Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Future of Sarah Palin

A new Politico article looks at the moose-battering governor's future on the national stage, if she has any:
Fully two thirds of Republicans, including Republican-leaning independents, want Palin to run for president in 2012, twice as many as back Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has already made one post-election visit to Iowa, and about 20 points ahead of former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

But even as Palin exploded over a few weeks from relative obscurity to a bigger star within the party than its own presidential nominee, Democrats and independents quickly soured on her, she became one of the most divisive figures in politics.

In mid November, Gallup found that only 45 percent of Americans hoped Palin is "a major national political figure for many years to come." About three-quarters of Republicans hoped so, three-quarters of Democrats hoped not, as did 53 percent of independents.

Exit polls also showed that 64 percent of independents viewed Palin as unqualified to be president, with nine of ten Democrats and one in four Republicans agreeing.
Maybe I'm just crazy and neurotic (very, very possible), but these numbers are less rosy than I'd like. Take that first number: 2/3 of Republicans want her to at least run for president in 2012. Jeez. That's a filibuster-proof majority's worth of elephants. Yeah, I know they're Republicans, but still - it's scary to think that one stupid woman from Alaska can fool so many millions of people.

45% want her to be a major national figure for years to come. This number will certainly change over the next few years, but in which direction? You can look at this 45% in one of two ways, I suppose. You can say it's less than half, which it is. Or you can say it's almost half, which it also is. Republicans and Democrats are about evenly split for and against it, respectively, and independents, at 53%, are slightly against it.

Only 53%?

I'm disappointed that number is not higher among independents, although with so many Republican dropouts over the past year, one would expect there to be a higher number of conservative independents now. So that might explain it. But, to rewind for a second - 45% want her to be a major national figure? I can't believe that number isn't lower.

Which leads me back into my lingering worry about the viability of Sarah Palin, which I've gone into before: the reason people voted against her to begin with wasn't because, like me, they saw her simply as an ignorant wacko, even though she is very much an ignorant wacko. It was because, as 64% of independents believed, she was "unqualified." If you're an ignorant wacko, you're an ignorant wacko. Tough shit, but you're probably not going to change. If you're unqualified, or unprepared - well, four or eight years might be enough time to become qualified and prepared.

What if Palin, from her perch as governor of a big energy state, comes out front and center on renewable energy within the next few years? What if she eventually winds up in the United States Senate? What if she goes on some kind of good-publicity-generating book tour? What if she is a huge hit in Iowa? What if she continues - and she probably will - to be one of the nation's most popular governors? What if she learns to speak coherent English over the next few years (granted, a big if)?

I know, it's a bad idea to worry about CRAZY SHIT that hasn't happened yet and very well might never happen. But this woman is too stupid and evil and dangerous to simply be forgotten about for a few years. We must always remember how wretched she is and how eternally unfit she will be to be president of the United States. So I won't lose sleep worrying over her national future - yet - but I will continue to monitor it closely.

It's Hillary

She'll be announced as Secretary of State on Monday.

Sen. John Warner (R-VA), for one, seems to like it.

Is it just me, or is the majority of the praise for Obama's Cabinet picks coming from Republicans?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Republicans, Good Republicans

Ben Cohen has a list entitled "10 Republicans Who Should Go Away." It's pretty funny, and I encourage you to read it, though Ann Coulter is conspicuously absent. That's probably by design, as she's vile enough on her own to take up 10 spots on a 10-spot list. Though Cohen does include some all-stars. Personally, I'd put Michelle Malkin at #1, but what can you do?

It actually got me thinking, though, about how I really do wish for more civility in our politics. I like to think that, even though I can endorse a list called "10 Republicans Who Should Go Away," I can still be respectful of their collective right to have, well, really toxic and terrible views and policy positions that do irreparable harm for our country. I won't ever attempt to take that right away from them, though I also won't give up my right to continue to argue my position against them. I do pledge, however, to do it with a smile!

But for civility's sake, I thought I'd take Cohen's idea and turn it on its head. So here we have yours truly's list of 10 Republicans Who Can Stay:
  1. Ron Paul - odd man out in the GOP now, but who cares? Second-most popular pol with young people after Obama.
  2. Chuck Hagel - first Republican in the Senate to show some spine - not to mention common sense - on the Iraq War.
  3. Olympia Snowe - a pro-choice, moderate Republican woman from Maine. We could use more of those.
  4. Susan Collins - another pro-choice, moderate Republican woman from Maine! Great. We now have two. More please!
  5. Tom Ridge - former PA governor and Homeland Security chief. Also pro-choice. McCain's BFF but whatever. He's got a lot of good qualities too.
  6. Charlie Crist - Florida governor, could be gay, very popular, tan, great hair. Did I mention he's probably gay?
  7. Gerald Ford - genuinely a good guy, and the right president - albeit an accidental one - at the right time.
  8. Nelson Rockefeller - perhaps the most famous member of the almost-extinct New England Moderate Republican Club.
  9. Teddy Roosevelt - 26th president who walked softly and carried a big stick. John McCain, eat your heart out.
  10. Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing - sassy, sexy and smart. And still did a great job as assistant White House counsel even while working out of the boiler room.
Yes, I know three of them are dead and one of them is imaginary, but it's still pretty good, right? Civility, my friends, civility. It's back!

"Issues" Promo: Introducing Jackson

Featuring the incomparable Kevin Sebastian:

Shameless Plug Alert: "Issues"

Soooo I don't know if you guys know this, but I've been filming this webseries. Every Sunday. It's kinda like church, only no Jesus.

Anyway, it's actually going to be very entertaining once it's all put together. It's called "Issues," and it's about the wacky cast of characters that works at a comic book shop. I play Leslie, the lovable yet awkward and neurotic store manager. It was a huge stretch.

Here's another link to the website. I also invite you to check out your YouTube page, as promos are now being added periodically (mine will be up soon, so dry your eyes...). I'm also going to start posting the promos of my fabulous co-stars, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Green House

Obama plans to make the White House more energy-efficient:

Obama will be sworn in on Jan. 20, and he said he wants to work quickly to make the White House "green."

The president-elect said he plans to sit down with the chief usher for the presidential mansion and do an evaluation of its energy efficiency.

"Part of what I want to do is to show the American people that it's not that hard," Obama said.

Asked whether he'll be tiptoeing around at night, turning off the lights, Obama said he isn't going to be obsessive about it.

"But I do that in my current house," he added, "and there's no reason why I wouldn't do it in my next one."

Senator Chris Matthews? Part II

FiveThirtyEight says he's staffing up for a Senate run, although he publicly denies this.

On The Other Hand...

Forget the Larry Summers drama (if there is any) for a second. Obama also appointed Berkeley professor Christina Romer to head his Council of Economic Advisers. Romer is well-known in economic circles and is popular with both Democrats and Republicans (a lot of Obama's appointments are popular with both parties, aren't they?):
Romer has described herself as having “liberal Obama-heavy political views," but her work has drawn support from both parties.

