Monday, March 31, 2008

Saltbreakers

Though I'm a huge Laura Veirs fan, having seen her several times and owning three of her previous CDs, it's taken me this long to pick up Saltbreakers. My first impression is that it's very good - on par with the magnificient Carbon Glacier. She's in fine form. If anything, it might be even better than Carbon Glacier. While I love CG, it's pretty down-tempo and I have to be in the right mood. Saltbreakers has a groove that I didn't detect quite as much before.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Billy Gohl

This comic serial set in Grays Harbor, Washington seems kind of cool. Though I have to say, the author's introduction makes him seem like a bit of a poseur.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Superdelegates and Plain Old Delegates

Clinton:
We talk a lot about so-called pledged delegates, but every delegate is expected to exercise independent judgment.

In other words, Clinton is trying not only to woo superdelegates, but to convince all delegates that they should support her regardless of the vote counts in the states they represent. She really is trying to destroy the party.

Via.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Nightmare Flight

Trans-Atlantic Ryanair:
And Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, the Irish no-frills carrier, has said he plans to start a new airline that will fly from secondary European markets like Liverpool or Birmingham to a half-dozen American cities like Baltimore or Providence, R.I., for a base fare as low as 10 euros, or about $16 at $1.59 to the euro.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Canada and Sovereignty

There are a couple of interesting articles in today's Globe and Mail having to do with the Canadian Arctic. The first concerns possible sale of MDA's geospatial unit to a US company and the potential implications for Arctic sovereignty. In short, the company is responsible for the Radarsat-2 technology, which allows Canada to detect any intrusion into its Arctic waters by vessels larger than three meters. Considering that the US is one of the countries challenging Canada's sovereignty in its Arctic waters, selling the MDA unit to an American weapons maker doesn't seem the least bit sensible. Quote one:
"The Prime Minister talks about sovereignty - use it or lose it. And yet we have a tool that is excellent for Arctic surveillance, monitoring of our internal waters that are contested by the Americans and other countries, and now we're going to sell this asset to an American company," [former commander of the Northern Area] Mr. Leblanc said.

"The American government takes sovereignty very seriously, and when it's in their national interest to cut off access to information, they do it. So even though the company that's buying the system has pledged to continue to provide data from the satellite, if it was not in the national interest of the U.S. to provide that information at some point, you can bet a month's salary it won't be provided."


Quote two:

"In my view it's ridiculous," Prof. Huebert [of the University of Calgary] said. "We've never thought strategically and it just astonishes me that we're probably the only country that we know of with this type of technology, and we [don't] understand its significance," he said.


The second article is to do with Operation Nunalivut, part of Canada's mission to strongly assert its sovereignty in the North.
This year's Operation Nunalivut - Inuktitut for "the land is ours" - will send three patrols between the Eureka weather station about midway up the west coast of Ellesmere Island and CFB Alert on its upper tip, the most northerly habitation in the world. The patrols set off later this week and are scheduled to rendezvous back in Eureka on April 13.

All but a handful of the patrollers will be Canadian Rangers, a largely aboriginal reserve force skilled in the ways of the land that guides the regular forces through the treacherous sea ice and ever-shifting weather.


Here's a third G&M article that has nothing to do with the Arctic, but gives an interesting and frustrating example of Canadian companies being forced to break Canadian laws when using software tools including various Google services, due to draconian US anti-privacy legislation.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Over for Clinton

Referring to this New York Times article on the extremely long shot Clinton now has, M.J. Rosenberg asks:

The New York Times has pretty much declared the battle for the nomination over. It analyzes the numbers and concludes that, barring some shocking turn of events, Obama will be nominated.

So why not just pull the plug on this thing after the next round of primaries. After all, if Clinton is going to turn this around, she has to do it in Pennsylvania, Oregon, North Carolina etc. If by some miracle, she actually pulls ahead in elected delegates and the popular vote, keep the battle going. If not (and the Times' makes clear that ain't going to happen) the super delegates should simply declare their choice and the nomination can be decided.

Rosenberg makes some points that I definitely dispute, such as the argument that a long nomination will hand the election to McCain. I think the primary advantage of Clinton staying in for the time being is that McCain is getting very little coverage. But for that Democratic lime-light strategy to work, Clinton is going to need to change tactics in the next few weeks - and already shows some signs of doing so. She seems to realize that the kitchen-sink approach was a big mistake, and hopefully she won't reprise that for Pennsylvania. She needs to start giving some subtle props to Obama, such as she did regarding his speech. In other words, she should stay in for now but subtly change her campaign from a Clinton campaign to a Democratic campaign.

