Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introducing the PUPNTTM

That's Positronic Universal Peggy Noonan Translator for those of you playing along at home. I trust everyone was out doing family stuff when she wrote this about Obama over the weekend:

This in turn reminded me of a surprising thing I observe among loyal Democrats in informal settings and conversations: No one loves Barack Obama. Half the American people say they support him, and Democrats are still with him. But there were Bill Clinton supporters who really loved him. George W. Bush had people who loved him. A lot of people loved Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. But no one seems to love Mr. Obama now; they're not dazzled and head over heels.*


No, I do not know any black people, personally. Why do you ask?

Maybe Noonan missed the numbers--who would write about numbers when they have feelings?--but Obama's job approval number among blacks is 91 percent.

91 percent!

And here's the kicker: That number is up (by 1 percent) from January 2009.

*Emphasis in the original, of course.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brief Political Aside

Sarah Palin's future is, of course, the subject of much discussion. Unfortunately, most people discussing Palin confuse their personal preferences with practical analysis, arguing "could" when they really mean "should." (This tendency has reached epidemic proportions, but that's a topic for another day.)

Yesterday Matthew Dowd tried to break out of that mold with a mildly analytical piece on Palin's chances: Dowd posits that presidents with favorable ratings above 51 percent before Election Day have never lost reelection, while no POTUS with a rating under 47 percent has won. In response, stat-head Nate Silver has done some math using head-to-head favorability ratings and suggests that Palin still makes a weaker candidate against Obama than does Mitt Romney.

Whatever the individual merits of Dowd and Silver's theses, they both deserve credit for not simply projecting their desires out into the future.

When looking at Palin, three things strike me:

(1) At this point, the only event "likely" to happen in 2012--that is, has a greater probability of happening than not happening--is that Barack Obama is likely to win re-nomination from his party. After that, every outcome is less likely than not. Three years out, presidential politics is like taking Tiger Woods vs. the Field: No matter how strong a contender looks, at this distance, the field is almost always the better play.

(2) I'm not the first to observe this (I think Michael Barone was), but you have to go back a long, long time--to FDR--to find a president who won re-election without expanding his support.

Since then, every president who won reelection did so by adding to his majority (or plurality). In other words, if you're not growing your base of support, you're losing. Obama was elected with a +7 margin. His style of governing and the ideological content of his policies do not, to my eyes at least, seem designed to increase his standing even further with independents and Republicans. (And he doesn't have much room to grow with Democrats since he carried them 89 to 10.) This isn't to say that Obama couldn't win with +3 in 2012--trends are made to be broken! That said, it seems like an interesting number to watch.

(3) It's hard to win both IA and NH. Since 1972, only three non-incumbents have pulled off the double (Kerry, Carter, Muskie). Two of them went on to win the nomination. No non-incumbent Republican has ever won the pair. That said, a candidate who does win both of the opening contests is very hard to beat under the modern rules of calendar, media, and money. Projecting out from here Palin would seem to have a reasonable (which is not to say probable!) chance to do just that. One assumes that she'll be very tough in IA, a state that typically rewards cultural conservatives. And depending on what mood NH is in, she could do well there: This is a state that went McCain in 2000 and Buchanan in 1996. In other words, they've been open to cutting against the GOP establishment and backing reform, or even populist, candidates in the recent past.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Saddest Thing You'll Read Today

This NYT obit for Dennis Cole. To think that you can be one minute marrying one of Charlie's Angels and then a few years later dying alone in Ft. Lauderdale while doing cruise ship acts.

"Like watching two monkeys fuck a football."

That's James Cameron describing the (lack of?) skills of one of his lighting guys in this month-old bit of awesome from Dana Goodyear. It's a pretty great profile although--not to take anything away from Goodyear--the subject is so good that it would be hard to mess it up.

More Good News for Newspapers

Go, Rupert, Go!

What makes a show a "hit"?

I take a backseat to no one in my Joss Whedon fandom and I'm thrilled to see that the PGA is giving him an award. But does this make sense?

Whedon is a producer, writer, director, and creator for such hit television programs as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.”

Firefly and Dollhouse ran for a combined two seasons! It says nothing about the quality of the product to note that these are definitively not hits.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Greatness of the Rowdy One

You probably didn't see it, but Roddy Piper guest hosted RAW this week and even though he was totally blotto by the end of the show, he still has spectacular stuff. I consider Piper one of the two greatest talkers in the history of wrestling, the other being Ric Flair. These top two slots are non-negotiable. But rounding out the rest of the top five is harder than I would have thought. I'd probably include Macho Man and The Rock. (Though I'm hesitant to include The Rock since his body of work is comparatively so small.) The fifth slot, then, is wide open. Galley Friend A.S. suggests Stone Cold. On the strength of this classic spot, I'm open to the idea:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Drilling for Amber Gold

Galley Friend R.M. once paid $800 for a bottle of scotch salvaged from a 100-year-old British ship, but even that's not as hardcore as this operationg:

A beverage company has asked a team to drill through Antarctica's ice for a lost cache of some vintage Scotch whiskey that has been on the rocks since a century ago.

