Friday, February 15, 2008

Politics as Sopranos 

From my buddy FilmGeek:


Since you’re writing about politics a lot I thought you’d enjoy this. From Jeff Well’s Hollywood Elsewhere blog:


Two weeks ago Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr delivered an NPR essay about how the "reality TV show with the craziest plot twists, the nuttiest characters and the biggest payoff is what he's dubbed Primary Reality. It's on at all hours, on almost every channel. And everyone else is watching, too. It also happens to be the race for the presidency of the United States."

It dawned on me after listening to this yesterday that I've become absorbed in the presidential contest like nothing else since The Sopranos. There are no plot or character parallels (except for Hillary Clinton being a kind of Livia Soprano) but the campaign, like David Chase's long-running HBO series, is about us. Recognizable values, identities, echoes, experiences. We all "know" who the political players are deep down (or think we do) and are caught up in guessing their fates and futures, and what forces are working for and against them.

All I know is that the campaign is providing major mainline highs on an almost daily basis, which makes it, in a very real sense, better than The Sopranos. The suspense is constant, there are no bad episodes, the plot turns are fast and furious. That's why I'm writing about it a lot. It's a first-rate drama with stirring characters. A stand-up hero, a scheming evil queen, a white-haired soldier with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, a slick and squishy lawyer with a southern drawl, court jesters, Greek choruses, two-faced acolytes, knaves and fools, etc.

That last video was so strange I'm still reeling.

So allow me to set my karma right by offering a Kitten in a Boot:

Latte liberals v Dunkin Donut democrats 

I'm still recovering from the prior video.

My favorite Swede, DonkeyPuncher, sent me this perspective from The Times.


Trouble distinguishing between Obama's policies and Clinton's?
Here's a consumer's guide

I'm not sure when the term latte liberal replaced the old champagne socialist as the favoured term of derision for the well-heeled leftie but it looks an increasingly useful metaphor for understanding how the deadlock in the Democratic presidential primary election might be broken.

The two candidates have fought themselves to a standstill. In the closest race in any US presidential primary campaign in decades, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are more or less tied in total votes received and in delegates elected for the party's nominating convention.

Super Tuesday, when almost half the country voted in the nearest thing ever to a nationwide primary, was supposed to break the logjam but has merely tightened it.

The reason the race is so close has nothing to do with policy differences. I'd wager that not one voter in a hundred could name with any confidence a single difference between the two candidates' stances on the war in Iraq, healthcare, taxes, public spending, abortion or anything else. That's because there isn't one.

* One person can lift America's gloom

* The future may be bleak for Ben Bernanke

* Congress and Fed unite to boost economy

* Is it time to invest in American funds?

The fault lines in the contest instead fall largely along differences in identity - ethnic and gender - and values. Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have, as we have noted before, both established massive, almost identically sized coalitions of voting blocs aligned along these cleavages.

Mrs Clinton wins heavily among white women, older voters and Latinos. Where they voted in large numbers on Tuesday, she won by large margins.

Mr Obama won states where his following of younger voters, African-Americans and white men predominated.

But one other critical factor - the one that may ultimately determine who wins this race - is whether the voter is sinking or swimming in the modern economy.

Mr Obama wins disproportionately among people who may be considered the winners in the global economy: the well educated, the mobile and the financially secure. Mrs Clinton's voters are the strugglers, the class that feels itself left behind by an increasingly unfair global economic system.

Consider the exit poll from California, the largest state to vote on Super Tuesday. Mrs Clinton's largest single demographic voting bloc was those who did not complete a high school education, where she won 82 per cent, against just 15 per cent for Mr Obama. The more educated you became - from high school drop-out, through high school graduate then some college, college graduate and finally postgraduate - the more likely you were to vote for Mr Obama. The only category he won, in fact, was the propeller heads with postgraduate degrees.

Income was another crucial determinant of whom you voted for: 59 per cent of those earning below $50,000 went for Mrs Clinton against 33 per cent for Mr Obama. The only broad income category won by Mr Obama was the top one - more than $100,000. (Intriguingly, in California there was one exception to this rule. The super-earners - those earning over $200,0000 - went narrowly for Mrs Clinton. I can only think this was because of all those louche Hollywood types who long for a return of the moral compass of the Clinton years. Jack Nicholson was making calls for Hillary on Tuesday, telling people to vote for her because “she was the best man in the race”.)

The saliency of economics then, is crucial. Those who said the economy was the important issue facing the country went for Mrs Clinton by 20 points. Those who thought Iraq was the main issue chose Mr Obama by five points.

This is where coffee preferences come in. Among voters whose voting choice is not based on identity politics, Mr Obama's supporters are the latte liberals. These are the people for whom Starbucks, with its $5 cups of coffee and fancy bakeries, is not just a consumer choice but a lifestyle. They not only have the money. They share the values.

They live by all those little quotes on the side of Starbucks cups about community service and global warming. They embrace the Obama candidacy because to them he transcends traditional class and economic divides. He is a transformative political figure - potentially the first black man to be president - and is seen as the one to revive America's faith in itself and restore America's status in the world. For these voters the defining emotion is hope.

Mrs Clinton is the candidate of what might be called Dunkin' Donut Democrats. They do not have money to waste on multiple-hyphenated coffee drinks - double-top, no-foam, non-fat lattes and the like. Not for them the bran muffins or the biscotti. They are the 75-cent coffee and doughnut crowd. For them caffeine choice doesn't correlate with their values but simply represents a means of keeping them going through their challenging day.

