Open Letter To Ron Paul

To:Ron Paul, Personality Cultist and Former Presidential Candidate
From: Mitch Berg, Crabby peasant and former big-L Libertarian
Re: Dumb

Mr. Paul,

Y’know, I try. I really do.

But when I see things like this on Twitter…:

…I’m more than a little tempted to say that the best thing you can do for your libertarian cause, and those of us who subscribe to at least parts of it, it so shut up and find yourself a little piece of pasture to go out to.

And go out to it.


That is all.

Posting this on Facebook yesterday caused a bit of a kerfuffle.  Some Paul supporters asked me why I was attacking Libertarianism.

I’m not, of course; I am a libertarian-conservative, and have been since long before it was cool.  I was – and am – criticizing Ron Paul.  But it’s a little discouraging how many of his supporters conflate the two.

Te’oible Lies

Manti Te’o grasping at straws. Also missing a tackle.

Perhaps Andy Warhol’s famous quote should be amended.  In the future, even fictional people will be famous for 15 minutes.

By now, most of the world has heard the too-crazy-to-be-true story of Notre Dame and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o’s fictionally deceased fictional girlfriend Lennay Kekua.  The facts are relatively few yet terribly convoluted for a love-story that might as well have been crafted by Nicholas Sparks.  What is known is that Te’o purported to have a long-time girlfriend in distant California who communicated with him largely via Twitter.  In a 21st Century George Glass sort of relationship, Te’o's girlfriend was a digital creation of his friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.  The revelation of Lennay Kekua’s true identity has resulted in he-said/he-said allegations of whether Te’o was the victim or willing perpetrator of the elaborate hoax.

Captain Tuttle was unavailable for comment.

The details of the hoax have been engaging.  Theories abound.  Is Te’o, who is a practicing Mormon, in a homosexual relationship with fellow Mormon Tuiasosopo?  Did Te’o invent the girlfriend (or at least her Lifetime moviesque demise) to play upon the heartstrings of Heisman voters?  Or is Te’o the victim of a long-term ruse – perhaps the least plausible theory unless Te’o also believes he’s about to claim millions of dollars from a Nigerian prince he met via email.

The “real” motivation is less interesting than the motivations of the media, fans, and anyone else who makes up the sporting establishment to believe Te’o's lies.  And whether Te’o's initial motivation was to hide his sexual orientation or not, Te’o most certainly did lie to further his career.  The narrative of Te’o's loss of both his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day was by Te’o's own standards a near storybook tale of woe.  Te’o's otherwise great season was bookended by every reporter gushing on his ability to perform amid such personal torment.  Te’o himself declared his greatest career challenge as September 12th – the date his very real grandmother died and a very big lie about his girlfriend got even bigger with her “passing” from cancer.

The timing of Te’o's story coincides quite well with another high-profile web of lies - the Tour de Farce of Lance Armstrong’s career.

Te’o did not do what Armstrong did – no rules or laws were (as far as we know) broken.  But the connection of Te’o and Armstrong lies within the motivation for their appeal – our desire for compelling narrative that overwhelms a needed dollop of skepticism.  Manti Te’o having a strong statistical year is a nice story.  Manti Te’o overcoming death and loss is a much better one.  Lance Armstrong surviving cancer to ride again is a nice story.  Lance Armstrong winning 7 Tour de France’s in the face of cancer is exceedingly better.

The fans and media’s desire for narrative to drive accomplishments can be seen even when the truth isn’t at stake.  Adrian Peterson’s near record breaking year was given phenomenal coverage, as it should have been.  But while Peterson may win the MVP, just a few short years ago Tennesse Titans RB Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards but didn’t even receive one first place MVP vote.  Why?  A lot of reasons can be suggested, but nearly breaking a record isn’t nearly as impressive as nearly breaking a record after reconstructive knee surgery.

Manti Te’o, at some level, understood this.  Sports ”journalism”, like most reporting, has little connection to facts and almost everything to do with emotionalism.  Actions don’t count – narrative does and the anger being expressed by reporters against Te’o today is less for his lies than for what they reveal about the motivations of journalists.  As one sportswriter remarked, even the man who beat Te’o for the Heisman, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, won in part on his ability to manipulate the media.  Afterall, there was no “Johnny Football”, as Manziel is known, on the Heisman ballot.

(Not So) Magic Mike

The bourough’s au pair

Michael Bloomberg dresses up as Ray Nagin for Halloween.

Perhaps the symbolism is apt.  As New Yorkers and assorted guests from around the world gather in Staten Island to race in the New York City Marathon, Gotham’s Mayor finds himself running for his political life.

With the Eastern seaboard in shambles, power and transportation cut off to some boroughs in New York, and 19 dead at the Marathon’s starting line alone, it’s not hard to see what Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought he was accomplishing by pronoucing that the run would continue, Sandy or not.  The Marathon has been held every year since 1970 (a relatively short time for a city with a history stretching into the early 17th century).  A continuation of that tradition could project a calming influence on a battered city and provide Bloomberg the sort of popularity boost badly needed amid his sagging approval ratings.