The drillers will be trying to reach two crates of McKinlay and Co. whiskey that were shipped to the Antarctic by British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as part of his abandoned 1909 expedition.

Whyte & Mackay, the drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Co., has asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch.

Workers from New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust will use special drills to reach the crates, frozen in Antarctic ice under the Nimrod Expedition hut near Cape Royds.

I think we have the plot for the third Whiteout book . . .

Dirty New Mexico Part Deux: Dirtier

Some of you may remember Elizabeth Lambert as the UNM soccer player who's half Vinnie Jones and half Bill Laimbeer. Well now she's taken it up a notch, with what might be the biggest heel-turn in sports since the Honky-Tonk Man.

In yesterday's New York Times Lambert claimed that she's the real victim. Victim of what? Pretty much everything. A brief summary of people who have done Lambert wrong:

* The dirty BYU players who started it.

* Fans in the stands who taunted her.

* The ref, who made a mistake in not issuing cards (to Lambert?) sooner.

* Sexism in the media for focusing on her actions.

* Sexism in the culture for turning her into a villain.

* Bloggers and emailers who've said mean things about/to her.

And you thought she couldn't get any less likable!

The Greatest Thanksgiving Day Touch Football Game Ever

It could have been yours.

If you and a bunch of your friends--let's pretend there were 20 of you in total--had gotten together last week, you could have bought the Pontiac Silverdome. Former home of the Detroit Lions; the site of WrestleMania III. It sold at auction for $583,000. You read that correctly.

For that money, each of your pals would have needed to come up with just $29,000. Pretending that you could finance it like you would a vacation home (which you couldn't, or course, but play along for a minute), that meant that each of you would have needed to put down $5,800 for the downpayment and then $125 a month for the mortgage. That doesn't count taxes and upkeep, of course. But still.

For half the price of a used Honda Fit, you could have gone with your buddies and played your Thanksgiving football game in your very own domed stadium.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When Tom Met Peyton

I'd never heard this story before last week:

"My first start came against the Colts," Brady said. "And Peyton came over on our field and said, 'Hey, Peyton Manning.' And I said, 'no shit.''"

There's something so quintessentially American about that exchange, from both sides.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mike Russell's Lava Tornado

A genius CulturePulp.

Got a little Captain in you?

Sure the Eagles lost, but they spurred the creation of a new NFL rule.

Suck on that, Cowgirls!

The Death of Newspapers

On second thought, maybe it wouldn't be such a terrible thing. After all, some papers seem desperate to go out of business.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gladwell on Christmas

Galley Friend P.G. sends us this fantastic Gladwell parody:

Why baby Jesus? Research confirms there were upwards of 157 hotel-cum-stables in Bethlehem that night, with estimated 97 percent occupancy levels. So why did that star shine so brightly over his?

Imagine that I were to ask you to dress up as a baby and lie in a manger. Would you attract a comparable crowd of shepherds plus livestock and anything upwards of three kings from the East?

In a hugely influential 2004 experiment at the University of Colorado at Bollocks Falls, Professor Sanjiv Sanjive and his team asked 323 volunteers to wrap themselves in swaddling clothes and spend the night in a stable, lying in a manger.

Logic would dictate that at least one of them would be visited by shepherds, wise men, or kings from the East, right?

Wrong. The results—codified and analyzed on a specially devised and integrated grid system known as blsht—were astonishing. All 323 volunteers experienced a quiet night in. In other words, they waited up all night, but no one—specifically, 0.0000 percent of a total world population of 6,783,940,189 human beings—bothered to come by.

So what does this blsht metric tell you about your appeal, compared with the appeal of the baby Jesus?

It tells you this: he was special.

And—here’s another thing—you are not.

There's more. Go get it.

Under the Dome

So the NYT has a reviewer who actually reads books!

How novel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I Hate Children's Television

A note from Galley Friend A.W.:

The kids are watching a recent Dora The Explorer special episode ("Dora Saves The Crystal Kingdom," if you're interested). I just watched a scene in which Dora wanders upon a knight warding a giant dragon off with a sword. To intervene and stop the fight, Dora decides that the best course of action is . . . to take away the knight's sword! Pulling a lasso from her trusty backpack, she lassos the knight's sword, leaving the knight defenseless. At that point, the dragon looks confused for a moment, and then becomes friendly. Dora, the Knight, and Boots the Monkey climb on to the Dragon's back, and they all fly off together, best friends.

I would not necessarily argue that young children should be exposed to the power theory of international relations ("the strong do what they can; the weak do what they must"). But they shouldn't be plied with this insanity, either.

It's vaguely unsettling when children's TV offers inherently ridiculous views of the world--talking birds and talking worms who are friends, for instance. You need not tell a 3-year-old that birds actually eat worms: Some truths are hard enough that their revelation should be delayed. Nothing wrong with that.

But while we're eliding these hard truths, we have a duty not to teach untruths.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

End of the World Watch

Remember how we all laughed when Hollywood started turning comic books into movies? And then videogames? And theme-park rides?

That all seems so quaint now. Because CBS is building a TV show based on a Twitter feed.