She burst into the economic scene with her doctoral dissertation that fundamentally changed how economists viewed the Great Depression.

Economics data indicated that the business cycle before the Great Depression was much more volatile than the economy after World War II. Economists widely assumed the data demonstrated the success of the post-Depression stabilization policies. Romer proved them wrong by showing that what seemed like a decrease in market volatility was really due to improved data collection.

Since then, she’s done extensive work researching the causes of the Great Depression and the roles that fiscal and monetary policy played in the country’s economic recovery. More recently, she has focused on the impact of tax policy on economic growth in papers co-authored with her husband.
So she's an expert on the Great Depression, which is the only thing close to the crisis we're in right now. This strikes me as an excellent pick, Mr. President-elect.

The Secrets of Larry Summers

Obama has promised us the most open, transparent transition in American history. But there are some murky details involving Larry Summers, the former Clintonite and Harvard president who will be the head of Obama's National Economic Council. Summers spent the last few years working at a hedge fund called D.E. Shaw, of which relatively little is known:
The firm’s core specialty is in statistical arbitrage, which involves buying and selling huge numbers of stocks in very short amounts of time, ranging from mere seconds to several days. But how they make those decisions is very closely held information.

“That’s where they get very secretive and squirrely and won’t tell you what they’re doing,” the observer said. A spokesperson for the Obama transition team declined to say what Summers had done for the hedge fund and how much he had been paid. But the Obama camp likely knows the answers, since the vetting questionnaire for applicants for administration posts requests tax returns and other detailed financial information, including the applicant’s net worth, real estate holdings, business partnerships, even gifts.

Lightly regulated hedge funds are not required to file detailed information on their financial performance with the Securities and Exchange Commission. So, it’s difficult to estimate how well or poorly D.E. Shaw has weathered the global financial crisis in recent months.
There is, fairly or not fairly, going to be a lot of scrutiny and sensitivity involving all the details surrounding Obama's economic advisers. With the current crisis, in which people who were supposed to be responsible regulators turned out to be irresponsible shmucks, we're going to need to know everything about the new people coming in - who they are, where they're coming from, what their economic philosophies are, whom they've worked for in the past, how they'll fit in as part of the Obama administration. This is all reasonable information to ask for.

I'm pretty confident that Larry Summers, who is well-known and well-respected across the board, hasn't been doing anything shady at D.E. Shaw or anywhere else. That being said, a lot of people blame him - along with some other Clinton-era guys, like Bob Rubin - for contributing to the current economic crisis. So it would be helpful if he could be as forthcoming as possible about what he's been up to lately, especially if he's been working at a hedge fund that, in the words of a source in that article, seems to be "riding out the storm" whle a lot of other companies are sinking.

A 40 Year Journey

For The New Republic's Marty Peretz, the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency has been a moment long in the making.Link

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gold Star Winner: November 27, 2008

Michelle Obama
Incoming First Lady

The always-sassy Mrs. Obama:

"This is the one year -- Don't you think? My husband ran for president -- that I should have an out on cooking something for Thanksgiving."

I agree. Somebody cook something for this woman! She deserves it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Senator Chris Matthews?

It's been rumored for months that Matthews, the host of Hardball on MSNBC, is going to challenge five-term Republican incumbent Arlen Specter for his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2010. And now it looks like there's been some notable movement on Matthews' part:
Leading the pack of prospects -- at least in celebrity -- is Chris Matthews, the MSNBC "Hardball" host and a former Capitol Hill Democratic staffer. The Philadelphia native has been toying with a run for months, and this week he sat down with state Democrats to discuss the prospect of taking on the five-term GOP senator.
Specter is pushing 80, he's been in the Senate for decades and is one of three Republican senators left in the Northeast (the others being New Hampshire's Judd Gregg and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe up in Maine). Theoretically, that would make him ripe for defeat two years from now.

The problem is Specter is a moderate, and that plays well in Pennsylvania. Yeah, Republican registration in the Keystone State tanked this year, but that doesn't mean it can't possibly rebound - even ever so slightly - before the 2010 midterms. Matthews is also a moderate - he'll be the first to tell you he's not a knee-jerk liberal Democrat, and he voted for Bush in 2000 - but my instinct tells me that his returning to the state simply to run for the Senate will not go over well with Pennsylvanians.

Remember that Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and pro football Hall of Famer, couldn't snatch the governorship away from Ed Rendell in 2006. Granted, that was a big Democratic year, one in which Pennsylvania's longtime arch-conservative stone-hearted Senator Rick Santorum also lost, but Swann was still a celebrity, and he still lost. And he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Matthews is from Philadelphia, he is proud of his Pennsylvania roots and is a huge Phillies fan (as he should be!), but I don't think anyone really associates him with Pennsylvania. They associate him with being cranky on MSNBC. He's a cable TV host, not a United States Senator. This isn't Minnesota, for crying out loud.

My bet would be that, if it's Matthews vs. Specter, Specter wins by a few percentage points. Yeah, I know it's a long way off, but that's what my gut tells me, at least right now. As the article points out, Specter's always in a tough fight anyway. Even as an almost-octogenarian, I'm sure he can play hardball with Chris Matthews.

FYI: I like Chris Matthews, as well as his show, I just think he'd be wasting his time here.

Is Now The Time To Go Green?

Well, yeah, if you ask me. But I would have said that years ago. Bradford Plumer argues that, because of the recession looming on the horizon, now might actually be the perfect time to implement a "new energy economy." A highlight:
If there's any upside to a recession (and it's hardly much consolation), it's that the accompanying decline in energy use gives us some breathing room to meet long-term emissions targets. (The rough consensus among climate scientists is that the world should aim to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a goal that sounded increasingly preposterous in recent years as countries were belching up carbon dioxide at a pace exceeding even the direst forecasts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.) The downside, however, is that the fall of oil and gas prices is forcing investors to shelve alternative-energy projects: The WilderHill index of clean-tech stocks has tumbled more than 50 percent since September, and even T. Boone Pickens is putting aside his beloved wind farms for now. The main reason the solar and wind industries aren't facing total collapse is government policy: Some 30 states have laws requiring utilities to get a fixed percentage of their electricity from renewable sources by a certain date.
Just do it, already. It's my generation - our generation if you're reading this and you're my age - that's gonna have to pay the price for our irresponsibility when it comes to energy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

And what better way to celebrate than with this classic scene from The West Wing:

Rachel Maddow, Rock Star

Newsweek has a great article on her meteoric rise to success:
All the ensuing hype and excitement about Maddow's rapid rise, and her quirks—the smart, self-described "butch dyke" who somehow broke into the cable-news boys' club—has masked the true reason for her success. It's not despite her differences from other talking heads, but because of them. A funny, cerebral and likable young woman who reads graphic novels and hungers for political change is more representative of the times than the older, angrier male pundits who've dominated the debate for so long. Maddow is not angry—her fans find her adorable, often confessing to crushes on her—but she is anxious, driven and determined. She did not stumble into a boys' club. She elbowed her way in, smiling.
Maddow seems to have genuinely charmed younger viewers, a Twitter-savvy, podcasting generation that has hankered for someone more like them and delights in her use of "duh," her obvious intelligence and authenticity, and her ability to be both idealistic and skeptical about politics. She eschews vanity and insists she won't stop dressing "like a 13-year-old boy" when she can.
She's quite possibly the smartest person on television right now. And she's so freaking cute, too. Like I've said before, Rachel Maddow is my girlfriend - at least on weeknights from 9 to 10 PM Eastern.

