There’s Divorced from Reality and Then There’s…

…murdering it, cutting it into pieces, stuffing the remains into suitcases, and dumping them in remote areas while telling concerned inquirers that “Reality and I just felt like we needed a little break from each other. I think she went to Barbados. Don’t worry – I’m sure she’ll be back soon!

The co-founder of the Federalist Society answers the question of whether distrust in the Bush administration was leading to skepticism about the treasury bailout plan:

This Administration deserves to be trusted because it has kept us safe from terrorist attack since 9/11, has fought and won two wars, has presided over eight years of economic growth, has appointed two stellar justices to the Supreme Court, and has even learned how to do Louisiana’s job of protecting that state from hurricanes. The day will come, and not before long, when Americans will wish that George Bush was still president.

There’s not a single statement in there that even remotely corresponds to reality. There’s not even a single plausible statement in there. It’s a new neocon record for most sweeping denial of reality evah!

Do I even have to debunk this? I mean, it’d be sort of like debunking the ravings of a schizophrenic homeless guy: it could be done, but why do the work when the rest of us know it’s just the insanity talking?

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Today, we learn that Sarah Palin doesn’t speak for the McCain campaign:

Over the summer, there were a series of instances in which John McCain would say something, and McCain aides would walk it back by saying the candidate doesn’t actually speak for the candidate’s campaign. At one point, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, one of McCain’s top advisors, said that just because McCain says something publicly about a policy, “that doesn’t mean it’s official.”

This morning, McCain took a similar tack with Sarah Palin.

Sen. John McCain retracted Sarah Palin’s stance on Pakistan Sunday morning, after the Alaska governor appeared to back Sen. Barack Obama’s support for unilateral strikes inside Pakistan against terrorists

“She would not…she understands and has stated repeatedly that we’re not going to do anything except in America’s national security interest,” McCain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos of Palin. “In all due respect, people going around and… sticking a microphone while conversations are being held, and then all of a
sudden that’s — that’s a person’s position… This is a free country, but I don’t think most Americans think that that’s a definitive policy statement made by Governor Palin.”

I see. So, just because Sarah Palin says something in public doesn’t mean Palin actually believes what she’s saying. And for goodness sakes, no one should think that Palin’s comments are a reflection of the campaign’s position on an issue.

Can I just ask one small question here? Thank you. If John McCain doesn’t speak for his campaign, and his running mate Sarah Palin doesn’t speak for his campaign, just why the fuck are we supposed to vote for them?

While we’re at it, would somebody please tell me why we would want to vote for a man with a gambling problem?

We talked the other day about John McCain’s affinity for gambling — literally with games of chance, and figuratively with taking enormous risks — to the point that even some
Republicans concede that McCain is “
on the borderline of what is acceptable.”

But in a striking and well-researched piece, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Don Van Natta report today on the extent of McCain’s gambling interests and gambling ties.

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who
represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

That appears to be an understatement. McCain has more than 40 top advisers and fundraisers who have lobbied or worked for gambling interests. Several of McCain’s closest personal friends are casino executives. He receives more money from the gambling industry than almost any member of Congress, especially those outside Nevada and New Jersey. And he loves
heading to casinos, traveling to Las Vegas regularly for “weekend betting marathons,” overruling aides who’ve asked him to consider the appearances — not only of a man who gambles too much, but also of a senator who has enormous oversight responsibilities of the gaming industry.

Gambling isn’t a hot-button issue for me, but this is why I find McCain’s penchant to play the odds disturbing. First, it’s not a part of his personality he seems to be able to turn off: he’s as impulsive with policy decisions and political choices (Palin, anyone?) as he is with the games. Secondly, he favors games of chance, not strategy – which can speak to a personality that doesn’t like to fiddle with details, carefully assess risks, and in general isn’t the kind of attitude you’d like to see in a president. Thirdly, there’s the fact he’s immersed so deeply in the gaming industry. It’s one thing to play a few games. It’s quite another to have forty fucking advisers and fundraisers who have such close ties to that industry.

And McCain does them favors, such as getting rivals out of the way:

McCain often brags that he led the Senate investigation into fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who overbilled his Indian tribal clients millions of dollars. However, the New York Times reports that lobbyists in McCain’s inner circle “played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation“:

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

After firing Abramoff, the Coushatta tribe hired lobbyist Hance Scarborough, who had been friends with McCain since the ’80s. Scarborough charged the tribe nearly $1.3 million for 11 months of work, although his firm produced few tangible results. In 2005, Scarborough also put McCain’s then-chief strategist John Weaver on the tribe’s payroll. The Coushattas said it was like the Abramoff scandal “happening all over again.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who’s going to clean up Washington, does it?

