Archive for May, 2008

Michigan makes its case

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Michigan Democrats’ argument to the Rules & Bylaws Committee is surprisingly reasonable — certainly moreso than the nonsense Hillary’s people have been spouting. In particular, I hadn’t previously heard the argument that the DNC "selectively enforce[d] its calendar rule," penalizing Michigan and Florida but not New Hampshire (even though all three violated the calendar), and that this selective enforcement is what forced Michigan’s hand.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that interpretation of events — indeed, I suspect Michigan was just looking for an excuse to cut in line — but on its face, it sounds reasonable, and actually does provide an arguably legitimate, rather than merely demogogic, case for lifting the delegate-stripping penalty.

However, I take issue with this statement, at least as it applies to the proposed solution of cutting Michigan’s delegation in half:

To penalize Michigan … would jeopardize our chances of carrying Michigan and
winning the Presidency.  … [W]e must insist on
Michigan’s full delegation being seated at the Democratic National
Convention with full voting rights.

The problem is this: the Republicans cut Michigan’s delegation in half, too! In fact, the GOP halved the delegations of Michigan, Florida, South Carolina, Wyoming and New Hampshire, all because they violated the party’s calendar.

It is difficult to see, therefore, how the Democrats would "jeopardize our chances of carrying Michigan" by adopting the exact same solution the Republicans chose — unless the spin wins out over the facts. Unfortunately, if the RBC halves the delegations and the Clinton campaign and/or the Michigan & Florida folks choose to demagogue the issue, that’s exactly what is likely to happen.

Alma

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season (which starts annually on May 15, roughly two weeks earlier than the Atlantic season) has formed. Its name is Tropical Storm Alma, and it could cause a major flooding disaster in Central America.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on Sunday — not that that means anything, of course. The first named Atlantic storm will be Arthur.

Why the polls don’t matter

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Last week, Matthew Yglesias wrote:

It’s really too bad that the folks behind Five Thirty Eight.com
have gone and created such a compelling website based around
state-by-state general election polling. It’s all really well done and,
as such, I can’t really bring myself to look away. But this stuff is
all really and truly meaningless.

He’s right. It’s May; the general election is in November. Making Electoral College projections based on current polls is a bit like projecting the BCS bowl matchups based on the AP poll in Week 2. It’s candy for political junkies (hence my glee when these maps first started appearing), but it’s not terribly informative, and it’s certainly not anything to base important decisions on. Thus, it’s rather silly for Clinton to be sending out pollsters’ maps to the superdelegates, using them to argue that she’s more electable than Obama.

Underlining this point today on his Politico blog, Ben Smith offers an Electoral College projection from May 28, 2004 — four years ago yesterday — that showed Kerry beating Bush, 327-211. See, that proves Kerry’s electable!

An awful lot can, and will, change in the five-plus months between now and the election. Most people don’t start seriously paying attention until after Labor Day, and the closest of the battleground states will be decided by swing voters who make up their minds in the final week of the campaign. You can learn a lot more from thinking about the likely dynamics of the race (e.g., young vs. old, change vs. experience, cash cow vs. cash-strapped, dovish vs. hawkish, liberal vs. conservative, and alas, black vs. white) than from looking at polls, whether national or state-by-state, at this early date.

UPDATE: Speaking of polls, this is interesting:

There are very few sure things in politics, but here’s one: Barack
Obama’s going to dominate the black vote in November. John F. Kerry got
88 percent, and it’s hard to see Obama getting less than 90 percent as
the favorite son of a core Democratic constituency in a great
Democratic year.

But many polls aren’t currently showing this. Take the SurveyUSA
poll of Michigan getting some attention today. The poll, which has
McCain up 4 percentage points, has Obama winning among
African-Americans 62 percent to 26 percent with the balance undecided …
This seems just wildly unlikely as an outcome …

Whatever the cause, it’s something to watch for in general election
polling, and a way in which Obama’s support seems at times to be
seriously understated.

Obama backtracks (?) on diplomacy

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Call it flip-flopping if you must, but I, for one, am glad to see Obama clarifying/revising his position on meeting with foreign leaders:

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, sought to
emphasize, as he and his aides have done continually over the last few
days, the difference between avoiding preconditions for talks with
nations like Iran and Syria, and granting them automatic discussions at the presidential level.