Though they don't doubt that global warming is important, they think it can wait. They want to make sure first they can pay the heating bills. They're not in favour of the Iraq war but neither are they so focused on restoring America's

image in the world. They're not necessarily racist, it's just that they're not especially animated by the idealism represented by the first black president. For them anxiety, not aspiration is the defining factor.

So who prevails? That may well depend on the state of the economy. The more voters worry about it and the less they focus on ideals, the better Mrs Clinton's chances. For her, bad news is good news.

As it happens, the latest figures out this week suggest the US is now very probably in recession. Unemployment is rising, house prices are falling, stock prices are slumping, spending is fading, confidence is sagging. There's a whiff of panic in the air. Last week the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by more in the space of eight days than the European Central Bank has done in its entire existence.

People are trading down from Starbucks to Dunkin' Donuts. These may not be the best circumstances for Mr Obama's soaring rhetoric of hope in the future. His hope has to be that things do not get so bad that fear overwhelms it.

In 1992 Bill Clinton rode to an election victory under the slogan, “The economy, stupid”. Sixteen years later, we could say, given the apparent inevitability of a recession and given Mrs Clinton's strong following among the less well educated in American society, that it is an even more fitting message for his wife.


Words fail me.

What the fuck is this?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Lord, there were so many offensive photo's I could post on this "holiday", but I'm going to spare you, gentle reader.

Instead, allow me to post this Valentines video from one of my very favorite web sites, PostSecret.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

She can't catch us 

Stick a fork in it. She's done.

Funny, a friend of mine asked me today if I thought Hillary would join Obama as a VP.

And I laughed.

I mean, if so, what's the freaking over/under on how long till she has him killed ala Vince Foster?

Enjoy this post with 600 comments to wade through. Check it out.

She can't catch us


As we wrote last night, Obama has begun to make his own inevitablity case, and David Plouffe made it explicit on a conference call this morning, telling reporters that it's now "next to impossible" for Clinton to surpass what he says is a 136-person lead among pledged delegates.

"The only way she could do it is by winning most of the rest of the contests by 25 to 30 points," he said. "Even the most creative math really does not get her, ever, back to even in terms of pledged delegates."

"This is not about votes -- it's about delegates," Plouffe said.

The other half of this case, of course, is that superdelegates will and/or should follow the pledged delegates.

Poker Blogs Love Politics 

My boys in New York City keep passing along the stellar commentary.

This time it's FTrain giving me this fine NY Times article from today's economic section.


Looking for Sure Political Bets at Online Prediction Market

There is a professional poker player in Queens named Serge Ravitch who is convinced that he can make money off this year’s presidential election. But to explain what he’s up to, I want to start with a story about last week’s Democratic primary in California.

By early evening last Tuesday, the day of the primary, Hillary Clinton looked very likely to win California. The initial exit polls, which were released to the media around 5 p.m. Eastern time and posted on various blogs by 7 p.m., showed Mrs. Clinton ahead by three points. As subsequent polls came out, her lead grew.

But everyone knows that exit polls can be misleading. (If early exit polls were always right, President John Kerry would now be running for re-election.) So on Tuesday evening, I also checked out Intrade, a Web site where people buy and sell contracts whose price is tied to real-world events. Strangely enough, the prices on Intrade were suggesting that Barack Obama would win California.

There was good reason to take those odds seriously: Intrade has done an excellent job of predicting election results over the last few years. In 2004, President Bush won every state in which Intrade’s contracts — as of the night before Election Day — gave him a better than 50 percent chance of winning. He lost every state where the traders thought Mr. Kerry was the favorite. Late on election night in 2006, while the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC were still saying that the Republicans would hold onto the Senate, Intrade knew better.

It’s no wonder, then, that the site has become a phenomenon. In recent months, when I have asked former advisers to Mr. Bush or Bill Clinton what they think will happen in 2008, they’ve often talked about Intrade. The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times run regular online features based on the odds. Journalists — me included — have praised Intrade as a miniature version of the stock market, where the collective wisdom of the masses reveals a larger truth.

But now a little backlash has begun. Barry Ritholtz, author of the popular Big Picture economics blog, has put together a list of Intrade’s misses. Last Tuesday, meanwhile, I e-mailed a high-profile Democratic economist and asked what he made of the dueling numbers coming from the California polls and from Intrade. He replied with a salty message, dismissing the usefulness of Intrade. Then there is Mr. Ravitch, a 27-year-old lawyer turned poker player whose previous claim to fame was his role in exposing an online-poker cheating scandal. In late December, he started posting notes on an Internet message board vowing to profit from what he saw as Intrade’s blatant inefficiencies. He has generally been announcing his trades as he makes them, and most of them have paid off. In the span of just six weeks, he says, he has earned a 35 percent return.

“I believe quite simply that the people who are trading on Intrade and the methods they’re using are so flawed that they can’t be right in the long run,” he told me.

After what happened in the California primary — Mrs. Clinton won there handily — I started to wonder if he had a point.

The mechanics of Intrade are simple enough. You can buy or sell a contract tied to the outcome of an event — Will Barack Obama win the California primary? Will “Atonement” win Best Picture? Will the United States or Israel bomb Iran this year? — so long as you can find someone else willing to be on the opposite side of the bet. Once the outcome becomes clear, the contract pays either $10 or nothing at all.

