Ugh, powder blue

June 27th, 2008

Clinton and Obama wore (nearly) matching outfits at their Unity event this afternoon: her pantsuit and his tie were both, according to Politico‘s color-spectrum analysis, powder blue.

Ap_unity_080627_mn

Powder blue, of course, used to be a UCLA school color, back when I was at USC. But the Bruins switched in 2003 to a different shade of blue, so I guess I can forgive the Dems for their use of what I’ve always considered a rather distasteful shade of an otherwise fine color. Still… for future reference, I’d recommend either Notre Dame blue or Newington blue. :)

Anyway, here are some more photos from the Obama-Clinton rally in Unity.

Clinton, Obama join together in Unity

June 27th, 2008

Literally.

Around midday today, the former Democratic rivals will make their first joint public appearance since she dropped out of the race — and the event will be held in Unity, a tiny town in western New Hampshire where Obama and Clinton each received exactly 107 votes* in the January 8 primary.

Here’s a quick primer on Unity, from Wikipedia:

Unity
is a town in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States. The
population was 1,530 at the 2000 census and an estimated 1,715 six
years later. The town includes the villages of East Unity, Quaker City,
and West Unity. … The racial makeup of the town
was 99.35% White, 0.07% African American, 0.13% Asian, and 0.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.72% of the population.

The percentages from the 2000 census indicate that Unity had literally one black person, two Asians, seven mixed-race individuals, and eleven Latinos. Oh, and 1,509 non-Hispanic whites. Heh.

Anyway, here’s an AP article about how Unity is gearing up for today’s big event. It opens with the obligatory quote from a local old lady: "I don’t remember having any presidential candidates here in my time," says 84-year-old Roberta Callum. And then there’s this, regarding the expected crowd of 2,500: "Locals say the last time there was a crowd that big was for a 1970s performance by folk singer Arlo Guthrie." Heh.

The Concord Monitor is unimpressed with the meta-pun that today’s event represents:

[N]o one would have mistaken these two policy wonks for the jokesters of the New Hampshire presidential primary.

Nonetheless, nearly six months after the local vote, Obama and Clinton return today, going to extreme lengths for a corny gag.

They’re coming to Unity, N.H. – get it? Unity? It’s a place where they
split the local Democratic vote, 107-107. It’s a place so far out in
the boondocks that voters and reporters will require shuttle buses from
Sunapee, for Pete’s sake.

Ah yes, the bustling metropolis of Sunapee — population 3,055! And it’s only 31 minutes away! Heh.

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Individual right to bear arms vindicated; still no right to arm bears

June 26th, 2008

The Supreme Court is expected to rule very shortly on, essentially, what the Second Amendment means, in the Washington, D.C. handgun ban case, D.C. vs. Heller.

SCOTUSblog is liveblogging.

UPDATE: By a 5-4 vote, with no plurality or concurrences — i.e., the five justices in the majority all agreed on the same rationale — the "Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm." (That quote is from SCOTUSblog, not from the opinion.)

UPDATE 2: Here’s the opinion and the dissents (PDF). Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by the other four conservative justices. There were two separate dissents, one by Stevens and one by Breyer; each dissent was joined by the other three liberal justices. So, like I said, a clear 5-4 split, with no muddying of the waters by multiple plurality opinions and such.

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, some relevant quotes from the majority opinion can be found here. And here’s an initial analysis from SCOTUSblog’s — although, as the Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr says, "the details of the opinion are critical; it will take a bit of time to read the decision to get a sense of what it means."

Help me name my new blog!

June 26th, 2008

All right, I know I’ve been dragging my feet on this, but I have indeed decided — as I alluded last Friday — to try out the weekly blog format. My intention is to make the switch on Tuesday. (I figure July 1, the halfway point of the calendar year, is a good arbitrary date to make such a change.)

However, the timing of the switch may change, depending on how much free time I have this weekend. There’s a lot of back-end stuff that I need to do, both to close down this blog and to set up the new blog. If I don’t make the switch on Tuesday, it probably won’t happen until July 14 or thereabouts, because Becky and I will be traveling over July 4 weekend, so I won’t have much free time again until the weekend of the 12th-13th.

