Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ross Douthat heart Sarah Palin

Jebus. Get ahold of yourself you college Republican priss:

An admission: At the moment, I'm probably rooting harder for Sarah Palin to succeed than I have for any politician in recent memory. Just something to keep in mind while you're reading my commentary.

Obama's speech, Sarah Palin, etc.

It wasn't quite as vicious as John Kerry's, but other than that it was the hardest-hitting speech of the convention. I have no complaints. There were several lines of attack he'd never personally opened up before, most notably Phil Gramm's "nation of whiners" gaffe and his first use of the word "temperment." I liked the extra large podium, which made him look smaller, less threatening, and more humble/less fascist.

I didn't like it as much as Keith Olbermann did.

As for the Sarah Palin selection, politically I'm not 100% convinced that it's an absurdly stupid choice but I am about 90% convinced. It is doing a bang up job of stealing attention from the Democratic convention, but that's at best a temporary advantage. I'm not even sure, given the "Obama fatigue" phenomenon that was being discussed going into the convention, ceding center stage the McCain campaign might not be a bad thing.

Even if it does prove to be a good choice electorally, it's so cynical. Joe Klein wrote that it "reflects a defiant, adolescent 'screw you' attitude toward governance." Is that pretty disrespectful of Palin? Yeah, but c'mon.

Some wingnuts are actually buying into the argument that because her experience has been executive rather than legislative, it doesn't matter how few people live in Wasilla or all of Alaska, or how long she's been running the latter. They're also weirdly enthused about her being the mother of five (5) instead of just one or three.

One thing I find interesting is that even though this is understandably being characterized as a pick for the base, there are at least two card-carrying members of the Republican base over at Powerline who were not at all enthused about Palin.

Here's Hindrocket:

"The AP says the McCain camp "hopes the announcement of his running mate will stunt any momentum that Democratic rival Barack Obama might get from the just concluded Democratic National Convention." If it really is Palin, I'm afraid the opposite will happen. Press reaction will be 100% negative; the emphasis will all be on Palin's inexperience--she's been Governor of Alaska for less than two years--and the fallout will augment, not limit, Obama's convention bounce." [Emphasis mine]

And here's a post by Paul Mirengoff, in its entirety before adding updates later:

"I'm very disappointed that John McCain would put someone as inexperienced and lacking in foreign policy and national security background as Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency."

Speaking of "a heartbeat away," Marc Ambinder told readers to be on the lookout for this phrase from Democratic flacks, and darned if I'm not hearing it quite a bit this morning on MSNBC. I thought they'd be a little less aggressive about her than they have been, especially that initial "totally inexperienced" statement that Gibbs made right away and Obama later walked back personally.

With the caveat that Republicans have historically been very good at winning presidential elections, she really seems like a crazy choice to me, and it's a big relief. I thought the best part of McCain's brand, moreso than the 2005 apostasy on taxes, etc., was that he was one tough motherfucker who other countries wouldn't want to mess with on the world stage. For a man gearing up to lead us further into the great clash of civilizations, the beauty queen hockey mom governor of Alaska is a jarringy incongruous partner. Watching them appear together is going to be like flipping the channel back and forth between a war documentary and a reality TV show.

Can't wait for some fresh polling numbers. The Gallup tracking was promising (+8) but I don't think reflects all of the speech or the Palin pick.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beltran hits 9th inning, 2 out, go ahead grand slam

Boy that was sweet. It looked like Oliver Perez might be a hard luck loser, but instead he'll get a hard luck no decision.

Probably since Adam Wainwright struck him out looking in the LCS, I've had the impression of Beltran as a little bit of a choker. I mean, not that I believe in that sort of stuff, really, but if I did he'd be one of the guys I'd accuse of being not-clutch.

But there he was, teeing off Kevin Gregg to go from near defeat to almost certain victory. Once again I'm posting this before the game goes final, but since when has Luis Ayala blown a save opportunity? Oh, that's right. Tuesday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mike Murphy is making sense

Writing at Swampland, former and probably still in some capacity McCain advisor Mike Murphy:

But these smart money Democrats are desperate [for?] two things; gallons of John McCain’s political blood sloshing around the convention hall floor and a big bounce in the polls. No bounce has come (why would it on day two?) and the McCain bashing has been limited. The Obama High Command thinks a pure slash and burn approach to McCain is very dangerous stuff in a election where the voters are so unhappy... [Rank and file Democrats] think Obama is slipping and it worries them. It’s interesting; often the McCain campaign seems to be all tactics and no strategy, while the Obama campaign is often long on strategy and short on tactics. The movers and shakers here are feeling McCain’s sharp tactics while the potential dead-on correct Obama strategy remains a cloud of unfelt intellectual property. This has given a certain psychological edge here to McCain.

Agreed. Distinguishing between "strategy" and "tactics" might be the most irritating cliche going, but in this case it's actually appropriate.

Murphy got a vicious response for this post from the Swampland comment section, which is mostly a cabal of Joe Klein-hating liberals like myself, but more feral. But David Corn, who I'm pretty sure never worked for John McCain, wrote almost exactly the same thing today:

"[A Democratic insider] said that there had been a loot [sic] of private polling done on the Democratic side that indicates that on-the-fence voters would not buy a direct slam on McCain and that they would not absorb any negative information about him unless the attacker paid tribute to McCain's military service. The consultant was adamant on this point. S/he maintained that the polling did show that voter perceptions of McCain could be changed to benefit Obama, if the attack was crafted the right way and McCain was not merely blasted."