While
Mr. Obama has said he would depart from the Bush administration policy
of refusing to meet with certain nations unless they meet
preconditions, he has also said he would reserve the right to choose
which leaders he would meet, should he choose to meet with them at all.

The
issue presents one of Mr. Obama’s biggest political and policy tests
yet as he appears headed toward a general-election contest against
Senator John McCain of Arizona: How to continue to add nuance to a policy argument that he
views as a winning one, without playing into a fierce round of
accusations that he is either shifting positions or appeasing the enemy.

The "appeasement" charge is crap, as I’ve noted before. But, as I also said in that same post, "it’s perfectly fair to debate whether Obama’s stated willingness
to meet with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions is a good
idea. I’m not at all sure it is[.]" What I am sure of is that important foreign-policy decisions should be made based on contemporaneous good judgment, not slavish adherence to spur-of-the-moment campaign promises. Obama’s apparent recognition of this fact is distinctly a good thing.

Alien fever grips Denver

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Not illegal aliens, mind you. Space aliens:

A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.

But enough about Dennis Kucinich.

McClellan’s book consumes the Beltway

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I never got around to posting yesterday about Scott McClellan’s book. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it already, but here are some of the highlights:

President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing.

In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a “serious strategic blunder,” and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

Mr. McClellan’s book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” is the first negative account by a member of the tight circle of Texans around Mr. Bush. Mr. McClellan, 40, went to work for Mr. Bush when he was governor of Texas and was the White House press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.

More:

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence. …

The eagerly awaited book, while recounting many fond memories of Bush and describing him as “authentic” and “sincere,” is harsher than reporters and White House officials had expected.

McClellan was one of the president’s earliest and most loyal political aides, and most of his friends had expected him to take a few swipes at his former colleague in order to sell books but also to paint a largely affectionate portrait.

Instead, McClellan’s tone is often harsh. He writes, for example, that after Hurricane Katrina, the White House “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” …

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term,” he writes. “And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.” …

“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.” …

McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush’s liberal critics and even charges: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.” …

Among other notable passages: …

• Bush was “clearly irritated, … steamed,” when McClellan informed him that chief economic adviser Larry Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that a possible war in Iraq could cost from $100 billion to $200 billion: “‘It’s unacceptable,’ Bush continued, his voice rising. ‘He shouldn’t be talking about that.’”

• “As press secretary, I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided.”

• “History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

Needless to say, reaction to the book has been fast, furious, and predictably partisan. For instance, Nancy Pelosi “totally agrees” with McClellan’s charges, and Robert Wexler, a top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wants McClellan to testify about his accusations. Karl Rove, on the other hand, says McClellan’s book is “a little irresponsible” and that he “sounds like a left-wing blogger.” Barack Obama says McClellan “confirmed what a lot of us have thought for some time.” But the current White House press secretary, Dana Perino, accuses McClellan of distorting the truth to sell books and says, “Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.” And Dan Bartlett, a former top Bush aide, is distinctly displeased:

Former White House counselor Dan Bartlett lashed out at Scott McClellan in a telephone interview Wednesday, saying the allegations that the media was soft on the White House are “total crap,” adding that advisers of President Bush are “bewildered and puzzled” by the allegations in McClellan’s new book.

“It’s almost like we’re witnessing an out-of-body experience,” Bartlett said of McClellan. “We’re hearing from a completely different person we didn’t have any insight into.”

Bartlett added that intimates of the President feel McClellan has violated his trust. “Part of the role of being a trusted adviser is to honor that trust,” said Bartlett. “It’s not your place now to go out” and criticize the President like this. …

Bartlett said the bewilderment stems from “Scott’s decision to publicly air these deep misgivings he’s never shared privately or publicly” with fellow Bush insiders. “To do it now, through a book, is a mistake,” he added.

Bartlett asserted that McClellan did not play a major role in key events, noting that the former aide was serving as deputy press secretary for domestic issues during the run-up to the war in Iraq, raising questions about how McClellan could claim the President used “propaganda” to sell the war.

“I don’t think he was in a position to know this,” Bartlett said flatly. He said it’s “troubling” that McClellan is now “gives credibility to every left-wing attack” on anecdotes that are “either thinly-sourced or not witnessed by him” in the White House.

