Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Open Thread

Extra-special 7 MVP/7 Cy Young 'roid-enhanced thread!!!

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Huckabamania!!!

This may turn out to be one of the most exciting, unpredictable, presidential races in recent memory.

The respective surges of Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama don't seem to be abating. The former governor has zoomed ahead in South Carolina and, in one poll, Florida as well -- where Rudy Giuliani has fallen into third place (Ron Paul's jump to 11 percent in South Carolina is interesting as well). While that seems to be a reflection of what Huckabee is doing well, Obama is taking advantage of what looks like a meltdown of historic proportions in the Clinton campaign (though the CNN poll still has Hillary leading in SC, other recent surveys have Obama ahead). Getting involved in drugs-and-race story in New Hampshire is most definitely not what HRC was looking for -- as Obama overtakes her in the Granite State.

Hillary has the money and organization to turn this around. But she'd better come up with a better narrative for her campaign -- and soon -- or an increasingly confident Obama may run away with this.

If Huck and Bam actually knock off the favorite, better-known and funded candidates in their respective parties, this election may end up being known as the Revenge of the Bases. The evangelicals feel that they shouldn't have to "settle" for a nominee that they don't trust or shares their values. The liberal base feels that it's time to turn the page from the Clinton years -- and a woman who (in their view) was wrong on the war.

Buckle your seatbelts -- but pass the popcorn. The ride might be bumpy, but you might as well have some munchies!

UPDATE: Pre-postmortems for Hillary? Howard Fineman and Peggy Noonan.

UPDATE II: Dan Balz looks back at the disastrous day in Philadelphia that first threw Hillary off course. RT noted at the time how Gov. Eliot Spitzer's since-abandoned driver's license plan might turn out to be the wild-card derailing Hillary's plans.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

 

Obama's Debate Quip

Great exchange between Obama, the moderator and Hillary Clinton in today's Iowa Democratic debate.

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Intra-Party Racial Politics

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers makes a great observation on why the Clinton campaign's attack on Obama over the drug issue is backfiring:

The second generation story emerging from yesterday's Billy Shaheen story is that African Americans are up in arms over the insinuation that Obama will be asked if he was a drug dealer. On African American radio stations, callers were correctly observing that not even the most in-your-face reporters asked Al Gore or George W. Bush if he actually sold drugs as opposed to using them. Why is a black candidate who admitted to youthful drug use expected to answer such questions? I truly think Hillary needs to fire Shaheen to repair the potential rift, and not just make him apologize, which is what they've done. This story really could cause the first serious black flight from Hillary.
That's quite right. Hillary is in serious trouble. The Clinton campaign seemed to have bows in its quiver: The first was the "inevitability"/"restoration" argument. But, her debate Philadelphia debate and follow-up stumbling fatally punctured that. Her next option is to go into attack mode. But Hillary Clinton in attack mode is not a pleasant sight. She has historically done better when she is perceived as the victim -- not the pushy aggressor. As I pointed out in an earlier Comment thread:

Obama's early strategy of trying to be "post-politics" and not being negative seemed to make it difficult for him to lay a hand on Hillary. However, as she's stumbled and he's surged ahead, her attacks on him make her look petty and remind many people about the dark side of Clinton-style attack politics. The drug stuff looks desperate. Credit Obama: It's hard to "attack" someone when his life is, *literally*, an open book. He's admitted to using drugs (even coke) and didn't pull any weaselly boomer-style language like, Bubba's "I didn't inhale," or W's "When I was young and foolish, I did young and foolish things." Obama told it straight.

But Hillary's person has tried to take Obama's honesty on the drug issue and exaggerate it in a way that will turn off voters in general -- and black voters, in particular.