Corn then goes on to express more skepticism about the long-term strategy than Murphy did, and his wish that these polling data weren't being kept under wraps. I would also like to see those numbers, but they probably wouldn't let me even if I asked.

Anyway, Mike Murphy's analysis may be totally insincere and calculated to advance McCain's talking points or whatever, but it also seems pretty accurate. His characterization of the Obama camp's thinking is backed up by David Corn's reporting and it's obvious that McCain has been hitting much harder than Obama in the early going. He actually professes more confidence in the Obama strategy than Corn does.


There's a massive marijuana leaf in the background of MSNBC's pregame coverage. "Re-legalize It," the homemade sign reads.

Goddamn DFHs with their goddamn reefer! Not helping BO endear himself to cultural conservatives here. The studio should really be inside, away from the rabble.

Don't look if you're squeamish

From the website that "Obama Nation" author Jerome Corsi contributes to, and kept referencing in interviews as proof that he's not some sort of kook:

"The Hip Hop President"

I can see it now. Air Force One decked out with "22s" and spinners. Maybe even a set of hydraulics. Watching the hip-hop president in the Oval Office with his baseball cap on backward coping a gansta lean in the big chair. Should be really pimp, don't you think? Cool man, real cool. Instead of giving away presidential cuff links to guests, as is the custom, he will offer "bling bling."...

After a few months on the job, he can refer to his cabinet members as his "bitches." Hey don't get angry at me. Take a listen to any hip-hop song, and that is the type of endearing language you will hear. A group of playas that have no respect for the country.

It goes on like that.

h/t Booman

Sure, defining "honor" may be hard, but...

You'd think a presidential candidate, especially one known for his Straight Talk, would be a little lighter on his feet than this. I'm not sure Time really intended to do a hard-hitting, confrontational interview but it was obviously enough to get him all defensive and whiny so kudos to them anyway.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Annals of unilateral disarmament

The Hill:

Yet not every speech has been completely overhauled. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who was asked by Obama to speak about the economy, was scheduled to deliver his speech Tuesday afternoon. The Obama campaign struck just one line from his speech, which slammed the Republicans and the Bush administration, according to a Democratic source.

That line, addressing Republicans, read: “They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get 10 to 20.”

Oh noes! That's not nice. Just because it happens to be true that scores of his henchmen and Bush himself are exposed to all sorts of criminal liability (e.g. FISA), and there was that convicted felon whose sentence he commuted, it doesn't mean anyone has to point that out. Certainly not at the Democratic convention. There's no need to be uncivil, after all.

I get the concern about not appearing like an Angry Black Man. What I don't understand is why at this point it hasn't been supplanted by concerns about appearing like a totally spineless, naive black man who thinks that if you treat people with enough respect, it will all pay off in the end. At least the Angry Black Man stands a chance of being taken seriously on national security.

I may have been a little tough on Mark Warner if he was just giving the Obama campaign what they apparently want from their speakers: inoffensive, non-partisan happy horseshit (see: Sebelius, K.). I thought they were through that early phase of the campaign and were now actually going to ensure that Americans hear some negative stuff about Republicans and John McCain in particular before they vote. Silly me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary's speech

Excellent. A big improvement over her withdrawal speech.

Of course we can't have the Clinton discussion stop now because Bill hasn't even gone yet, and he's the one who still burns with rage. I can't see any reasons for his not attending Obama's speech (lead story on Drudge, btw), that don't involve a Caligulan personality disorder.

Tag cloud of Mark Warner's speech

Full text. John who? George W. who?

You're killing us, Mark

The AP is reporting that Mark Warner "plans to offer a lesson in Virginia-style bipartisanship" in his keynote address tonight.

"There may be parts of the speech that aren't going to get a lot of applause," Warner said Monday, "but I've got to say what I believe will get our country back on the right path."...

Fuck Mark Warner and his lesson in bipartisanship. He's absolutely killing Gilmore in his senate race. You could say that means he knows how to appeal to Republicans, and that's true enough. But it also means there's no reason he can't do something useful like use his keynote speech to hammer John McCain.

I have no idea why the people of Virginia are so taken with this schmuck. He looked like he was kinda sorta going to run in 2004, courting the Netroots with chocolate ice sculptures or whatever, then went back into the woodwork. He doesn't seem to have any qualities other than bland red state placeholder Democrat, and clearly he doesn't want to get caught saying anything disparaging about John McCain.

It would be nice if there could be a convention where, if only for a few days, the party stops putting the blue dogs and the necessary evils like Warner front and center, and tells them to just sit there quietly while actual Democrats do the talking.

But maybe I've got him all wrong and he'll do a great job tonight. Color me skeptical.

Awful. Not about liberal versus conservative. It's about the past versus the future. Blah blah blah. Nothing about Obama in particular, except insofar as he occasionally began a segment "Barack Obama believes that..." Virtually no mention of John McCain. Completely fucking useless and self-serving.