Unless, of course, your definition of “clean up” is “rob blind.”

Sunday Sensational Science

Captivating Clouds

Who hasn’t spent an afternoon dreaming dragons and castles in the clouds? Watched a thunderstorm build from nothing into towering anvils and bizarre colors? Some of the most beautiful sights on earth begin with clouds sailing over the moon or sun. Simple water vapor and ice crystal collections do some spectacular things.

But if all you’ve seen are the old standbys of cumulus, cirrus, and stratus, you’ve missed out on some truly incredible sights. Let’s take a walk through the skies and observe some of the rarest clouds around.

Noctilucent (night shining) clouds form so high in the atmosphere – over fifty miles in some cases – that scientists still don’t completely understand them. They were first observed after Krakotoa’s eruption in 1885, and there’s some talk that their increased prevalence could be a harbinger of global warming. Their ice crystals are so tiny they don’t scatter light efficiently, and so they’re only visible when the sun is below the horizon.

Click the picture for a great NASA story on them.

Mammatus clouds, though not an everyday sight, aren’t quite so rare. They’re opportunists, forming under a wide variety of cloud types – not to mention jet plane contrails and volcanic ash clouds. They’re another poorly understood lot. Wikipedia lists no less than ten proposed mechanisms for their formation.

Lenticular clouds have personally freaked me out before. Living near a mountain, you have a good chance of seeing these every once in a great while, and it’s bizarre. They don’t look like they could have possibly formed from natural causes. They form on the downward side of warm, moist air flowing over mountains and creating standing waves.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds look like nature went a little crazy with the scroll art. They form when two different layers of air moving at different speeds make wave structures. These look like stylized ocean waves because it’s pretty much the same mechanism that forms both: Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. Yes, air does indeed behave like a fluid.

Nacreous clouds form 9-16 miles high, and put on a spectacular show, lit by the invisible sun after sunset or before dawn. Gorgeous, yes, but also associated with ozone depletion: they support the chemical reactions that allow ozone holes to form. Bad, bad, beautiful clouds!

And, finally… regular old water vapor clouds. These look totally ordinary, don’t they? And so they are, except for one thing: they’re from Mars:

As northern summer ends on Mars, water vapor from the north pole comes down to lower latitudes making clouds, frost and even fog possible. That is what we are starting to see at the Mars Phoenix landing site.

Isn’t that absolutely awesome? The ordinary is extraordinary again. Click the image to watch the Martian clouds go by on a late summer afternoon.

Persistent IDiots, Aren’t They?

They’re too stupid to give up. Here’s yet another creationist-infested school board getting ready to toss millions of dollars down the shitter just so they can shove their religious claptrap down kids’ throats:

The Brunswick County school board is looking for a way for creationism to be taught in the classroom side by side with evolution.

“It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism,” county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.”

Yes, you fuckwit. That’s because evolution isn’t a fucking religion – it’s science. Not that you would know what science is. Fucking morons.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there’s no tangible proof it’s true.

“I wasn’t here 2 million years ago,” Fanti said. “If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?”

What the fuck is wrong with these people? Why do they seem to believe they had to be there to personally witness events over millions of years before they’re valid? And did this dumbass ever consider the fact he wasn’t here 6,000 years ago, either? Let me ask you a question, Joel: if God is such a badass, why aren’t we seeing him babbling from burning bushes now? I haven’t personally seen Jesus in the flesh: therefore, he must not have ever existed.

See how that cuts both ways?

Not to mention the fact that evolution is fucking everywhere. Joel could step into any bloody biology lab in the country and watch evolution happen right before his god-blind eyes. The only thing not evolving is the fucking creationists.

Board attorney Joseph Causey said it might be possible for the board to add creationism to the curriculum if it doesn’t replace the teaching of evolution.

Schools’ Superintendent Katie McGee said her staff would do research.

Babson said the board must look at the law to see what it says about teaching creationism, but that “if we can do it, I think we ought to do it.”

Let me save you the time and expense: you can’t do it. No way, no how, no creationism.

You know what I think an easy solution to this is? Make these fuckers pay. Instead of the schools having to foot the legal bills for yet another hopeless attempt to replace science with fundamentalist Christian bullshit, make the dumbfucks who propose this crap pay for the pleasure. If school board members were personally on the hook for the expense, some of them might not be so eager to tilt at windmills. Even if not, at least the money would be coming out of church pockets (because you know they’d take up a bloody collection). Schools shouldn’t have to pay for creationist stupidity.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Tristero)

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Adios, Paul Newman. You were awesome, and we’ll miss you.

