Saturday, September 13, 2008

Editorial from today's New York Times. Clearly, everything McCain says and does calls his judgment into question...and yet, there is a good chance that he will be elected. Which in turn calls our judgment into question, no?

September 13, 2008

Gov. Palin’s Worldview

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.

What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.

The idea that Americans want leaders who have none of those things — who are so blindly certain of what Ms. Palin calls “the mission” that they won’t even pause for reflection — shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country.

One of the many bizarre moments in the questioning by ABC News’s Charles Gibson was when Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, excused her lack of international experience by sneering that Americans don’t want “somebody’s big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

We know we were all supposed to think of Joe Biden. But it sure sounded like a good description of Mr. McCain. Those decades of experience earned the Arizona senator the admiration of people in both parties. They are why he was our preferred candidate in the Republican primaries.

The interviews made clear why Americans should worry about Ms. Palin’s thin résumé and lack of experience. Consider her befuddlement when Mr. Gibson referred to President Bush’s “doctrine” and her remark about having insight into Russia because she can see it from her state.

But that is not what troubled us most about her remarks — and, remember, if they were scripted, that just means that they reflect Mr. McCain’s views all the more closely. Rather, it was the sense that thoughtfulness, knowledge and experience are handicaps for a president in a world populated by Al Qaeda terrorists, a rising China, epidemics of AIDS, poverty and fratricidal war in the developing world and deep economic distress at home.

Ms. Palin talked repeatedly about never blinking. When Mr. McCain asked her to run for vice president? “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission,” she said, that “you can’t blink.”

Fighting terrorism? “We must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.”

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Not Ready. Or, if You Prefer, Half-Baked.

Another spot-on editorial by Bob Herbert in today's New York Times:

September 13, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

She’s Not Ready

While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.

How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?

For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.”

Ms. Palin may be a perfectly competent and reasonably intelligent woman (however troubling her views on evolution and global warming may be), but she is not ready to be vice president.

With most candidates for high public office, the question is whether one agrees with them on the major issues of the day. With Ms. Palin, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. She doesn’t appear to understand some of the most important issues.

“Do you believe in the Bush doctrine?” Mr. Gibson asked during the interview. Ms. Palin looked like an unprepared student who wanted nothing so much as to escape this encounter with the school principal.

Clueless, she asked, “In what respect, Charlie?”

“Well, what do you interpret it to be?” said Mr. Gibson.

“His worldview?” asked Ms. Palin.

Later, in the spin zones of cable TV, commentators repeatedly made the point that there are probably very few voters — some specifically mentioned “hockey moms” — who could explain the Bush doctrine. But that’s exactly the reason we have such long and intense campaigns. You want to find the individuals who best understand these issues, who will address them in sophisticated and creative ways that enhance the well-being of the nation.

The Bush doctrine, which flung open the doors to the catastrophe in Iraq, was such a fundamental aspect of the administration’s foreign policy that it staggers the imagination that we could have someone no further than a whisper away from the White House who doesn’t even know what it is.

You can’t imagine that John McCain or Barack Obama or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman would not know what the Bush doctrine is. But Sarah Palin? Absolutely clueless.

Ms. Palin’s problem is not that she was mayor of a small town or has only been in the Alaska governor’s office a short while. Her problem (and now ours) is that she is not well versed on the critical matters confronting the country at one of the most crucial turning points in its history.

The economy is in a tailspin. The financial sector is lurching about on rubbery legs. We’re mired in self-defeating energy policies. We’re at war. And we are still vulnerable to the very real threat of international terrorism.

With all of that and more being the case, how can it be a good idea to set in motion the possibility that Americans might wake up one morning to find that Sarah Palin is president?

I feel for Ms. Palin’s son who has been shipped off to the war in Iraq. But at his deployment ceremony, which was on the same day as the Charlie Gibson interview, Sept. 11, she told the audience of soldiers that they would be fighting “the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.”

Was she deliberately falsifying history, or does she still not know that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

To burnish the foreign policy credentials of a vice presidential candidate who never even had a passport until last year, the Republicans have been touting Alaska’s proximity to Russia. (Imagine the derisive laughter in conservative circles if the Democrats had tried such nonsense.) So Mr. Gibson asked Ms. Palin, “What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?”

She said, “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska. From an island in Alaska.”

Mr. Gibson tried again. “But what insight does that give you,” he asked, “into what they’re doing in Georgia?”

John McCain, who is shameless about promoting himself as America’s ultimate patriot, put the best interests of the nation aside in making his incredibly reckless choice of a running mate. But there is a profound double standard in this country. The likes of John McCain and George W. Bush can do the craziest, most irresponsible things imaginable, and it only seems to help them politically.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Friday, September 12, 2008

10 Things We're Looking Forward to Now That the Large Hadron Collider Is Running


10 Things We're Looking Forward To Now That The Large Hadron Collider Is Running

by Scott Lydon Wednesday September 10, 2008 4:15 PM

Since the total destruction of the planet is apparently off the table...