At 8:30 p.m. last Tuesday, the Obama-wins-California contract was selling for about $6 (which meant the market collectively thought he had a 60 percent chance of winning). If I wanted to bet on him and you agreed to bet against him, I would have deposited $6 in your Intrade account. Had he won, you would have owed me $10 — the original $6, plus $4 in profit. Since he didn’t win, you would have kept my money. It’s all very similar to the futures market on Wall Street.

Or at least it’s similar in concept.

In practice, Intrade is different because there still isn’t all that much trading on the site. (For legal reasons, Americans often have to use bank transfers, instead of credit cards, on the site.) John Delaney, Intrade’s chief executive, said that roughly $50 million in contracts tied to the 2008 election had changed hands already, which is up from $15 million for the entire 2004 election cycle. But $50 million is still roughly equal to the value of ExxonMobil shares that change hands every 10 minutes.

The limited size of Intrade’s market has created two main problems. The first is that the biases of a small group of traders can have a big effect on prices. And these biases seem most obvious in exaggerated odds for unlikely events. As Justin Wolfers, a University of Pennsylvania economist who studies prediction markets, notes, the odds “hit 5 or 10 all the time when a guy is dead in the water.”

Mr. Ravitch has made a nice profit betting against Ron Paul, the libertarian who late last year was, amazingly, given almost a 10 percent chance of becoming the Republican nominee. “If you asked anyone in politics whether there was ever, at any point, a 10 percent chance of Ron Paul being the nominee,” Mr. Ravitch said, without finishing the sentence. “That sort of makes my case for me.”

In a more liquid market, Mr. Paul’s small band of intense supporters wouldn’t be able to affect his price. On Intrade, they can. Along similar lines, Al Gore is now given an 11 percent chance of being the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, which Mr. Ravitch considers silly.

The second problem is that the market seems to react to new information too slowly. In a healthier market, you can’t easily predict where prices are going. After the drug maker Schering-Plough reported strong earnings on Tuesday, for example, its stock price jumped. But the stock is unlikely to continue soaring in coming weeks. The market has already adjusted to the news.

On Intrade, such reactions often happen in slow motion — and eventually turn into overreactions. Mr. Obama’s stock rose for days after he won Iowa, then fell during the two weeks after he lost New Hampshire and rose again in the 10 days after he won South Carolina. The impact of each contest took surprisingly long to sink in.

For this reason, Mr. Ravitch has recently been betting that the odds of Mr. Obama’s getting the Democratic nomination will keep going up this month, even though they were already around 60 percent when we spoke late last week. As Mr. Obama wins more primaries, Mr. Ravitch figures the contracts will continue to gain value, and he can then sell them before the March primaries, which look more favorable to Mrs. Clinton.

I suspect that something similar happened with the California contracts: There simply wasn’t enough trading volume to ensure that the market reacted quickly enough to new information. There wasn’t enough smart money.

The California prices were particularly striking, because in the past Intrade had been most useful on the day of elections. Its longer-term odds — like the fact that the Democrats are given a 66 percent chance of winning the White House — may be interesting, but they are based on probabilities that are inherently unknowable. On Election Day, by contrast, the odds can reflect real information, like exit polls, voter turnout and early returns.

So it’s certainly fair to say that Intrade isn’t as advanced as some of us had thought. But that’s why the existence of people like Mr. Ravitch is so welcome. As more traders try to exploit Intrade’s inefficiencies, those inefficiencies will become rarer and rarer.

Already, academic studies have shown that Intrade’s record is better than that of any single poll or any single pundit. Come Tuesday — when voters in Wisconsin and Hawaii go to the polls — I’ll be back at Intrade to try to figure out what’s going on. If you have any better ideas of where to look, let me know.

He's got Obamaphilia 

A-lister, Joaquin, sent me this fine perspective from the LA Times and I thought I'd share it here. It's what I do.


It's embarrassing to be among the fanatics of a relatively mainstream presidential candidate.
Joel Stein

You are embarrassing yourselves. With your "Yes We Can" music video, your "Fired Up, Ready to Go" song, your endless chatter about how he's the first one to inspire you, to make you really feel something -- it's as if you're tacking photos of Barack Obama to your locker, secretly slipping him little notes that read, "Do you like me? Check yes or no." Some of you even cry at his speeches. If I were Obama, and you voted for me, I would so never call you again.

Obamaphilia has gotten creepy. I couldn't figure out if the two canvassers who came to my door Sunday had taken Ecstasy or were just fantasizing about an Obama presidency, but I feared they were going to hug me. Scarlett Johansson called me twice, asking me to vote for him. She'd never even called me once about anything else. Not even to see "The Island."

What the Cult of Obama doesn't realize is that he's a politician. Not a brave one taking risky positions like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, but a mainstream one. He has not been firing up the Senate with stirring Cross-of-Gold-type speeches to end the war. He's a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him. There's talk about his charisma and good looks, but I know a nerd when I see one. The dude is Urkel with a better tailor.

All of this is clear to me, and yet I have fallen victim. I was at an Obama rally in Las Vegas last month, hanging at the rope line afterward in the cold night desert air, just to see him up close, to make sure he was real. I'd never heard a politician talk so bluntly, calling U.S. immigration policy "scapegoating" and "demagoguery." I'd never had even a history teacher argue that our nation's history is a series of brave people changing others' minds when things were on the verge of collapse. I want the man to hope all over me.

Still, I can't help but feel incredibly embarrassed about my feelings. In the "Yes We Can" music video that will.i.am made of Obama's Jan. 8 speech, I spotted Eric Christian Olsen, a very smart actor I know. (His line is "Yes we can.") I called to see if he had gone all bobby-soxer for Obama, or if he was just shrewdly taking a part in a project that upped his Q rating.