Instead, Mayor Mike is being seen as diverting police and rescue resources from a city in dysfunction while simultaneously diverting his attention to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.  That Bloomberg has couched his work in the latter as due to Obama’s nearly nonexistent work against “climate change” might strike Gothamites as a sick joke from a Mayor whose lack of flood preparation has submereged their city while unleasing an estimated 8 million-plus rats from the sewers.  Bread and circuses might be the order of the day, but rat-traps, canned goods and diesel might be required.

Gotham hasn’t suffered this much since Tom Hardy donned a goatse mask.

Writing in The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead has penned what might be the penultimate political obituary of Michael Bloomberg, save for whatever New York’s technocrat-in-chief plans for the remainder of his term.  For if its anything like his third, it won’t be much:

The Mayor decided to run for a third term, but he was caught by his own term limits. The hacks on the City Council made clear that they wouldn’t give him an exemption from term limits unless the limits were lifted for everybody else. Disgracefully, Bloomberg took the deal and helped the corrupt political class destroy his greatest achievement….

The third term saw the Mayor struggle for a theme. His issues grew smaller and smaller: saturated fats, Big Gulp sodas—did Bloomberg really think it was worth wrecking term limits to campaign for these things? The air leaked out of his national political ambitions and the city waited patiently for his tenure to end.

Left unspoken in Read’s otherwise expansive review of Bloomberg’s legacy are the series of public-service failures that predated Hurricane Sandy.  The late 2010 snowfall that bedeviled most of the country snarled NYC’s traffic for days, leading even Bloomberg to sheepishly declare that “we’ve looked at some things that we probably could have done better.”  A city that had made significant progress against crime (a holdover from the Giuliani days), reversed itself in 2012 as crime stats rose for the first time in 20 years.  One of Bloomberg’s few public successes had been handling Hurricane Irene; the lessons of which apparantly weren’t taken to heart a little over a year later.

It is those failures, and many smaller ones, that strike at the heart of what was once Michael Bloomberg’s appeal – results-oriented governance.  Bloomberg may have been a cold, aristocratic figure who lacked much of a “common-touch” with the plebs of NYC, but he stood between many average New Yorkers and the army of liberal partisans who saw City Hall as Grand Central Station for a variety of socioeconomic engineering ideas.  So what if Bloomberg liked to chase grandoise ambitions of national office or dabbled in Nanny-state legislation that brought him media acclaim?  As long as the power stayed on, the trains ran on time, and crime was down, who cared if your fried chicken tasted like crap since it wasn’t cooked with trans-fats?  For most New Yorkers, it was the small price of electoral business.

In politics, like business, people are willing to pay for flaws as long as they outweigh the perks (witness the long lines for the latest iPhone).  Today, few New Yorkers will be thinking about sodium intake or banned salt shakers.  But they will be asking themselves if Michael Bloomberg cares more about his agenda than the city’s.

ADDENDUM:  Mayor Mike listens – sort of – and cancels the NYC Marathon.  But not without casting a few stones at those who criticized his decision to Keep Calm & Run On:

“We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it,” Mr. Bloomberg and the organizers said in a joint news release. “We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event—even one as meaningful as this—to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”

The Dumbest Argument Against The Marriage Amendment Ever

As I’ve said before, I’m ambivalent about the Marriage Amendment.  I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to vote on it.

But I did encounter the least convincing argument against the amendment of all the other day:

[Any amendment supporter] is teh heppocreet!  They are teh divorced!  How can they limit marriage for others when they don’t take their own vows seeriously?  That is sucks!

This argument drips stupidity on almost too many levels to count.  But I’ve built a bit of an unremunerated career cataloging stupidity that drips; it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

  1. Divorce is an awful thing – but sometimes it happens for a reason.  Even the Bible allows a couple of grounds for divorce – cheating, and being abandoned by a non-believing spouse.  I said “allows”, as opposed to “encourages”. Society has added a few more; people are only expected to give so much leeway to addicts, abusers and the like.
  2. By the way, that “hypocrite” argument only stands up if one assumes gays will have a divorce rate of zero.
  3. The fact that one has been divorced – leaving the cause aside (see 1, above) – doesn’t mean the person doesn’t believe in traditional marriage, or plan to make sure their next attempt is one.
  4. If you’ve been out drinking, and have had about six too many, and are about to head out to your car to drive home, and a friend whom you know to have had a DUI 10 years ago says “give me your keys, I’ll give you a ride home”, do you say “You are teh hipocreet!  You had a DUI!  You can’t tell me about teh rules of driving!”?   If you’re not one of those people who says “Divorced people who support the Marriage Amendment are hypocrites”, you’re probably smarter than that.
  5. A key tenet of the Christian belief that animates so many Marriage Amendment supporters (and enrages the opponents) is the idea that we are all imperfect; we all fall short of our ideals.  We are forgiven via God’s grace and the salvation He sent us via His son.  We err.  We sin.  We repent, and try to do better next time.  Christ, we believe, doesn’t tattoo sinners with scarlet letters that follow them the rest of their lives.
  6. If you’re a DFLer – your party supported, and still supports, no-fault divorce.  Careful, your leadership will spank you for being a heretic.

There is a debate to be had about the Marriage Amendment.  The Amendment’s opponents have largely done a terrible job of making that argument.

