Sunday Sensational Science

New York City could be in for a big shake-up someday. A new study discovered that several small faults thought to be inactive are, well, merely resting:

Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. [snip] The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest.

Unless you’re a fan of disaster flicks, “New York City” and “earthquake” probably don’t occur to you in the same sentence frequently. But the Earth is full o’ faults. They pop up in rather surprising places, like the center of the United States, and do astonishing things, like make the Mississippi River flow backwards for a time. Seriously, it happened.

When we think of earthquakes, I think most of us think of the devastation. We don’t really think so much about what earthquakes are telling us about how our world works. And we don’t think about their landscaping skills. They’re really fascinating things, especially if you don’t have to worry much about being hit by one.

Let’s have a look at where that’s likely to be.

earthquakes tectonics

If you know anything about plate tectonics, you’re noticing a pattern about now: earthquakes mark out the boundaries of the plates pretty well. And the types of earthquakes tell us a lot about the type of boundary we’re seeing. For instance, shallow-depth, low-intensity earthquakes occur at mid-ocean ridges, while areas demonstrating a continuum of shallow, intermediate or deep quakes – a Wadati-Benioff zone – shows us we’ve got a subduction zone.

Earthquakes have taught us things as diverse as what the interior of the world might look like and whether some absolute bastard’s exploded a nuclear bomb on the sly. That’s because you can learn a lot from a seismic wave. Different types of waves travel differently depending on what caused them and what they’re traveling through:
Seismic Waves

The mechanical properties of the rocks that seismic waves travel through quickly organize the waves into two types. Compressional waves, also known as primary or P waves, travel fastest, at speeds between 1.5 and 8 kilometers per second in the Earth’s crust. Shear waves, also known as secondary or S waves, travel more slowly, usually at 60% to 70% of the speed of P waves.

P waves shake the ground in the direction they are propagating, while S waves shake perpendicularly or transverse to the direction of propagation.


All of this is fascinating and informative stuff, but it may not have a personal meaning for you. Unless you live in volcano country, that is. If that’s the case, harmonic tremors become your dearest friends. Harmonic tremors alert scientists to the movement of magma beneath a volcano, and a swarm of them lets you know that it’s maybe kinda sorta time to run like hell.

This is good information to have when you live next to a volcano.

Earthquakes don’t just destroy and warn: they sculpt. Some pretty amazing landscapes have been created by them.

On our left, we have a canyon in Jordan created by water eroding an earthquake fissure.

And to our right, an earthquake fissure in California that, with enough time and running water, could become a rather spectacular gorge.

Here’s Earthquake Lake in Montana, created one day in 1959 when an earthquake triggered a landslide that formed a natural dam. Bet you the beavers were jealous.

I hope this whirlwind tour of earthquakes has given you at least some sense that they do far more than just make things shake and knock cities down. They’re pretty fantastic things, quite useful, and even wonderful. As long as you don’t have to meet one in person… good luck on that, New York.

Sunday Sensational Science

Way to Support the Troops

Time now for a case study in the way the Bush regime rules.

1. Through neglect and general incompetence, create a problem that never should have existed:

Mold infests the barracks that were set up here a year ago for wounded soldiers after poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center triggered a systemwide overhaul, soldiers say. [snip]

Early last week, soldiers told USA TODAY that in April they first noticed what looked like layers of mold in flexible air ducts above their rooms when ventilation covers were removed to be cleaned. “(The duct work) was just caked black,” said Sgt. Willard Barnett, 51, an Iraq war veteran.

Some soldiers said they have been affected by air in their rooms.

“When I wake up in the morning, I have crud in my eyes, and I have like this slimy phlegm in the back of my throat,” said Spc. James Dodson, 26.

2. “Fix” the problem by telling people to pretend it doesn’t exist:

Twenty soldiers, who spoke to USA TODAY early last week, said their complaints about mold and other problems went unheeded for months. They also said they had been ordered not speak about the conditions at Fort Sill.

3. When those affected by the problem are driven by desperation to bring in the media spotlight, feign concern and promise immediate action:

Officers at the Army base last week ordered that ventilation ducts in two barracks be replaced and soldiers be surveyed, anonymously if they wished, about any concerns. Maj. Gen. Peter Vangjel, the commanding officer, said it was “inappropriate” for soldiers to be ordered not to talk about the mold.