Rachel Maddow was apoplectic in the post-speech commentary, as was Pat Buchanan. Eugene Robinson wondered why no one at the Democratic convention was using words like "Iraq" and "torture."

Much love to Bob Casey Jr. for his "That's not a maverick, it's a sidekick" line in reference to McCain's 90% Bush-friendly voting record.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fired up! Ready to go!

"Democrats Try to Heal Bruises as Convention Kicks Off"

Nice headline from the Times. If this is Obama boosterism I want my money back. But the Shadow of Hillary story is just getting so much run, it just has to be the main angle for any news outlet that wants to be relevant.

Plus, there is something morbidly fascinating about the angry Clinton primary voter who just hates Barack Obama's guts and wants to see John McCain beat him senseless in the general. My sense is that this has more to do with his being the guy who beat Hillary than anything they would have objected to otherwise. It's just so stupid and petty, plus disadvantageous to my preferred candidate, that the numbers suggesting there may be hundreds of thousands of these voters are pretty depressing.

Still, there can't possibly be enough of them for it to matter. Most people who vote in Democratic primaries, and I don't know why Hillary voters would be any different, have some idea of why they prefer Democrats to Republicans and therefore don't represent a game-changing pickup opportunity for John McCain... I'm just going to keep telling myself that anyway.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

K-Lo: "I Love Western Democrats"

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

Conversations with random liberal strangers in New York City often descent [sic] into anger, bitterness, and crazy theories that cannot be argued with. Not here. Residents of Denver I've encountered are the happiest sort. They enjoy engaging and listening. They respect different points of view. It's a whole new world out and up here. One cab driver told me: "I love listening to Sean Hannity. He's fun." He doesn't agree with him but enjoys Americans who care about the future, whatever their views. There's something healthy in the air here in real America.

See? All K-Lo wants from Democrats is for them to enjoy Sean Hannity. Is that so much to ask?

What I'd really love is for some transcripts of her conversations with "random liberal strangers in New York City [that] often descend into anger, bitterness, and crazy theories that cannot be argued with."


They seem to be happening more frequently these days. I don't know, maybe mountain climbing has gotten more popular, so avalanches of the same frequency and severity are just killing more people. But I don't think raising an eyebrow at this makes me too much of a global warming alarmist.

Putting aside its larger implications, why are people still mountain climbing in light of these numbers? "[A]bout 100 climbers" have been killed in the Alps, 20 on Mont Blanc alone, since June. How many people successfully climbed those mountains during that time? How could that ratio possibly be acceptable to any prospective mountain climber who's not trying to cash in a life insurance policy?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Biden

Well that text message thing was pretty stupid. I never got one! I had to get the news with all the non-fanboys via CNN last night, with confirmation this morning.

... But it's not about me. Today's Joe's day, and it could be a lot worse.

How about this "analysis" by the AP's Ron Fournier? It's so evenhanded and dispassionate, you could never tell in a million years that the guy was actually considered for a job at the McCain campaign.

Actually even though Fournier is a sniveling party hack whom no self-respecting news organization would let pose as a journalist, he's right that the Biden selection is a tacit admission by Obama that foreign policy is his weak spot.

I don't really have that big a problem with it. Obama really is new to the U.S. Senate and the Illinois state senate doesn't handle foreign policy. Just as long as people recognize that the opposition to the Iraq War was the right call, and supporting it was a huge mistake.

Ah, now official party hack Ron Christie is reading from Fournier's column. "He's undercutting his message of change, etc. etc."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ryan Church is back

Having finished his rehab, Ryan Church is back to reclaim his place in the outfield from Fernando Tatis. Unfortunately, as a result of the concussion he's still under the impression that he is Imelda Marcos, and no one in management has had the heart to tell him yet. Hopefully he'll wear traditional baseball cleats when he suits up tonight, but sources say open-toed heels remain a distinct possibility.

via Simon

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Boy did this story get a week's worth of attention today.

You'd have to attach electrodes to sensitive places on the D.C. press to get them to treat John McCain as a fancy pants rich guy like John Edwards, but I think it's a good idea for the Obama camp to run with it as far as they can.

But it's so very unfair, they complain. Rezko! Plus, they're not his homes, they're Cindy's, so this is all an attack on his wife.

Maybe McCain's plan for the economy is to have America find a hot, young country with lots of resources, marry it, and use its money to pay down our mortgages. That'd be pimp.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hitting back

This is an excellent post by Theda Skocpol, making the argument that Obama needs to stop whining about McCain's negativity and start hitting back. I pretty much agree with it, but I still have a high degree of confidence that the Obama camp really knows what it's doing. Moreover, I think the plan definitely involves attacking McCain, and that appears to be happening right about now.

Mets sign Al Reyes to minor league deal

Omar signed Al Reyes. That's good news.

"Released by the Rays" used to been a pretty good indication that a guy is totally useless but with them leading the AL East I guess that's no longer necessarily true. In fact, I'm not sure what the Rays were thinking when they cut him. He was a pretty decent closer for them back in... 2007. In any case they did and Omar signed him to a minor league deal, getting a chance to let him pitch for the Zephyrs a little bit before probably getting a September callup.