But this one is the dumbest of all.

Behold The Exposed Intellectual Id Of The DFL

Seen at the State Fair (courtesy Andy Parrish):

“Exterminate Christians One Bullet At A Time”.  Photo courtesy Andy Parrish, found at @AndyParrishMN on Twitter.

Now, is this really the Is this the exposed intellectual id of the DFL in action?

No, not really.   Well, not totally – the Twin Cities is home to quite a few Wahhabi Atheists.

No, it’s just that after years not only of dim-bulb leftybloggers posting photos of redneck peckerwoods from Moldy Holler with objectionable signs hanging around the fringes of Tea Party rallies in Chattanooga labelled “This is today’s GOP”, but in fact Minnesota’s state-supported news service doing exactly the same, I figured I was entitled to one humorous fit of pique.

Note To Mr. Hairball:  It’s been tried.  Lots of us Christians are much harder targets than you are – and, let’s be honest, like most lefties, you’re all talk and no delivery, so I’m not exactly concerned.  Nonetheless, in the words of the prophet Callaghan, “do you feel lucky?”

Serious Question For Lefties:  I know, moral equivalence is a one-way street with you folks – but seriously, this is one of your guys, at the fair to espouse one of your key anti-initiatives this fall, in the intellectual center of the upper-Midwest left.  You know damn well if it were a conservative – even one obviously from some trailer park outside Ashland Wisconsin – wearing a “God Hates Fags” T-Shirt, you’d be holding every blessed Republican in Minnesota and Wisconsin answerable.  I mean, you blamed Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” for the Tuscon shooting, for Stu’s sake.

I’m beyond asking for intellectual honesty from you folks, or the media that serve as your Praetorian Guard.

I’m just pointing it out. . Yet again.  As I’ve done for ten solid years now.

Final Question For “Progressives”: At what point does this become a “Dog Whistle”?  Or, alternatively, a commentary on the entire lefty id?

Jersey Shore Cancelled

And I’m just a tad happy to say I have never watched it, and could not pick “Snooki” out of a lineup.

I write this not to indulge my cultural smugness, or even to Neely report the fact. I write it for the tie-in; it’s Labor Day, and “Snooki” was reportedly in labor to deliver some sort of toy baby. Apparently.

Other Gift Ideas For Barack Obama

Perhaps you’ve heard about Barack Obama’s new bridal registry, wherein couples can opt to have wedding guests give to Barack Obama in lieu of (or in addition to) wedding gifts.

It’s a brilliant idea, of course – bolster anemic small-donor giving by instituting a voluntary tax on life’s little joys, just one little bit of asceticism for the greater good.

But why stop with weddings?

With that in mind – my top ten other ideas to help “gift” America and the world with four more years of Barack Obama:

6. You kids’ birthday money - If Obama wins, every day will be a birthday party!

5. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs - With news that the Jewish vote is eroding, it’s way past time to get the younger generation on board!  Today you are a Democrat!  Mazel Tov!

4. Grandma’s Nursing Home Budget – You can clean out that spare bedroom, for the good of the country, right?

3. Your Internet Access bill - good Democrats should be getting their news from NBC anyway, right?

2. Your pledge to MPR - Let’s face it, if Obama loses, the Republicans are going to send tanks to the studios anyway.  Just like they did during the Bush Administration.

1. Your “Friday Night On The Town” money - Why should newlyweds carry all the burden?  Instead of wasting money trying to get some desirable of your preferred gender to go home with you, donate the money to Obama!  Republicans will just outlaw sex if they win, anyway, right?


Race to the Bottom

Ebony & Irony

The media begins to chum the political waters for race-baiting.

There was little doubt that race was one of the larger underlying narratives of the 2008 presidential campaign.  The election of the country’s first African-American president, by the largest popular vote margin in twenty years, was widely hailed by Barack Obama’s supporters as a sign that racial relations had truly improved.

And now, what of the electorate that gave Obama 69 million votes, 365 electoral votes, and an 8% margin of victory?  According to the polling analyst du jour, America has not only returned to being a land of racist voters but, in fact, always was:

Though many people believe that our first African-American president won the election thanks in part to increased turnout by African-American voters, Stephens-Davidowitz’s research shows that those votes only added about 1 percentage point to Obama’s totals. “In the general election, this effect was comparatively minor,” he concludes. But in areas with high racial search rates, the fact that Obama is African American worked against him, sometimes significantly.


“The results imply that, relative to the most racially tolerant areas in the United States, prejudice cost Obama between 3.1 percentage points and 5.0 percentage points of the national popular vote,” Stephens-Davidowitz points out in his study. “This implies racial animus gave Obama’s opponent roughly the equivalent of a home-state advantage country-wide.”

Apparently Obama was supposed to have won by 11% or even 15%.  Or maybe simply by acclamation.

Where is this thesis of latent racism coming from?  Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard University, who gleaned his insight from that fount of all wisdom – the Internet.

Stephens-Davidowitz coupled internet search histories with racially charged words with searches for “Obama”, compared them to results for the 2004 election, and faster than you can google “the Bradley effect,” surmmerized that Americans are actually super secret racists.  And if you believe the liberal-leaning polling outfit, Public Policy Polling, you may need to add roughly one-quarter of African-American voters to the ranks of the racists since they’ve soured on Obama in North Carolina.  Perhaps Stephens-Davidowitz is saving that study for after he get his doctorate in an unrelated major.