Turns out Olsen not only contributed money, he volunteered in Iowa and California and made hundreds of calls. He also sent out a mass e-mail to his friends that contained these lines: "Nothing is more fundamentally powerful than how I felt when I met him. I stood, my hand embraced in his, and ... I felt something ... something that I can only describe as an overpowering sense of Hope." That's the gayest e-mail I've ever read, and I get notes from guys who've seen me on E!

When I started to make fun of Olsen, he said: "I get that it's a movement. But it's not like a movement for Nickelback. For the first time, we should feel justified in our passion. You don't have to feel embarrassed about it, buddy." It was a convincing argument until he told me he cried during an Obama speech. That did not help me feel less lame.

So to de-Romeo-ize, I called someone immune to Obama's hottie dreaminess: a white suburban feminist baby boomer. To get two things done at once, I called my mother.

My mom, a passionate Hillary Clinton supporter, immediately attacked Obamamania. "Some part of me wants to say, 'People wake up. He has no plans.' I get frustrated listening to his speeches after awhile," she said. She also said that the new vacation house in Key West is really great and her vertigo hasn't been acting up.

I started to feel a little more grounded again. Did I want to be some dreamer hippie loser, or a person who understands that change emerges from hard work and conflict? "People are projecting an awful lot onto him," Mom said. "Almost like what was that movie with, oh, the movie, oh God. That English actor, he practically said nothing. Oh shoot. He was the butler and everybody loved him and what he was thinking and feeling. Do you know the movie I'm talking about? You don't." Hers, of course, is the demographic most likely to vote.

But she's right. Obama is Peter Sellers in "Being There." As a therapist, she's seen the danger of ungrounded expectations. "You feel young again. You feel like everything is possible. He helps you feel that way and you want to feel that way; it's a great marriage. Unfortunately, the divorce will happen very quickly." Mom is the kind of realistic tough-talker who isn't afraid to make divorce analogies to a child of divorce.

"We want what he represents," she said. "A young, idealistic person who really believes it. And he believes it. He believes he can change the world. I just don't think he can."

Thing is, I've watched too many movies and read too many novels; I can't root against a person who believes he can change the world. The best we Obamaphiles can do is to refrain from embarrassing ourselves. And I do believe that we can resist making more "We Are the World"-type videos. We can resist crying jags. We can resist, in every dinner argument and every e-mail, the word "inspiration." Yes, we can.

Which Presidential Candidate Wins On Google? 

"McCain is against Net Neutrality, believing the market will right itself without government intervention. That might be why he took in $0 from Yahoo, and just $1,550 from Google.

Don't feel bad for him though, McCain has mentioned making Cisco CEO John Chambers a cabinet member. Cisco doesn't like Net Neutrality either, especially with all the network filtering equipment they make.
Jason Miller

It's funny, cause I actually did some research for a presentation on this very topic below, but just got too damn drunk tired to finish it. Yup, that's what happens when you get old.

Thank God someone did the due diligence for me.

Enjoy Jason's writeup here:


Now that the US Presidential candidates have been campaigning for a solid year, we're running out of angles from which to look at them. Since the Googleplex has hosted each of the remaining candidates, we thought we'd use the Google search engine to find those new angles.

This can show us a few things: what the Internet "climate," so to speak, is for the candidates; how they stand on issues affecting the Internet; and which ones are making the best use of the Internet for their campaigns.

And I'll try to keep my opinions out of it. (Cub)Scout's honor.

If you were just now tuning in to the race, and your TV's busted, you might search Google Images to find out what the candidates look like.

Aside from the first image of Senator Barack Obama, which features "gangsta" Obama allegedly pandering to the African American audience, the rest, for the most part, look nice and Presidential. If you just search for "Obama," it's a little more casual, featuring a more JFK, Jr.-esque shirtless beach shot, and of course his would-be Kennedy-esque mistress.

Hillary (don't click that without safe search mode ON), on the other hand, doesn't get quite the treatment Barack does. She's featured as the Devil in both the informal "Hillary" return and the "Hillary Clinton" return (where she's poking Bill in the rear with a pitchfork), as well as Darth Vader, or is featured with various decidedly monstrous looks on her face. Google Images doesn't appear to like Hillary much, but that baby pic is priceless.

John McCain, according to Google Images, is a pirate. And a GI Joe. And is most often draped in the Stars and Stripes. Sometimes Presidential, sometimes crazy guy at the bar angry because you looked at him funny. POW camp kind of does that to a guy.

Okay, so Google Images clearly favors either McCain or Obama, depending on your POV, which puts Hillary last in our forthcoming analysis (besides, "ladies first" is so sexist). We'll start with Obama because, according to Google Suggest, nobody knows who he is.

What Google Tells Us About Obama

If you're the type of person who listens to what President Bush says and thinks we should do the opposite, then Obama's your man. In this Editor & Publisher report, Bush called McCain a "true conservative" (a statement Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingram and Coulter might all disagree with), and said Hillary was "well-prepared for the job." And Barack? Bush doesn't like Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. And if anybody knows about bad foreign policy, it's Bush.

That's the last time. Honestly.

Obama's well-liked at the Googleplex, especially since he was the only candidate to answer correctly CEO Eric Schmidt's Google employment question, which is about "the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers."