The thing is, it's difficult to tell whether her campaign folks really understand that it's over. Judging from Mark Penn's quotes in the NYT article, they think that they're in a perfect position to clinch the nomination. And that's a scary type of delusion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCain's Gaffe

Apparently his Sunni/Shiite slip-up just proves how much foreign policy experience he has. That's how it works in media bizarro world:
BRZEZINSKI: Lieberman was there.

TODD: The thing is -- yeah, exactly. The thing is, this is the second time that he's done it. You know --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

TODD: -- this was not a one-time slip and so, you know, this just shows you how much bank -- how much of the foreign policy experience stuff he's got in the bank, because had Clinton or Obama done something like this, this would have been played on a loop, over and over, and would have absolutely hurt them politically.

Todd is, of course, correct that if Obama or Clinton had made this mix-up that it would be all over the media. But it sure doesn't indicate how great McCain is on foreign policy. It indicates that in our modern American media, Everything is Good for Republicans.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

My first impression is that it's one of the most impressive and important speeches of our time. I've certainly never heard a speech from a politician, American or otherwise, dating from my lifetime, that is in this caliber. It's simple and forthright in the sense of being completely devoid of the condescension and pandering that characterize most speeches by American presidential candidates. But it's complex in the underlying issues and in the challenges Obama is laying out. He didn't choose the easy route, that's for sure. He could've repudiated Wright, distanced himself from the church, and gone out of his way to appeal to white voters while hoping he didn't alienate many black voters. But instead he said, in essence, "Not only do I not repudiate Wright as a man, but he's as close to me as my own grandmother," while making clear that he found many of Wright's views repugnant. It was bold, and he pulled it off. He also pointed out that Wright's anger is an anger worth understanding, and segued from that politically risky discussion into the passage that is, along with the passage about his grandmother, the rhetorical centerpiece of the speech:
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

This is brilliant. He takes the Wright issue, which was supposed to racially divisive and hurtful to his chances among white voters, and turns it in to something that middle- and lower-class white voters can understand and sympathize with. He takes that even further by pointing out Wright's essential conservatism:
Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The reactions to the speech as a whole have been almost overwhelmingly positive in the liberal and conservative blogospheres, save for some crusty Cornerites like Derb and KLo who would gripe no matter what Obama said. You can almost sense people exhaling and thinking, "Alright, let's move on." Obama did exactly what he needed to do with this speech. Whether it will resonate with middle America, I don't know. But I'm glad this all happened in March, because November is a long way away.

If I have time later, I might gather up a sampling of the blogger reax. For now I just want to take issue with David Kurtz here:
The text is one thing. Delivery is another. And Obama doesn't seem to have his A game today.

Viewers who were expecting Obama's usual soaring rhetoric might have been disappointed. But that was very much necessary, and Obama played it exactly right: it was a dispassionate, candid discussion of race, religion and politics, which you don't often find from people of any race, creed or clique. It was a refreshing, heartening speech. And it was a great counterbalance to the rage and rhetoric of Wright.

Video highlights here.

Full transcript here.

Full video here:

Pelosi Wants Genocide, Says Rubin

Michael Rubin is a very Serious Thinker.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama on Wright

Required reading for anyone who thinks that Obama is an America-hating extremist Christian/Muslim/Zoroastrian. Pretty unequivocal stuff there. Your turn, Cornerites.

PS This whole thing is incredibly stupid.

Turn signal jacket for bikers

Nice.

Mona Charen is an Ass

Here:
One can have sympathy for his psychological predicament . But that sympathy certainly does not extend to electing him president of a country that I sincerely believe he does not love.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Extremist Muslim Christian!

First right-wingers (with the help of Clinton) were going on about Obama being a secret Muslim. Now they're going on about him belonging to an extremist Christian church. I wish they'd at least be consistent. I'd like to be the first to suggest that Obama is a secret extremist Jew.

Olbermann to Clinton

I second every bit of this special comment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Marketing with Spitzer

Um, this is an interesting marketing tactic, to say the least.
The ad copy reads: “At Virgin Mobile, you’re more than just a number. When you call us we’ll treat you like a person, not a client. Whether you’re #9 or #900, you’ll get hooked up with somebody who’ll finally treat you just how you want to be treated.”

Virgin Mobile comparing itself to an expensive brothel. Hmm.

Via Wonkette.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BBN

BBN Technologies has been awarded a $13 million grant from DARPA for research on "rapidly processing information in foreign languages." It sounds like they'll primarily be working with Arabic text and speech as part of the ongoing GALE project. Their work includes distillation of text and speech, or automatic summarization, which is my particular passion and research interest.

Growing Liberal

It looks like the idea that people grow more conservative as they get older is just a myth, according to researchers at the University of Vermont. On several major issues, people even tend to become more liberal as they age, specifically regarding gender equality and tolerance of viewpoints such as atheism and communism. Areas in which people do tend to become more conservative are viewpoints concerning extramarital and premarital sex.