There are a few issues within Stephens-Davidowitz’s thesis that most people wouldn’t contest.  Racists still do exist in some places in America and the electorate’s view on the condition of race relations has plummeted since Barack Obama’s election:

A new Newsweek poll puts this remarkable shift in stark relief for the first time. Back in 2008, 52 percent of Americans told Pew Research Center that they expected race relations to get better as a result of Obama’s election; only 9 percent anticipated a decline. But today that 43-point gap has vanished. According to the Newsweek survey, only 32 percent of Americans now think that race relations have improved since the president’s inauguration; roughly the same number (30 percent) believe they have gotten worse. Factor in those who say nothing has changed and the result is staggering: nearly 60 percent of Americans are now convinced that race relations have either deteriorated or stagnated under Obama.


Whites are especially critical of Obama’s approach: a majority (51 percent) actually believe he’s been unhelpful in bridging the country’s racial divide. Even blacks have concluded, by a 20-point margin, that race relations have not improved on Obama’s watch.

A myriad of reasons explain such stark polling data, but it doesn’t help that the media consistently attempts to propagate stories that seek to find racists around every corner.  Especially in political coverage which implies that to oppose President Obama is to oppose him based on the color of his skin.  It’s false and deeply insulting.

It’s also an attempt to prepare the battlefield post November.  As Stephens-Davidowitz concludes:

The state with the highest racially charged search rate was West Virginia, where 41 percent of voters chose Keith Judd, a white man who is also a convicted felon currently in prison in Texas, over Obama just this May. Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama, and New Jersey rounded out the top 10 most-racist areas, according to the search queries used.


What does this mean for this year’s contest? “Losing even two percentage points lowers the probability of a candidate’s winning the popular vote by a third,” Stephens-Davidowitz explains. “Prejudice could cost Mr. Obama crucial states like Ohio, Florida and even Pennsylvania.”


The narrative is set.  If Barack Obama loses re-election, the nation of progressive, racially-harmonious voters will have suddenly become extras in a remake of “Deliverance.”  But is this exactly a wise political strategy?  It’s bad enough when one party blames their defeat on the electorate being stupid enough to fall for the rhetoric of the opposition, but what is there to be gained from inferring that voters are racists?

Do Republicans need to counter that if you vote for Barack Obama, you’re secretly a religious bigot who hates Mormons?  Sheesh.

Minor Penalty for (Not) Checking

What’s one way to guarantee fighting will remain a staple of professional hockey?

Have Ralph Nader argue against it.

Reading his open letter to Gary Bettman, you can tell Nader hasn’t watched too much hockey in, say, the last several decades. After conceding there is no evidence directly connecting fighting to brain injuries…he says, “[r]epeated head trauma has shortened the careers of Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, and Keith Primeau.  Currently, concussions are threatening the careers of Pittsburgh Penguins’ superstar Sidney Crosby and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Chris Pronger.”


First thing’s first: How many of those guys got concussions from fighting? Primeau maybe?

The off-ice deaths of Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak (all of whom Nader cites in his impassioned plea for new rules attention) have certainly re-focused discussion on how the NHL is addressing the issue of concussions and brain injuries.  Every sport is rightly doing so.  But changing any of the rules of hockey likely won’t significantly reduce concussions when the players on the rink are getting bigger, stronger and faster.  Witness the NFL where despite a litany of new rules designed to protect players most at risk for such injuries (QBs, WRs & DBs), concussions were only increasing (167 in total in 2010; the 2011 numbers haven’t been finished but were up to 146 by only week 12).  And this in a sport where fighting might earn you a five week suspension, not a five minute one.

If rules need to be adjusted to reduce concussions, it ought to be on the amateur levels where the differences in size and talent are more extreme than on the professional.  A 2010 Canadian study of junior hockey showed a higher rate of concussions per game than anything the professionals have to worry about.  And those concussions had nothing to do with fighting since fighting is already banned in such leagues.

If the NHL wants to take steps to finally ban actual fist-a-cuffs in games, fine by me.  But let’s not pretend that doing so accomplishes anything related to reducing brain injuries.

I’m Not Positive It Happened…

…and I don’t endorse violence against insane geriatrics…

(Language not safe for work – not even close)

…but if our idiot former governor did say “we deserve to lose some guys” at a wake for a dead SEAL, I can’t say as a defense attorney wouldn’t be justified in exercising their peremptory challenge to keep me off the jury, if I were the jury pool for a hypothetical assault trial.


(Via commenter PJKelly)

Couldn’t See This Coming

Submitted without comment:

Former President Jimmy Carter has sent North Korea a message of condolence over the death of Kim Jong-il and wished “every success” to the man expected to take over as dictator, according to the communist country’s state-run news agency

To be fair to the former President, all those concentration camp inmates will make a heck of a market for Habitat for Humanity when they get released.

But Carter was never good at getting people released.  To be fair, Carter probabably think

Oh, wait – I submitted this without comment, didn’t I?

