Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Welcome, Dancer (Man Running in the Rain)"
by Joe David. Posted by Picasa
Analyst: Gore Wins 2008 in a Landslide

Who knows if this new technique even makes sense, but given what it purports to measure, this outcome is highly interesting. An outfit called Media Psychology Affiliates applied "a new research tool called Affective Encryption Analysis," to figure out the likely outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.

The results showed that even with widespread disaffection with The Big Smirk in the White House, most Democrats didn't get a much better reaction. Specifically, the study found that all Democratic candidates tested, including Hillary Clinton, would likely be defeated by a Republican. With one exception.

With a predictive accuracy of 93%, our results showed that Al Gore would easily defeat any Republican challenger in 2008. However, he is the only Democrat on the scene today who has the ability to defeat the likely Republican challengers, who we believe will be either John McCain or Jeb Bush.”

The interesting aspect of this outcome concerns what the analysis measures: not positions on issues, but emotional responses. "Affective Encryption Analysis is a new behavior forecasting tool that looks at how our feelings and emotions can influence our long-term actions,” explains Dr. Herndon. “Traditional survey techniques are not very good at predicting trends. Affective Encryption Analysis was developed to dig deeper into the emotional factors that control our future behaviors.”

The irony of course is that back in 2000, the rap on Gore was that he wasn't likeable, that people didn't have a strong positive feeling about him. Despite that, he won the popular vote and was demonstrably cheated out of the office to which the American people voted him, with the disastrous results we see every minute today, and which we will be paying for in many ways for many many years.

Now Gore is winning on feeling. As a predictive tool, this may well be dubious. But it does suggest that the Gore boomlet now happening has some powerful sources beyond policy.
Robert Kennedy, Jr.: Kerry Won in 2004

The evidence has been growing since November 2004, and now the case is made by environmental lawyer and son of one of the great names in American political life: in the new Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. writes that the Republicans systematically stole the 2004 election for George Bush. In Ohio alone, enough voters were disenfranchised and enough votes not counted or counted wrong to ensure Bush's election. Otherwise John Kerry would now be president of the U.S. And it would not have even been close.

Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections. ''Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,'' Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me.

The indictment of the Republicans and the media establishment that allowed them to get away with stealing this election (after stealing the one before) is relentless and extensive.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

California poppies. Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa
California Poppy

It was a horrendous Memorial day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and despite all the holiday bluster from our fearless leaders, more evidence that the flower of our young are being wasted by this madness in Iraq, and our returning veterans and their families badly treated, as they often have been in our history---one of the many dirty little secrets of our warmaking. We hope for the safety of those there and those who return, and we will do our duty to them, as we condemn those who sent them there and lie in comfort.

Back in the 80's, Sting wrote a brilliant song ("Children's Crusade") which metaphorically linked senseless wars with the despair in peacetime that leads to drug addiction, through the figure of the poppy. "Flanders Fields, where poppies grow" linked that flower to the war dead, and the kind of poppies that makes heroin is of course the drug link.

But even though the California poppy was used medicinally by Native peoples, and reputedly produces a mild sedative effect when smoked, I love it irrationally for its luminous beauty and its wild abundance. I sing more of its praises here.
An Inconvenient Hit

Al Gore's climate crisis movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," has right wing opponents foaming at the mouth. While one fulminates on Fox with baseless claims, others compare Gore to Goebbels and Hitler. But even before the film has been released in most of America, it's a hit.

Last week it was #11 at the box office. What's so great about that, apart from the fact that documentaries rarely get even that high? Consider the film that's #10: it was showing at 1,265 theatres. Gore's movie, one notch down in grosses, was showing in four theatres. That's not four hundred. That's four. That's one thousand two hundred and sixty-one fewer theatres than #10.
They've Got A Secret

When government officials say something is secret because it's a matter of national security, they must know what they're talking about, right? They're protecting us, right?

Sometimes, not so much. And with the current bunch in Washington, probably not very often.

Case in point: a woman in the FBI employed as a translator complained about something she thought was pretty shoddy, and would definitely harm national security. She wasn't listened to, let alone rewarded. In fact, she was fired.

She sued. In court, the FBI didn't defend itself for firing her, it didn't explain that her complaint was wrong or crazy, it didn't explain itself at all. The FBI just said they couldn't talk about it because it was a secret, so the judge had to throw the suit out.

What was the secret she would have exposed? That among other things, the person the FBI was sending to Guantanamo to talk to prisoners who spoke Farsi, did not himself speak Farsi.

In this case and in others like it, it wasn't national security that was at stake: it was job security. The officials involved weren't protecting anybody but themselves and their incompetence.

This is what happens when the judiary rolls over for every claim of the militarized executive, as it did in this case. This is what happens when you give people this kind of power without institutional conscience being applied. Without oversight, without checks and balances.
Nobody has yet come up with an example of an enemy getting a secret that damaged national security from a judge or a Congressional body monitoring for abuse of power, nor for that matter of a press report.

That the people running things in Washington are on the whole hopelessly incompetent if not venal opportunists, and the fact that they are the most secrecy minded bunch in American history, kind of matches up well. When you're a screwup, you'd naturally like to keep that a secret. When what you're really doing, and the reasons for doing it, are not what you tell the public, that's another swell reason for slapping Top Secret on everything, and telling judges that they can't judge, and investigators they can't investigate, because it's all a big Secret.

Well, their Secret is out. They can't handle the truth. They can't operate in a constitutional democracy. They can only flourish in their petty darkness.