Mel Candy Jr.

Can't figure out how to give you a direct link, so this gift comes with some assembly required. I promise--promise!--it's worth the trouble:

-Click here.

-On the light blue nav bar toward the middle of the screen, click on "The Sports Reporters."

-"The Sports Reporters" column will appear on the right-hand side of the screen.

-Scroll down to the Oct. 30 edition and listen to "Candy Breakdown."

-When you're done, check out Candy Part II, above it.

Czabe really efforts this bit. And it's awesome.

Monday, November 09, 2009

D.C. Mayor Flouts Law

But wait! It's actually kind of refreshing to see a D.C. mayor merely abusing his office for minor personal privilege!

Brief Political Aside

I'd love to get Jay Cost's thoughts on this very interesting piece by Fred Siegel and Harry Siegel. The piece is about New York City politics, but touches on Cost's central focus on parties. For instance, this:

In New York City, the traditional parties have atrophied. The Republicans exist largely as a ballot line ready to be sold--currently to the billionaire Bloomberg--while the leaderless Democrats will have gone, despite their dominance of the electoral rolls, nearly 20 years without electing a mayor. Locally neither party commands either enthusiasm or respect. In their stead comes a billionaire's party and a public sector union party. It's an exaggerated version of the national alliance between George Soros and the public sector unions that helps drive the Democrats' national agenda.

The Best News You'll Read All Day

Eventually someone in newspapers was going to call the internet's bluff and remind people that information does not want to be free. Murdoch looks set to do it.

If he does, I suspect others will begin following suit. It would be fantastic if it was Rupert who ended up saving the newspaper industry. Not that the people who work in newspapers would ever acknowledge it.

Worst Book Review Ever?

What does this even mean?

Palin bad! Obama good! Racists! Fascists!


King bad. King kind of good. But only good because sophisticates know how bad he is. Rubes who think he's good: Also bad.


Seems to me that King has earned a more serious effort from the New York Times. (Though on third read, I'm not sure it's clear that the reviewer actually read the whole book.)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dirty New Mexico

Galley Friend and Soccer All-Star H.W. sends us this little video. She (not H.W.) might be the dirtiest player I've ever seen, any sport.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Just Asking

President Obama funnily pointed out his daughter's recent bad grade on a science test. Out of curiosity, have we ever seen any of Obama's academic performance records? SATs, LSATs, college grades?

The New Yorker and Truth in Advertising

The New Yorker has a piece by John Cassidy which offers the view that the Democratic push for healthcare reform is:

(1) Laudable.

(2) Dishonestly presented.

(3) Likely to incur giant costs, despite what Democrats say.

(4) Likely to incur a large set of unforeseen consequences.

(5) Likely to become impossible to dismantle once it becomes law.

(6) On balance a net good.

(7) Such a net good that it justifies--and perhaps even requires--the Democrats' dishonesty.

That's fine, as far as it goes. But one does wonder if Remnick would have published a piece in 2002 taking a similar view of the prospective war in Iraq. And if not, would it simply have been because of a disagreement over whether the "net good" of regime change was worth intentional governmental dishonesty, or would it have been a more high-minded objection?

I ask this not because I pre-judge what Remnick would say, but because I honestly have no idea. Remnick runs, for my money, the best book in the business. He also happens to be a seriously wonderful writer and an interesting mind. He's not Graydon Carter--he's the great magazine editor of our time. Which is why the Cassidy piece seems so strange.

Catching Up with Gladwell

Stumbled upon a Gladwell essay I'd missed from a couple months back, this labored indictment of Atticus Finch. It's a little like the moot court game where 3L students retry Shylock, only without the legal sophistication. Of particular note, however, is the part where Gladwell seems to suggest that Mayella Ewell is the first modern sex-positive feminist.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Flame On

Maybe the coolest thing every built in a garage. If they wind up selling it, I'm there.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brief Political Aside

The most excellent Jay Cost has a sensible post up about today's three big races in which he argues that the outcomes don't really mean anything in the long (or even medium) term. I think he's right about that.

What Cost overlooks, I think, is the influence these elections may have on a very short-term matter: the Obama health reform movement. I'd guess that there's a real chance--maybe 1-in3--that all three Democrats lose. If Republicans hit the trifecta, it could scare the moderate Dems Obama needs to pass a major healthcare bill. I don't know that a GOP sweep would be enough to kill the bill outright, but at the very least, there would be Democrats who needed to be talked off the ledge. (Or, depending on your point of view, back out onto the ledge.)

So the real question is this: If today's results were to alter the healthcare calculus, would that outcome have any bearing on the medium-to-long-term future? It wouldn't be crazy to think that it would.

Monday, November 02, 2009

So, what was the worst story ever in Style?

There are so many layers to this report. It's kind of awesome.

Bonus: If Manuel Roig-Franzia was a running back for the Chiefs, he'd be suspended for two games.

"Fire Snyder"

The Redskins hive is buzzing with ideas for samizdat, but this one might be the best.

Japanese Ship Sunk By Giant Jellyfish!

This story is made only slightly less terrifying by the fact that it refers to the plural.