The study also acknowledges that some changes towards more liberal viewpoints can be attributed to older people starting from a more conservative position originally than young people today. For example, older people today have made much more dramatic changes in a liberal direction regarding race relations than have young people, because the older generations may have grown up under segregation and outmoded stereotypes.

This helps put to rest the view, common among many on the American right at least, that liberalism is a phase that is grown out of. One particularly loathsome cliche is "If you are a Republican when you're young, you don't have a heart. If you're a Democrat when you're old, you don't have a brain." It's clear many people find that experience and reflection help to liberalize their worldviews.

Ferraro

Not only does she not retract her offensive comments, she reiterates them and claims to be the victim of racism. The Politico does some research and finds that Ferraro made some very similar comments about Jesse Jackson in 1988.

Meanwhile, Clinton finally grudgingly distances herself from Ferraro's comments. If you had any doubts that the Clinton campaign is trying to make this about race, they should be erased now. If Nixon were here he'd be smiling to think that Democratic Party is using the Southern strategy on itself.

Obama takes Mississippi...

...in a primary split along race lines.

Spitzer

Obviously Eliot Spitzer acted very stupidly in all of this, but Jane Hamsher asks a lot of good questions about the investigation. Something is indeed very strange in all of this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cross-Border Meddling

With the NAFTAgate controversy in the rear-view mirror, it's interesting to read about occasions where the US interfered with Canadian elections. Unfortunately the article is behind a wall, but if you can pick up the G&M paper version before the end of the day it's an interesting, short read.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clinton Talks Up McCain Some More

This is getting to be unbelievable.
“I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold,” the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant’s bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.

“I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,” she said.

Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a “distinguished man with a great history of service to our country,” Clinton said, “Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to deal with.”

I can't remember anything like this before. So Clinton has obviously adopted a deliberate strategy of talking up the opposing party's candidate and talking down the other Dem nominee, quite clearly saying that if she doesn't get the nomination then she'll take the party down with her. I can't believe that no one in the DNC is stepping in to say anything. Absolutely shameful on the part of Clinton.

Via TPM.

Rich States, Poor States

Andrew Gelman has been doing some interesting analysis on correlating voting behaviour with income, and has a forthcoming book on the subject. This post on rich vs poor states and rich vs. poor voters is fascinating. The basic story is that if you look at rich states vs. poor states, the rich states tend to vote Democratic and the poor states tend to vote Republican. But if you look at individuals, rich individuals tend to vote Republican and poor individuals tend to vote Democratic. Also, within rich states the correlation tends to break down. So in a state like Connecticut, voting behaviour will be much less tied to income than it will be in Alabama.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

NAFTAgate Revisited

Wow. Well, according to the Globe and Mail, NAFTAgate started with a comment by Harper chief of staff Ian Brodie, who remarked to a roomful of colleagues that a Clinton campaign member was telling the Canadians to take Clinton's anti-NAFTA rhetoric with a grain of salt. So...somehow this turned into an Obama scandal. I'm gonna enjoy hearing how that happened.

As Josh says, the moral of the story is that "friendly governments should not interfere in our elections".

This other G&M piece from Wednesday points out the harm this scandal could do to Canada. It should be obvious, but diplomacy requires discretion and Harper seems to surround himself with aides who lack that particular quality. This could most certainly damage Canadian relationships in the short-term, and most certainly in the long-term if, say, Obama is president and Harper remains PM.

Kitchen Sink

Contrary to a lot of the CW, I don't think a long drawn-out battle between Clinton and Obama is a bad thing in and of itself. There are plenty of precedents for the out party having a long nomination process and still doing well in the general. Plus, it gives the Dems lots of media attention at a time when the GOP side has sunk into the background a bit, what with McCain already clinching it. But Clinton's strategy is now quite clearly to either win the nomination or take the entire party down with her. Via Sullivan, I noticed James Fallows flagging this bit about Clinton's rhetoric:
In a live CNN interview just now, Sen. Clinton repeated, twice, the "Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience, I have a lifetime of experience, Sen. Obama has one speech in 2002" line. By what logic, exactly, does a member of the Democratic party include the "Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience" part of that sentence?

Is there any precedent for a serious candidate for party nomination to claim that a member of the opposing party would be a better candidate for president than would a member of their own party? Imagine Obama gets the nomination, which is still very likely even after Ohio and Texas. We now have Clinton, one of the powerhouses of the party, on record repeatedly stating that McCain is a better candidate. How can Howard Dean or others not step in at this point and admonish her?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Exits

Some surprising and encouraging exit polls for Texas and Ohio. And probably not reliable, though. Here's hoping.