“We’re going in and we’re going to take care of this for these guys,” he said over the weekend.

4. Deny, deny, deny:

The commander general of Fort Sill has denied published reports that said complaints about mold in the barracks of wounded soldiers went “unheeded for months.”

5. At the first available opportunity, fire the fucker who blew the whistle:

An Army social services coordinator here who told USA TODAY about poor conditions at Fort Sill’s unit for wounded soldiers has been forced out of his job, the employee and base officials said Tuesday.

Soldiers meeting with Army Secretary Pete Geren here on Tuesday said Chuck Roeder, 54, was a strong advocate for their problems and should not have been forced to leave.


Roeder, a retired soldier, said he was told to resign or he would be fired.

6. Deny and smear:

Roeder’s departure Friday, following his contact with USA TODAY, was purely coincidental, said Col. Sam White, an executive officer at Fort Sill. He said Roeder has a history of confrontations with base officials.

“They can say whatever they want to say, but they’re not being truthful,” Roeder said. “I stand up for soldiers. I’m sure the word got out that I’d encouraged soldiers to speak.”


Geren, who was at Fort Sill for a previously scheduled visit, said he would look into Roeder’s case but that it was difficult to manage hirings and firings from his office in Washington.

Repeat until country in shambles.

Tell me again why Bush shouldn’t be impeached. It’s his blueprint they’re following. He’s the one who’s politicized every aspect of government, encouraged incompetents and opportunists to infest every level of our infrastructure, and sold this country right up shit creek (paddles sold separately).

And tell me again that it’s the Republicons, not the Democrats, who support our troops.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Think Progress.)

Way to Support the Troops

McCain Proves His Economic Ignorance for the 2,438,956th Time

McCain’s recent economic assessment:

On her radio show today, conservative talker Laura Ingraham asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) what he believed should be done to address the struggling U.S. economy. Ingraham listed several economic indicators that have declined in recent years to make her point. McCain dismissed the premise of Ingraham’s question, saying, “I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong”…

What wonderful news! Let’s have a look at those strong economic fundamentals, then:

It’s not clear which fundamentals McCain is referring to. Eight years of conservative management have left the economy with something other than “strong” fundamentals:

Inflation is rising. The U.S. economy is currently experiencing “the worst 12 months of inflation in almost three decades.”

Real wages are declining. Americans are experiencing a “de facto pay cut.” “Almost everything costs more, even as [Americans] have less money to pay for it.”

Unemployment is increasing. Americans have experienced “seven consecutive monthly declines in employment.”

Cost of food is rising. Food prices are quickly increasing and even school lunches across the country will be more expensive in the coming year.

Optimism about economy is declining. “Optimism in the U.S. economy among CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies” is at a 16-year low. Americans are similarly pessimistic.

Foreclosures are still increasing. Home foreclosures were up 55 percent over last year in July and “17 [percent] of all homes for sale in the U.S. are repossessed properties.”

Yup. Them thar’s some really strong fundamentals. You just keep right on believing that, Johnny, and we’ll keep right on calling you a total fuckwit. Fair enough?

McCain Proves His Economic Ignorance for the 2,438,956th Time

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

I’ve just spent two hours looking for political news that isn’t Biden. Not much joy, I’m afraid. I did just have the rather amusing experience of breaking the news to my Obamaniac roommate and her boyfriend – apparently, their texts didn’t get to them. For once, I am vindicated! Being a stay-at-home, intertoobz-addicted, email-reliant, cell phone-spurning Luddite has served me well today.

The more I read, the more Biden seems like a solid choice. Here is a man who, in all his years of politics, seems to have suffered one major controversy: he lifted bits of a speech from another bloke. You’ll hear a lot of talk of plagarism. Like all Republicon talking points, this one’s full of smoke and sizzle, but they rather forget to include the steak:

But those articles did not note that while Biden did not attribute portions of a Kinnock speech he paraphrased during an August 23, 1987, Democratic presidential primary debate, and during an August 26, 1987, interview for the National Education Association, Biden reportedly had credited Kinnock. According to a September 13, 1987, Washington Post article, “Biden and reporters covering his campaign said that in speeches before and after that debate the senator has given Kinnock credit for the same passionate rhetoric, which he has used repeatedly in recent weeks.” Specifically, the Post reported that “John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14. Stories in The [New York] Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers also said Biden had used the rhetoric and credited Kinnock for it.”