He's injury prone and gives up more than the occasional home run, but for a freely available arm his record is pretty sweet. I don't trust the current reliever corps as far as I can throw them, so any sort of backup would be worth getting, but I can definitely see Reyes making a real contribution down the stretch (say a 3.50 ERA and a 3.00 K/BB).

And speaking of relievers that Omar recently scrounged up, Luis Ayala looks like a pretty good move as well. When I first heard about the acquisition I was unmoved, but he's just had an uncharacteristically bad 2008. His career ERA is 3.22.

It's not that Heilman, Sanchez or Smith are that bad, but for a playoff team's three best right-handed relievers, they're not good either. Both Reyes and Ayala could conceivably do a better job than any of them, so it makes all sorts of sense to get them in the mix.

Where's my damn text message?

I was led to believe that Obama's VP announcement was imminent. "As soon as Wednesday morning," they said. Well now it's Wednesday morning and I still have to spend another day wondering if it's really going to be the Iraq War superfan from Indiana.

Actually, there was what Marc Ambinder called an "oppo hit" on Bayh reported by Bloomberg, related to his wife's seven corporate board memberships, so maybe we're in the clear even though "100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh" Facebook group is actually only about 4,000 strong. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but Mrs. Bayh's board memberships shouldn't be that damaging to his prospects. The fact that she is even capable of serving on seven of them is proof enough that they don't do anything, and the directors get their $80-$100k/year stipend whether or not any federal legislation goes the company's way. But her husband sucks, in any case.

Plus it looks like Biden is out, as he told the press assembled outside his house that they could disperse because "I'm not the guy."

I hate to say it but at this point of the >5% Intrade possibilities I think I'm pulling for Kerry.

"Edna" mentions Gore in comments. I had excluded him just because I'm skeptical that he'd actually want to do it, but Intrade actually has him about twice as likely as Kerry. I would indeed prefer the big fella.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rachel Maddow finally gets a show

Excellent. I'm sure this will be heartbreaking for everyone who got really attached to The Verdict with Dan Abrams, but it's for the best.

Washington Wire at its very worst

Elizabeth Holmes writes:

The Republican candidate had come under fire for associating with Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition who fell from grace after his involvement with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. McCain was one of the leaders of the investigation of Abramoff's lobbying activities that led to his imprisonment. Reed was never charged.

To read this passage, you would think that the very suggestion that Ralph Reed is an undesirable associate is crazy. It is written as if there weren't emails unearthed by the House investigation between Reed and Abramoff. In those emails, Reed bragged about having Karl Rove block a nomination in the Interior Department who was seen as hostile to Abramoff's casino clients. Charged or not, Reed didn't just "fall from grace" because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was up to his eyeballs in the auctioning off of the federal government and there's proof of it.

And now McCain's going to an event "promoted" if not "hosted" by Ralph Reed, and it's wrong for Democrats to object to this, because McCain led an investigation of Abramoff after he was caught? Holmes seems to be under the impression that McCain's leading those investigations, instead of perhaps strongly approving of already-exposed government corruption, should inoculate him from charges of hypocrisy. Holmes would have us pay no mind to the fact that Reed really was intimately involved in the biggest public corruption scandal in years.

At other points, Holmes just lashes out at McCain's critics:

"Yet the Democrats jumped on the email..."
"The Democrats"? All of them?

"That didn't stop the Obama campaign from issuing a 'response' to the absence"
"Will those little jerks at the Obama campaign never be satisfied?!"

"Others took it as an assertion of his involvement with the campaign, going so far as to insinuate he was hosting the event."
Given that Reed sent out invitations to the event in his own name, you arguably have to go further to preserve the distinction between "promoting" and "hosting" than to conflate them. [Bonus points for referring to the guilty parties as unspecified "Others."]

"On Monday evening, there was no sign of Reed at the Marriott Marquis here and no mention of him by McCain during his remarks."
So... McCain's failure to acknowledge Reed's support is evidence he didn't get any? I think it just means he wants to downplay it now that he's taking criticism for it. Yes, especially given that Reed is sending emails/fundraising for him and is on his Victory 2008 team, I think the latter interpretation is more likely.

That just about covers it I guess. It's not as though the WSJ's Washington Wire garners a huge audience as far as I know, and that's all to the good, but it still carries a major news organization's brand and it's churns out more than its share of awful posts. This is just my nomination for the worst of the season so far.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Johan Santana still feels like a disappointment, but shouldn't

The bad news:

Year   K/9 K:BB
2005: 9.25 5.29
2006: 9.44 5.21
2007: 9.66 4.52
2008: 7.53 3.22

As you can see, the strikeout rate fell off a cliff this year, but the K:BB has been in continued decline since its peak in 2005, when he was 26 years old. Of course, even though he still came into this year on the good side of 30 he'd thrown over five normal-starter-seasons worth of innings in his last four years, so it wasn't unreasonable to expect (as a lot of people did) a falloff this year.

And fall off he did, but how badly?

Year    ERA  OPS  GB:FB
2005   2.88 .594   0.91
2006   2.77 .616   1.06
2007   3.33 .678   0.92
2008   2.75 .652   1.14

Those metrics paint a much prettier picture of Santana's Mets debut. The groundball improvement isn't massive, and he's still miles from Webb/Lowe territory, but it's enough to suggest that more of the lost strikeouts turned into weak dribblers than warning track flies.