Look Who's On Board

"Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration." -Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

How To Get An Oscar Nomination

Variety has a guide:
  • Talk funny. Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" was a prime example of a long, proud tradition of speaking in a strange voice, using eccentric rhythms and speech patterns and -- this is important -- doing it while squinting. The glorious roster includes everyone from Billy Bob Thornton in "Sling Blade" to Renee Zellweger in "Cold Mountain." (Anthony Hopkins in "The Silence of the Lambs" and Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump" managed Oscar wins without the squint, which is remarkable.) Here's the rule of thumb: If a standup comic can do an impression of your performance that's immediately recognizable, you're in.
  • Have a distinctive haircut. Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada," Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement," all great. If at least three men dress up as your character in the West Hollywood Halloween parade, Oscar voters will remember you.
  • Be threatening and playful. When Forest Whitaker encounters James McAvoy in "Last King of Scotland," he terrorizes him then pretends he was joking. Same thing for Joe Pesci with Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas." It's part of the "He's scary!/Oh, he's kidding!/No, he's really scary!" school of drama.
  • Kill somebody. 2007 was a banner year, thanks to performances from Johnny Depp and Casey Affleck, but recent winners include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Charlize Theron, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Other noms include William Hurt ("A History of Violence"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed"), Ben Kingsley ("Sexy Beast") and Paul Newman ("Road to Perdition").

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Seward Award: William Henry Seward

    William Henry Seward
    Born: May 16, 1801 in Florida, New York
    Died: October 10, 1872 in Auburn, New York

    Governor of New York (1839-42)

    U.S. Senator from New York (1849-61)
    U.S. Secretary of State (1861-69)

    One of the most renowned statesmen of the mid-19th century, William Henry Seward was, first and foremost, a family man. Jovial, talkative and friendly, he was a devoted husband to Frances, his wife of 41 years, and loving father to Augustus, Frederick, Cornelia, William Jr. and Fanny. A lifelong resident of the state of New York, Seward also went on to become one of the most important secretaries of state in U.S. history.

    A lawyer by trade, Seward entered politics relatively early in his career, winning election to the State Senate in 1830 at the age of 29. He would go on to become governor of New York, winning close elections in 1838 and 1840, as well as a distinguished U.S. senator, a position he held for 12 years, from 1849 to 1861.

    But prior to his role as secretary of state, the role that shaped his career in public service, and gained him fame (and infamy) at home and abroad, was as an outspoken opponent of slavery. A family trip to the South in the 1830s left Seward and his wife scarred for life with images of the cruelty of the practice, and from his mid-30s on, through the governorship, Senate and State Department, Seward would forever be associated with his firm views against slavery. In a landmark legal case in 1846, Seward argued for the defendant William Freeman, a black man who had been accused of murdering four white people. Seward declared that Freeman, who was mentally ill, was not guilty by reason of insanity, a verdict that the Supreme Court of New York would eventually agree with on appeal. Though Freeman died in jail, Seward became renowned for his defense, and was both celebrated and reviled in different parts of the country.

    By the time 1860 rolled around, Seward had two terms in the U.S. Senate under his belt and was easily the most renowned figure in the fledgling Republican Party. While the party included other notable men like former Ohio governor Salmon Chase, 1856 presidential nominee John Fremont of California, former Congressman Edward Bates of Missouri and former Congressman Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Seward was well-connected, known all over, and was seen as having a virtual lock on the Republican nomination. When the convention opened in Chicago in May, however, fears that Seward's well-known opposition to slavery would cost the party the presidency derailed his path to the nomination. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Seward lost to Lincoln, by then a prairie lawyer from Springfield. Seward was crushed, humiliated and angry. Already 59 years of age, running for the presidency again seemed inconceivable. His life's ambition had slipped away.

    It didn't take long for him to pick himself up. After a brief period of recluse, Seward campaigned tirelessly throughout the fall for candidate Lincoln. A gifted orator in his own right, he advocated for the Republican cause and urged Americans to vote for the man who had come out of nowhere to win the nomination in Chicago. In November, Lincoln won the presidency, and owed no small debt of gratitude to Seward.

    Recognizing Seward's indispensable talents, Lincoln immediately asked him to serve as secretary of state in the new administration. Seward wavered on whether or not to accept the post, as he and Lincoln had been rivals for the nomination, but eventually agreed to come on board. Assuming that he, and not Lincoln, would really be the person running the government,
    he was eager to exercise his power behind the throne. Lincoln, after all, was just a prairie lawyer, and didn't really know what he was getting himself into. With the country on the brink of civil war, Lincoln was unfit for command.

    It wasn't long, however, that Seward realized his initial assumptions about Lincoln couldn't have been farther from the truth. While keeping the country from devolving into total chaos, Lincoln proved to be more than fit to be commander-in-chief in such a time of crisis, and his brilliance and strength of character were not lost on Seward. Seward became Lincoln's closest friend and most trusted adviser in the Cabinet. The two men spent virtually every night together, debating, philosophizing, sharing laughs and telling stories. On a great many issues, including the Emancipation Proclamation (on which Seward helped put the finishing touches), Seward was Lincoln's closest confidante - not the power behind the throne, per se, but certainly the right-hand man to a great leader.

    The night Lincoln was assassinated, an attempt was also made at Seward's life. His face and neck were stabbed and he very nearly lost his life. As a result of the attack, which also injured several members of Seward's family, his beloved wife Frances collapsed and died two months later. But Seward miraculously recovered, and served as secretary of state throughout President Andrew Johnson's administration. After leaving public service, he traveled the world with his remaining family members and died at his beloved home in Auburn, New York in 1872, at the ripe old age of 71, his country better off for having known him.

    The one big mistake in his remarkable life? The purchase of Alaska. Known as "Seward's Folly" at the time, it did end up being a hotbed of gold, oil and gorgeous scenery - but also produced the vice presidential nomination of Sarah Palin some 150 years later, rendering all its other benefits moot. In recognition for his otherwise outstanding service, however, The Danifesto forgives Seward for that isolated error in judgment, and thanks him for his important and inspiring service to his country.