He answered "I think the bubble sort would be the wrong way to go." That's apparently correct because the crowd applauded. Giving me a math problem is like putting a chimp at the helm of an atom-smasher. Still, I think this is the correct answer: "Give them to a Google employee."

During that interview, Obama voiced support for Network Neutrality (a topic you're unlikely to hear about off the Internet), and unveiled his technological plan for the nation, which included the appointment of a Chief Technical Officer to help make the government more transparent online.

As far as utilizing the Internet in his campaign goes, he's been early and aggressive online, making use of YouTube, MySpace, and Google AdWords, especially to ward off a smear campaign suggesting he was Muslim. That question, by the way,—whether he's Muslim—is the top Google suggestion for "Obama is…."

Google also tells us that, according to Slate, Obama is the most Google-like candidate, if you were to compare him to a company. A young, exciting, inspiring, dreamy upstart…whose stock has fallen, says my boss, hardee-har-har.

But even still, after all that Silicon Valley love – Google led contributors to his campaign, choosing him over Clinton and McCain – Obama failed to carry the region. Silicon Valley went the way of Microsoft. And the Obama Girl? Well, maybe she caught a cold by not wearing enough at the Google-YouTube New Hampshire pre-primary party, because she sort of didn't go cast her vote in the New Jersey primary. Et tu, Amber Lee?

McCain, Your General Motors Pirate Guy

Google Suggest suggests that McCain is an insane, liberal traitor, or at best an old conservative. But if you're the type to go against anything MoveOn.org says, which has thrown it's support via donated money and advertising to Obama, then McCain's your man.

And he's earned your support. For every dollar McCain's campaign spent online he earned $4 in campaign donations. Not a bad return at all. His email campaign did better, pulling $189 average donations at a cost of $8 per donor. He's savvy when it comes to Internet campaigning, utilizing AdWords, AdSense, and MySpace to bolster support.

His ads don't always hit the mark. Some of his AdSense flyovers ended up in enemy territory thanks to some faulty contextual targeting. And he had to diffuse a McCain googlebomb at some point, which seems to have been unsuccessful. His attack on Hillary worked pretty well though.

While visiting the Googleplex, Schmidt let McCain off the hook by not making him answer the efficient bit-sorting thing, and McCain struck a cord with Googlers with this nugget:

“If Google is going to be able to maintain its supremacy in the world, it is going to have to continue to get the best and the brightest from all over the world, and I accept with your gigantic egos, that you are the best…we need an H1B visa program that works.”

But he wasn't pandering. Soon after, a Googler got the "McCain story" Rick Santorum was talking about as the two of them argued about the war in Iraq. And McCain wasn't exactly gentle. And he's still kind of mad at Google and Yahoo for their involvements with China.

He's against Net Neutrality, believing the market will right itself without government intervention. That might be why he took in $0 from Yahoo, and just $1,550 from Google. Don't feel bad for him though, McCain has mentioned making Cisco CEO John Chambers a cabinet member. Cisco doesn't like Net Neutrality either, especially with all the network filtering equipment they make.

Luckily for him, the Navajo put their anti-McCain pitch on Google Base where nobody'd see it, and nobody remembers the Keating thing either. Probably. At least, nobody's brought it up yet, anyway.

While Obama is compared to Google, that same Slate article compared McCain to General Motors, calling them both "old warhorses" and implying McCain's brand wouldn't keep pace with the new efficiency. But as half my family is employed in the steel industry, I have to say, never, ever count old GM out.

Clinton, Our Microsoft

Google Suggest isn't kind to Sen. Clinton, either, suggesting she "is" a fake, a joke, even the devil. Slate compared her to General Electric, the "mega-cap blue-chip, a juggernaut of the 1990s," but I like the comparison to Microsoft better, especially if Obama is Google.

In fact, out of Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, Clinton pulled in the most from Mr. Softy, the Beast of Redmond, and carried Silicon Valley, too. She also has visited the Googleplex, but unfortunately, it looks like Clinton specified "no math questions" before Schmidt was allowed to interview her.

Clinton is also pro-Net Neutrality and has backed legislation in Congress. Her larger broadband expansion plans have come under fire recently, as she has based them on Kentucky Connect, which wasn't quite the darling it was made out to be.

Rest assured, just like Microsoft with Google, wherever Obama is, there you'll find Clinton, too, especially online. In AdWords, on YouTube and MySpace.

Final Tally

Let's take a few things into consideration here. From a PageRank standpoint, Obama's website is beating McCain's, PR 7 to PR 5 (as of last August), but McCain's MySpace profile PR is ahead of Obama's 7 to 6. Clinton's website 6, her MySpace profile 5.

Advantage Obama.

Obama has 271,000 MySpace friends, compared to Hillary's 181,000, and McCain's disappointing 44,000.

Therefore, the overall Internet winner for the US Presidential Election of 2008 is…

Ron Paul?


Do We Really Want Another Black President After The Events Of Deep Impact? 

From the Onion.

Hoist of the Guinness to BG for the link.


Do We Really Want Another Black President After The Events Of Deep Impact?

I am not prejudiced. Far from it. What I am—or, I should say, who I am—is a man who loves his country so deeply that he is unwilling to stand idly by while our nation allows itself to be completely annihilated by another incoming comet.

Have we learned nothing from the tragic events of 1998, when, under the watch of President Morgan Freeman, this nation was plunged into chaos, and hundreds of millions of people died at the hands of the deadly Wolf-Beiderman space rock? The mere fact that this country is even considering putting another black man, Barack Obama, in the Oval Office proves that we have not.