Anyway, I need help from y’all on something. In switching from this "hyperactive" blog to a new, weekly blog, I want to make a clear, clean break by giving the blog a new name. I figure the subtitle could include the phrase "Irish Trojan," in order to maintain some semblance of "brand" continuity, but I want the title of the blog to be something different — and a more drastic difference than my switch last year from "The Irish Trojan’s Blog" to "Irish Trojan in Tennessee." I want a real new name.

Ideally, the new name would in some way emphasize the blog’s weekly/occasional nature. But at the same time, I don’t want it to be something totally pedestrian, like "Brendan’s Weekly Blog" or whatever. The problem is, I’m terrible at coming up with good, non-pedestrian ideas for things like blog names (as the "Ably Nerd On" fiasco demonstrated). So, I need your help. I need some suggestions for what I should call the new blog!

So far, the only decent idea I’ve had is to call it "Hopefully Considered," which was the name of my Papa Loy’s old weekly newspaper column. (The subtitle, I think, would be "The Irish Trojan’s Weekly Blog." So, in toto, the title and subtitle would read "Hopefully Considered: The Irish Trojan’s Weekly Blog.") But although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m not sure I like the idea of simply copying exactly the name of Papa’s column. Something that alludes to "Hopefully Considered," without being precisely the same name, would be great… but I can’t think of anything good.

Don’t limit yourself to spin-offs of "Hopefully Considered," though. That’s just one idea. Any and all other ideas are welcome! Please, submit ’em in comments, and please feel free to comment on other people’s ideas as well. This isn’t a democracy, exactly, but at the same time, I’m definitely curious to know what my "regulars" think. 

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Politics as usual?

June 25th, 2008

Earlier today, I read this article by Bob Beckel making the strategic case for an Obama-Clinton ticket, and I found myself almost beginning to doubt the ferocity of my oft-stated belief that such a choice would be “wolf-face crazy.” Then I read the little biographical blurb at the bottom:

Bob Beckel managed Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign.

LOL! And Obama should take this guy’s advice on political strategy, why exactly? ;)

Meanwhile, the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz argues that, so far, McCain vs. Obama is politics as usual:

Whatever substance they may contain has been buried in negative counterattacks from the opposing camp, designed to turn ideas into stereotypes and candidates into caricatures. In the hands of Obama’s advisers, McCain is nothing more than the third coming of President Bush. To McCain’s staff, Obama is merely a liberal, naive, arrogant extension of what Democrats have been offering for years.

Gone in the early stages of this campaign is any sense of the uniqueness of the two nominees. McCain is certainly no garden-variety Republican and the historic possibilities of Obama’s candidacy cannot be overstated. But those realities have been submerged beneath a tactical shouting match that feeds the cable culture of contemporary politics.

Don’t blame the media for this. The campaigns have deliberately adopted postures of hyper-aggressiveness to set the early tone. The testosterone levels appear extremely high. No charge however small or incidental can go unanswered. No proposal, no matter how innocuous or provocative, can be discussed calmly or intelligently.

That led a McCain surrogate to respond to Obama’s comments on the rights of terrorist detainees, a topic on which reasonable people can differ, as “delusional.” It led to an Obama surrogate to describe as “stupid” the positions McCain has taken on the Iraq war, though it is clearly arguable that the surge strategy has helped to reduce violence and U.S. casualties. …

Of all the candidates who sought the presidency this year, McCain and Obama seemed the least likely to fall so quickly into old habits. The question is whether the opening weeks are a true reflection of their characters and the kind of campaigns they intended to run or a temporary departure.

(Hat tip: Halperin.)

A Dodd scandal, and a Courant catastrophe

June 25th, 2008

The Waterbury Republican-American evidently does not believe in God and Senator Dodd. Well, maybe the former, but certainly not the latter. :) In an editorial Monday, the Rep-Am‘s editorial board calls Dodd "Tammany Hall’s senior senator" and scolds the national media — as well as, in a subsequent editorial, the Hartford Courant — for failing to more vigorously cover "the sweetheart mortgages he got from Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Nozilo." (Countrywide is described as "the Enron of subprime mortgages.") "This scandal has legs," the editors assert.