  1. Suddenly much harder to get particle beams insured
  2. Brief, sudden portal to empty dimension where we can dump all those Sansas
  3. The return of that battleship we lost in the Philadelphia Experiment
  4. Last minute lawsuit from Fox that claims they have rights to make a Hadron Collider and they just now noticed it
  5. Crazed Doctor McCoy falls through, meets a woman, has to watch her die to stop the Nazis
  6. "Hadron" replaces "Caden" as the hot new name for baby boys
  7. All Swiss chocolate now tastes a little strange but no one knows why
  8. New particle discovered, named after Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog
  9. Fred Phelps opens
  10. Buyer’s remorse from the scientists as they realize that the Extra Large Hadron Collider was only thirty nine cents more

John McCain and his Blizzard of LIES

This year, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute. These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign — and they’re all out-and-out lies.

read more | digg story

I Think This Battle Is Lost

From yet another of my surveys:

In case it's too small to read, it says In what ways does Hampton Inn/Suites show it's conservation efforts?

Of course, it should say
In what ways does Hampton Inn/Suites show its conservation efforts?It's is a contraction, for it is or it has.

In my various pedagogic undertakings, I have advised students to avoid this silly, third-grade error by mentally--or, if they prefer. physically--rewording the sentence utilizing it is. If the sentence makes sense, then they should use it's. If it doesn't, they should use its.

Apparently, I'm the only one sharing this advice. Or else it's being roundly ignored by the pupils and former pupils of all the others who are sharing similar advice.

It's one thing when a local mom-and-pop operation publishes such a foolish error. It's quite another when a big international market-research firm can't manage grade-school punctuation.

And when that big international market-research firm is part of a gigantic publishing conglomeroid, well, the irony is almost unbearable, no?

The Scream Machine

As long as people are talking about barnyard beauty tips, they're not talking about substance...If you [McCain] scream bloody murder every day, however, people eventually stop taking you seriously...there will be at least four key moments when the McCain-Palin campaign will be unable to avoid the issues.

read more | digg story

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Intriguing Fakery

Via YouTube, obviously...

McCain Lies Again: Ad on Sex Education Distorts Obama Policy

A McCain ad that claims Barack Obama favors “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarteners contains serious misrepresentations... or to put it more bluntly, John McCain and his campaign spread more lies.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dig THIS, Digg!

A little while ago I sent the following comment to It’s in reference to my post of a few days ago in re Digg’s “bury” function being abused to flag virtually all negative or unflattering article about the McCain-Palin ticket as “possibly inaccurate”:

    I have noticed lately that articles critical of McCain-Palin (and in at least one case, an article COMPLAINING about criticism of McCain-Palin) are almost invariably accompanied by "[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate]." These are not exclusively blogs or opinion pieces, but news reports from reliable news organizations. (Example:" Palin bills gov't for travel expenses while staying at home" from the Washington Post; "Polls admit to asking a higher number of Republicans" from the Huffington Post; "Sarah Palin's Alaskonomics" from Time; and many more.)

    It is clear, then, that the "bury" function in is being abused by McCain partisans, and possibly even operatives, who are attempting to cast doubt on anything that may be construed as negative or unflattering about their candidate.

    In this, is complicit. The "bury" function simply means I DON'T LIKE SOMETHING, not that it is inaccurate. But Digg's policy is to record "bury" clicks and then, at some magic tipping point, announce that the article in question is "possibly inaccurate."

    "I don't like this" does NOT equal "This is inaccurate."

    Someone could post an article that says Monday follows Sunday, and if I organized enough Diggers (as evidently the McCain camp has done) and instructed them to "bury" the article, that article would eventually turn up as "possibly inaccurate"...even though Monday DOES follow Sunday!

    Clearly, Digg needs to reconsider the "bury" function. It seems to serve no real purpose, and in this election season is obviously being abused. I strongly encourage you to stop this abuse by terminating the "bury" function, at least until after the presidential election.

    Failing that, I strongly encourage you to do away with the "possibly inaccurate" assertion, and go with the much more accurate disclaimer "Buried by XX Diggers," since "inaccurate" is, well, inaccurate.

I’ll keep you posted on what sort of a response I might get.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wow. It's Been Ages Since My Last Cross-Burning!

Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home

From the Washington Post -- ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a 'per diem' allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

read more | digg story

Sunday, September 07, 2008

McCain ally moves to curb probe of Palin

This at

Team McCain and the Trooper

Nominee's ally moves to curb probe of Palin

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 9:36 PM ET Sep 5, 2008

Key Alaska allies of John McCain are trying to derail a politically charged investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner in order to prevent a so-called "October surprise" that would produce embarrassing information about the vice presidential candidate on the eve of the election.