A translated ERA metric would be helpful in dealing with the differences in home park and league/opponent quality, and it's probably safe to assume that both factors would make the comparison to the Minnesota years slightly less favorable, but BP only runs those figures annually so I don't know how much.

They do, however, keep VORP updated daily, and that metric (which measures how many fewer runs a team surrendered while a given pitcher was on the mound than they would have if those innings had been pitched by a minimum salary scrub) is adjusted for park/league effects.

So we can look at this list of the top 10 most run-preventing pitchers in the majors and conclude that, even though Omar failed to swoop in on Cliff Lee this spring when the Indians barely wanted him to show up to camp, he didn't exactly screw up when he ponied up for Santana:

59.4 Cliff Lee
56.4 Roy Halladay
53.9 Tim Lincecum
49.1 Johan Santana
48.6 Brandon Webb
47.3 Dan Haren
44.6 Ryan Dempster [!]
44.2 Jake Peavy
44.1 Ben Sheets
42.9 John Danks

Mets rolling

I've been away from the computer for the last few days. Will have more in depth coverage later this evening.

I don't have much to say about the Rick Warren shindig except blargh.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Are you kidding me?

There's trouble in the Caucasus. The situation is "fluid and dangerous." You're John McCain. Who do you send?

That's right. Your personal backup singers, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham:

That'll have Putin thinking long and hard about his next move.

Attaturk makes a good point, with the emphasis it deserves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bill Kristol's supposed "scoop"

Bill Kristol reported that Colin Powell was going to endorse Obama, and everyone went bonkers. Powell, sounding rather peeved, told ABC "I do not have time to waste on Bill Kristol's musings." A representative from his office made a slightly more direct denial, saying "There's no truth to it, no substance to it... I have no idea why Bill Kristol would be making this statement. There is no imminent endorsement."

Obviously, there's still ample wiggle room for Powell to do it (the endorsement anyway, not the convention speech), but now one of two things will happen:

1) Powell does endorse Obama, just not imminently, and the leak will have spoiled the surprise; or

2) Powell doesn't endorse Obama, and the leak will make it seem like more of a rejection than it would have otherwise.

It's certainly possible that Kristol really was just passing along what he heard from a source close enough to Powell to be considered reliable. Stranger things have happened. But for Bill Kristol, getting stuff wrong isn't just an occasional occurence. It's a way of life. Indeed, Kristol qualified his claim by saying an endorsement "is not an absolutely done deal, but these people are very confident..." So by his own account, he put the story out there without anything that could be called confirmation.

I just don't believe he would do this without regard for its political impact, and I don't believe he'd do it if he thought it would help Obama, which only leaves one option: He did it because Kristol's sounding the alarm early, whether or not he's right, is good for McCain.

In a sane world, this theory wouldn't make any sense because there would be strong disincentives for reporters/pundits to make terrible predictions. But as you can see from this January 2007 selection of Kristol's greatest misses on Iraq and this December 2007 announcement by the New York Times that they were hiring him as a regular columnist, it doesn't actually work that way.

To revise and extend, I was kind of kidding about the "proof" that IF Kristol would consider politics AND not wish to push the scales towards Obama THEN he must be doing it to help McCain. Obviously there are other things to consider. Professional considerations would really demand going public even if he thought on balance even a rumor of Powell support would give Obama a bump.

I just find the idea of Kristol being the media figure most closely connected to Colin Powell's inner circle even more farfetched then the idea that he's just hyping the story because he thinks it's possible and he wants to steal its thunder.

Bill Ackman: So hot right now

Yesterday after the market closed, CVS bought Longs Drug (LDG), for $71 a share, over a 30% premium to their closing price of $54. It wasn't a shocking merger, given CVS's history of growing their store base through acquisition, but some people were surprised at the magnitude of the premium.

Why am I mentioning this? Because per James Altucher (sub. site with no permalinks), Bill Ackman, famous/notorious for his short positions in certain financial firms (Fannie Mae, MBIA, etc.), owns 8.8% of Longs, and "also bought 'total return swaps' to bring its 'economic' exposure to about 15.4% of Longs."

And he just did it last week! The timing was so good, he's probably not happy about it, because surely if the guy bent on the ruin of the U.S. financial services sector nailed a big takeout so perfectly, he must have been tipped off.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jerry Manuel: Maine, Perez & Pelfrey could pitch out of the pen

That's the chyron on the Mets pregame show. They're speculating that it's just Manuel lighting the proverbial fire under Sanchez, Heilman and company, letting them know that the blowups must stop.

I sure hope that's all it is. It sucks to have a terrible bullpen, but taking a good starter and decreasing the number of innings they pitch isn't the way to fix it.

Keith Hernandez just characterized the Mets bullpen situation as "Emergency Plan F." It's nice to hear analysis like that on a team-owned television network.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mets lose to Pirates in excruciating fashion

Eric Simon's response to this loss is that the Mets should "just blow up the bullpen" and I think he may be onto something.