    Introducing the William Henry Seward Award

    Last night, in the wee small hours of the morning, I finished reading Team of Rivals. The book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, chronicles the Abraham Lincoln administration, and specifically Lincoln's relationship with William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates, onetime rivals for the Republican presidential nomination whom Lincoln ended up naming to his Cabinet.

    It is a remarkable read, and I urge everyone to read it. Having learned how Lincoln's America was able to prevail through the Civil War, I have more faith than ever that our generation will survive the perils facing us at present. People forget just how many obstacles this country has overcome in the past.

    So, yeah, read the book. But this post is about something more than just a quickie book review.

    Goodwin goes into rich detail of the lives of Lincoln, Seward, Chase and Bates - to varying degrees. Bates gets the least attention, though he was indeed a mountain of a man. Chase gets a good deal of coverage but he was, while a good man and a true abolitionist at heart, so ambitious that it served almost as a detriment, and reading about him can be tiresome at times. Lincoln, as our 16th president and arguably one of the greatest minds in the history of man, is an absolute pleasure to read about. I learned much about him that I had not known before, though I came into the book already familiar with his esteemed place in history.

    The real discovery in the book, therefore, was William Henry Seward, who served as Governor and Senator from New York and eventually as Lincoln's Secretary of State. Seward was an uncommonly brilliant, wise and warm-hearted man, and a patriot in every sense of the word. When 1860 opened, he was by far the largest figure in the Republican Party, and was seen by virtually every observer as the "inevitable" presidential nominee of the party and, quite likely, the next president. But Lincoln stunned him at the Republican convention in Chicago, snatching the nomination away and, with it, the presidency. Seward, who had worked his entire life to be president, was humiliated.

    But in a (dare I say) Hillary Clinton-like fashion, Seward got over it. He campaigned all over the country for Lincoln and was the first Cabinet officer appointed to the new administration. While initially assuming that he would be the "power behind the throne" of the president, Seward soon realized that Lincoln, genius that he was, needed to sit on no one's shoulders but his own. While other ex-rivals like Chase never allowed themselves to appreciate Lincoln's greatness, Seward did. He and Lincoln became great friends, and Lincoln ended up trusting Seward more than any of the other men in the Cabinet. By the time Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Seward was already predicting that his name would be revered throughout history, on par with men like Washington and Jefferson, if not above them entirely.

    My fondness for Seward grew with each page I turned, and I found myself in utter awe and appreciation of his selflessness, intelligence, good humor and supreme sense of loyalty and duty. I realized that he was the ultimate unsung hero. Without his advice and friendship, Lincoln may not have been able to get through his presidency, and the fate of the country may have been very different. Seward might not be on a coin, no state capital is named after him and most Americans don't know him by name, but all Americans owe him a tremendous amount of gratitude for his service to this nation.

    It is in his honor that I dedicate this latest Danifesto Award, the William Henry Seward Award, in recognition of the unsung heroes that I come across as I go about my days. I will update this as frequently as is required. I encourage anyone who would like to feel free to nominate a candidate to receive this award. They can be living or dead, real-life or make-believe, male or female, rich or poor, anything. This is the space where we recognize unsung heroes whom history has largely neglected. Oh, Seward's got a statue in Madison Square Park in NYC, sure, and a museum and lots of other things. But, in my mind, he was on an intellectual par with perhaps even Lincoln himself. He certainly loved this country just as much.

    With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is with that spirit of gratitude that I dedicate this award to the most unsung hero of them all, William Henry Seward.

    Citi/Taxpayer Field

    That's what two New York City Council members want to call the New York Mets' new ballpark, opening in 2009.

    Citigroup owns the naming rights to the park, and announced months ago that the field would be known as Citi Field. The kicker, though (man, there's always one of these!) is they're getting bailed out by the federal government - and, by extension, the taxpayers - to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, so renaming (part of) the park in honor of the people Citigroup owes for its survival doesn't seem all that unreasonable.

    Personally, I love the idea. I love it. Besides my disgust at bailout after bailout after bailout to these huge corporations, I also hate the New York Mets. How much would it suck to have to play at Citi/Taxpayer Field?

    Sarah Palin Alert: GA Senate Runoff


    That's right: everyone's favorite moose-murdering, Neiman Marcus-wearing Northern governor will campaign in multiple locations for embattled Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss.

    The runoff, between Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin, will be held next Tuesday.

    For the record, I predict Chambliss will win, though it won't be because of Palin.

    Seriously, though - can't she just go away? It's almost Thanksgiving. Doesn't she have a turkey (or moose) to hunt and kill from a helicopter or something?

    Good Question

    Matthew Berger, blogging for Marc Ambinder over at The Atlantic:
    When was the last time we saw a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget announced by an incoming administration at a press conference? And before the naming of the secretary of state?

    Obama and the Gays

    In my view, Obama's planning some pretty decent reform when it comes to gay civil rights in the United States (or, as Republicans would call it, THE GAY AGENDA!!!!!). The timing of all this, however, is wishy-washy. There are no specifics as to when all this will take place:
    The plan the Obama transition team posted on its website last week addresses family issues, such as marriage and adoption, as well as employment discrimination and health concerns. It reconfirms that Obama does not support same-sex marriage, but that he opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

    The plan says Obama believes the federal government should repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which mandated that states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages, and approve legislation that would give gay and lesbian couples in civil unions the same legal rights as married couples.

    His plan proposes expanding adoption rights for gay couples, saying the president-elect believes “a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.” Obama also favors repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
    The article goes on to note that Obama will expand hate-crime statutes and anti-discrimination laws to cover homosexuals who are unfairly targeted because, well, they're homosexual.

    The only thing Obama seems to plan to do within a specific time frame is create a national HIV/AIDS prevention program for agencies of the federal government. He wants to do that within a year.

    With the shitty economy and other, much more wide-ranging issues that are sure to take precedent (energy, etc.), I'd be thrilled if all this stuff gets done in Obama's first term. There have already been rumblings that Obama will wait until at least 2010 to repeal DADT, which is probably a good idea, as he doesn't want to use the momentum he'll have right out of the gate on an issue that affects relatively few people. That's obviously not to say it's not important, because it is, but I'd be the first person to advise him to focus on other things first, and, well, obviously I want to repeal DADT.

    It will be nice to have a Democratic president in office for a variety of reasons, one of them being that it's simply refreshing to have someone who doesn't think homosexuality is a sin (gee, imagine that). Although the gay community must watch Obama like a hawk and make sure he follows through on everything he's promised. Remember: Bill Clinton was a Democrat, and he gave us DADT and DOMA. Obama still doesn't believe in same-sex marriage and you also get the feeling (again, probably rightfully so) that gay rights reform is not one of his top priorities.

    I just want it to happen while he's in office. 2010, 2011, 2012... whatever. Just ASAP, please. We're all tired of waiting.

    The Lies They Tell...