Meanwhile, in a man-bites-dog moment, I actually agree with Dick Morris on the impact of Oprah on Obama:

Oprah sends a message to all American women that it is OK not to vote for Hillary and one to African-Americans that they need to vote for Obama. Were Oprah seen primarily as a black leader, her endorsement of a candidate of her own race running against one of her own gender wouldn’t mean that much. If her reputation were one for putting her race constantly ahead of her gender, her endorsement of Obama would seem automatic. But that is not who Oprah is.

...

But to black voters, Oprah’s endorsement, precisely because it flies in the face of her gender, is especially significant. The message it sends to African-Americans is: It’s time. Her foray into politics to endorse Obama makes it clear that his candidacy has special relevance to all black men and women everywhere. It is not so much that she has reached into politics to back Obama as that the senator’s candidacy has such meaning for any citizen who is black that it reaches into Oprah’s life and demands that she come forth to support it. Her endorsement seems to suggest that just as anti-Catholic bigotry went away when John Kennedy was elected, so racism may fade in the aftermath of an Obama presidency.

UPDATE: Hillary's NH co-chair resigns after Obama drug comments. This is a scene out of campaign that is clearly playing defense and in near-panic mode. This is pretty significant: Shaheen is the husband of Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor and current U.S. Senate candidate. He's also a former state party chairman. This gives new meaning to the phrase "blowback."

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Needles and Pins

The Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball is said to include "several prominent Yankees".

ESPN reported this morning that one of those names is Roger Clemens. The Rocket's (and Andy Pettitte's) former trainer is said to have told Mitchell that he supplied Clemens with steroids.

If this is true, that means that arguably the best position player (Barry Bonds) and the best pitcher of the current era may have padded their stats with performance-enhancing drugs.

The report is to be released today at 1 2 P.M.


UPDATE (1:00 PM): Barry Bonds, obviously, is facing a trial for perjury in the BALCO steroids case. It will be some months before that is resolved. Depending on how that trial goes, the appearance of Roger Clemens in the steroids story may, ironically, enhance Bonds' chances of going to the Hall of Fame. Many sportswriters were saying that they wouldn't vote for Bonds because of the steroids issue -- even though he had already amassed a Hall of Fame career before he apparently started juicing (circa 1999). If it now looks like Clemens started doing the stuff around the same time, will sportswriters make the samed conclusion that the Rocket should be kept out -- or will they conclude now that this is a completely tainted era (including the best pitcher and the best player, among many others) where players should be judged on their stats apart from when they started taking stuff (if that can be ascertained). Keep in mind that if Bonds never plays again and Clemens officially retires (as it is now almost certain he will), they would both be eligible for the HOF in 2012.

While this isn't a good thing to contemplate, I'm thinking that Major League Baseball is "happy" that a big white superstar like Clemens has been implicated. There was an undercurrent in some articles that Bonds was being persecuted because he was black -- while white stars like Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi hardly got much attention. Now, of course, the main reason for that is that Bonds was still playing and he was chasing one of the sports most cherished records. McGwire was thoroughly humiliated after his 2006 congressional hearing -- an appearance that cost him election to the Hall of Fame the next year. Meanwhile, the majority of players suspended for steroids/HGH use throughout baseball (including the minors) have been Latino.

Fairly or not, having a white superstar gets MLB off the hook of looking like this is an attempt to unfairly target minority players. (Yes, I recognize that players like Rick Ankiel, David Segui and Paul Byrd have been named in previous performance enhancing stories, but they aren't in the same category as a Bonds or Clemens).

UPDATE II (2:15 PM): Here's the full Mitchell Report -- all 400 pages! This list was circulating around earlier today. Use it guardedly, as a possible, ahem, "cheat-sheet" to compare with the official report.

UPDATE III: Current and former New York Yankees players of some prominence mentioned in the Mitchell Report: Clemens, Giambi, Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Ron Villone...

UPDATE IV: Sports Illustrated reports that this is hardly the end of the "naming of names." Ongoing investigations will inevitably bring more names to light.