Plagarism, as far as I remember (and keep in mind the issue occupies a fair amount of my attention, me being a writer and all), is defined as filching someone’s words and using them without proper citation, passing them off as your own. When you don’t pass them off as your own and you do credit the source, it’s not fucking plagarism. End of controversy.

And to those who might moan that he forgot to credit his source every damned time, fuck you. If you’ve credited the same fucking words five thousand fucking times, it’s easy to assume the people listening to you are adults who can figure it out. It’s too bad that assumption is the wrong one when it comes to our nation’s media.

Biden’s certainly not going to slack on the counter-attack. A Kos diarist has a string of video clips highlighting some of his greatest moments. And he’s already gone straight for the jugular as Obama’s running mate:

In a speech accepting his role as Barack Obama’s running mate this afternoon in Springfield, IL, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) argued the American Dream has slipped away under eight years of Bush administration policies. He added that while Americans sit at their kitchen tables worrying about bills, McCain has to “figure out which of the 7 kitchen tables to sit at…”

Very ouch. And then, the KO:

Biden also referenced this quote from McCain in 2005: “On the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I’ve been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.” “You can’t change America when you supported Bush’s policies 95 percent of the time,” Biden said.

Mmmm, spicy.

Biden’s not just an attack dog, though. He’s what the Republicons aren’t: a genuine family man:

…Obama told a story about Biden’s background that a lot of people may not have known.

“[Biden] he picked himself up, worked harder than the other guy, and got elected to the Senate — a young man with a family and a seemingly limitless future.

“Then tragedy struck. Joe’s wife Neilia and their little girl Naomi were killed in a car accident, and their two boys were badly hurt. When Joe was sworn in as a Senator, there was no ceremony in the Capitol — instead, he was standing by his sons in the hospital room where they were recovering. He was 30 years old.

“Tragedy tests us — it tests our fortitude and it tests our faith. Here’s how Joe Biden responded. He never moved to Washington. Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys — first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife Jill, who works as a teacher. He had a beautiful daughter. Now his children are grown and Joe is blessed with five grandchildren. He instilled in them such a sense of public service that his son, Beau, who is now Delaware’s Attorney General, is getting ready to deploy to Iraq. And he still takes that train back to Wilmington every night.

This is the man the McLame camp is attempting to call Paris Hilton. Good fucking luck with that.

But campaigns are one thing. What will he bring to the table as a Vice President? Plenty (h/t Obsidian Wings):

“But what has impressed me most, for years, is his staff. He knows how to pick ‘em, and that’s no small thing. Brilliant people come and go in DC, but rarely do they also have the ability to pick quality staff the way Biden does. His folks always are among the brightest from a policy standpoint, but also possess a sophisticated political acumen. It’s a rare but valuable combination….


As a result of having a staff that is so good, Biden is almost never behind the curve of policy developments. He’s proactive, not reactive.That’s a huge strategic advantage, and as a result, becoming a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is a badge of validation among foreign policy folks. Further than that, you’ll hear from many foreign policy experts how closely they work with Biden. They’re not making it up. Biden counts on a broad range of people to get the job done right. Many, many people feel they have influence on his approach and as a result when the final product is announced, they feel invested, but the view is all Biden, and usually better. Biden collects the best. Simple as that.

This translates in a big way to an executive branch position. If Obama-Biden is the winning ticket, lots of people will
be brought in to reverse the reckless policies of the past 7 years and put America on the right track. With such a small window of time and so much to do, picking the right people is critical. Biden recognizes talent, and has learned how to pick people with sound policy judgment but who can also navigate the interagency, and the multiple political roadblocks thrown in the path of even the purest of intentions. This could be his greatest contribution to an Obama administration.

Sounds like exactly what this country needs, doesn’t it? So yes. I’m not ecstatic, but I’m very pleased indeed.

Now, moving away from all things Biden, let’s have a look at some of the delicious political fuckery buried beneath all the excitement.