    ...and post online. The Bush administration has reportedly altered lists of Iraq War allies on the White House website:
    But historians researching those early alliance-building efforts say they are troubled by what seem to be deletions of and alterations to the early official lists of nations that supported the war effort. The lists were posted on the White House Web site.

    While administration officials acknowledged that the number of nations supporting the war changed over time, academic researchers say three official lists appear to have been changed, yet retained their original release date, making them appear to be unaltered originals.

    Two other White House lists appear to have been taken off the Web site, according to a study of the documents by Scott L. Althaus and Kalev H. Leetaru of the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    These bastards can't leave quickly enough.

    Karma's a Bitch

    THAT although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reaction-ary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Saturday, November 22, 2008

    The Irony, The Irony

    Since changing the law in order to run for a third term, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's approval ratings have plummeted nine points.

    Good. I hope he loses on principle.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Obama's Cabinet So Far

    If you believe the hype, here's how it looks so far:

    Secretary of State:
    Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Secretary of the Treasury: Tim Geithner
    Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates
    Attorney General: Eric Holder
    Secretary of Commerce: Bill Richardson
    Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle
    Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Why I Love Matt Yglesias

    This, among other reasons:
    "Between Waxman, David Axelrod, and Eric Holder mustachioed men are taking control of American politics. Perhaps this, rather than a “team of rivals” is the real 19th century throwback element of the Obama Era."

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Variety Reviews "Australia"

    Flop of the year? Maybe not:
    Embracing grand old-school melodrama while critiquing racist old-fashioned politics, Baz Luhrmann's grandiose "Australia" provides a luxurious bumpy ride; like a Rolls-Royce on a rocky country road, it's full of bounces and lurches, but you can't really complain about the seat. Deliberately anachronistic in its heightened style of romance, villainy and destiny, the epic lays an Aussie accent on colorful motifs drawn from Hollywood Westerns, war films, love stories and socially conscious dramas. Some of it plays, some doesn't, and it is long. But the beauty of the film's stars and landscapes, the appeal of the central young boy and, perhaps more than anything, the filmmaker's eagerness to please tend to prevail, making for a film general audiences should go with, even if they're not swept away. Robust, but not boffo, box office looks in store.
    I stand by my prediction that Australia will be a significant flop, since big Nicole Kidman epics - post-Moulin Rouge - don't seem to do well (The Golden Compass, anyone?). For all her acting talents and celebrity star power, she is not a big box office draw. She's not. Even when she was winning an Oscar and serving as the It Girl of the Moment a few years ago, she was hardly what you could call automatic box office gold. Maybe Australia will change all that. Who knows? It very well might - but I won't bet on it.

    The Crazy Christian Right

    And why they're here to stay:
    The problem with Sarah Palin, at least according to pre-election polls, was not that she exemplified/amplified the Christian right. It was that voters perceived her to be incompetent and not able to handle the job of commander in chief. In any event, there might be evidence to support this claim; Barack Obama ( a self-described evangelical, it must be said) turned over a whole bunch of suburbs in fast-growing areas. Democrats tried mightily to make inroads with conservative evangelicals, and they failed. This demographic group is, as Larison points out, is one of the most reliable factions within the party. At this point, they matter enough. The dirty secret is not that a large part of the Republican establishment is worried about their influence. There are two secrets, actually: one -- that the "leaders" of the various movements within social conservatism are ill-adapted to modern politics and can exacerbate tensions between the movement and outsiders; and two -- that a large part of the Republican establishment believes they can pander to these voters, not address their core concerns, and still rely on them for support. You can't build a Republican Party without them, but, depending on where you are in this great land of ours, you can safely ignore their cultural demands and still be a success, even if you're a Republican. When Charlie Crist ran for governor of Florida, he vacillated between pandering to the right and ignoring them. As governor, he's ignored them. And his approval rating is at 68%.
    These people just flabbergast me to no end. Otherwise, I'd write something about them here, but I can't right now. Maybe later.

    A Jewish Prayer of Thanks for Obama

    Barack atah Illinois, Elohenu melech ha'olam, hoo-ray p'ri ha-electoral landslide.


    Hey Dems: Settle Down!

    So, people on the left are freaking out over Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, etc. etc. etc. There are a lot of people in the progressive/liberal blogosphere who reeeeeally don't like the picks Obama has made so far for his Cabinet and White House team.

    Personally, I think everyone should settle down. I trust the guy at the top. He has sound judgment, he is a brilliant thinker and he knows what he's doing - at least until further notice. This guy has spent his entire life defying expectations and outsmarting people. There's no reason to doubt him now: he outpaced a Clinton to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and then handily defeated a guy who, not too long ago, was arguably the most popular politician in America.

    Ezra Klein has some thoughts on the Left's (momentary) hysteria:
    The longtime Democratic operatives and wonks are really quite good. Paired with this president, and this moment, and this congressional majority, they can go much further than they did under the Clinton administration. It's hard to say whether that'll prove right or wrong. But deciding to shorten the executive learning curve as much as possible and appoint folks with the experience to harness a transient opportunity isn't an implausible strategic decision. The staff will carry out the president's agenda. What's being sought out, then, is not brilliant new ideas for what that agenda should look like, but indisputable technical competence. If the e-mails I'm getting from Obama supporters are representative, however, it's nevertheless not the approach most of them expected.
    The people Obama has brought on board will serve at the pleasure of the president. Barack Obama is not going to suddenly not be Barack Obama. He is a left-of-center guy, but efficiently so, if that makes sense. The guy is a fucking lawyer: he's used to hearing all sides of an argument. So bringing in relatively hawkish people like Hillary Clinton does not mean that he will immediately acquiesce to their more conservative view of the world. It behooves everyone - even people on the left, and we're usually right, of course :) - to hear opposing points of view from time to time, if not quite frequently. It helps one form a more mature, well-rounded frame of reference. And that's a very good thing to have in a president.

    So chill the fuck out about Joe Lieberman, leave Hillary Clinton alone (I can't believe I just said that...) and have some faith in your President-elect. Don't worry, be happy. Remember: WE WON THE FREAKING ELECTION! You're gonna like most of President Obama's agenda, I promise.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Gold Star Winner: November 18, 2008

    Paul Begala
    Legendary Democratic Strategist

    So former DNC chairman (and longtime Clintonista) Terry McAuliffe is running for governor of Virginia in 2009. Word is that he's embarked on a "charm offensive" in the Old Dominion ahead of the Democratic primary.

    Here's what Paul Begala had to say about that:

    "Terry could sell shit to the zoo. He's the best salesman in the world."

    Love it!