We can't deny the facts, people. All we will get by electing an African-American is Texas-size space particles crashing into the Earth's surface, mega-tsunamis that barrel into the Appalachian Mountains, and 6.6 billion dead people.

I'm not suggesting that President Freeman was directly responsible for the creation of the Wolf-Beiderman comet or its Earth-bound path. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is that under the watch of a black man that comet destroyed the entire Eastern seaboard. So, if history is any indicator, a vote for Barack Obama in 2008 is essentially a vote for the complete and total obliteration of the human race.

Don't we owe it to our children, and our children's children, to use this upcoming election to guarantee the Earth's existence rather than dooming it for eternity?

To even risk putting Mr. Obama in a position where he would insist, as past black presidents have, that our nuclear arsenal is powerful enough to divert the incoming comet would be foolish, to say the least. Any decision like that would only break the fast-approaching space rock into two very powerful asteroids, both of which would end up heading straight for Earth, leaving all of us who aren't on the small list of people picked to live in the government-sponsored protective caves to burn, drown, or die while in the arms of our estranged fathers. The only difference is, this time around, the late astronaut Robert Duvall will not be alive to save millions of lives by conducting a suicide space mission to destroy the larger of the two asteroids before it enters the Earth's atmosphere.

In my book, any possible repeat of this extinction-level event is reason enough not to elect another African-American president. Consider that later that same summer, just two months after the first deep impact, this very country once again faced Armageddon in the form of another comet hurtling toward Earth. In this instance, under the watch of a white president who sort of looked like an older Dennis Quaid, that catastrophe was avoided entirely.

As if that is not enough, history shows us that, besides carrying the baggage of a guaranteed asteroid strike, black heads of state also give terrorists extra motivation to destroy the United States. During the presidency of 24's David Palmer, there were no fewer than four nuclear bombs smuggled into this country. That's four more than under any white president. Though we should have known better than to elect President Palmer in the first place (he was elected three years after President Freeman left office), the U.S. populace made him the commander in chief because it was swayed by then-Senator Palmer's commitment to change, his no-nonsense approach, and his ability to inspire. Sound familiar?†

Asteroids and nuclear bombs—that's what this nation can expect from an Obama White House.

Need I even mention that former President Chris Rock and his administration's slogan was "The only thing white is the house"? Though this attitude broke down the stuffiness typically associated with proper White House decorum, President Rock's laissez-faire approach not only made a mockery of the office at home, but made the United States look like a joke abroad.

I concede that the United States has had a competent African-American president in the huge black guy from the The Fifth Element, who did great things for this country by keeping the evil Mr. Zorg at bay. But that is years from now. There is no denying that by 2236, when we have flying taxicabs, this country will be ready for a black president. But until then, if we want life in this great land to continue as we know it, we owe it to ourselves to make the right choice and reelect Kevin Kline.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's hilarious. I've got poker posts to do yet I can't resist the urge to blog this.

From the AP wire:


Chickens come home to roost

WASHINGTON - For years, Bill and Hillary Clinton treated the Democratic National Committee and party activists as extensions of their White House ambitions, pawns in a game of success and survival.

She may pay a high price for their selfishness soon.

Top Democrats, including some inside Hillary Clinton's campaign, say many party leaders — the so-called superdelegates — won't hesitate to ditch the former New York senator for Barack Obama if her political problems persist. Their loyalty to the first couple is built on shaky ground.

"If (Barack) Obama continues to win .... the whole raison d'etre for her campaign falls apart and we'll see people running from her campaign likes rats on a ship," said Democratic strategist Jim Duffy, who is not aligned with either campaign.

The rats started looking for clear waters when Obama won Iowa, narrowly lost New Hampshire and trounced Clinton in South Carolina before holding his own in last week's Super Tuesday contests. He won Virginia's primary Tuesday and stood to claim Maryland and the District of Columbia to extend his consecutive win streak to eight.

Obama has won 21 of 33 contests, earning the majority of delegates awarded on the basis of election results. The remaining 796 delegates are elected officials and party leaders whose votes are not tied to state primaries or caucuses; thus, they are dubbed "superdelegates."

And they are not all super fans of the Clintons.

Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.

Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.

Some served in Congress when the Clintons dismissed their advice on health care reform in 1993. Some called her a bully at the time.

Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons and watched President Bush use the White House to build up the Republican National Committee.

Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Some are allies of former Vice President Al Gore who still believe the Lewinsky scandal cost him the presidency in 2000.

Some are House members (or former House members) who still blame Clinton for Republicans seizing control of the House in 1994.

Some are donors who paid for the Clintons' campaigns and his presidential library.

Some are folks who owe the Clintons a favor but still feel betrayed or taken for granted. Could that be why Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse her even after an angry call from the former president? "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"

And some just want something new. They appreciate the fact that Clinton was a successful president and his wife was an able partner, but they never loved the couple as much as they feared them.

Never count the Clintons out. They are brilliant politicians who defied conventional wisdom countless times in Arkansas and Washington. But time is running out.

A senior Clinton adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the campaign feels the New York senator needs to quickly change the dynamic, perhaps by forcing Obama into a poor debate performance this month. That's grasping at straws, but the adviser said he can't see any other way that her campaign will be sustainable after losing 10 in a row.

The fear inside the Clinton camp is that Obama will win Hawaii and Wisconsin next week and head into the March 4 contests for Ohio and Texas with a 10-race winning streak. Her poll numbers will drop in Texas and Ohio, Clinton aides fear, and party leaders will start hankering for an end to the fight.