Yglesias informs us that the timeline for withdrawl for Iraq isn’t a result of the success of the surge. We could have gotten the fuck out of Dodge over a year ago, with the same saving of face and a hell of a lot less casualties:

When you look at the information coming out about the new Iraq SOFA and its timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, it’s worth putting it in the context of this pre-war argument between Bush and Nouri al-Maliki. Here’s a January 2007 account:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a surprise for President Bush when they sat down with their aides in the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.


Details, of course, differ and there were some problems with Maliki’s proposal from the point of view of operational specifics. But basically back in November 2006, Iraqi political leaders and progressives in the United States alike wanted to see some kind of phased redeployment of American troops out of Iraqi cities and then out of Iraq. Bush, instead, opted for the “surge” strategy and now eighteen months later we’re . . . doing roughly what Maliki wants which is roughly what he wanted 18 months ago which is roughly what progressives have been saying we should do for a log [sic] time.

Translation: we were right all along. Again. The only reason we stayed in Iraq, the only reason for the surge and “stay the course” and all of that destructive bullshit was so that Monkey Boy George could play megawarrior just a little while longer.

That would’ve been fine if those hadn’t been living, breathing soldiers he’s been playing Army with.

What else can you expect, though, from a bunch of mouth-breathing losers who for some incredibly fucked-up reason believe Iraq invited us to invade?

On Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes tonight, conservative pundit Dick Morris tried to attack Barack Obama for being inexperienced on foreign policy, but in doing so, only managed to demonstrate his own idiocy. Morris argued that Joseph Biden would be a good vice presidential selection for Obama because Obama “does not know anything” about foreign policy.

To back up this claim, Morris asserted that Obama made a major mistake this week when he referenced the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq in the context of discussing Russia’s incursion into Georgia. Obama said, “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.” Asked by Alan Colmes what is wrong with Obama’s statement, Morris explained:

Where he’s wrong is that we went into Iraq at the invitation of the government, not as an invasion.

Well, Dick, I’d like to see that invitation. Was it a cheap, mass-produced Hallmark version, or did Saddam dip it in gold leaf for us? Did we RSVP or did just show up unannounced?

Someone here doesn’t know jack fucking shit about foreign policy. I’ll give you a hint: Obama’s not the nimrod…

And, finally, it’s a day ending in Y, so it’s time for news of Yet More Unbelievable Corruption as the Republicons politicize absolutely everything they can lay their hands upon. This time, it’s the Mississippi Supreme Court, where conservative judges want a left-leaning judge to just shut the fuck up:

A jaw dropping report out today in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:

Something unusual happened Thursday at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

It may be the first time a majority of the justices voted to prohibit a colleague from publishing a dissent in a case.

In other words, Presiding Justice Oliver Diaz of Ocean Springs disagreed with a court decision and wanted to write about it. His fellow judges said, no, he couldn’t and they apparently stopped the court clerk from filing Diaz’s statement into the record.

Diaz’s document also wasn’t made available to the public, as every other order and dissent are.

“My job as a Supreme Court justice is to write opinions and dissents, when necessary,” Diaz said later Thursday. “I was prevented from doing so by a majority of the court.”

Banning a justice from publishing his dissent is highly unusual, said a former state judge, who asked not to be identified.

Diaz speculates it “may be unprecedented in the history of American jurisprudence.”

They’ve taken silencing dissent to a whole new level. No justice that I have ever heard of has ever been told he can’t publish a dissent. No matter how much the majority disagrees with him or her, it’s always been an important part of our legal process. The fact that they’re willing to shut down even that tells me what kind of dictatorship we’d end up with if these fucking crooks stayed in power.

It’s time to clean house. Somebody buy Biden a broom…

Happy Hour Discurso

In Which I Answer Another Reader's Question, and Explain a Few of the Mechanics of Writing

This is almost as fun as bashing stupid politicians, and a lot more pleasant. Keep the questions coming.

Atheist Chaplain (who, nudge nudge, has a delightful blog of his own) asks:

Just a question, are you telling the story from a first person perspective or as a narrative ?

Ah. That’s a good question, and allows me to bludgeon you lot with some jargon.

