February 23, 2008

We happy few who read Matt Welch's epic McCain: The Myth of a Maverick were already well aware of the propensity of the Engineer of the Straight Talk Express to shade the truth in blatant, often clumsy, ways. The revelations this week that he used his position as committee chairman to help the cause of a favored lobbyist (and who would have ever believed that conservatives would rally behind the presumptive GOP nominee after allegations of an affair with the principal lobbyist for Univision !!) were certainly old news to us: Welch describes the controversy with Paxson Communications on p. 197 of his book.

But the audacity of his lies on this issue beggars credulity. Here's a video of Mr. Welch which shows what the state of play is on this week's stories. What really is dispiriting about the whole mess is the pointlessness of his mendacity. No one cares about an ethical mess that occurred (and was fully aired) eight years ago; it's his desire to be such a sanctimonious scold on this and any number of other issues that gives this issue resonance. It's like a recovering alcoholic going through the Program but unable to publicly admit that they could ever do anything foolish or hurtful to others while under the influence.

February 19, 2008

Please Back Away From the Keyboard: Classic Ken Layne, liveblogging tonight's returns over at Wonkette:
11:24 PM — Lanny Davis is on Fox News right now, giving Hillary some much-needed weak Obama attacks to Sean Hannity’s elderly bedridden viewers.
11:29 PM —Wait, is that Blood Red Moon Eclipse tonight? Because the Moon is not doing much over here, outside our window.
11:30 PM — Barack won overwhelming majorities of every demographic except for “
bitter middle-aged liberal women who always bum
everybody out, even at a child’s birthday party, because cake is part of the institutionalized misogynist order
11:31 PM — Did we mention the CNN view of the McCain “victory party” when Washington state was called for the old crazy person? The room was completely empty. All 30 people went to bed when Grandpa Nutsy went to bed. (And his wife Cindy moves stealthily from hotel room to hotel room, collecting Rx bottles.)
The last reference is to a story that is told with much more clarity by Matt Welch, here, and of course, here.
Fidel Castro and Bobby Knight retire in the same month, to be replaced by family members. Figures.

February 18, 2008

Fan Shen: There seems to be a great disconnect out there between what bothers journalists and what bothers real people. With sports, we saw last week how that disconnect operates, when the jackasses in Congress spent an entire day trying to decide whatever it was Roger Clemens injected into his ass a full decade ago. For sportswriters, it was an issue of Clemens taking steroids and imperiling his HOF credentials. For fans watching the display, it was the comical sight of a former baseball icon ineptly lying, during a spectacle that was little different than the HUAC hearings fifty years ago, with friends being asked to snitch out friends.

One of the sad spectacles we are seeing now is the demand that baseball stars named in the Mitchell Report perform a public self-denunciation ritual that would have embarassed a Maoist satrap during the Cultural Revolution. One pitcher candidly discusses his use of HGH to recover from an injury, and he gets denounced by some harpy for not being contrite enough. Another great refuses to answer questions to a previous Congressional mob some years back, and it's as if he leaked the H-Bomb secrets to the Reds. So it's no wonder that the first inclination of some players is to issue the non-apology apology: Mistakes Were Made, I Regret Anything That May Have Offended Others, and I'm Sorry to Have Been a Distraction.

Fans, of course, could care less. Although there has always been a consensus point of view that the use of anabolic steroids is worthy of public admonishment, largely because they are both unhealthy for the user and give the user a competitive advantage, the use of HGH simply doesn't carry the same stigma, for good reason. The evidence that HGH has a deleterious impact on adult users simply isn't as overwhelming, and the motivation for using, to recover quicker from injuries, is one all fans can cheer. That it can also be used to more quickly recover from fatigue is more problematic, but I doubt there are any Dodger fans out there who regret being excited about seeing Eric Gagne coming into a game in 2004. Smoking pot is also against the law, but I doubt that will keep Barack Obama out of the White House this November.

Like the recurring media obsession with college athletes getting money under the table, it is a topic that simply doesn't resonate in the real world. Malum prohibitum violations rarely do, since all of us "cheat," to some extent. All of us overstay our time in a one-hour parking stop, hoping we don't get caught, and the fact that occasionally we do means we don't begrudge others for doing the same. But much like the a-holes on talk radio who obsess about the "illegals" coming across the border to pick lettuce at $5 an hour, sportswriters need a focus to vent their feelings of inferiority, so the Ritual Denunciation story about the Athlete Who Cheats is the hoary chestnut of the Toy Department.
SuperDelegate Math: Right now, the debate is over the manner in which the SuperDelegates should exercise their influence at the Convention this summer, ie., should they vote for the candidate who leads in pledged delegates, should they exercise independent judgment, or should they reflect the will of their constituents. Obviously, if you support Obama, you're more inclined to freeze the race after the last primary, since he will probably be ahead in the pledged delegate count, and/or the combined popular vote, after all the votes are counted.

But if every SuperDelegate were bound to vote for the candidate who won his state's primary or caucus, as of today Clinton would have a narrow lead over Obama, 230-224, even though she trails in the combined popular vote by almost a million.* This reflects the fact that Clinton's wins have generally been in large Blue states, which have a disproportionately higher number of SuperDelegates, and have been by relatively narrower margins, while Obama's wins are generally coming from states that vote Republican, and thus have fewer delegates. I suspect that if SuperDelegate votes were determined by who won a Congressional District, or by even smaller, localized criteria, Obama would have the lead.

All the more reason why the contests in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania will decide this battle well before the Convention. Most of the SuperDelegates are going to have more loyalty to their local constituents than to some amorphous determination of the national will that could be established by a series of contests over a six-month period. Many of them are elected officials in their own right, and have more concern with their next election than they have in supporting whichever candidate wins a narrow plurality in the rest of the country. A Clinton sweep of the remaining four largest states would give her the clear momentum heading into Denver, and give her a stronger electability argument over the slumping Obama, while an Obama win in any of those four states would thwart that narrative.
*I have not counted SuperDelegates from Florida or Michigan in this total.