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Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 15 Picks

THERE IS A SATURDAY GAME THIS WEEK, SO ALL PICKS MUST BE IN BEFORE 8:15 PM EST ON SATURDAY. Is that clear enough?

And just for the record, I like the Broncos over the Texans in tonight's game.

My picks this week:

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers: Two teams with coaches on the hot seat. But it's hard to see the Bengals defense stopping Frank Gore.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: This game should be close, but the Hawks bring just a little more to the game.
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns: I would not have expected this game to have playoff implications, but it does. This is the game of the week, as these two teams are about equal in my mind. It could go either way, but I am leaning towards the Browns. They have a better offensive line.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs: In a Jeff Fisher vs. Herm Edwards coaching battle, who do you pick?
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins: The Fish could pull out of their funk with this game, as the Ravens are nothing special. More likely, the Fish go down once more.
New York Jets at New England Patriots: At this point, the only team that can beat the Patriots IS the Patriots.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: Close game between two underachievers.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers: The Jaguars are appropriately named. This team is like a jungle cat that quietly sneaks up on you. By the time you realize they are there, it's too late, and the game is over. Sorry Steeler fans, but the Jags are too good for your team.
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams: Mismatch.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: So long Bobby Petrino. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. That said, I am glad to see
Emmitt Thomas get a coaching job, even if it is only interim.
Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders: Take pity on us Tony Dungy!
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: I just don't see the Eagles having the firepower for this one.
Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers: The Bolts are too much here.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants: Eli Manning is NOT a bad quarterback. The New York fans need to get off his case. The problem for the Giants is simple: offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: If the Bears had an offense, I might look for them to win here.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 

U.S. To New York (Candidates): Drop Dead

New York son and, uh, adopted daughter, start to feel the non-love from the rest of the country.

Already trailing in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton's lead in New Hampshire collapses -- and Obama's Oprah-fying of the black vote causes him to blast by her in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Huckamania sweeps the GOP as Mayor Rudy Giuliani's support
shrinks to its lowest point of the year.

(By the way, the fact that Hillary has a 30 percent lead nationwide in the Post/ABC poll is irrelevant. That lead will evaporate quickly if Obama wins the first three contests.)


UPDATE: I missed this Frank Rich column last week. Since Rich is usually predictable (though a good writer), I rarely cite him. However, he identifies what might be the animating spirit between the Obama and Huckabee "insurgencies" that threaten both Hillary and Rudy:

What really may be going on here is a mirror image of the phenomenon that has upended Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” among Democrats. Like Senator Obama, Mr. Huckabee is the youngest in his party’s field. (At 52, he’s also younger than every Democratic contender except Mr. Obama, who is 46.) Both men have a history of speaking across party and racial lines. Both men possess that rarest of commodities in American public life: wit. Most important, both men aspire (not always successfully) to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era.
Though their views on issues are often antithetical, Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Obama may be united in catching the wave of an emerging zeitgeist that is larger than either party’s ideology.
.....

The fact to remember about Mr. Huckabee’s polling spike is that it occurred
just after the G.O.P.
YouTube debate on CNN, where Mr. Romney and Rudy Giuliani vied to spray the most spittle at illegal immigrants. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, the fringe candidate whose most recent ads accuse the invading hordes of “pushing drugs, raping kids, destroying lives,” accurately accused his opponents of trying to “out-Tancredo Tancredo.”

Next to this mean-spiritedness, Mr. Huckabee’s tone leapt off the screen. Attacked by Mr. Romney for supporting an Arkansas program aiding the children of illegal immigrants, he replied, “In all due respect, we’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.” It was a winning moment, politically as well as morally. And a no-brainer at that. Given that Mr. Tancredo polls at 4
percent
among Iowan Republicans and zero nationally, it’s hard to see why Rudy-Romney thought it was smart to try to out-Tancredo Tancredo.

....