There are, of course, a variety of ways to tell a story: first person, second person, third person limited and third person omniscient (which I do believe is what AC meant by “narrative”). I’ve used all of the above at one point or another. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, which I won’t go into so much here. We’ll just have the short-and-sweet (or perhaps just quick-and-dirty) survey:

First person: the I’s have it. You’re that character for the duration. “I said, I did, I’d better not get my ass killed because that’s going to end things rather abruptly, innit?” That’s the perspective Sue Grafton writes in, and why it was so funny when an interviewer once turned to her after asking Tony Hillerman if he would ever kill off one of his popular main characters and asked her the same thing. As related by my best friend, her answer was a derisive snort. “Yeah, right. I write in the first person. Like I’m gonna write, ‘So I turned the corner and ack-‘”

I’ve seen writers pull it off, but it’s not recommended.

Second person: You are the story. “You said, you did, you might just get your arse killed but it would be almost as awkward as ‘I turned the corner and ack.'” This is an incredibly hard viewpoint to pull off, because you’re putting the reader directly into the story. Readers can distance them from “I raped a nun” or “He raped a nun.” Not so easy when it’s “You raped a nun.” Second person is, understandably, rather rare in fiction, especially long-form, but many talented writers have made it work very well indeed.

Third person omniscient: Everybody’s involved. The writer is a godlike being who can leap into the minds of anyone and everyone at will. The writer is the narrator, and that means the reader gets to know things the characters don’t, hear everybody’s thoughts, and often get the writer’s musings directly on life, the universe and everything. The majority of fiction prior to the 20th Century was written this way. You’d often get chapters’ worth of the writer stopping the story dead to opine on some subject near-and-dear to them. Think the cetacean chapters in Moby Dick. There’s a lot of freedom in this viewpoint, and beginning writers love it almost as much as they love first person, but you also run the risk of ending up with a pedantic mess.

Third person limited: He said, she said – and that’s it. It’s a lot like writing first person, actually, in that you’re limited to one head at a time, but the difference is that you can narrate from a variety of viewpoint characters. Spend a few chapters with Bob here, another few with Mary there, and so forth. When you’re in their viewpoints, you’re strictly limited to what they’re seeing, thinking, doing and knowing. Also, no switching horses mid-stream: if you begin a scene in Bob’s head, you don’t finish it in Mary’s, no matter how interesting her thoughts in regards to Bob’s bastardry might be.

It’s a supremely challenging perspective to write from, and the one I use most often. That’s the POV for the story I’m writing now. It’s why I can’t use the word “chocolate” instead of “brown,” and why metaphors are giving me fits.

Now, some writers aren’t as strict as I am. They’ll fudge the details and trust their readers to forgive them. “All right, so Jiahrkah wouldn’t use a word like ‘chocolate’ to describe that rich brown color, but who cares? It gets the point across. I can always just say there’s an Athesean foodstuff like chocolate, and that’s the way this is translated.”

Not me.

Oh, hell no.

I have to torture myself with, “Bu-bu-but he wouldn’t think that!” It’s an unfortunate fact that he’ll sometimes think in ways that my readers have no experience with. When that happens, I either translate into something plain, like the boring description “dark brown,” or I’m stuck trying to sneak in an explanation of what he means by the term he’d actually use. In a short story, I don’t have room to introduce the brown item earlier so that the reader understands the word later. So it goes.

You wouldn’t believe how many turns-of-phrase and common descriptions are biased by our experience. I’ve had to stop myself a thousand times, thinking, “Wait just a fucking minute. He doesn’t have hands. So why would he say something like, ‘On the other hand…’?” Even things as innocuous as smiles and laughs become a challenge. An equine doesn’t smile like we do, doesn’t laugh like we do, and so I have to reach for a description, whereas with a human character, I can just say, “He grinned and laughed.”

The further challenge is that there’s not one single, solitary Earthling in this story. So I can’t take the coward’s way out and narrarate from the viewpoint of someone just-like-us. It’s even bothering me that my alien characters think a lot like us, but that’s the conceit I’m having to go with in order to tell the stories I want to tell: sentient beings are, at core, remarkably similar in basic thought patterns. Why wouldn’t they be? All social animals would have the same broad concerns. Or so the story goes.