Blogospheric reactions are split with similar predictability. Perhaps one of the more sage points comes from Ed Morrissey:

Expect all sides to redefine McClellan in order to either boost or reduce his credibility. To the Right, McClellan will have been the worst press secretary of modern times, and to the Left a man of extraordinary ability chased out of his job by Bush’s minions. The truth will be somewhere in the middle.

So… what do y’all think?

What?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

No snarky commentary on the Bush chest bump at the Air Force Academy graduation yet?

I’m very disappointed.

UPDATE BY BRENDAN: Here’s a photo of the bump in question:

(Via the Denver Post.) Heh.

Of Tucker and toad venom

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Glenn Reynolds weighs in on an illegal, deadly aphrodisiac: "Others may see things differently, but to me there’s a big gap between ‘toad venom’ and ‘feeling sexy.’" As Glenn himself would say: Indeed.

This comes on the heels on Tucker Carlson’s disturbing relevations about his sex life, vis a vis the veepstakes:

“The VP story is a little bit like sex,” observes Tucker Carlson, the
writer and NBC political analyst who falls into the skeptic column.
“When it’s happening, you’re totally focused on it, it’s all you want.
Then, the second it’s over, you can barely remember why it seemed so
important.”

“It happens, there are fireworks for 30 seconds, ‘[AP’s Ron] Fournier’s
got it — it’s JACK KEMP!’”

According to Wikipedia, Tucker is married with four children, so I’m guessing he doesn’t really yell out "JACK KEMP!" in the heat of passion. But who knows. I suppose some women would find it sexier than toad venom, at least. Though, if there’s a bow-tie involved as well, toad venom might be preferable.

Just in case there was any doubt…

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Hillary Clinton just sent this e-mail out to supporters; boldface in original:

This Sunday, voters in Puerto Rico will go to the polls and make their voices
heard — the first time the island has played such a vital role in selecting our
party’s nominee. At this critical moment, I am depending on you to help me make
sure they have a choice. We are depending on the voters of Puerto Rico
in our fight to secure the nomination.

She goes on to say that "this race is up to the voters, and I’m
going to keep fighting for every last vote," and that "over the next four days, we have the
opportunity to make history in the Puerto Rico primary — and win the national
primary vote by redoubling our efforts."

That some very interesting language there: "national primary vote." Is she trying (again) to exclude all caucuses now, even the ones that report popular-vote tallies? I thought Hillary said we must have a nominee based on 50 states! Now she seems to be suggesting that she can claim victory based on the popular vote in 37 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. Hmm.

Needless to say, that’s ridiculous, and nobody would take such a tally seriously. However, as I’ve pointed out before, Hillary does have a shot at an arguably plausible "victory" in the tally of all states and territories — leaving aside that the "popular vote" is an inherently illegitimate metric — but, in order to get it, she’d need a Puerto Rico margin of between 113,000 and 268,000 votes, depending on how you do the Michigan math. The best magic number for her to aim for is probably 177,000; that margin would give her a shot at catching Obama in the count that includes all the caucus states and Florida and Michigan, and gives Obama the "Uncommitted" vote in Michigan. (To win without Michigan, she’d need 268,000+.)

Of course, I realize that the notion of a popular-vote victory fundamentally premised on a Puerto Rico blowout is a contentious issue. But I’m not wading into the pros and cons right now — been there, done that. I just wanted to point out, for whatever it’s worth, that the Clinton campaign has now made it explicitly clear that they are "depending on" Puerto Rico.

Today’s e-mail missive from the Obama campaign, by the way, states as follows:

Only
three contests remain in the Democratic primary.

Voters head to the polls in Puerto Rico on Sunday, followed by South Dakota
and Montana on Tuesday.

After more than four dozen contests, Barack has won the most votes, the most
delegates, and more than half the states. But we still need 48 delegates to
secure the nomination.

We’re fighting in these critical states and making the preparations necessary
to take on Senator McCain.

That language, "these critical states," is intriguing. Are they sloppily declaring Puerto Rico a "state," or are they implying that South Dakota and Montana and the only "critical" contests remaining? We report, you decide.