Sorry.  My bad.


Whew, image what they'd have paid me if I won at USC

The Gophers mortgage what’s left of their long-since tarnished Golden status.

If you’re possibly the worst team in 1-AA college football and your newly installed head coach (who has a limited history at coaching at this level) has won one game while being humiliated in several others, what would you do when finalizing a contract?  Probably not add two years and an extremely expensive buyout clause:

The University of Minnesota formalized the hiring of Jerry Kill as its football coach, announcing Tuesday that the two have agreed on a seven-year contract that pays $1.2 million a year in base salary and compensation for media appearances and endorsements…

There are also numerous performance-based incentives including winning the Big Ten ($150,000) [that's just cruel to include - Ed], reaching five conference victories ($50,000) and additional bonuses of $25,000 for the sixth and subsequent victories in a season [not a problem for the foreseeable future - Ed].

As Kill’s biggest critic points out, beyond the obvious idiocy of extending a contract from 5 years to 7 despite the program seemingly going backwards, the cost of ending Jerry’s contract virtually assures Kill will be the Gophers’ head coach well into this decade no matter how bad the team performs:

My first reaction upon hearing this was to assume that the additional 2 years were an exchange for a more favorable buyout structure, but according to the Star Tribune the University is on the hook for $600K/year for any years they buyout.  Odds are the University wouldn’t seriously consider Kill’s dismissal until at least the end of his third year meaning the cheapest buyout available to them will be a $2.4M buyout.  That’s one expensive fumigation.

The University’s policy seems to be to create expensive buyouts.  Tim Brewster’s buyout cost the U $775,000.  That was chicken feed by comparison to the Glen Mason buyout that cost $3.6 million – and likely forced the U’s hand in hiring the cheapest coach they could find at the time.

All this would be understandable if Kill had a major conference resume.  Instead, a coach who compiled a middling record in the Gateway Football Conference and the MAC has become the 51st highest paid coach in the NCAA.  Not impressive sounding?  It’s the same amount of money that Paterno earns at Penn State.  It’s more than Rick Neuheisel takes at UCLA.  And it’s considerably more than Danny Hope at Purdue pockets, and Purdue just thumped Minnesota 45-17 weeks ago.

One day, the Golden Gophers will hire an accomplished head coach.  Unfortunately with this contract, that day doesn’t look to arrive until 2018 at the earliest.

A Day In The Twitter Life Of Every Conservative

Someone in Wisconsin – who describes herself as a “Passionate Dem, lover of justice fairness freedom animals bflies quilts words & nyc. RW asshats: be gone or be blocked. I don’t cast my pearls before swine” – cast forth the following pearl via the miracle of Twitter::

@moronwatch @mitchpberg thinks the unions and George Soros are “an oligarchy” while he supports RW’s destruction of our democracy. Moron!

I asked – she didn’t think Soros, AFSCME, the WEA and Big Labor are an “oligarchy?”

She replied:

 @mitchpberg George Soros’s efforts are to help the people and country. Real oligarchs like Kochs work strictly for themselves & u r thr tool

He’s like a Hungarian Robin Hood!

I’m pretty sure she blocked me.


Politics may not be rocket science, but apparently it is brain surgery.

Understanding the genesis of political orientation has long been a subject of biological interest, with every few years a new study suggesting our ideological differences aren’t skin-deep, they’re sub-atomic. 

Add to the list the findings of the University College London, which takes the theory of different liberal and conservative genes to another level.  Liberals and conservatives have always thought the other had their brains wired differently and, according to the University, physically speaking they’re right.

But the University’s study is also a case example in the sideshow of the politicization of science – namely, “proving” that conservatives are mentally (or genetically) deficient:

Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

Using every inch of my larger amygdala, it’s hard not to notice how many of these studies inevitably lead to a conclusion that liberal physiological differences are viewed as genetically preferable – if not superior.  A similar outlook could be found just this last year with the ballyhooed discovery of a so-called “liberal gene”:

As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition who have a greater-than-average number of friends would be exposed to a wider variety of social norms and lifestyles, which might make them more liberal than average. They reported that “it is the crucial interaction of two factors — the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence — that is associated with being more liberal.”

Outgoing, popular kids equals well-balanced, politically liberal adults?  Conservatives are creepy, adolescent shut-ins?  Curse my shriveled anterior cingulate cortex for reading anything into that study.

Of course, not all scientists are inferring that our political and genetic differences are so stark as to invite a Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal comparison.  In fact, some recongize the potential for political bias in such a report and actively work to tap down any broad-based partisan conclusions…including the actual authors of the study:

While the London study does find distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, its authors caution that more research needs to be done on the subject. One unknown is whether people are simply born with their political beliefs or if our brains adjust to life experiences–which is a possibility, Kanai writes.

“It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” he said in a statement accompanying the study. “More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

Talk about burying the lead.  And I thought we were just told that larger anterior cingulate cortexs led to understanding complex subjects better. 

Truthfully, we want our differences to be genetic for they absolve us of needing to convince others.  And seeking to find that absolution – that genesis of political thought – in the genius of others brings to mind the words of the discoverer of the double helix, J.D. Watson

One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.”