    Sarah Palin Alert: The 2012 Draft Begins


    It was only a matter of time. And sure enough, just two weeks after Election Day 2008, a "Draft Sarah" movement has emerged:
    "Since forming our committee last week, we now have State Organizers in ten states and thousands from across the nation who have signed on as supporters," writes Kelly. "We feel that for Conservatives to be successful again, we must get back to the core principles of Conservatism. Sarah Palin's popularity and her Conservative values that she embodies will be the catalyst that will resurrect the Conservative base and reform the Republican Party of the near future."
    Hmmm... nooooo, not actually. Last time I checked, Sarah Palin doesn't represent anything close to the core principles of conservatism (and no, I refuse to capitalize that word). Palin represents nutjob Christian fundamentalism, sure, but conservatism... I don't think so (at least not in the mind of this tree-hugging, gay marriage-loving, bleeding-heart liberal leftist commie).

    Nevertheless, I urge you to visit the website for the Draft Sarah Committee, which you can do here. You'll find some curious things, like a homepage that features a picture of Sarah Palin cooking at home in Wasilla ("See, she's a regular gal! She cooks! She's a mom! Let's elect her president!"). If you go to the Photos section, you'll also see that the committee has posted that Photoshopped image of Palin on the cover of Vogue, even though, well, it's FAKE. Yet the caption reads "In Vogue." I really hope the caption is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Do they mean "En Vogue?" Like the band? Seriously, though... not even a committee devoted to electing Sarah Palin president could be that stupid, could they?

    I won't answer that. Just visit the damn website. It'll make you laugh.

    Why Lieberman Kept His Chairmanship

    By now, you've probably heard that the Senate Democrats are going to allow Joe Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Here's Marc Ambinder's take on why events unfolded the way they did:
    ...were Senate Democrats in a retributive mood, it's easy to imagine how these sins would become venal and prohibitively grave, and bye-bye- Joe. Kicking Lieberman out of his job would have made Democrats feel good about being Democrats. It would encourage party loyalty, and what political scientists call the solidary benefits of political party membership. It would discourage those who bucked the party line.

    But Senate Democrats are in a governing mood. Winning by seven points nationally and having large majorities in both chambers can do that to a party. It's going to be easier, relative to punishing Lieberman (and therefore pushing him to the Republican Party), to send progressive legislation to the President. They'll need him on filibuster breaking votes. His impact on foreign policy will be minimal. Some Senators have taken to the microphones to brag about the spirit of reconciliation that pervades the party. Maybe. But the Democrats today have sent the message that they favor convenience over party; expediency over parochialism. Make no mistake: keeping Lieberman where he was the expedient decision here.

    In my judgement, they made the right call. Pick your battles. A bloody fight over Lieberman isn't worth it. Save it for Social Security, or climate change, or something that is going to affect most Americans' lives.

    Obama on Climate Change

    Here's part of a message he delivered to the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit, being held this week in Los Angeles:
    Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

    I know many of you are working to confront this challenge. In particular, I want to commend Governor Sebelius, Governor Doyle, Governor Crist, Governor Blagojevich and your host, Governor Schwarzenegger -all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we've also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies.

    But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

    There are more specifics if you follow the link. There is much work to be done, and this is only the beginning of what will surely be a difficult process in combating climate change, but the President-elect has given us every reason to believe that he recognizes the threat and is extremely serious about overcoming this challenge. I commend him for what seems to be decisive action he is going to take.

    The Mandating Game

    After (finally) winning the popular vote by 2.5 points, George W. Bush claimed victory in the presidential election and declared, "I have political capital. I intend to spend it." In other words, a 51-48 percent victory nationwide, along with a 286-252 majority in the electoral college, meant a second term mandate for W and his good ol' boys (and Condi, too).

    This time around, Barack Obama received more votes than Bush (or anyone in American history, for that matter), won the popular vote by about 7 points (up from Bush's 2.5), and won at least 365 electoral votes from previously Republican places like Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and even an elector from Nebraska. Yet, as Jonathan Chait points out in the upcoming edition of The New Republic, apparently that doesn't equal a mandate:

    Unlike Bush, Obama has declined to claim a mandate, and many Democrats have publicly said that he lacks one. And so, although Obama nearly tripled Bush's 2004 victory margin and did so without having to explicitly solicit the support of voters who disagreed with the core of his agenda, the conventional wisdom has quickly concluded that the public does not support his plans to make the tax code more progressive, reform health care, and the like.

    You can argue about how important a role Obama's platform played in his victory. But, to read any newspaper in the days following the election, you'd think that Obama had to start crafting his agenda completely from scratch. "He ran on a platform to change the country and its politics," wrote Washington Post lead political analyst Dan Balz. "Now he must begin to spell out exactly how." Now? I thought that by the end of the campaign even blind and deaf hermits could tell you that Obama had a plan that could be found at I've resigned myself to the fact that political reporters don't feel compelled to familiarize themselves with the candidates' programs in detail, but they should, at minimum, be aware of their existence.

    Folks, Barack Obama has a mandate. If George W. Bush had a mandate, then Barack Obama has the mandate to end all mandates. If a narrow victory across a red/blue divide (not to mention a questionable win in the critical state of Ohio, which tipped the election) was enough to earn "political capital," then, Barack, you've got some dough to spend.

    Seriously though, I look at this situation the same way I look at the current Senate/chairmanship/caucus expulsion drama over Shameless Joe Lieberman: in life, and in politics, you have to pick your battles. If Karl Rove & Co. want to say that Obama doesn't have a mandate, and that the country is still "center-right" in spite of this year's big Democratic victory, fine: let them say it. It doesn't change the fact that Obama is the first Democrat to win men and independents in a generation, nor does it change the fact that the Democrats will go into 2009 with larger majorities in Congress than the Republicans ever had during that awful 1994-2006 period.

    To have a continuing debate over "mandate or no mandate" is a waste of time and energy. I'd rather save my bullets for a fight over health care, or our Iraq/Afghanistan policy, or the environment. Let's not have the Left and the Democrats engage in a debate over whether or not Obama has more political capital than Bush did, or silly shit like that. As Leo McGarry once said, "We're gonna raise the level of public debate in this country, and let that be our legacy."

    And as Bobby Kennedy said before that, "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country, and for our people."

    Amen. Let's get to work.

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    "The Moose Stops Here"

    The always-brilliant Frank Rich:

    Will the 2008 G.O.P. go the way of the 1936 G.O.P., which didn’t reclaim the White House until 1952? Even factoring in the Democrats’ time-honored propensity for self-immolation, it’s not beyond reason. The Republicans are in serious denial. A few heretics excepted, they hope to blame all their woes on their unpopular president, the inept McCain campaign and their party’s latent greed for budget-busting earmarks.

    The trouble is far more fundamental than that. The G.O.P. ran out of steam and ideas well before George W. Bush took office and Tom DeLay ran amok, and it is now more representative of 20th-century South Africa during apartheid than 21st-century America. The proof is in the vanilla pudding. When David Letterman said that the 10 G.O.P. presidential candidates at an early debate looked like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club,” he was the first to correctly call the election.
    No one knows for sure, of course, what is in store for the Republicans - or for the Democrats either. But what I do know is that recent whining by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity that "there's no problem with conservatism because more people in this country still identify as conservative rather than liberal" is missing the point.