P.S. Hillary’s memo to the superdelegates sheds some light on that "national primary vote" line:

[W]hen the primaries are finished, I expect to lead in the popular vote and in delegates earned through primaries. Ultimately, the point of our primary process is to pick our strongest
nominee – the one who would be the best President and Commander in
Chief, who has the greatest support from members of our party, and who
is most likely to win in November. So I hope you will consider not just
the strength of the coalition backing me, but also that more people
will have cast their votes for me
.

So, "more delegates earned through primaries" = "more people have cast their votes for me." So she is advancing a metric that explicitly ignores the will of the voters in 13 states. Fantastic!

The problem with this approach goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, since Hillary Clinton appears committed to leaving no childish lie behind, no asinine argument unmade, no deceptive bit of rhetorical nonsense unstated in her endless assault upon reason, logic and truth. So, here goes:

It’s one thing to claim that caucuses are undemocratic, unrepresentative, unfair, and generally, well, bad. That’s a perfectly defensible position. However, it’s the sort of argument that you make in the course of trying to reform the system,
for example by convincing caucus states to switch over to primaries.
Hillary did not do this — indeed, she played lip service to
the glory of the caucus process in Iowa specifically, in order to
pander to those voters — and now, instead, she wants to simply ignore
the results from those states, because of their "undemocratic" process. Well, guess what? I know something that’s more undemocratic than having a caucus: not having an election at all! Yet that’s exactly what caucus states are reduced to — electoral non-entities that effectively did not vote — if you count only the states that held primaries.

That’s without even getting into the fact that, coincidentally, pretty much all of the demographically Hillary-friendly states held primaries (and indeed, several of them got "bonus" delegates for voting late in the process), whereas a bunch of demographically Obama-friendly states held caucuses. So the "delegates earned through primaries" are hardly a fair or representative sample of the country. If all states had held primaries, Obama’s pledged-delegate lead would be narrower (because his percentage margins in the caucus states would have been smaller), but he’d still be ahead, not behind as in Hillary’s phony metric (because he still would have won those states). Moreover, Obama’s popular-vote lead would be wider (because his raw vote margins in the caucus states would have been larger, since vastly more people would have voted). This is all hypothetical and speculative, of course, but it has a firmer basis in reality than Hillary’s utter, shameless nonsense.

And then, of course, there are the contradictions inherent in Hillary’s position. For example, Michigan’s primary was also incredibly undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair, since only one major candidate was on the ballot, and since most voters didn’t bother to show up (or voted in the other party’s primary) because they knew the primary didn’t count. Yet Hillary wants to count that undemocratic primary — in fact, she wants to give herself a Soviet-style 328,309 to zero victory in it — while simultaneously excluding all the caucuses, which (unlike Michigan) fully complied with the rules, on the basis that they are undemocratic. Obviously, that makes no sense.

But then, we’re well beyond the point where we should expect Hillary Clinton to make sense, or be internally consistent, or remotely rational, or morally defensible, in her pursuit of power. So I guess I’m just wasting my breath.

P.P.S. In case anyone’s wondering, here is the full list of states whose voters are disenfranchised by Hillary’s "delegates earned through primaries" metric for ascertaining the popular will: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii (gee, do you think Obama would have won by a huge popular-vote landslide in a primary there?), Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Washington and Wyoming. Needless to say, with the possible exception of Nevada, every single one of those is an Obama-friendly state, and if they’d held primaries, he almost certainly — given the "demography is destiny" nature of this campaign — would have won ’em all.

Any method of counting the votes (or the delegates) that excludes any of these states is inherently and facially illegitimate, and the fact that she would even attempt to make such an offensive argument is itself a independently sufficient reason to deny her the nomination.

Breaking news of the bloody obvious

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

CNN Breaking News: "A judge has ruled that the Democratic National Committee has the right to determine whether to seat Florida delegates."

Um, yes.

Meanwhile, DNC lawyers say the Rules & Bylaws Committee cannot seat more than half of the delegates. I’m skeptical of this, and so is DemConWatch, which muses, "I haven’t seen the analysis, but I thought the RBC was free to come up
with any solution they wanted. And I’m curious – if the RBC comes up
with a solution that the DNC lawyers don’t like – what is the DNC going
to do? Sue its own RBC committee?"