Trumped Up

The Donald leads the field.  I blame women and independents.

Are his 15 minutes of this election cycle up yet? 

It may only be a poll of 385 Republicans nation-wide, but carrying the increasingly limited gravatis of CNN as the poll’s sponsor, few news outlets will miss the opportunity to write the following headline: “Trump GOP’s frontrunner.”

CNN/Opinion Research 2012 Republican Nomination Survey

  • Donald Trump 19% [10%]
  • Mike Huckabee 19% [19%] {21%} (21%) [14%] {24%} (17%)
  • Sarah Palin 12% [12%] {19%} (14%) [18%] {15%} (18%)
  • Newt Gingrich 11% [14%] {10%} (12%) [15%] {14%} (8%)
  • Mitt Romney 11% [18%] {18%} (20%) [21%] {20%} (22%)
  • Ron Paul 7% [8%] {7%} (7%) [10%] {8%} (8%)
  • Michele Bachmann 5%
  • Mitch Daniels 3% [3%] {3%}
  • Tim Pawlenty 2% [3%] {3%} (3%) [3%] {2%} (5%)
  • Rick Santorum 2% [3%] {1%} (2%) [2%] {3%} (5%)
  • Haley Barbour 0% [1%] {3%} (3%) [3%] {1%} (1%)
  • Someone else (vol.) 3% [4%] {5%} (7%) [6%] {5%} (8%)
  • None/No one (vol.) 4% [3%] {4%} (4%) [0%] {5%} (2%)

Trump may be nothing more in the current field than a name ID with an awful comb-over, but the Trump Brand apparently has some political value – especially with Republican-leaning independents and women.  Trump is the first choice of both demographics in the poll, with 24% and 23% respectively. 

The poll may well represent the zenith of Trump’s 2012 candidacy.  On the same day that Trump may capture headlines with his likely dubious polling “lead”, the real estate mogul of New York City politically shot himself in the foot – twice.  First, by publicly claiming that he’d run as an independent if the GOP didn’t nominate him and secondly, by writing scathing notes to a Vanity Fair blogger over a profile.


Harry Truman once wrote an angry letter that caught the public’s eye.  Of course Truman, writing to Washington Post music critic Paul Hume, was defending his daughter against what he believed to be an unfair assault.  Truman’s critique was equal parts Oscar Wilde and Rocky Marciano in it’s prose.  And to channel Lloyd Bentsen: Mr. Trump, you’re no Harry Truman.

Donald’s “Trumpisms” have only continued in recent interviews.  In addition to his “birtherism” fetish, he’s “only interested in Libya if we take the oil,” “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take over the oil,” and “I would tell China that you’re either going to shape up, or I’m going to tax you at 25% for all the products you send into this country.”

Trump has said he’ll wait until June to make a decision – or perhaps until “The Apprentice” gets off the TV renewal bubble and signed for another season on NBC.

Trump Card

P.T. Barnum runs for president. 

He’s vowed that he’s taking a presidential bid seriously.   He’s sent aides on “exploratory trips” for his nascent campaign.  He’s pledged millions of dollars towards his candidacy.  And what’s more, he’s taken seriously – by the media, the punditry, and the polls. 

Of course, all of that was in 2000.

When it comes to the media’s political fascination with eccentric billionaire millionaire massive debt holder Donald Trump, few could argue that the Donald is the rightful heir to 19th century showman P.T. Barnum.  For Trump’s multiple aborted presidential candidacies, ranging from 1988, to 2000, and now, prove Barnum’s misattributed cultural epitaph that indeed a sucker is born every minute.

Like Charlie Brown convincing himself that this time Lucy will not pull away the football, much of the media has engaged Trump’s third would-be presidential bid with increasing seriousness.  And why not?  Trump polls surprisingly well against the expected Republican field, placing fourth with 11% just days ago in a Fox News national poll.  Even Trump seems to be taking his latest political dalliance seriously enough to risk his most important attribute – his brand – by claiming to seek the nomination of one of the two major parties rather than another circa 2000 independent bid.

What remains harder to fathom is Trump’s appeal in the first place.  For a man known for his super ego, getting to the id of Donald Trump is vexing for many in the punditry.  Some view Trump as a symptom of the weak Republican field.  George Will likewise dismissed Trump as part of the gaggle of “spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012.”  Charles Krauthammer looked pained to even have to discuss Trump’s candidacy.  Others view Trump as the closing argument in their case of the failure of the political class:

Trump is suddenly “winning” as a political figure because the political class has failed. The authority of our political institutions is weak and getting weaker; it’s not that Americans ‘lack trust’ in them, as blue ribbon pundits and sociologists often lament, so much as they lack respect for the people inside them.

There is a lot of crazy surrounding the Trump phenomenon — some excellent, some embarrassing. But the massive fact dominating it all is that never before has such a famous outsider jumped into national politics with such an aggressive critique of a sitting president and the direction of the country — and never before has the response been so immediate and positive.

Um, not quite.