It would damned sure be easier if I wrote this from the third person omniscient POV, so that I could be that Earthling among aliens, describing things with familiar analogies. But I’ll tell you why I don’t do that. First, it separates the reader from the story. Second, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.

Good thing I like a challenge, innit?

In Which I Answer Another Reader's Question, and Explain a Few of the Mechanics of Writing

Biden's Up. Unleash the GOP Attack Dogs

Obama’s announced his running mate. If you’ve been living in a box and haven’t heard the news yet, it’s Sen. Joe Biden.

The GOP already has their attack machine calibrated, as Digby reported yesterday:

Anyway, if it is Biden, here’s the opening salvo from the GOP:

GOP Eyes Obama-Biden Split on War Funding

ABC News’ Teddy Davis, Arnab Datta, and Rigel Anderson Report: The GOP is planning to step up its attacks on Barack Obama’s war funding record if the presumptive Democratic nominee taps Joe Biden to be his running mate.

“Our argument will be that the Biden pick only underscores how inexperienced Barack Obama knows he is,” a Republican official told ABC News, previewing the GOP’s possible line of attack. “Obama’s vote against funding our troops was an example of inexperience and poor judgment. The fact that his more experienced running mate made the right call highlights Obama’s mistake.”

“Whereas to date that vote hasn’t gotten a lot of attention,” the Republican official added, “now it will.”

Obama national security spokesperson Wendy Morigi declined to comment when contacted by ABC News, saying, “We’re not commenting on any aspect of any potential V.P.”

Biden, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, is not the only vice presidential prospect who was at odds with Obama on the May 24, 2007 war funding vote.


Biden, however, is seen by Republicans as offering more ammunition on the war funding issue.

That’s because Biden, as a former White House hopeful and staple on the Sunday morning talk shows, has been more pointed than any other Democrat in contrasting his views on war funding votes with those of Obama.

They didn’t waste any time. This is what greeted me the instant I pulled up my Yahoo mail:

Glorious how the AP leaps to repeat Republicon talking points, innit?

Well, let the Right Wing Noise Machine and the gasbags yawp. They’re going to be slinging their mud at a man who, shall we say, has plenty of ground to stand on:

Here are some good things about the match. He’s Irish Catholic which is useful for the key state of Pennsylvania and the surrounding contested areas. He has international experience though his experience didn’t stop him from voting for the Iraq war, something the “inexperienced” Obama had the judgment to avoid. He overcame personal tragedy, the death of his wife and one child.

Biden has a son in the military, a JAG about to be sent into the war. He’s a good attack dog who can help with blue collar voters, at the same time he’s reassuring to business community. Perhaps most importantly he’s a known quantity, with no drama other other than the ancient plagiarism which MoDo reported. Add to that experience with Constitutional issues that overlap with Obama’s interest in restoring some sanity in the government.

He’s also not afraid to go for the throat, I hear. This is good. What with Obama’s campaign getting good with the knife-twisting lately, I think this could lead to some very interesting times indeed. I’d rather he’d picked a more progressive, less traditional VP, but this’ll do. I think this signals to the Republicons that Obama’s not going to fight dirty, but he’s sure as fuck not going to fight nice.

The Republicon attack dogs, for all their anticipation, are going to have a tough time getting their teeth into this one.

Biden's Up. Unleash the GOP Attack Dogs

What You Mean "We," White Man?

John McCain’s latest effort to convince ordinary people he’s Just Like Them:

Hilariously, the McCain campaign put together a new ad today as well, and it opens with – I kid you not – “Celebrities don’t have to worry about family budgets, but we do.”


What’s this “we” shit, John?

This is “we:”

This is you:





The median American income is roughly $32,000. That’s “we.” And you?

McCain’s net worth is $36 million dollars, almost 40 times that of Obama. McCain has butlers. BUTLERS! The John McCain Show had 9-car entourage at Starbucks to pick up a latte yesterday.

Let’s have no more talk of “we.”

What You Mean "We," White Man?

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Stupid Faux News tricks:

The right-wing American Issues Project has spent $2.8 million on an ad questioning Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) relationship to William Ayers, a founder of the 1960s radical group Weather Underground. American Issues Project had hoped to air the controversial ad on Fox News, but even the conservative network refused, reportedly wanting nothing to do with it:

American Issues Project, the sponsor of the ad, is a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization. One of its board members, Ed Failor Jr., was a paid consultant for McCain’s campaign in Iowa last year. The campaign paid his firm $50,000 until July 2007. American Issues Project spokesman Christian Pinkston said Failor has no connection to the McCain campaign now.