That said, the lawyers’ memo may provide crucial political cover for the RBC members to reject Hillary’s proposal (which they almost certainly want to reject anyway, for reasons I explained before). Thanks to the memo, instead of actively choosing to "disenfranchise" Florida and Michigan, they can simply say, "Sorry, but the lawyers told us we have to!"

Trapped in an elevator

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

The New Yorker last month ran a fascinating, lengthy article about elevators. I just stumbled upon it today. It’s worth a read if you’ve got the time. I found this snippet particularly interesting:

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early
nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to
make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take
control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know
this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the
door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their
belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer. Elevator
design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the
box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over
which they have no command.

The article is framed by the story of Nicholas White, an employee in a New York high-rise building who once got trapped in the elevator for 41 hours. Here’s the time-lapse security footage of his ordeal, via the New York Times‘s Health blog. As the New Yorker article reveals, White ultimately quit his job and sued the company that owned its building, only to settle for a piddling amount after four years of legal strife. His life is pretty much in shambles now, all because of a sequence of events that started with his getting trapped in an elevator after stepping outside for a cigarette on a Friday night.

Anyway, the Times blog post asks for readers’ stories about elevator ordeals. Hey, I’ve got one! I was trapped in an elevator once, in France. The "ordeal" only lasted maybe two or three minutes, but it happened in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, and I was only seven years old at the time, and I solved the problem! That makes it at least somewhat interesting, right?

The story goes like this. I was with my Mom and Dad at the tail end of our summer vacation in France. Specifically, we were leaving our Paris hotel, the Hotel Novanox, bound for the airport to catch our flight back to New York. The date, unless I’m very much mistaken, was July 4, 1989. (Irrelevant side note: Mikhail Gorbachev was arriving in Paris that day — or maybe the next day? — for some kind of big-deal summit thingy.)

My Dad and I were on the elevator. My Mom, the only fluent French-speaker in our family, wasn’t. She was actually booked on a different flight to NYC, the next day, and thus I believe she was either back in the hotel room or else waiting for us in the lobby, to see us off.

Anyway, when the elevator got to the lobby, the door wouldn’t open. We tried going back up a floor or two; it still wouldn’t open. Back down to the lobby again; no luck. If I remember correctly, there were perhaps a half-dozen people in the
elevator — including, I think, a hotel employee of some kind — but
nobody seemed quite sure what to do. But then I noticed something. Watching the light shine through the crack of the door as we traveled up and down, it seemed like the elevator car was landing a foot or two below where it was supposed to. So, I thought, why don’t we try going to the basement? I figured the elevator couldn’t go below the basement.

I’m not sure how I communicated this idea to the others in the elevator (aside from my Dad, of course). Maybe the hotel employee spoke English; or maybe my Dad, who can speak some conversational French, clumsily translated; or maybe I just pushed the button. I don’t remember. Regardless, we went to the basement, and — as the locals might say — Voila! The seven-year-old American tourist had saved the day. :) The doors did indeed open when we reached the basement, and we climbed the stairs up to the lobby. My Dad and I caught our flight with no problem.

So… what about y’all? Have any of you ever been trapped in an elevator?

McKinney clinches Green Party presidential nomination

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Remember Cynthia McKinney, the racist, anti-Semitic, conspiracy-mongering moron who was so radical and ridiculous that she managed to be voted out of her safe congressional seat in Georgia after she refused to take responsibility for physically assaulting a Capitol police officer, an incident that she blamed (as she does everything) on racism?

Well, she’s going to be the Green Party nominee for President of the United States.

Cornell professor Peter Swartz, opposing McKinney’s appointment to that university’s faculty in 2003, famously wrote: "Ms. McKinney is a racist and anti-Semite of the first rank. If she were white and male, she would be David Duke." Well, hey, David Duke ran for president in 1988 (first as a Democrat, then as a Populist) and in 1992 (as a Republican). She’s just following in her mentor’s footsteps!

Obama: I see dead people

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Heh.

Baby’s first hike through the Smokies

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Becky, Loyette and I spent Memorial Day communing with nature, as we hiked the Porters Creek Trail, a roughly 7-mile walk through the woods in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

It was very fun, if somewhat exhausting. (The hike to the campsite at the end of the trail was relentlessly uphill; the walk back was, naturally, downhill, and therefore mercifully less tiring.) We carried Loyette in her Kangaroo Korner slings, Becky using the fleece one and me using the mesh one, as we always do. We passed her back and forth throughout the roughly six-hour hike, and whoever wasn’t wearing the baby would wear the backpack. So that worked out pretty well.