The novelty of Trump 2012 isn’t that novel.  The celebrity politician is nothing new – nor is Trump’s anti-Obama bravado.  Trump’s “aggressive critique” has largely been an ad hoc foreign policy mixing neo-conservative bluster and paleo-conservative isolationism with a chaser of paranoia that Obama is the country’s first super secret Nigerian sleeper agent.  Perhaps the only true novelty of Trump’s “candidacy” is that he would link his image to “birtherism.”  Or maybe Trump is merely projecting and he’s the sleeper agent sent to undermine the GOP.  After all, he did call Nancy Pelosi “the best.”

Understanding how an arrogant, over-the-top self-promoter has risen in the polling ranks of the GOP field doesn’t require searching for some sort of meta answer.  After a number of political cycles in which the presidential race started incredible early, for once the field is not settled nor is any candidate dashing out of the gates.  Trump represents a known name whose actively in the news – for better or for worse.  Few other contenders or pretenders can claim the same. 

The Donald wouldn’t mind being president but would rather use his candidacy as a perpetual trump card whenever his media image needs a boost.  Once the more serious candidates get underway and the early measures of success – fundraising, debate performances, endorsements and volunteers – become the most important yard markers, attention towards Trump will shrink.  With fewer and fewer onlookers to his latest political act, in Barnum like fashion, Trump will fold his tent and move on to his next show.

Festival Of Duh

Before I start, let me be crystal-clear on a key point: Gawker is to journalism what the “E” Network is to Edward R. Murrow.

Gawker sets a bar so low that nothing can get under it – save for its various copycats and spinoffs, Defamer and Awl and Oh, Noes, I Can Say Naughty Things About People I Don’t Like On The Intertubes and whatever the hell else was bubbled up from that entire suppurating puddle of intellectual pus, each of which limbo handily beneath that already-minuscule standard.


Anyway – they’ve just discovered that not everything you hear on morning radio is spontaneous, and that some of the callers are actually actors.

On Monday we learned about a curious new venture from Premiere Radio Networks that offers radio shows “voice talent to take/make your on-air calls”—in other words, fake talk-radio callers.

And then we heard from a few folks in the business, and it turns out this is a thing!

That’s right!  Morning radio – all radio, really – tries to entertain.  And the fact is, most people just aren’t that entertaining.

And so when you tune into your chuckleheaded morning zoo, remember – there is no codecil in the social contract saying “we, the radio station/network, pledge that your entertainment is organic”.

Morning radio is not “journalism”.  (Either is an awful lot of journalism, as it turns out).

This confuses some people:

All of wacky morning drive-time radio, apparently, is populated by voice actors pretending to be jilted lovers—or in at least one instance, an aviation expert talking about a local plane crash…”Any time you hear something surreal on a morning radio show, it’s bullshit,” one veteran independent radio producer told me. “The great prank phone calls—they’re all fake. If it’s top 40, and if it has a morning show, then it uses actors.”

While Premiere’s “On Call” service is relatively new, there are several long-standing services that supply scenarios, story lines, and actors to desperate local morning shows. The problem is obvious: DJs have hours to fill, and if anyone is actually calling into the station, they are in all likelihood boring people with boring problems. Enter United Stations Radio Networks, a radio company co-founded by Dick Clark, who still serves as its chairman emeritus.

United Stations generates wacky characters and scenarios—basically mini-radio plays—and sends them out to shows across the country. “It’s, ‘Hey, can you pretend to hate black people for the next 15 minutes so we can get people talking?’” said the producer.

The Gawker has the victorian vapours, in this case, over a syndicated bit, “War of the Roses”, which KDWB’s “Dave Ryan Show” uses – but that’s just one of many.

It actually sounds like a fun gig:

Another strange one, he said, was when he was told to pretend to be a little person outraged at the way American culture becomes obsessed with Elves each Christmas. There was no scenario or storyline, just an opinion designed, presumably, to attract mockery. “I was supposed to be angry about the overmarketing of little people during Christmas,” he said. “They wanted a ‘little guy with a big voice.’” Aside from those cases, Burt said, he mostly played cheating husbands and boyfriends. “It was pretty surreal. I’d get an email with the radio station, the character, the set-up, and the number to call. The hard part was always having to deal with wacky fucking morning DJs. These are the things you do when you need to eat.”

Now, I have to wonder – given that there’s an apparent market for stupid phone bits, wouldn’t it stand to reason that there’s a concurrent market for stupid, risible blog writing?

This next bit (emphasis added) has gotta make you wonder:

Somewhat surprisingly, there’s nothing even remotely illegal about populating radio shows with fake characters and passing it off is real. The FCC does have regulations barring “hoaxes,” but that only bars stunts that “directly cause substantial public harm.”

(Um, yeah – the “War Of The Worlds” clause).

Run of the mill shitty gags, it seems, are OK.

I’m almost tempted to write the guy and ask if he knows that “The Real World” is kinda scripted, too…

Jamie Lee: You Lie!

I know this is a bit off the radar for SITD but I don’t know of many television commercials more absurd; more ridiculous; more annoying than those yogurt commercials where Jamie Lee Curtis pounces on chipper but apparently constipated passers by all too willing to sample yogurt that’s way too yummy to be formulated to assist you in “cleaning our your accounts payable.”

(…and yes, that’s an arrow pointing to a woman’s crotch)

As if the spots weren’t aggravating enough, it turns out they were bogus. Who can imagine a world where a delicious magical milky pudding that helps you “drop off the kids” and keeps you safe from the common cold…is just a fairy tale?

