would certainly be good to warn people. Last year the same area had a sign warning “Zombies Ahead.” That would be another important warning. Besides the obvious hazards, there are serious tax implications to a Zombie Apocalypse, as is discussed in this paper, and summarized here.

House concluded last week with House and Wilson being compared to Holmes and Watson. The series ended in a manner similar to  how Moffat’s version of Sherlock ended its second season, with both House and Sherlock faking their own deaths. In addition, Moffat’s other show also ended with the Doctor faking his death. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss discussed the finale of Sherlock with The Guardian but gave no clues as to how Sherlock survived. Moffat simply says, “He did it cleverly. Very cleverly. And we know, we’re not telling – next!!” I suspect that there will be aspects which were not clear  on screen so I have not worked on a full explanation as to how Sherlock survived, but here are my comments after The Reichenbach Fall  originally aired on the BBC.

It seems strangely appropriate that the big war scene which this season of The Game of Thrones has been leading up to will be airing this Memorial Day weekend.

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