Organizers sought to air the ad on Fox News Channel, but a Fox spokesman said the network declined to run it. He would not say why.

This principled stand fell by the wayside today when Fox News accidentally aired the most of the ad. During a segment about Obama’s ties to Tony Rezko, Fox News attempted to play McCain’s latest ad on the subject. However, the Ayers ad began playing instead.

It’s an interesting new avenue of prestidigitation: pretend to for once do the right thing by refusing a lying, deplorable, despicable attack ad, then air it “accidentally” to ensure it gets maximum attention. Good one, Faux. That’s within spitting distance of clever, even if it’s several continents away from responsible.

Either that, or they really did fuck up and run the wrong ad. In which case, they could be in for a world of legal hurt. I’ve heard this thing seriously breaks a law or two (you see, it’s not Faux taking a principled stand regardless: it’s ass-covering, pure and simple).

Heh. Speaking of ass-covering

The Senate Democratic leadership is asking, “How close can we get to 60 seats?” The Senate Republican leadership is asking, “Why isn’t anyone giving us money?” Subscription-only Roll Call reports today:

In a stunning admission, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) on Friday morning blasted his GOP colleagues for not doing enough to help the committee financially, and he said he would have to scale back the NRSC’s independent expenditure budget as a result. […]

For months Ensign has pushed his colleagues to cough up more funding to help eat away at Democrats’ money advantage, and has repeatedly complained that Republicans in the Senate have taken a dangerously nonchalant approach to the 2008 cycle.

It sounds they’re not expecting to do particularly well.

Noper. Seems like they are, in fact, expecting to get kicked firmly in the teeth. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch, says I.

Steve Benen points out, and I agree, that Ensign is likely issuing press releases slamming Republicons to pony up more cash because he wants to be able to say “Not my fault! Not my fault!” when the party crashes and burns this fall. This won’t help him when the GOP comes looking for a scapegoat, mind, but it’s a spirited attempt.

In further ass-covering news, the McLame Teme wants us to know that if Obama suddenly skyrockets in the polls, it’ll have absolutely nothing to do with his being the more qualified, sane, intelligent, savvy and charismatic candidate. Nosiree, it’ll be on account of all that thar attention:

With the Democratic convention poised to begin, the McCain campaign has begun spinning furiously, ratcheting up expectations to a comical level. From a memo released this afternoon:

Obama’s stadium address on Thursday — the 45th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech — will result in effusive and overwhelming press coverage. On Thursday, Obama will give a great speech, as has been his trademark. The press will sing his praises and remark on his historic address and Obama’s place in history. For example, The Associated Press today published an article comparing the historic nature of the addresses — a week before Obama’s speech. This coverage will be impenetrable and will undoubtedly impact the polls.

We believe Obama will see a significant bump, and believe it is reasonable to expect nearly a 15-point bounce out of a convention in this political environment.

First, by hitting media coverage before it happens, the McCain campaign obviously hopes to discourage reporters from noting the fact that Obama’s speech falls on the anniversary of the MLK speech. I suspect this won’t work.

Second, trying to set expectations for an absurd 15-point bounce is overkill.

Not with the general fucking cluelessness of the American electorate, no, we’re not going to see the poll numbers diverge quite that spectacularly. But I think we’ll see a few more folks get ye olde clue-by-four upside the head next week.

But that’s not the bit of this I found hysterical. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how McCain gets the sulks whenever someone else becomes the MSM’s darling? He’s like one of those uber-pathetic children always jumping up and down screaming “MEMEME!!” and throwing a tantrum whenever Mommy pays two seconds of attention to another sibling. Poor widdle Johnny.

(Hear him blame this on being a POW in three…two…one…)

Turns out I’m not the only one getting bloody annoyed at St. John’s claiming POW status as an exemption from absolutely everything, either:

After all of this, for the first time, McCain is actually starting to face some media push-back.