Ned Lamont, who challenged Lieberman for Connecticut’s Senate seat, remembers:

We were way down in the polls and I was busy leaving messages on answering machines when a young volunteer came bounding into my rabbit warren and announced breathlessly, “Paul Newman is on the line.” A little skeptical, I shot back that I was on the line with Vladimir Putin so hold all calls, but our savvy volunteer suggested that this was a call worth taking.

“Thanks for calling, Mr. Newman,” I parried.

“Cut the Mr. Newman crap, it’s Paul,” was his opening line — unmistakably the real deal.

After remembering Newman’s humorous adventures with robocalls, Lamont says:

To me, Paul was Cool Hand Luke, challenging the good ol’ boys and the conventional wisdom, with a delighted twinkle in his eye.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Newman.

We already do.

Alas, the stoopid doesn’t pause just because a great actor and human being died. Stoopid doesn’t stop for anything – probably because it’s too stupid to realize when it should quit. Yes, I’m talking about McCain and his merry bunch of raving fuckwits. However did you guess?

They’re serving up a heaping helping of stoopid today. A friend of Steve Benen’s described the McCain campaign’s style as “ready, fire, aim,” and he was spot-on. McCain did exactly that with his new attack ad. I imagine his foot’s bleeding rather heavily about now:

So, McCain, unconcerned about decency or honesty, is doubling down on accusing Barack Obama of not supporting U.S. troops. In a new ad, unveiled this afternoon, the McCain campaign insists, “In the midst of war, Senator Obama voted to cut off funding for our troops.” It concludes that Obama supports “risking lives.”

McCain desperately has to hope voters are fools. Indeed, this came up last night, and Obama explained reality fairly well:

“Senator McCain opposed funding for troops in legislation that had a timetable, because he didn’t believe in a timetable. I opposed funding a mission that had no timetable, and was open-ended, giving a blank check to George Bush. We had a difference on the timetable. We didn’t have a difference on whether or not we were going to be funding troops. We had a legitimate difference.”

What’s really idiotic about McCain’s attack is that, by his own logic, McCain voted to cut off funding for our troops in the midst of a war. That’s an inescapable conclusion — McCain supported troop funding when he liked the conditions of the spending bill, and opposed troop funding when he didn’t. As it happens, Obama did the exact same thing, only in support of different conditions.

If Obama voted to undermine the troops and “risked lives,” then McCain voted to undermine the troops and “risked lives.” It’s as simple as that.

Why is it that McCain doesn’t seem to be concerned that his hypocrisy will cost him votes? Voters don’t like to be treated as fucking fools, yet that’s exactly what he’s doing. Maybe he thinks he can throw another Hail Mary pass and distract attention just long enough to trick people into forgetting he thinks they’re ignorant assholes. But he’s already played the surprise veep (went badly), the POW card (whoops, overplayed) and suspend campaign (ouch, epic fail) cards. What’s left?

Ah. Child exploitation (h/t Kagro X):

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

He’d better fucking hope it would. Judging from the poll numbers, the more voters see of McCain, the less they like him. But I don’t think watching Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter get married to her redneck boyfriend is going to be the salvation they’re looking for. The Palin shine has definitely rubbed off.

Speaking of Palin

After a debate, campaigns generally want high-profile figures telling the media how great their candidate did. And as a rule, it’s hard to top the running mates as high-profile figures.

It was pretty interesting, then, that the Obama campaign was anxious to get Joe Biden in front of the cameras — while Sarah Palin was nowhere to be found.

Indeed, as this CNN clip shows, Biden was not only out there, he was excellent, offering a forceful and on-message denunciation of McCain, and explaining how right Obama was. (Biden delivered the same critique on CBS and NBC.)

Some viewers at home seemed to think it was unfair that CNN interviewed Biden as part of the post-debate coverage, but didn’t have Palin on. Eventually, Wolf Blitzer had to explain to the audience that the network wasn’t slighting anyone.

“We’ve been getting some emails from views out there wondering why we spent some time interviewing Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee and not Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee,” Blitzer said. “We would have loved to interview — we’d still love to interview Sarah Palin. Unfortunately we asked, we didn’t get that interview…. We’re hoping that Sarah Palin will join us at some point down the road.”

Heh heh. Funny thing, Wolf, but she was just down the road – at the bar:

Palin appeared at the bar on 20th and Walnut streets last night to shake hands with her fans for about an hour before the first presidential debate. While the crowd inside was friendly, hundreds of people lined the street outside in protest with signs that read things like “Palin is Santorum With Lipstick.”

Palin did not take questions from reporters nor did she talk policy. She posed for pictures and chatted with supporters, many of whom were from outside the city limits, and made an approximately minute-long statement.

You’ll be utterly shocked to learn that her “statement” consisted entirely of “We’ve got to fix Washington!” empty fucking talking points.