Loyette was amazingly tolerant of the long day. She got cranky exactly three times — twice just before taking a long nap in her sling (i.e., she was tired), and once just before lunch (i.e., she was hungry). She’s a great baby that way. :) Throughout the vast majority of the hike, she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and seemed very interested in all the new sights, sounds and smells. Of course, that meant not just the natural wonders of the forest, but also the more mundane “wonders” like the feel of cold condensation on the outside of our water bottle, and the way a plastic bag full of peanuts (a handy trail snack) changes shape when you grab the outside of the bag. To a baby, everything new is exciting and wondrous.

Anyway, the trail we hiked is renowned for its beautiful wildflowers in early spring. Since it’s late May, there aren’t as many wildflowers now, but there are some, and they’re pretty. Here are a few that I photographed:

See also this one and this one.

Oh, and the trail also has a somewhat scary bridge, quite reminiscent of the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm (although with a railing, admittedly):

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but there’s really quite a steep drop-off; the water is maybe 15 feet below you in the middle. And given the narrowness of the bridge, it’s legitimately somewhat nerve-wracking to walk across.

I really wanted to find a large stick, hold it up, and proclaim, “You cannot pass! I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. Dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udûn! Go back to the shadow! You shall not pass!!!”

But alas, there was another pair of hikers sitting on a rock nearby, well within earshot, so I had to contain my weirdness. :)

I did, however, do what my dad and I call the Indiana Jones pose — notwithstanding the fact that, to my knowledge, Indiana Jones never did any such pose.

Anyway, I’ll upload some more pictures of the hike to Flickr shortly, and link to them here when they’re online.

P.S. I think this photo is cool:

UPDATE: As promised, here’s the Flickr gallery. It’s two pages long. Enjoy!

Could Obama-Nunn win Georgia?

Monday, May 26th, 2008

When I learned yesterday that Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, had won the Libertarian nomination for president, I promptly called my parents and, getting their answering machine, left a message for my dad in which I wondered aloud whether there are any plausible Democratic vice-presidential options from the state of Georgia. The rationale behind my question was the notion, which I also mentioned here yesterday, that the Peach State could be unusually competitive thanks to the combination of: a) Barr’s candidacy taking away Republican votes and b) record African-American turnout causing lots of Democratic votes. Thus, the thinking goes, a veep candidate from Georgia could conceivably put Obama over the top. And it’s hard to imagine McCain winning the presidency without the 15 electoral votes from Georgia.

Well, the answer to my question is: yes, there is indeed a plausible Democratic vice-presidential option from Georgia. His name is Sam Nunn. Here’s what Politico has to say about him:

[A]fter leaving politics in the 1990s, [Nunn] has…appeal as an independent-minded foreign policy/military elder statesman. … [He] chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, served on the Intelligence Committee and authored bipartisan legislation creating programs against nuclear proliferation (with Republican Sen. Dick Lugar) and reorganizing the Joint Chiefs of Staff (with Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater). … Nunn holds positions at various national security organizations and is a professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.

Nunn has the advantage of helping the Democrats make a play for Georgia. Since Bill Clinton narrowly carried Georgia in 1992, the state has gone Republican, but by inconsistent margins. This election could be the perfect storm for Democrats to turn Georgia blue: Obama likely would inspire high turnout among African-Americans (who represent 30 percent of Georgia’s population); McCain might suffer low turnout among religious conservatives long skeptical of him; and the just-announced Libertarian candidacy of Bob Barr, a recent Republican member of Congress from northern Georgia, could siphon conservative votes from McCain. With this confluence of forces working for the Democrats, Nunn joining the ticket could take Obama over the top in the ninth-largest state.

Five Thirty-Eight gives Obama a 5% chance of winning Georgia, though that’s based on old polls that don’t factor Barr into the equation. Anyway, what would that percentage rise to if Nunn were on the ticket? 20%? 25%? Perhaps more to the point: is there any realistic chance of Obama-Nunn carrying Georgia in an election where Obama needs it (i.e., a non-landslide)?