In a move endorsed by the McCain campaign Friday, John Coghill, the GOP chairman of the state House Rules Committee, wrote a letter seeking a meeting of Alaska's bipartisan Legislative Council in order to remove the Democratic state senator in charge of the so-called "troopergate" investigation.

Coghill charged that the senator, Hollis French, had "politicized" the probe by making a number of public comments in recent days, including telling ABC News that Palin had a "credibility problem" and that the investigation into the firing of public safety commissioner Walter Monegan was "likely to be damaging to the administration" and could be an "October surprise." Wrote Coghill: "The investigation appears to be lacking in fairness, neutrality and due process."

The investigation, authorized by the Legislative Council last July, revolves around charges that Palin abused her power by embroiling the governor's office in a bitter family feud involving her ex-brother in law, a state trooper named Mike Wooten. Specifically, the council is investigating whether Palin fired Monegan when he refused to dismiss Wooten (who at the time was involved in an ugly custody battle with Palin's sister) after getting repeated complaints about him from the governor and her husband, Todd Palin. (Among the allegations that were raised against Wooten by Palin's sister: he had Tasered his ten-year-old stepson and shot a moose without a permit.) Palin has denied wrongdoing; Monegan has said he believes his firing was connected to his refusal to fire Wooten.

French, the Democrat overseeing the probe, has hired a special counsel to determine, in effect, whether Palin "used her public office to settle a private score," he recently said. He has also suggested that the probe may turn up evidence that state laws were violated by Palin's aides because they pulled confidential personnel files on the trooper.

But Coghill, who told NEWSWEEK that he has the backing of Republican Speaker of the House John Harris in his effort to remove French, suggested Friday that the investigation into Palin's firing of Monegan should be shut down entirely. "If this has been botched up the way it has, there's a question as to whether it should continue," Coghill told NEWSWEEK.

The move underscored the huge political stakes in the outcome of a legislative investigation that is being closely monitored by both the McCain and Obama campaigns because of its potential impact on the fall election. "How can this possibly be read as anything but a partisan attempt to shut down a legitimate investigation that was approved and funded with bipartisan support?" said one state Democratic legislative aide, who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivities. Coghill told NEWSWEEK that he decided to write his letter to strip French of his position on his own-without any coaxing by McCain campaign officials.

But a top McCain campaign official acknowledged that the GOP lawyer had given the campaign a "heads up" about his letter and that the McCain campaign approved of the effort to remove French.

"An investigation that was supposed to be non-partisan has become a political circus and has gotten out of control," said Taylor Griffin, a top communications aide dispatched from McCain campaign headquarters to Alaska this week to monitor the investigation and related matters. (Griffin also said that Palin has "nothing to hide" about the Wooten matter.)

As a further sign of the sensitivity of the probe, a lawyer for Palin told NEWSWEEK Friday that Todd Palin, the governor's husband, was in the process of hiring his own separate counsel to represent him in the legislature's probe. Thomas Van Flein, Governor Palin's lawyer, would not identify who is now representing the governor's husband. But he sought to deflect charges that Todd Palin, a commercial fisherman and oil company worker, had improperly intervened in state business by inviting Monegan to the governor's office and asking him to look into Wooten's status on the state police force. (For his part, Wooten has acknowledged that he "made mistakes," but that he was "punished appropriately" when he was suspended from the police force for five days in 2006.)

In an interview on Friday, Van Flein sought to deflect charges that Todd Palin may have acted improperly by talking to the state public safety commissioner about Wooten. Todd was "the governor's husband and a citizen of the state and he has every right to an opinion as [does] everyone else," Van Flein said.

One major reason the probe is so sensitive is that it raises the prospect that Governor Palin's credibility could be called into a question in a major state probe on the eve of the election. When the "troopergate" story broke over the summer, Palin adamantly denied that anybody in her administration exerted any pressure on Monegan to fire Wooten. But only weeks later, a tape recording surfaced in which another one of her top aides, Frank Bailey, was heard telling a police lieutenant, "Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy [Wooten] still representing the department?'"

French today acknowledged that some of his public comments about the ongoing probe may have been out of bounds. "I said some things I shouldn't have said," he told NEWSWEEK. But he insisted he had no intention of stepping down because the investigation was really being conducted by Steve Branchflower, a retired state prosecutor who was hired as the special counsel in the probe. French also said today he had moved up the deadline for Branchflower to produce his report. Although it was originally due Oct. 31, the Friday before the election, it will now be completed Oct. 10-in order to be "as far away from the election" as possible.

In the interview with NEWSWEEK, Van Flein, Governor Palin's lawyer, raised other objections to the troopergate probe. He said the legislative investigation ran counter to the Alaska Constitution because it was being conducted in secret and without strict procedural rules. He said that in the "post-McCarthy era", he would have expected more due process guarantees.