It’s a good thing she didn’t bring up John “I’m Clueless About the Economy!” McCain’s latest scheme for “fixing” the economy:

When McCain said this nutty thing, I assumed he was just having a pardonable senior moment:

MCCAIN: How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs.

LEHRER: Spending freeze?

MCCAIN: I think we ought to seriously consider with the exceptions the caring of veterans national defense and several other vital issues.

But I learn from Yglesias that McCain was actually serious.

Folks, this isn’t an idea. This is just plain nuttiness on the level of a UFO behind the Hale Bopp comet, scientology, and invading Iraq. You don’t take it seriously. You laugh at it. You sneer at it. And you use it as an example of the sheer flakiness of the person who mentions it.

Why not take it seriously? Oh, a couple reasons:

And a spending freeze of this magnitude goes well beyond getting rid of a few earmarks. Mark Schmitt explained:

A spending freeze … is a very specific thing — some programs will be in the freeze, some out. In a recession, programs that would normally cost more automatically — like Food Stamps or Unemployment Insurance — will be unable to respond.

Over the next few weeks, Obama (as well as the press, if it’s not too much to ask) should pound relentlessly on the spending freeze: What’s frozen, and what’s “several other vital issues”? In a recession, are Food Stamps frozen? Student loans? Unemployment benefits? Pell Grants? S-CHIP? Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)? The list is long, and different states and constituencies naturally have their own programs that they would like to know whether McCain would freeze them or not.

And wherever McCain’s answer is yes, that program would be part of the freeze, numbers can usually be put to it quickly. For example, freezing LIHEAP would leave X million seniors without heat this winter. Freezing Pell Grants would mean X million students couldn’t go to college.

At the end, McCain will be in one of two boxes: Either he’s a guy who is willing to slash every domestic program, leave seniors in the dark and kids blocked from college, while dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into Wall Street and Baghdad, plus his tax cuts. Or his “spending freeze” is just another vacuous gimmick.

I’ll take “vacuous gimmick!” for $1000, Alex!

Yglesias sums up what a spending freeze means in terms even a high-functioning moron such as Bush could understand:

It’s worth really focusing in on the fact that John McCain’s campaign was running around — proudly! — boasting about the fact that they intend to follow up a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street and $800 billion in tax cuts for the rich with an across-the-board spending freeze. That means, in real terms, less money for your local police department. Less money for the FBI. Less money for Head Start. Less money for Pell Grants. Less money for infrastructure. Less money for everything except failed banks and endless wars.

Throwing money at failed banks and endless wars is all McCain understands. Couple that with a vice president who’s even more clueless than he is, and what you have is an insult to this nation. If they loved America, if they truly put country first, they’d abdicate their farce of a campaign and let some grownups take over.

Of course, the stoopid’s too stoopid to care.

McCain: Low-Ranking Monkey

I don’t mean to flood you today, but this was just too awesome to pass up. A TPM reader analyzes McCain’s refusal to look at Obama during the debate, and comes to a fascinating conclusion:

And here’s another note from TPM Reader TB. I guess I’m really not sure quite how to characterize it …

I think people really are missing the point about McCain’s failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear–look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior–low ranking monkeys don’t look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

So McCain may have given away his status as a low-ranking monkey. I’d never even considered monkey rank.

Niiice. I’m going to have such fun with this one. Damn, I love behavioral science!

Are Too a Republicon, Dino!

This is not only desperately amusing, it’s an excellent political move:

The state Democratic Party filed suit Tuesday in an attempt to force Dino Rossi to list his party preference as “Republican” on the November ballot instead of “GOP Party.”

Democrats say the Iraq War and low approval ratings for President Bush have left the Republican Party a damaged brand and that Rossi is trying to distance himself by using GOP as his affiliation.

Rossi is running against Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. He lost to Gregoire by 133 votes in the 2004 election, and polls show this race to be close as well.

Polls by Stuart Elway have suggested many people don’t know that GOP and Republican mean the same thing. One recent Elway poll indicated Rossi did better among voters if he used the “GOP” label instead of “Republican.”

Now, Washington state’s a little strange – our top-two primary allows candidates to call themselves whatever they like – so the Dems probably won’t win this one. But it’s a smart move nevertheless. A stunt like this means that voters will get the “GOP” is “Republican” message loud and clear. Basically, it’s advertising. And it lets people know that Dino Rossi’s trying to play them for fools.

I think that’s why the Dems didn’t bring this suit during the primaries. They want the word out close to the election. It doesn’t really even matter if the ballots get printed with “prefers GOP party” – that would have been nice, but they weren’t likely to get their way, and timing it like this means the association will be fresh in the voters’ minds.

Clever. I likes it.