UPDATE: A Supreme Court decision today seems to limit protection of whistleblowers by denying free speech protection to speech as a government employee with their employers. The case was brought by a lawyer in a DA's office who complained that a warrant was issued on falsd pretenses. While this 5-4 decision isn't likely to encourage better or more honest governance, it ironically encourages whistleblowers to go directly to the public, where their speech is protected.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Trifid Nebula Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"If you follow the old code of justice--an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth--you end up with a blind and toothless world."

Mahatma Gandhi

I was watching the game on TV when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record for career homers. Aaron was a feared adversary on the Milwaukee Braves when the Pittsburgh Pirates made their pennant runs in the late 1950s, finally making it in 1960. He wasn't so much a home run hitter then, as an all-around player who could hit with power, hit in the situation, run the bases, field and throw. By the time he was challenging the Babe I guess I was surprised he'd hit so many homers. He was consistent and stayed healthy, and played a long time.

Today I turned on the TV just as Barry Bonds was at bat in the fourth inning with a 2-2 count. The count went to 3 and 2 before he smashed what looked like a fastball on the outside of the plate into right center for his 715th home run. I watched Barry play in Pittsburgh from the beginning of his career---he hit his first home run on my birthday. The last game I attended in Three Rivers Stadium, he had four or five hits, to left, right and center, all of them smoked.

I guess I might also mention that Babe Ruth hit his 714th homer (as well as his 712th and 713th) in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on May 25, 1935. He was with the Boston Braves then, and they were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though it happened more than a decade before I was born, I can claim to have gone to several games in that ball park, now gone.

With the Pirates, Bonds was a good fielder with a strong arm, and he excelled as a runner on the bases. He is the only player in history to steal 500 bases and hit 500 home runs in his career--nobody else has even 400 of both. Of course, everyone knows he broke the single season home run record in 2001 with 73. He then won National League batting average titles in 2002 and 2004, and was voted league MVP every year from 2001 to 2004 inclusive. He'd already been MVP three times in the 1990s.

He got a huge ovation today in San Francisco's great ball park, whatever it's called this year, but nationally there's a lot of talk about his recent records being tainted by steroid use. It's overblown bullshit as far as I'm concerned. First of all, everyone pretends they know what "sterioids" are, but there are all kinds of substances involved. Secondly, if he did so, Bonds was hardly the only major league to use creams and supplements that might contain what's defined as steriods, including pitchers he faced. He passed all his drug tests. The rest is circumstantial at this point and he's been convicted of nothing.

Bonds probably believes racism is part of why he's being singled out, and his detractors would likely vehemently deny it. I believe racism is involved, though mostly unconscious racism, along with a lot of other factors, including the usual viral celebrity deification or demonization, off/on switch. On the Pirates, there was always a good black star and a bad black star. Willie Stargell was affable, projected a modest good guy "Pops" image and was patient with the press. Dave Parker was flashy, opinionated and mercurial. He was uppity. The press didn't like him, and despite his great play, fans didn't love him. That Pirates team had its own drug scandal, and having been in that locker room, I wouldn't be surprised if both of them had been involved.

Later, Bobby Bonilla was the good black star--affable, big smile, modest. (At the time, Bonilla was more of a home run hitter. I once sat behind home plate at an angle that put me in direct line with left handed batters, and when Bonilla hit a homer it was the closest I ever got to feeling like what it might be like to hit one.)

Barry Bonds was the bad black star--mercurial, uppity. He'd lived through what he considered the racism that affected his father as well as himself. Come to that, August Wilson was among those convinced that the Pittsburgh media and fans unfairly criticized Roberto Clemente early in his career because of race. The criticism again fit those stereotypes--he was criticized for being "lazy" when he complained of injuries, and for being uppity when he protested.

Saying that the reaction to Bonds is influenced by racial feelings isn't to say that he's really been a nice guy, or that he's not really been imperious, irrational and rude--though being rude to the press is a relative kind of thing. It's more subtle--it's the difference in the strength of feeling against a non-white person as opposed to a white person who behaves the same way.

Eventually we may know what Bonds did or didn't do that was or wasn't banned or illegal. Yet I don't think his records are tainted. Baseball players have never been choirboys, and as professional athletes--meaning professional entertainers--they use what helps them compete. It doesn't make every choice right, but it does mean that the playing field, so to speak, is generally level. Besides, why no mandatory steroid testing for ballet dancers?

Bonds has a ways to go to break Aaron's eventually record of 755. Bonds got to 715 with far fewer at bats than did Aaron, partly because Bonds is walked so often. Still he has to be ready for the one good pitch he might see in a game. Nobody believes he'll break it this year with the Giants, and few believe he'll return to the Giants next year. His knee injuries hamper his fielding, so the best outcome for him would be to play in the American League, where he could be a designated hitter. If he could make a deal with the Oakland A's so he could stay in the Bay area, he'd probably do it.

ADD: Later I saw a bit of Bonds talking to the press after the game. When he hit 714 he was effusive in his praise of Babe Ruth, but this time he emphasized Hank Aaron. He acknowledged him as the home run king. Beyond simple accuracy, there's another message: The season Aaron came close and then surpassed Ruth's record he was the subject of overt racist threats, and generally had to deal with the implicit racism who said they didn't want to see anyone break Ruth's record, but meant they sure didn't want a black man to do it. Aaron overcame more overt racism than Bonds sees, but like a lot of racism these days, it just got coded into p.c. phraseology, and shoved deeper into the subconscious. But it's there, and Bonds (like most people of color) knows it.