I haven’t followed this at all, so I have no idea whether it’s a big deal; I just saw the link on InstaPundit, and since it involves Connecticut’s, er, other senator, I figured it deserved a post.

Meanwhile, in other Connecticut news — and speaking of the Courant — the Nutmeg State’s paper of record is eliminating 60 newsroom staffers and reducing the number of news pages in the paper per week from 273 to 206. Here’s the memo to staff. (Hat tip: my dad.)

It’s times like these I’m really happy I went into law instead of journalism.

On the surge

June 25th, 2008

Ross Douthat has a good post about Iraq and the surge.

Poll shows Obama way ahead nationally; Barr, Nader hurt McCain

June 25th, 2008

The L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll finds the following national breakdown in a four-way race: Obama 48%, McCain 33%, Nader 4%, Barr 3%, Undecided 10%. Even if we assume that most of those 10% will eventually vote for McCain, in accordance with the Bradley Effect, Obama’s still clearly winning.

What’s particularly intriguing is that, although Nader does slightly better than Barr, their combined effect hurts McCain far more than Obama. When only two candidates are mentioned, it’s Obama 49%, McCain 37%. Another 4% volunteer their intention to vote for "someone else," while 10% remain undecided. The poll write-up explains:

Eighty-seven percent of McCain’s voters would stay with him [in a four-way race featuring Nader and Barr], but 11% would vote for another candidate, with 2% undecided.  Almost all of Obama’s voters (95%) would still stay with him even when the race opened up to include more candidates.

More specifically, when the two-way race becomes a four-way race, 5% of McCain voters switch to Barr, and 6% switch to Nader, while 2% say they "don’t know" how they’d vote. By contrast, just 2% of Obama supporters switch to Nader, 0% switch to Barr, 2% "don’t know," and — just to prove that you can always find a tiny segment of poll respondents who’ll say things that don’t make any sense whatsoever — 1% switch to McCain! (Remember, he’s an option in both scenarios; why anyone would vote for Obama in a two-way race, but McCain in a four-way race, is beyond me.)

Other interesting findings:

• "More than 80% of Obama voters said they were enthusiastic about their candidate, including 47% who are very enthusiastic.  It’s another matter for McCain.  Just under half (45%) of McCain voters said they were enthusiastic about voting for him, but 51% were not enthused about the prospect."

• "While almost a fifth of moderate Republicans would support Obama, just 7% of moderate Democrats would support the Republican candidate.  Overall, almost four out of five liberals support Obama, just 58% of conservatives support McCain."

• "[M]en are somewhat divided — 40% for Obama to 37% for McCain — but women give the Democratic candidate a 25 point lead (54% to 29%)."

• Among whites, it’s McCain 39%, Obama 39%, Nader 5%, Barr 4%, someone else 2%, undecided 11%. (If Bradley/Wilder holds, McCain will get the bulk of those undecideds in the end.) Among blacks, Obama gets "nine out of 10" or thereabouts, while McCain gets just 2%, and 2% are undecided. Obama wins 61-23 among "other ethnic groups."

State-by-state polls, it should be noted, have been trending in the same direction. Five Thirty Eight, which was projecting an extremely close race as recently as a few weeks ago, now has Obama winning 344 to 194 in the Electoral College, with a map that roughly resembles Clinton’s win over Dole in 1996.

Caveat: It’s still very early, and polls at this point can be extremely misleading, arguably to the point of meaninglessness. It’s clear that Obama is doing very well right now; it’s not at all clear what, if anything, that means for November.