Once a remarkable and respected aspect of his biography, John McCain stands on the brink of “trivializing” his past as a prisoner of war, which has become a “crutch in the campaign,” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman declared Thursday.

“I think they are going to it way too many times. It’s the original story that defined John McCain, that still when you read it in his book ‘Faith of my Fathers,’ when you read about it in ‘The Nightingale’s Song,’ you can’t help but have admiration and respect for the guy. And I think he wisely for many years stayed away from it as a political tool, he really did. But now it not only defines him, it’s become a crutch in the campaign. And I think he is in danger of trivializing it. By the time they get to the convention in St. Paul, there might not be much of it left to use.”

It’s not just Fineman. Time’s Ana Marie Cox went so far as to argue that McCain’s over-reliance on this is “bordering on irrational.”

You know what? I think the shine’s starting to rub off. And we know what the MSM’s like: if it ain’t shiny, they ain’t interested. I can hardly wait to see the bloody screaming tantrums little Johnny’s gonna throw now.

But for right now, he’s too busy being confused about what “drinking the kool-aid” really means:

In an AP article on how Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is supposedly a “rebel with a cause” who “chases the presidency,” former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) “compromised his credibility” by shifting his position on issues in order to reach out to the right. Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) agrees, saying that “he appears to be something different than what he was.”

But McCain dismisses any claims that he’s changed positions, telling the AP “in all due respect” that his former colleagues are “drinking the Kool-Aid“:

McCain bats away that notion.

“In all due respect to my colleagues,” he says, “They’re drinking the Kool-Aid that somehow I have changed positions on the issues. All I can say is that we all grow. We all grow wiser. And we all refine our positions.”

McCain points to his support for the surge in troops to Iraq, far from popular at its inception last year, as evidence he’s unafraid to swim against the tide.

McCain’s claim stretches all credibility. As Steve Benen has documented, McCain has flip-flopped at least 74 times over the years.

That’s some serious fucking refinement, that is.

I smell a sea-change coming. I think the MSM’s going to start “refining its position” on McLame. They’re making a tentative effort by questioning just how many times one lame-ass politician can scream POW!!11! before it gets absurd. Perhaps they’ll stumble on the flip-flop list. Then possibly realize that McCain’s been a lying, cheating, vicious sack of shit all along.

Or maybe he’ll throw another barbecue, and we’ll lose this moment forever. At least we had a glimpse.

Happy Hour Discurso

A Sign of Hope?

It’s possible, just minutely possible, that the religious right’s pushed faith too far:

About a week ago, at the candidate forum at Saddleback Church, the Rev. Rick Warren kicked off the event with a fairly straightforward message: “We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics.”

As it turns out, a growing number of Americans disagree.

For the first time in more than a decade, a narrow majority of Americans say churches should stay out of politics, according to a poll released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The results suggest a potentially significant shift among conservative voters in particular. In 2004, 30% of conservatives said the church should stay out of politics while today 50% of conservatives today express that view.

Conservatives are now more in line with moderates and liberals when it comes to their views on mixing religion and politics. “Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared,” Pew reports.

The results are encouraging, and more than a little surprising. In the decade between 1996 and 2006, Pew Forum surveys showed a stable trend — a narrow majority of Americans wanted houses of worship to be publicly engaged in policy debates. Now, the numbers have reversed, and a narrow majority wants ministries to “stay out.”

About damned time. Now, if only this trend would continue…

Religion and politics have no business mixing the way they have in this country. Time to rebuild that wall, atheist and religious folks alike, before one narrow religious view manages to rip it down completely, and take the country down with them.

A Sign of Hope?

The Things I Miss by Not Checking Email – Or Keeping Up on Me Blog Reading

NP welcomes a glorious new niece. Shall we all join her in turning into enormous piles of sappy mush?

What the fuck is it about babies that does this even to those of us who don’t even like the little buggers? Resistance… fading… must… reach… catidote…

Ahhh. Better. Wouldn’t do to damage me tough, Smack-o-Matic swinging reputation by ga-gaaing too much over a baby, but cats is allowed for us merciless political bloggers.

That said… that is a damned cute kid, innit?

Salud, Ashlie Elizabeth! Feliz cumpleaños!

The Things I Miss by Not Checking Email – Or Keeping Up on Me Blog Reading