    They're right, in a sense: there's nothing wrong with old-fashioned, common sense conservatism. But the "conservatism" that Limbaugh and Hannity subscribe to is really nothing more than blind-faith devotion to the economic insanity, wedge issues and cultural warfare to which the Republican Party has married itself for the past three decades. Spending more money while cutting taxes is not conservative. Telling people whom they can and cannot marry is not conservative. Intervening with Terri Schiavo's life is not conservative. Putting initiatives on state ballots that would deny people the right to decide whether or not they want to have an abortion or adopt a child is not conservative. Supporting a holy war against a relatively defenseless opponent who did not attack us - and continuing to support it even as it was horribly mismanaged - is not conservative.

    The GOP has become a band of nonsensical and deluded hypocrites utterly ignorant of the place in which they find themselves. This year, we got to hear John McCain, - who has been in lock step with George W. Bush for most of his presidency - deride the Democrats as bringers of "big government," as if he was somehow asleep as the Bush administration oversaw the biggest expansion of federal government in U.S. history. And that was the nonsense being spewed by their nominee for president! (Though, frankly, it pales in comparison to the bullshit artist that is Sarah Palin.)

    But, then again, the entire party is based on BS. The Republicans say they are "for life" because they don't want women to have the right to choose to have an abortion - yet God forbid anyone try to prevent people from carrying a concealed AK-47 down a public street. They call themselves "conservatives" yet they vote for legislation like the Patriot Act, and they lower taxes while increasing spending. They claim to be a party of "moral values" when they are actually the party of Ted Stevens, Mark Foley, David Vitter, Bob Ney and Jack Abramoff - not to mention Bush, Rove and Cheney. They believe they are the "party of Lincoln" - and, yeah, maybe they are: when Lincoln was president, there was no global warming to deny, no stem cell research to oppose, no telephone wires to tap and only rich, white men had a voice in the political process. The more I think about it, yeah - today's Republicans would fit in very well in 1860.

    This country has serious problems that will not be solved by Sarah Palin, or Proposition 8, or a Federal Marriage Amendment, or hard-line conservative judges, or the NRA, or any of the tired old games the Republicans have been playing for as long as I've been alive. This is a serious time and it requires serious-minded people and I beg the Right to grow up, come into the 21st century and, finally, get serious. It would serve America well if the Republicans could be a real political party again, one filled with real, intellectual conservatives, and not just "guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club." Grow up, GOP. We're all waiting for you.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    What Could It Be?

    The suspense is literally eating away at me this very second: a "lost" Beatles song from over 40 years might soon be released to the public:
    "Carnival of Light" -- a 14-minute experimental track recorded at the height of the Beatles' musical experimentations with psychedelia and inspired by avant-garde composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen -- has long been considered too adventurous for mainstream audiences.

    In an interview for BBC radio, McCartney said his bandmates and their producer George Martin had vetoed its inclusion on the exhaustive 1990s "Anthology" collection, according to UK's The Observer newspaper.

    McCartney confirmed he still owned the master tapes, adding that he suspected "the time has come for it to get its moment," The Observer reported. "I like it because it's the Beatles free, going off piste," McCartney said.

    This would be AMAZING. The great thing about the Beatles is that, no matter how many times you listen to them, they still have the potential to sound fresh, modern and innovative. They are one-of-a-kind in that regard.

    Plus, I'm always a sucker for new or tastefully re-imagined Beatles songs (i.e. the entire soundtrack to Love, the Cirque du Soleil concert), and this would certainly fit the bill. The Beatles "free, going off piste?" Sign me up.

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    The Last Week of the Campaign

    In two minutes, courtesy of Slate:

    Vote for Facebook

    Much has been made of the fact that the Obama campaign had a kick-ass web presence, as well as possibly the best marketing strategy in the history of political campaigns. But check this out:
    A student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire ran for Country Treasurer and rode the Obama wave to victory using $50 in Facebook ads targeting students at Dartmouth and nearby Plymouth State University. She won by just 586 votes.
    Incredible! The girl who won is 20 years old and beat an opponent 48 years her senior. Read more of this story here.

    They Met

    Obama and Hillary did indeed meet yesterday in Chicago to talk about a role in his administration:
    The meeting took place at Obama's transition offices in the mid-afternoon.

    It did not appear on the schedule that's distributed to Clinton staff and handlers.

    One knowledgeable source said that the meeting was "not an interview." The source would not elaborate.
    Interesting. Keep in mind that the Obama transition has already told us not to expect any Cabinet appointments before Thanksgiving. I for one was disappointed by that, as I guess I'm just so desperate for news tidbits and information now that the campaign is over.

    Hillary being named to the Cabinet, though, would be the topic du jour of several news cycles, and would certainly satisfy the media's craving for something new.

    I'll tell ya one thing: it would probably push that bespectacled governor from Alaska out of the spotlight for a little while.

    Scenes From "The West Wing"

    "You got a best friend?"

    "Yes sir."

    "Is he smarter than you?"

    "Yes sir."

    "Would you trust him with your life?"

    "Yes sir."

    "That's your Chief of Staff."

    After all these years, and countless viewings, that exchange still brings tears to my eyes. God, I love this show.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Gold Star Winner: November 13, 2008

    Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
    Former Speaker of the House

    Here's the former Congressman in an interview with Politico:

    "The Republican Party right now is like a mid-size college team trying to play in the Super Bowl. It is pretty hard to say our losses were because of John McCain’s campaign. McCain performed way above plausibility compared to where the Republican president was in the polls. We have to look honestly at what went wrong.”

    He may not have a perfect record (far from it), but Newt scores a touchdown with that political analysis. Way to go, Mr. Gingrich, and congratulations.

    Man, we've got a little Republican Gold Star streak going on here at The 'Festo, don't we?

    Don't Buy Those Hillary Exit Polls

    There are some exit polls circulating that show that if Hillary Clinton had been the Democratic presidential nominee, she would have (gasp!) beaten John McCain by even more than Barack Obama did!

    My advice? Don't buy it. Nate Silver, who is WAY smarter than I or anyone else could hope to be when it comes to these matters, has this to say:
    If America had woken up last Tuesday morning and magically found Hillary Clinton's name on the ballot in lieu of Barack Obama, might she have won by 11 points? Perhaps. She certainly proved herself to be an exceptionally compelling candidate, even if her execution and staffing decisions were sometimes wanting.

    But what would Clinton's numbers have looked like if she had actually endured ... you know ... a campaign?

    Would she have handled the financial crisis with as much aplomb as Obama did? Probably. Would she have been so capable and reassuring in the debates? Almost certainly. Would she have had an easier time resonating with working class voters in places like Missouri and West Virginia? Yes.