Aaron Heilman got one strikeout, and then decided it was time to take the ninth inning in more of a "walks and base hits" direction, and turned the one run lead into a three run deficit. Maybe he really is a headcase. I don't know. He's pitched effectively for weeks at a time. He can strike guys out with his changeup. Back when I was there was some lobbying (which I agreed with) to put him in the rotation, a lot of people made the argument that he's "too good in the bullpen" to be used as a starter. By that logic, he must be looking pretty tempting as a starter now.

Nights like tonight make me wonder why Omar saw fit to send Heath Bell to San Diego for Ben Johnson, the baseball equivalent of a half-eaten turkey sandwich.

WTF, Russ?

Atrios gives the Wanker of the Day to Bob Kerrey, for calling John McCain "a known quantity" who "can deal with crisis."

Certainly a worthy selection, but I was disappointed to read less likely suspect Russ Feingold also lavishing centrist cred on the Republican nominee: "I think the guy calls 'em as he sees 'em, and as president would call 'em as he sees 'em" etc. etc.

Hey Russ, how about suiting up for the big game, huh? Maybe do what you can to help your party's nominee, rather than saying nice things about his opponent? I've never been a U.S. Senator so maybe I just don't fully understand the fraternal bonds between co-sponsors of campaign finance legislation. But how about next time you feel compelled to give a quote about what an honorable centrist John McCain is, you just keep your fucking mouth shut instead.

Contrary indicator watch

In a post entitled "Paper Tiger?", Paul at Powerline opines: "I'm not an economist or a futurist, and I've never been to China. But for what it's worth, I strongly suspect that the predcitions one hears constantly these days about China dominating the 21st century are likely to be wrong, perhaps spectacularly so."

Time to check out online courses in Mandarin.

Chris Wallace

Looks like he gave McCain campaign manager and unbelievably unappealing human being Rick Davis more than he was ready for. Good work, Chris.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Obama's fear of Muslims

Nate Silver had fellow Baseball Prospectus author Rany Jazayerli do a kind of guest post on the subject of Mazen Asbahi's resignation from the Obama campaign. I first read about the issue when Steve Clemons screamed bloody murder about it.

Anyway it turns out Rany, unlike Steve Clemons, is Muslim, and he isn't at all pleased either:

If Obama won't stand up to the flimsiest of accusations linking someone in his campaign, however remotely and ridiculously, to terrorists, then I’m not sure what he'll stand up against. I realize this kind of feckless approach worked so well for Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, Barack, but could you act like a man for once and grow a pair? Maybe Hillary will lend you hers.

Read the whole thing.

John Edwards admits affair with Hunter

What. An. Asshole.

"Edwards made a point of telling [ABC's Bob] Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter."

Oh good. As long as your wife's cancer is in remission then by all means, tally ho!

As I've said before, I supported Edwards in the primaries, so there's some money I wish I could have back. What was he thinking pursuing the nomination?

I don't have much to add to this. I'm sure you can get more analysis and crowing vindication on the subject Chez Kaus.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ana Marie Cox can't stop, won't stop

Ana Marie Cox is smooshed against the filter at the bottom of the tank for John McCain. There's just no other way one could write something this absurd about his campaign's blog comment payola scheme.

"Yeah, rewarding supporters with points for being helpful to the campaign is really desperate. And giving people pre-written talking points to disseminate? Surely a sign of ideological bankruptcy."

Those two puckishly deployed hyperlinks go to:

1) A point system for Obama campaign volunteers for making calls and hosting meetings, as an overt Obama campaign volunteer and

2) the official Obama campaign "Fight the Smears" site that provides talking points to, well, do as its name suggests.

"From what I gather, the major objection to McCain's points-for-blogging scheme is that people actually receive something of some monetary value in exchange for their hard work, whereas Obama's volunteers simply bask in the glow of their smug self-satisfaction..."

Well... YES! And it's a solid objection. Does one have to be predisposed to dislike McCain to see the tawdriness of paying people to say nice things about him on websites as if there weren't a "Country First" beach towel in it for them?

I'm not exactly outraged about this or worried that it's going to move the needle in November, but how can you read about these shenanigans and think: Oh, look at those smug Obama supporters. Not getting keychains and shit for their boosterism and thinking they're so pure!

Her bottom line: "The question is whether the McCainiacs would be doing it anyway."

Oh, man. As a Swampland commenter points out, if they were going to write the stuff anyway, why would the McCain campaign give them prizes for doing it?

She's a true believer. I think if McCain wins he could do a lot worse for a press secretary. She would never flip like Scotty 2 Hotty.

Let it never be said that the state of Ohio is taking the threat of pandemic flu lightly. They're running a TV ad during Reds games that pretty much says we're all gonna die and you should learn more about it at this website. Well I was intrigued.

About This Site:

Experts believe a worldwide outbreak, or pandemic, of influenza will happen someday.


The exact timing is not known, but it is certain our everyday lives will drastically change during a pandemic.

What may these changes include?

These changes may include temporary closing of schools or cancellation of events, disruption of normal services such as utilities and some shortages.

What can I do?

There are things you can do now to prepare.

I'm listening.

This Web site is designed to help prepare and protect the health of Ohioans.

Just Ohioans?

Here's the ad itself, via Norb, of the GQ banner:

Mets win, Santana doesn't

Johan Santana can't be happy at having started 24 games, thrown 161 innings of sub 3.00 ERA ball, and only having 9 wins to show for it. As was said, with some disapproval I think, on SportsCenter: "Cy Young voters require wins. You can't do it with ERA."