Clinton should find little comfort in the fact that she has secured 242 superdelegates to Obama's 160.

"I would make the assumption that the ... superdelegates she has now are the Clintons' loyal base. A superdelegate who is uncommitted today is clearly going to wait and see how this plays out. She's at her zenith now," Duffy said. "Whatever political capital or IOUs that exist, she's already collected."

Few Democrats wants to cross the Clintons when they're on top. But how many are willing to stand by them when they're down?

Monday, February 11, 2008

I keep reading all about these so-called Super Delegates.

Is that like a Super-User in online poker?

Sure seems like it.


Opinion: Obama Will Win Nomination

Opinion by Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Contributor

To get right to the point, I believe Barack Obama is going to win the Democratic nomination setting the table for a great race for the fall.

Here's why:

In doing the math on delegates, it looks highly likely that Obama will end up with a pledged delegate lead when all this is finished by June. Even if Hillary wins some big states along the way, Obama will score enough delegates to keep his count moving.

The super delegates (those 796 party folks who can decide on their own who to vote for and change their mind along the way) will be in an unenviable position when all is said and done. They will be getting unbelievable pressure, especially by the Clintons and their establishment backing, to "pledge" to one or the other.

But here is the deal: how does a party who has protested and screamed and yelled about counting all the votes, that the popular vote matters most, that an election was stolen by the Supreme Court in 2000, go against the votes and participation by voters in the Primary process???

The answer is: I think it's impossible for the Democratic party establishment to go against voters in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

It would be an untenable position for the super delegates to award the nomination to a candidate who is behind in the pledged delegate count. And if that was to happen, then the November election becomes a very difficult prospect in motivating voters who backed Obama in the nomination process. And since he seems to be the only one inspiring new voters to the polls, it is hard to dampen that enthusiasm.

So the bottom line is: Obama wins the plurality of pledged delegates, then the super delegates really have to go along with what the voters want. Otherwise, what kind of authenticity would the Democratic party have if it is not about counting the votes and it becomes the decision of the Democratic version of the Supreme Court???

Obama wins; then faces John McCain in the general election in an epic generational battle between two candidates who are calling the country to a sense of common interest and who are both about bringing the country together across party lines.

Now that would be a campaign worth the price of admission.

"The King of Kong' is an uproarious, unsettlingly observant and romantically biased documentary on the golden years of classic gaming. The film presents the viewer with a depiction of aging men trying to defend their glory days through combat waged on arcade games, sweetened naturally by the subculture's glorious predilection for social awkwardness."

I know I'm a little late to the party on this movie, but hell, I was a freshman in high school in 1981, in the heart of the Golden Age of Classic Arcade Games (a 9 year period beginning with the release of Space Invaders in 1978 up through and including the first release of Street Fighter in 1987).

I was an arcade rat, what can I say?

And so now, over 20 years later, I still love games of any kind.

Be they limit texas hold em poker or Centipede, or Galaga, pinball, or Gorf, or even Donkey Kong.

And while I've documented my deep and profound love of documentaries here on this humble poker blog, allow me to add another must-watch. Unlike recent docs about Scrabble, spelling bees, Star Trek or crossword puzzles, there aren't large audiences in this film.

I mean, fucking Donkey Kong came out 26 years ago. What's next? A Scotty Baio reality show on cable tv? Err, wait.

This movie is beyond what Christopher Guest could do. This is why documentaries are so fascinating.

Truth is always stranger than fiction.

Here's the trailer:

I'm posting this article because three buddies have now sent it to me today.

I just hope this election doesn't come down to this. For the love of everything holy and good, can't we have a clear winner?

From the Wall Street Journal:


Clinton v. Obama: The Lawsuit

What splendid theater the Democratic Party presidential nominating process is shaping up to be. And they are just getting started. The real fun would be a convention deadlock denouement a few months from now, the prospect of which is already quickening the pulses of scores of Democratic lawyers who have been waiting more than seven years for an encore of their 2000 presidential-election performances.

Press reports following super-duper Tuesday's primaries and caucuses gave Sen. Clinton a narrow popular vote lead over Barack Obama. At the same time, Sen. Obama's supporters were claiming a narrow lead among pledged delegates. The delegate count keeps changing, of course, and Sen. Clinton's team is also claiming a delegate lead, based in part on a larger share so far of what are known in Democratic Party circles as superdelegates: 796 slots (20% of the total) set aside for members of Congress and a menagerie of assorted elected officials and party Pooh-Bahs.

These superdelegates, Byzantine hyper-egalitarian Democratic Party delegate selection formulas, and the fact that many delegates are selected at conventions or by caucuses rather than primaries, combine to offer the distinct possibility that by convention time the candidate leading in the popular vote in the primaries will be trailing in the delegate count.

How ironic. For over seven years the Democratic Party has fulminated against the Electoral College system that gave George W. Bush the presidency over popular-vote winner Al Gore in 2000. But they have designed a Rube Goldberg nominating process that could easily produce a result much like the Electoral College result in 2000: a winner of the delegate count, and thus the nominee, over the candidate favored by a majority of the party's primary voters.

Imagine that as the convention approaches, Sen. Clinton is leading in the popular vote, but Sen. Obama has the delegate lead. Surely no one familiar with her history would doubt that her take-no-prisoners campaign team would do whatever it took to capture the nomination, including all manner of challenges to Obama delegates and tidal waves of litigation.