P.S. It should also be noted that, although some pre-election polls in 2000 showed him in the high single digits, Nader ultimately got just 2.73% that year, and in 2004 he managed a paltry 0.38%. It seems highly unlikely, then, that in a high-stakes election offering such a stark issue-based contrast as Obama vs. McCain, he’ll ultimately get anywhere near 4% of the vote. In fact, given that Obama is practically a liberal’s dream candidate (at least as plausible Democratic nominees go), I find it hard to believe that Nader will do better than the 0.38% he got in ’04, when he was running against the far less dreamy John Kerry. (On the other hand, I suppose Nader’s numbers could be boosted by the "racist liberal" vote — folks who won’t vote for McCain because he’s a Republican, but won’t vote for Obama because he’s black.)

The only way I can see Nader breaking 1% is if he truly does pick up a whole bunch of erstwhile McCain voters — and that itself seems highly unlikely, given how anathema his views are to anyone who is remotely conservative or libertarian-ish. My guess is that those 6% of McCain voters who currently gravitate to Nader in a four-way race are simply disaffected with their candidate, and are casting a "protest vote" for the third-party candidate whose name they recognize, namely Nader. But once they start paying more attention, I’d imagine that most of ’em will realize Nader is really not their kind of guy. Nader is a liberal candidate; it’s hard to believe he can build a sizable support base that’s based fundamentally on anything other than liberal voters.

In the end, most of the disaffected conservatives/Republicans will either stay home, vote for Barr, or hold their noses and vote for McCain. The "conservatives for Nader" movement is about as plausible as the "elderly Jews for Buchanan" movement in Palm Beach County eight years ago. ;)

What about Zimbabwe?

June 24th, 2008

TNR‘s James Kirchick asks an intriguing question: "Will the Candidates Recognize Morgan Tsvangirai as President of Zimbabwe?"

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change, is the legitimately elected president
of Zimbabwe. Or at least he should be. He won that country’s
presidential election (and his party won its parliamentary election) on
March 29th, a victory that has been denied to him and his colleagues
over the past three months as Robert Mugabe has murdered nearly 100
opposition supporters, tortured many more, and driven thousands from
their homes. A week after the election, the Zimbabwean junta announced
that Tsvangirai did not win an outright majority, thus forcing a
runoff scheduled for this Friday. On Sunday, however, Tsvangirai announced
that he was dropping out of the election, stating that "we cannot stand
there and watch people being killed for the sake of power."

So here’s a question for
Senators Obama and McCain. Back in April, Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer declared
Tsvangirai the winner of the March 29th election, and certified that he
won over 50% of the vote. Recognition of him as the duly elected
president of Zimbabwe — with all of the diplomatic measures that would
imply, specifically spelled out today in a New York Sun editorial — should have been forthcoming, yet the State Department has been reluctant to go that far. With Tsvangirai hiding in
the Dutch Embassy for fear of his life, will either of you call upon
the United States to recognize him as the elected president of
Zimbabwe?

Sounds good to me. But wouldn’t that constitute "regime change"?

Mismanaging the world

June 24th, 2008

"John McCain and the Republicans will lose if this campaign is about issues. They only mismanaged the economy and mismanaged the hurricane and mismanaged the budget and mismanaged the war and mismanaged the hunt for Osama bin Laden and mismanaged the world." —John Brummett, Arkansas News Bureau. (Hat tip: Ben Smith.)

P.S. Meanwhile, on an unrelated note, the Obama campaign takes some MSM heat for its less than entirely progressive attitude toward the American Muslim community. Money quote from Congressman Keith Ellison (he’s the guy who was actually photographed being sworn in with his hand on the Koran), regarding Obama’s aggressive denials of those pesky "smears" alleging that he’s a Muslim: "A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way." More here and here.

Fortune’s Favour

June 24th, 2008

The new Great Big Sea album is available on iTunes. Woohoo!

UPDATE: So far, so good; I’ve listened to tracks 1-4 and 7. "Banks of Newfoundland" is, as I thought it might be, quite dissimilar from (and probably more authentic than!) the Irish Rovers’ version; the lyrics are roughly the same, but they’re set to a completely different tune. It doesn’t have the same hairy-chested, belt-it-out feel as the Rovers’ version (or, for that matter, as some other GBS songs like "General Taylor," "Captain Kidd," "The Old Black Rum," etc.), but I still like it, I think. I’ll have to listen to it a bunch more times to decide for sure. :)

One song I definitely like is track #3, "England," which contains the lyric that gave rise to the album’s title, "Fortune’s Favour." It’s a very neat little ditty about the first English settlers who came to Newfoundland (or "the New Found Land," as the island was originally known, and as the song initially describes it). "England" has good lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and some nice little nuanced touches in the way the song evolves and the way the boys sing it.