Well he got out of a jam but Scott Schoenweis became the latest Met to ensure he wouldn't get the W for an excellent 7 innings. And I'm not saying he should win the Cy Young, necessarily, and he isn't striking fools out like he did in Minnesota, but he's still been pretty unhittable.

Fortunately David Wright closed the deal in the 9th so there was a 2-out vulture win for Aaron Heilman. And the Phillies got shut down by Chris Volstad, wasting a nice start from Cole Hamels.

Los Mets are now two games out in the division and the wild card.

Favorite fictional presidents: Windows to the soul

WSJ: McCain also reveals his favorite fictional president as Dennis Haysbert, who played President David Palmer—the first black president—on "24."

"You know, I hope that I and all Americans can be color-blind about any president," McCain said. Coincidentally, Obama selected an older white male as his favorite fictional president: Jeff Bridges in "The Contender."

A few points:

1) This is an excellent choice on Obama's part. The Contender is an underappreciated classic. I like to think that he's got an equivalent of Sam Elliott's character on his campaign, screaming about the necessity of digging up incriminating photos of John McCain with midgets or something...

2) Is it really "coincidental" that Obama's selection for favorite fictional president was an "older white male"? I mean Palmer was not the only conceivable black choice. There was Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact, Tommy "Tiny" Lister in The Fifth Element (or was that some galactic organization?)... but that's all I can come up with off the top of my head. It's not like a random grab in the pool of possible choices is likely to be non-white.

3) It was just brilliant for McCain to have gone with Palmer (both pro-diversity and a nod to his pro-torture base).

4) Jeff Bridges' President Evans was not "older" by presidential standards. He just looked like Jeff Bridges, who was 51 when the movie came out. That's much closer to Obama's age than McCain's.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Michelle Bernard: Better labeling, please

Of the non-celebrity talking heads who regularly appear on MSNBC, few get as much airtime as Michelle Bernard of the "Independent Women's Forum."

Bernard is very good at cable news, but (or so) I would say comes out with more than her share of really stupid stuff. And not necessarily random stupidity, either. At times she sounds more than a little Republican-leaning, which would fit the pattern of gross over-representation of black Republicans (in general but especially relative to black Democrats) on cable news.

Anyway it, which is to say she has been kinda bothering me but making up for it at other times for quite a while now. Tonight on the subject of imposing a windfall profits tax on ExxonMobil, which I am also against, she dropped such horrible supply-side crankery that I figured this woman must be a regular at Grover Norquist's Wednesday meetings.

So I fire up the Google, and what do you know:

Before joining IWF, Bernard had a short stint with the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee, Inc. Prior to that time, she was a partner at the District of Columbia's Patton Boggs LLP.

Which brings me to the real problem here: It's bad enough to let anybody spout off on TV identified only by the Independent Women's Forum. Nobody knows what that is. I get uneasy when people from the National Review or the Nation do their thing, and those organizations' leanings are widely (if not universally) known. All we can infer about her is that she's an independent woman. And we all know independents are the truth tellers.

But she really doesn't sound all that independent, and the reason for that is she worked for Bush-Cheney '00 and at one of the most high profile and most Republican law firms in D.C.

There's hatred...

And then there's the sentiment Spencer Ackerman feels toward Jeffrey Goldberg. How very uncivil!

They even mention Norman Hsu

The national attention to McCain's fundraising practices may be happening at an even faster pace than I had hoped. First McClatchy, now the Washington Post has a front page story "Bundler Collects From Unlikely Sources."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Aaron Heilman likes to give up home runs

Heilman just served another one up to Jody Gerut. Three run shot, bringing the Padres to within one.

Keith Hernandez is firm but fair: "When he gets hit, it's not a double in the gap. It's not a single. It is a BOMB."

Scott Schoenweis gets the one out save. Thank goodness. Also, Fernando Tatis!

Bill Clinton is very angry

I'm afraid Bill Clinton has gone round the bend. The intensity level of his interview with ABC News is off the meter. When he talks about Jim Clyburn it looks like his eyes are on fire. He even threw in a Freudian slip for good measure: "He was never my... never a Hillary supporter."

It pisses me off that he managed to keep his statesmanlike reserve during pretty much the entire Bush administration, and is now flipping out just because Team Clinton couldn't nail down a third presidential term and he lost a little face in the process. Cry me a fucking river.

Or better yet, whine loudly about it and threaten to withhold your enthusiastic support for your party's duly nominated candidate! That'll show them how devoid of hubris Bill Clinton is, and it'll help convince black people that you've been their staunch political ally at the same time!

This is a long video, but you can skip to pretty much any point at which Bill is speaking and feel really sorry for the woman interviewing him.

"It's like they take pride in being ignorant."

Oh, yes. More like this, Barack.

In unrelated news, Rachel Maddow just did an excellent job putting the "McCain has 9 houses and $520 shoes" meme on cable TV, and almost making Jay Carney's head explode in the process.