    But would she have managed the media as deftly as Obama did? Perhaps not. Would Republican attacks on Bill Clinton and Kazakhstan been as counterproductive to their cause as their effort to link Barack Obama and Bill Ayers? Maybe -- or maybe not. Would she have matched Obama's field organization and raised as much money? Doubtful.

    Would her campaign have had the same steely confidence as Obama's did after the Republican convention bounce? Unlikely. Would she have delivered as strong a speech as Mr. Obama did in Denver? Iffy. Would she have catalyzed near-universal turnout in the black community? No.
    These kinds of hypotheticals are ridiculous, and should not be taken seriously. Later on in his post (which I would have included here but didn't for the sake of space), Silver also mentions the most obvious thing that would have been different had Hillary been the nominee: there would have been no Sarah Palin. It is almost unfathomable that John McCain would have picked Palin as his running mate had the Democratic ticket been headed by another woman who also happened to be much smarter and much more qualified to run for national office.

    Furthermore, I think that the contrast between Obama and McCain was one that worked heavily in the Democrats' favor. Obama, with his name, background and relative greenness to Washington, was a convincing agent of change and had great appeal to independents. He was the first Democrat to win independents in a generation.

    Even if she had been the nominee, and even if she had won anyway, I would bet you a lot of money that there is no way in hell that Hillary Clinton would have won independents, and certainly not any significant number of Republicans. Hillary Clinton is very popular with two groups of people: women and Democrats, who are, by and large, one and the same (meaning the majority of women are Democrats, and the majority of Democrats are women).

    Could Hillary have won? Probably, though no one can say for sure. Is it a certainty that she would have beaten McCain by more than Obama did? Not at all, and I dare say it's more likely that the election would have been a squeaker.

    Flop of the Year Alert

    I've been saying for weeks, and will say again here, that I have the distinct feeling that Baz Luhrmann's epic Australia is going to be a massive flop. And now, just a few days before its premiere in... Australia... the film isn't even finished yet:
    Luhrmann renewed the debate over exactly how unfinished the film is on the LAT's The Envelope blog, revealing that at the end of the "emotional cinematic banquet" there will be a death of some kind, even if he's not quite sure yet who buys it. Meanwhile, Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman tried to dismiss the controversy over the $130 million dollar film's "six endings." This barely counts as optimism when it comes to the film's still-ongoing editing process. Since they are shutting down a street in Sydney for the premiere, should the local authorities prepare for a riot or can Luhrmann deliver in time?
    Seriously, though: apart from Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, when is the last time Nicole Kidman was in a hit movie? To Die For?

    Rachel Maddow is My Girlfriend

    Although that would be so impossible, on SO many levels...

    Why Sarah Palin Still Haunts Them, Too

    The aforementioned Andrew Sullivan:
    Let's be real in a way the national media seems incapable of: this person should never have been placed on a national ticket in a mature democracy. She was incapable of running a town in Alaska competently. The impulsive, unvetted selection of a total unknown, with no knowledge of or interest in the wider world, as a replacement president remains one of the most disturbing events in modern American history. That the press felt required to maintain a facade of normalcy for two months - and not to declare the whole thing a farce from start to finish - is a sign of their total loss of nerve. That the Palin absurdity should follow the two-term presidency of another individual utterly out of his depth in national government is particularly troubling. 46 percent of Americans voted for the possibility of this blank slate as president because she somehow echoed their own sense of religious or cultural "identity". Until we figure out how this happened, we will not be able to prevent it from happening again. And we have to find a way to prevent this from recurring.
    And from later in his post:
    Her candidacy, in short, was indefensible. It remains indefensible. Until the mainstream media, the GOP establishment, and the conservative intelligentsia acknowledge the depth of their error, this blog will keep demanding basic accountability.
    And here's Kevin Drum's take:
    Despite all the grief she's gotten, I continue to think that the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate represents the breaking of a consensual cultural barrier far more fundamental than most people realize. It's not just that she was inexperienced (Spiro Agnew and John Edwards weren't much more experienced than Palin when they ran for VP) but that she was — obviously, transparently, completely — uninterested in and uninformed about national policy at nearly every level. We've simply never seen someone so completely unmoored from the normal requirements of national office before. She was chosen purely at the level of celebrity, and an awful lot of people seemed to be just fine with that.

    Why Sarah Palin Still Haunts Me... And Why She Should Still Haunt You Too

    And, honestly, I don't think we should let her simply disappear for a couple years. We can't. And I'll tell you why.

    Yeah, it's great that McCain/Palin lost last week. In fact, "great" doesn't begin to explain the magnitude of the gigantic bullet that this country dodged by not electing the Republican ticket. John McCain returns now to the Senate, where he'll probably make some amends and retire when his term expires in two years. But Sarah Palin, as is evident by her round-the-clock media bonanza the past few days, isn't going anywhere. And that scares me.

    Sarah Palin is someone that must never be allowed to come anywhere near the White House. She is a fanatical, fundamentalist kook lacking not only in ideas, but in intellect. Yes, I said it: the woman is against thinking. She carries a disdain for, well, smart people that is painfully obvious, and totally unfit for a potential PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

    John McCain lost this presidential election, thank God. And we will not have to suffer through another four or eight years of a George W. Bush-like presidency. But the real damage McCain did was that, in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, he turned her into a national figure. Over 56 million people voted for her to be their next vice president. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that GOP voters liked Palin more than McCain. Rasmussen also found that 64% (!) of Republicans want her to be their party's presidential nominee (!!) in 2012.

    So, you see, therein lies the problem.

    Let's say she runs in 2012. In fact, barring some kind of unforeseen event (like she loses her 2010 re-election bid for Alaska governor), Palin will indeed run for president in four years. She will have legions of devoted supporters right off the bat. And she will indeed begin the race as the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination. Okay, fine. Those are just Republicans, you might say. Well, yes - but there's more.

    The main reason Sarah Palin was dumped by independents and some Republicans is not because they saw her as the braindead farce that I - along with many others - saw her as, it's because she was seen as "not ready." That's all it was. "Not ready." Not "you're a crazy, scary bitch and you will never be competent enough to even go on a White House TOUR." No, just "not ready" - meaning that, with three or four years of "executive experience", along with some clever political posturing to engage her in issues that actually matter, come 2012 a great deal of people are more likely to see her as "ready" to do the job.

    And that's my fear. My fear is that, by virtue of the fact that she'll have four more years doing... whatever it is that she does up in Alaska under her belt, she'll have a far easier time convincing enough of the American electorate that her biggest weakness this time around - her readiness to serve as president - is no longer a weakness. In fact, she may even be able to turn it into a strength. No joke.

    This is why I will not stop talking about her. This is why Andrew Sullivan and Kevin Drum and others will not stop talking about her either. She is too dangerous, too fundamentalist, too stupid, quite frankly, to ever - ever - be on a national ticket again - not in four years, not in eight years, not in 20 years.

    Never. Again. Not if I have anything to say about it, at least.