Indeed, it has already been reported that Sen. Clinton will demand that the convention seat delegates from Michigan and Florida, two states whose delegates have been disqualified by the party for holding January primaries in defiance of party rules. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those states. But Sen. Clinton opted to keep her name on the Michigan primary ballot, and staged a primary-day victory visit to Florida, winning both of those unsanctioned primaries. Her campaign is arguing that the delegates she won in each state be recognized despite party rules and notwithstanding her commitment not to compete in those primaries. Of course. "Count every vote."

As the convention nears, with Sen. Clinton trailing slightly in the delegate count, the next step might well be a suit in the Florida courts challenging her party's refusal to seat Florida's delegation at the convention. And the Florida courts, as they did twice in 2000, might find some ostensible legal basis for overturning the pre-election rules and order the party to recognize the Clinton Florida delegates. That might tip the balance to Sen. Clinton.

We all know full well what could happen next. The array of battle-tested Democratic lawyers who fought for recounts, changes in ballot counting procedures, and even re-votes in Florida courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 would separate into two camps. Half of them would be relying on the suddenly-respectable Supreme Court Bush v. Gore decision that overturned the Florida courts' post-hoc election rules changes. The other half would be preaching a new-found respect for "federalism" and demanding that the high court leave the Florida court decisions alone.

Would the U.S. Supreme Court even take the case after having been excoriated for years by liberals for daring to restore order in the Florida vote-counting in 2000? And, would Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, the dissenters in Bush v. Gore, feel as strongly about not intervening if Sen. Obama was fighting against an effort to change a presidential election by changing the rules after the fact? Will there be a brief filed by Floridians who didn't vote in their state's primary because the party had decided, and the candidates had agreed, that the results wouldn't count?

In short, the way things are going so far, Sens. Obama and Clinton will probably be so close to one another in delegate count by the time of the convention that all those primary votes may be tabulated, but will turn out to be irrelevant to the outcome. Those 796 superdelegate politicians will decide who the candidate will be. Maybe no cigar or cigarette smoke this time, but back-room politics all the same. All those primary voters and millions in campaign expenses locked out of the room.

This may be one of those déjà vu fantasies that won't happen. But it did happen before. And Florida has a quirky habit of popping up again and again in close presidential elections, having been a factor not only in 2000, but also the epic presidential election controversy of 1876. And Democratic lawyers have undoubtedly kept copies of the legal briefs they filed for Al Gore in 2000 into which their computers can easily substitute the name Clinton for Gore.

If it does happen, I'd be more than happy to loan Sen. Obama the winning briefs that helped secure the election of the legitimate winner of the 2000 election, George W. Bush.

Mr. Olson, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and a former solicitor general of the United States, represented George W. Bush before the Supreme Court in 2000 in Bush v. Gore.

Price Waterhouse Cooper Completes Study for Online Payment Processor

A Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) study revealed that the United States has the potential to collect at least $8.7 billion and up to $17.6 billion in the next 10 years if it would tax and regulate online gambling, including poker. And those figures don’t include potential sports wagers.

The study was commissioned by the UC Group, an online payment service provider that currently doesn’t do business with U.S. customers. The UC Group specifically asked Price-Waterhouse to determine how much tax would be generated if two separate bills addressing online gambling in the U.S. were passed: Barney Frank’s H.R. 2046, “Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act of 2007” (which would regulate and license online gambling in the U.S.) and Jim McDermott’s H.R. 2607, which would impose a two-percent licensing fee onto online gambling companies who want to operate here. Both bills remain in committee.

PWC used U.S. online gambling revenue estimates generated by Global Betting and Gambling Consultants, but it subtracted the amount GBGC estimates would be generated by sports betting. Price-Waterhouse did this because if Frank’s bill was passed, all the major U.S. sport’s leagues would most likely refuse to allow their games to be listed by online sports books located here. Frank’s bill allows for the leagues to choose whether they want to be listed or not.

PWC gave UC Group two estimates and only considered states that allow land-based gambling. If all the states that now allow land-based gambling decided to allow online gambling (under Frank’s bill, states sill get to decide if that want to be included), $17.6 billion in taxes would be generated.

The $8.7 billion figure did not take into account the 10 states that currently have laws on their books that specifically prohibit online gambling even though they allow some forms of gambling (Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington).

In each of these scenarios, most tax dollars (56 percent) would be generated through individual income tax. The rest would come from wagering tax (22 percent) licensing (18 percent) and corporate income tax (four percent).

Barney Frank’s H.R. 2046 was introduced last April. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection on April 30, where it remains. Since being introduced, it picked up 45 co-sponsors.

McDermott’s H.R. 2607 was introduced in June and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. It has one co-sponsor.

If all the states would tax and regulate online gambling, $33.9 billion in taxes would be generated in the next 10 years, according to the PWC study. The numbers rise considerably when PWC includes sports wagers: $10.2 billion (not counting the 10 states that prohibit online wagering); $21.4 billion (including those 10 states); and $42.8 billion if all states decided to take part.

Election Odds from BetUS 

Here's the betting odds on the election from BetUS.

On Saturday, Barack was listed as the favorite for the 1st time.

Who will be the Democrat presidential candidate in 2008?
Hillary Clinton 1/1
Barack Obama 10/13

2008 Election Winning Party - Sat 2/9 7:00AM (EST)
Democrats 5/9
Republicans 7/5
Any Other Party 100/1

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Information on this site is intended for news and entertainment purposes only.

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