Keith runs Dana Milbank off Countdown

Good for him. I never liked that guy.

h/t Atrios

Monday, August 04, 2008

The generosity of Hess employees

As worrisome as some of the polling trends have been recently, I think there's a decent chance that, between the McCain camp's violations of campaign finance law that have already occurred, and the high likelihood of even more damaging violations coming to light, one of them might actually attract the notice of the national media and reach the level of scandal.

Today TPM has been doing work on the strange inflow of donations from Hess executives and employees after McCain's (not to be confused with Obama's) reversal on offshore drilling. Of particular interest to them are two donations of $28,500 each from a Hess-employed couple who apparently live in a rented apartment in Flushing, an area known more for its sports arenas than its concentration of high net worth individuals.

Sure, it seems so clumsy that you'd think there was no way the McCain campaign would try it. But politicians are never as circumspect as you'd think about this stuff. Remember Hillary bundler Norman Hsu and the three dozen Hill-raisers supposedly living in the same NorCal shanty?

It's not much to get excited about at this point, but I think of the campaign finance thing as a little call option or lottery ticket that may end up getting redeemed for the total implosion of John McCain's support.

Good point

The Hill's "Pundit Blog" is maybe the worst stretch of real estate in the entire blogosphere. Their three most prolific contributors are A.B. Stoddard, Armstrong Williams, and Lanny Davis, who seem to have an internal competition over who can churn out the worst copy. But today their in-house sensible liberal Bill Press makes the worthwhile observation that very few prominent Democrats saw fit to defend their presidential candidate from a string of incredibly slimy and dishonest attack ads, which is something they should probably start doing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Brett Favre's plane just landed in Green Bay!

ESPN just broke into the baseball game to announce that Brett Favre has landed in Green Bay. He's on the ground. There was no fiery, newsworthy crash. Also, earlier on Baseball Tonight the ticker on the bottom of the screen had three categories: AL, NL, and FAVRE.

Let's hope the STL bullpen can keep the Phillies one run down. It would be nice not to have the Mets fall three back if Jason Isringhausen and co can avoid it, which they might.

Screw Michigan AND Florida

I'd really like to see the DNC ignore this plea from Obama and tell Michigan and Florida they'll get their half votes or no votes at all.

I liked Howard Dean as a candidate, but he needs to start asserting his authoritay or this jockeying for primary position is going to get out of hand. It will get out of hand and we'll be lucky to live through it.

There was really no good reason to give the delegates from those states even half votes, except that it was necessary to accelerate the official end of the primaries. Now that the party has its nominee, it's going to give total absolution? But why? It's very hard to believe the almost purely symbolic issue of delegate seating is going to weigh heavily in either state in the general.

Of course Obama's going to ask for you to seat them. But how about showing some institutional integrity? It's just a thought, but I can't see how it helps the Democratic brand to have the national party get disrespected like a substitute teacher.

Deciding what to do with the state primary calendar, including maybe just getting rid of it and having a national primary, cries out for some kind of national decision making entity. A committee perhaps. Like a Democratic National Committee. And the rules could be such that if you had a state primary when you weren't supposed to, you were SOL no matter what the eventual nominee had to say about it.

Plus, it might be a benefit for Obama politically to not get his way here. I'm all for Team Obama merging with/acquiring the Democratic Party for the purposes of the campaign, but it might be helpful to throw a contrary data point in the Stalinist-rise-to-power narrative.

If it would really hurt his November turnout in either state, I would feel differently, but I think Florida's and Michigan's Democrats will have more than enough time after the convention to get over it. And they'll have learned what it means to disrespect Howard Dean.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bob Herbert gives it to 'em straight

Spare me any more drivel about the high-mindedness of John McCain. You knew something was up back in March when, in his first ad of the general campaign, Mr. McCain had himself touted as “the American president Americans have been waiting for.”

Oh, indeed.

Friday, August 01, 2008

My but he is limber

Good. This whole argument about offshore drilling is ridiculous, so don't even let McCain use it as an issue.

Obama's basically saying to the American electorate: "Look, I've seen the polling. I realize you've been sold on this stupid idea. So fine, if it makes you happy, I promise I'll give it a serious look."

This is small potatoes. The oil companies already have plenty of relatively promising prospects that could be developed profitably at these oil prices. What's preventing them from drilling everywhere one might reasonably expect to find oil isn't regulation as much as the scarcity of rigs. More are being built, but for the forseeable future they are extremely costly. The basic ones run about $80,000/day and the more sophisticated (deep water) ones run about $400,000/day.

Here's a chart of rig dayrates going back to '05 (by which time they had already gone up a lot). You can still see the dramatic increase in the last 3 years:

That's utilization on the right axis of the graph, and you can see the red line steady around 100%. If the areas off Florida were especially promising, you could make the argument that the highest use of the rigs was being prevented by federal regulation. But the most active markets right now aren't near the US Gulf. The're in places like the Indian Ocean, offshore Brazil, the North Sea, West Africa... and of course the Middle East. That's where the really big projects are. It's not like producers are going to suddenly swarm en masse to the U.S. when the restrictions are lifted, just because it will make Bob in Toledo feel more "energy secure."

So go forth and pander, BO. Do what you gotta do. It's a completely phony issue.

Chart via Energy Current

Go ahead, George!

Just take the wily old bastard. I mean at this point are you really going to worry about appearances?