P.S. Appropriately enough — and, come to think of it, this is probably intentional on Great Big Sea’s part — today is the anniversary of the date in 1497 when John Cabot landed in Newfoundland*, becoming the first European to since the Vikings to reach North America’s shores. (Hat tip: My Adversaria.)

*Probably. Various other locations, including Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, claim he landed there rather than in Newfoundland. But it was most likely in Newfoundland, at Cape Bonavista.

Big Brother bans hats in Yorkshire pubs

June 24th, 2008

You can take our lives, but you can never take our silly British hats!!!

Vice President Biden?

June 23rd, 2008

Joe Biden: hell yeah, I’d be Obama’s veep!

As I’ve said before, I think Biden is a great choice in theory — an experienced hand, sensible on foreign affairs, forceful on the war on terror, etc. In practice, he’s a bit trickier: he’s as slippery and slimy a Washington insider as they come, which doesn’t exactly jive with Obama’s message of change, and he has a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth. (See: “articulate and clean,” Indians at 7-Eleven, etc.)

Still, since I ultimately rank national security and foreign policy as my #1 voting priority, I’d be reassured by Obama picking Biden. I kind of doubt it will happen, though, especially now that he seems almost to be campaigning for it.

Holy stone and sand

June 23rd, 2008

Great Big Sea’s new album, Fortune’s Favour, debuts tomorrow — and I just noticed that Track 7 is "Banks of Newfoundland," which happens to be the first Newfoundland song that I ever learned! The chorus, as it’s sung by the Irish Rovers (iTunes link here), goes like this:

We’ll rub her ’round and scrub her ’round
With holy stone and sand,
And we’ll say farewell to the Virgin Rocks
On the Banks of Newfoundland!

My father had (and presumably still has) a vinyl record of the 1969 Irish Rovers album The Life of the Rover, which had "Banks of Newfoundland" on it, and he would play it frequently on our old record player when I was a little kid. It was one of my favorites; I used to love singing that chorus when I was, oh, maybe 5 years old. :) I was also a big fan of the end of the final verse — "And to the docks, they come in flocks / The pretty girls will stand / Sayin’ it’s snugger with me than it is at sea / On the banks of Newfoundland!" — though of course I had no idea what those lyrics meant. ;) In the words of Grandpa Loomer, albeit referring to a different bawdy Irish tune that I famously sung at an even earlier age: "What kind of song is that for a three-year-old?" Heh.

Anyway, as is typical for traditional Irish/Maritime music, there are various different versions of the lyrics floating around, and probably different tunes, too. The snippet of an early Great Big Sea demo of "Banks of Newfoundland" that’s played in Canada.com Webisode 11, Part 1, from 5:32 to 6:20, certainly sounds very different from the version I know. (Hat tip: Between The Rock And A Hard Place.) So I really don’t know what Track 7 of Fortune’s Favour will sound like. But I can’t wait to find out! The prospect of hearing my favorite band belt out the hearty chorus of a song that I’ve known for almost my entire life, a childhood favorite, makes me even more excited than I already was for tomorrow’s big debut.

I’ll definitely be using a portion of one of my Father’s Day presents from Becky — an iTunes gift certificate — to buy the album tomorrow. Great Big Sea rocks!

P.S. After the jump, I’ve posted the lyrics of the Irish Rovers’ version of "Banks of Newfoundland," since I couldn’t find that particular lyrical rendition online anywhere.

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George Carlin dies at age 71

June 23rd, 2008

Comedian George Carlin, whose off-color comedy caused him to run afoul of the FCC and led to a landmark Supreme Court case on decency and broadcasting, passed away from heart failure on Sunday in Los Angeles.