Mr. Obama’s campaign, though hardly the long shot of Mr. Huckabee’s, could also fall short. But the Clinton camp’s panic over his rise in the Iowa polls shows that he’s on the right tactical track. The more polarizing and negative a candidate turns in style, the more that candidate risks playing Nixon to Mr. Obama’s Kennedy. That Mrs. Clinton’s minions would attack Mr. Obama for unseemly ambition because he wrote a kindergarten report called “I Want to Become President” — and then
snidely belittle the press for falling for “a joke” once this gambit backfired — is Rudy-Romneyesque in its vituperative folly.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

Mitt Hits The Fan

Romney For President says National Review.

UPDATE: While John Derbyshire happily dissents in an a-Paul-ing manner!

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Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 14 Results & Mike Vick

The best pick this week was made by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, when he chose to give Mike Vick 23 months in prison, instead of the 12-18 months recommended in Vick's plea agreement.

I know a lot of people want to see Vick out of football forever, but I personally hope Vick can learn from this mistake, get his head on straight, and come back better than ever in a few years. Although if he doesn't play well, I am sure the fans will have him on a "short leash".

Seriously though, in our weekly picks, I win!
EdMcGon - 13
David Stefanini - 12
FunkyPundit - 12
Audio Dave - 12
Robert A. George - 10
Bill Barker - 7
J. Mark English - 6

In the YTD standings, David Stefanini returns to sole possession of the top spot, but with only two games separating him from Robert George and me:

David Stefanini(2) - 118
EdMcGon(3) - 116
Robert A. George(2) - 116
J. Mark English(1) - 98
Bill Barker - 92
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 76
BL(2) - 74
Audio Dave(2.5) - 60
SoloD(1) - 53
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Snave - 8
Mike - 8
Moose - 2


UPDATE: Originally, I had Bill Barker with the weekly win. WRONG! Barker posted his picks after 1:00 pm on Sunday, so I had to take away all his 1:00 games, leaving him with 7 games. Sorry Bill.

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Another Reason To Love Ron Paul

Not only is he a comic book fan -- his favorite is a Batman comic:
'My favorite comic book superhero is Baruch Wane, otherwise known as Batman, in The Batman Chronicles. 'The Berlin Batman,' #11 in the series by Paul Pope, details Batman's attempts to rescue the confiscated works of persecuted Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, from Nazi Party hands. “Batman's assistant Robin writes in the memoirs, '[Mises] was an advocate of individual liberty, free speech, and free thinking... and so, should I add, the Berlin Batman.' Batman, a Jew in hiding in Nazi Austria, was willing to risk his life for the sake of the promulgation of freedom, and I find this to be super-heroic.'
Admittedly, it is "non-canon", i.e. an alternate or variation on the traditional Batman, but it so random and rare that Paul definitely gets points for being aware of its existence .

Conversely, if the question just happened to get to a Paul staffer who was aware of the comic, Paul gets major kudos for actually having someone on the campaign who knew about the story -- and matching it with Dr. Paul's philosophical viewpoint. Now, just try to imagine how much polling Hillary Clinton would have done before assessing what her favorite comic should/would be.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

 

RAG Improv Performance 12/14 & 12/15

Not sure whether to go with "Merry Christmas", "Happy Channukkah", "Carefree Kwanzaa" -- or "Happy Holidays"?

Not even sure how to spell Hannukwanzaa? Feel like you're just making up the whole seasonal thing as you go along?!!?

Excellent!

You're in the perfect mood for "The Yes Show" !

If you're in The Big Apple this weekend, come check out my improvising pals and myself this Friday and/or Saturday!

Date: Friday, Dec. 14 & Saturday, Dec. 15
Time: 8:00 p.m.Location: Stonestreet Studios, 48 W. 21st Street (bet. 5th & 6th).
Cost: $15 (with free beer!)

Lots of fun and games, a la "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" -- and a great way to temporarily avoid the shopping madness!

Hope to see you there!

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