Van Flein also told NEWSWEEK that as part of defense preparations for the investigation, he had taken his own depositions from potential witnesses—including one this week who refused to give testimony to the Legislature's special counsel. That was Frank Bailey, the former senior Palin aide who was recorded mentioning the concerns of Palin and her husband that Wooten was still on the police force.

In the deposition taken by Van Flein, which Palin's lawyer made available to NEWSWEEK, Bailey acknowledged he had "overstepped my boundaries... I should not have spoken for the governor, or Todd, for that matter. I went out on my own on this discussion."

But Bailey also confirmed in the deposition that Palin had herself raised Wooten's name with the state police during her first security briefing after she won election as governor in November 2006. Bailey said he sat in on the briefing with Gary Wheeler, then head of the governor's security detail. Wheeler asked Palin and her husband whether they were aware of any threats against her that the new bodyguards should be concerned about. "They specifically brought up only one person, and that was Mike Wooten," Bailey testified. "There was a serious genuine concern about not only their safety but the safety of their family, their kids, their nieces, nephews, her father, regarding Trooper Wooten." Bailey testified that Sarah Palin never asked him to do anything about Trooper Wooten, but that Todd Palin did talk to him about "issues about Trooper Wooten," and expressed "frustration" that the state police were doing nothing to respond to the Palins' concerns.


Digg's Inaccurate "Inaccurates"

A few minutes ago, I shared this observation with my chum Jerry, and thought it worth posting here as well. I wrote:

I have noted, in browsing on, that a fair number of articles that are not entirely adulatory toward McCain and Palin are flagged "Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate." Interestingly, these articles--at least the ones I've noted--are not from blogs or YouTube or fringe publications with dubious standards or motives. Rather, they are from Newsweek, the New York Daily News, CNN, and the like. Obviously, this is no guarantee against inaccuracy, but having read several of the articles in question I began to wonder why and how they had been so flagged. And so I browsed through Digg's FAQ and found this:

    What does it mean when a story has a message saying it may be inaccurate?
    If a story has been repeatedly buried by the Dugg community, with the reason being that it is inaccurate, we display a message next to the story indicating that it may be inaccurate.

In other words, if I don't like something that someone has Dugg, I merely have to hit the "bury" button...and encourage you to do so, too, and eleventy other friends and so on, and then at some magic tipping point Digg announces that the article has been "Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate." Which is itself inaccurate: All that's happened is that a certain number of people have hit the "bury" button...they have offered no evidence to indicate the "inaccuracy" of a given article. Indeed, they have not even made an unsubstantiated claim that the story is inaccurate. All they've done is said they don't like it, and then Digg transmutes that into "inaccurate." Hmm.

As I expressed to my friend, I always make a point of Digging those articles when I see them, just to flip the bird at those who, it seems pretty obvious, are using the "bury" button--and Digg's lax definition of "inaccurate"--to cast doubt upon anything that points out something negative about their darlings.

Frankly, I think the "bury" button is a bad idea. The very concept is wide open to abuse, as is being illustrated.

And for the record, Diggers: "Don't like" or "don't agree with" is not the same thing as "inaccurate."

The phrasing is very odd, too: "Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate." Just about everything is possibly inaccurate, no?

Here are some recent articles from Digg's US Elections 2008 category flagged as "possibly inaccurate." Please note that I have limited myself only to articles from the so-called mainstream media, omitting even the higher-quality left-leaning sites such as the Huffington Post or DailyKos. Judge for yourself the "inaccuracy" of these pieces:

Sarah Palin may have women flocking - to Barack Obama

[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate] — If John McCain wanted to poach the women's vote from Barack Obama, he shouldn't have tapped a running mate who dubbed herself a "pit bull with lipstick."More… (US Elections 2008)

McCain's Lies

[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate] — Lies McCain made during his convention speech.More… (US Elections 2008)

Palin's Speech Didn't Move Undecided or Democratic Women

[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate] — McCain's pandering to women improved her standing to women in focus groups in Nevada, but polling data suggests that there is no movement in national polling data, showing women are not stupid like John McCain and Karl Rove think they are. More… (US Elections 2008)

McCain Operatives Trying to Derail Palin Investigation

[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate] — Key Alaska allies of John McCain are trying to derail a politically charged investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner in order to prevent a so-called "October surprise" that would produce embarrassing information about the vice presidential candidate on the eve of the election. More… (US Elections 2008)

Palin's Speech Raises $1M for Republicans; $8M for Democrats

[Reported by Diggers as Possibly Inaccurate] — Sarah Palin’s speech to the convention Wednesday night energized conservatives and inspired excited Republicans to donate a cool $1 million to the RNC's effort to elect John McCain. Bloomberg reported that Palin’s speech was even better for Democrats who got over $8 million in donations since Wednesday!More… (US Elections 2008)