The U.S. unit of French food giant Danone S.A. agreed to settle state and federal investigations into alleged false advertising about the health benefits of its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drinks for $21 million, federal officials announced Wednesday.

The Federal Trade Commission said Dannon, a unit of French food and bottled waters company Danone, will drop claims that its Activia yogurt and dairy products will help prevent colds or alleviate digestive problems. The company wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Well we know it’s not because they were in the bathroom.

Good to know the FTC has the time and resources to care…let alone investigate the claims that Activia helps you “lay down the law.”

I would expect no less than ten additional references to “boweling for dollars” in the comments section. Thank you in advance.

And now, something totally different:

Get Out of the Way

"Oops. Gotta go dearie. I crapped myself."

Just what we need…

To reach the older market, wireless carriers are offering lessons in how to text, introducing phones with oversized buttons and fine-tuning their marketing strategies.

…octogenarians texting behind the wheel…how much slower could they go in the left lane with their turn signal on for the last ten miles?

That Little Bit Of Wind In My Morning Sails

A few months ago, I attended a get-together with a few candidates.

Now, the upside of a huge surge year like this is that you get a lot of people who are taking their first run at politics, and miiiiight need a little polish to their presentation skills.

But I can feel good that not a single Republican candidate I met came across quite like this.

No, I’m feeling pretty good now.

The Write Choice

Vanity starts with an ‘M’ in Alaska’s senate contest.

Like a horror movie villain, the candidacy of Sen. Lisa Murkowski keeps returning from the dead.  Despite losing on election night, losing the absentee ballot fracus, and even conceding the GOP primary, Murkowski’s political ego has shown staying power the envy of Jason Voorhees.  Even the failure of Murkowski’s latest attempt to woo Alaska’s Libertarian Party apparently hasn’t dampered her efforts to return to D.C. short of buying her own ticket.  Instead, Murkowski’s newest bid is to prove the pen is mighter than the ballot with a longshot write-in candidacy:

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is expected to mount an independent campaign for senator after losing her primary, much to the dismay of her Republican colleagues, who won’t back her, according to a senior GOP leadership aide. 

“The entire Republican leadership has endorsed and would continue to support Joe Miller,” a the aide told Fox News on Wednesday…

A National Republican Senatorial Committee official made it clear that more money would be on the way to Miller, and suggested that Murkowski might be going through “the seven stages of grief.” 

“You know, first they concede … then there are the rumors of a write-in candidacy … then you get the acknowledgment that they’re done,” the official said.

If Murkowski does go through with a write-in effort, than she truly is “done”; which may suggest that she’s not Freddy Krueger, she’s Bruce Willis in the “Sixth Sense.”

Murkowski doesn’t appear to be gaining any options as the window for her to make a decision narrows.  The Libertarian option isn’t offically closed as long as endorsee Brian Haase continues to entain the notion of removing himself from the ballot.  But the LP’s executive committee has already voted against nominating Murkowski short of Haase presenting them with a fait accompli with his withdrawal.  And given some of the statements by the LP’s committee, even that scenario might not produce a Libertarian-endorsed Lisa Murkowski.

Only Strom Thurmond has ever won a general election write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate.  Thurmond’s 1954 candidacy was far stranger than Alaska’s current senate tift.  The death of the Democratic incumbent, the Democrat Party’s decision to not hold a primary election, and former Governor Thurmond’s backing by the major players in the party were the only reasons why the endless South Carolina Senator prevailed.  Considering only one candidate was on the ballot – St. Sen. Edgar A. Brown for you political junkies out there – Thurmond’s candidacy was unique in the extreme.  Nothing approaching it awaits Murkowski on the frozen electoral tundra.

No pollster has yet demonstrated the effect of a Murkowski write-in campaign in Joe Miller and Scott McAdams minor league showdown.  While others polls show Murkowski with a narrow lead over Joe Miller (and Scott McAdams trailing badly), all were done with the assumption that Murkowski would actually be on the ballot.  A Murkowski coalition of moderate Republicans, independents and assorted anti-Palin voters could have propelled her to victory in a three-way race.

But a strategy that relies on such deep candidate committment to write-in her name – regardless of the hundreds of thousands of dollars Murkowski still has available to encourage voters to do so – is bound to attract only the hardest of hardcore Murkowski supporters.  It’s also one of the few strategies that could provide a victory to Democrat Scott McAdams.  While Murkowski’s holdouts certainly won’t be the 50% of the Republican electorate that voted for her on primary day, any votes for her will almost certainly be coming out of Miller’s side.  Couple that with even one poll showing Murkowski pulling low double-digit write-in support and the DNC might change it’s mind about bypassing the 49th State.

Murkowski could still be a viable force in Alaska politics – possibly even challenging first-term Senator Mark Begich in another four years.  But the longer Murkowski openly flirts with continuing a candidacy out of a cocktail of ego and spite, the less likely she’ll successfully seek office again.  Much like Charlie Crist, Murkowski’s unwillingness to suffer a present political setback has endangered (or in Crist’s case, likely ruined) her political past and future.