Flame on?

My guess is that the Olympic torch relay will continue to be newsworthy today when it hits San Fransisco (now that’s going out on a limb). As we watch things unfold, allow me to recommend a couple good posts on the torch and the Olympic movement, such as it is nowadays.

James Wimberly:

In contrast, the wider political message of the modern Olympics is vapid. The torch in particular, lit at Olympia by pretty girls dressed vaguely as priestesses in skimpy chitons, is a pseudo-religious fraud. The torch relay was actually invented by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics; its tainted origin lies in the racist propaganda immortalized by the twisted genius of Leni Riefenstahl. No black, Jewish, or disabled athletes needed to apply then. Paradoxically, the public legitimacy of the protests depends on a measure of acceptance of the fraud as a symbol of a real value which the Chinese and the IOC are betraying; rather in the way the Church of England grew from its origin in cynical politics into a genuine religious tradition.

Henry Farrell:

The current debacle though seems to mark an important change in the politics of the Olympics. As best I understand it (I am open to corrections if wrong), in the past, Olympics politics have involved inter-state rivalry, and have been driven by decisions on the part of traditional political elites. The US boycott of the Soviet games in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 resulted from a decision by Jimmy Carter, and the tit-for-tat boycott by the Soviets and their allies of the LA games in 1984 resulted from a top level decision too. The dynamic driving the Beijing Olympics seems to me to be rather different; what we are seeing is that the politics of boycott is being driven by mass-publics, and most recently by protestors, rather than by political leaders.

The post’s title refers to this guy.

I want some of that action!

Via Chas, we learn that PETA is using the hack lawyer stick on Gina Spadafori for posting that PETA killed 97% of the animals that they took in to their Norfolk facility in 2006. At issue? Not the number, but whether those animals were “in search of homes”. According to PETA, these animals were unadoptable. Sorry – doesn’t pass the smell test. Patrick suggests that the PETA death center in Norfolk VA be relicensed by the Commonwealth as a slaughterhouse – makes sense to me.

Out of the pool!

I am not one of those folks with a gut-level aversion towards Senator Clinton, but if these sorts of things keep up, I could be persuaded.

Hillary – it’s over. The plus-sized dame has yet to sing, but sing she will. Get out, or if you can’t bring yourself to do that, cut the shit (or to continue w/ the title’s metaphor, at least stop peeing in the pool).

Update – another metaphor: the Tonya Harding option.

Yet another update – looks like I’m not the only one… (not that I’m in Kleiman or Drum’s league, blogospherically speaking)

LOL to the rescue

I usually resist the urge to repost things featured on BoingBoing – it’s not like it’s an obscure blog and I’m sure a large percentage of my readers read it as well. However… I just can’t pass up a chance to add my voice to the pointing-and-laughing.

First, the original:

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The voice of reason:

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And when in doubt, apply lashings of LOL (Lex10 wastes no time):

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Mock pants-pissing politicos and police. Mock mercilessly. Srsly.

(BTW – this worked during the freaking blitz!)

Monday morning potpourri for $500, please, Alex

…as I argued a few weeks ago, before the monoline crisis fully blew up in public, no business that requires a AAA rating in order to be viable deserves a AAA rating in the first place. – Nouriel Roubini * (N. Roubini:macroecon::J. Kunstler:energy policy – h/t Tom)

An aside – I have this cranky-old-man theory that an entire science and math curriculum could be built around teaching/learning/doing celestial navigation. (sticks head out door – “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”)

Hey, hey Ralphie boy!

To mark the entry of the vainest man in American presidential politics (and that’s saying a lot) into the race today.

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Just in case anyone misinterprets – I could care less about Ralph. .38% of the vote last time? He’s just embarrassing himself.

What am I missing?

Talks in New York with the unnamed banks are part of Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo’s effort to stabilize the bond guarantors and bolster the market’s finances, said agency spokesman Andrew Mais in an interview. Insurers MBIA Inc. gained 33 percent in New York trading and Ambac Financial Group Inc. soared 72 percent.

New capital may help preserve the top credit ratings for the bond guarantors such as MBIA, the industry’s largest, and halt any erosion of investor confidence in the $2.4 trillion of assets they guarantee. Ambac, MBIA’s biggest rival, lost its AAA grade from Fitch Ratings this month on concerns that losses tied to subprime mortgages may increase. *

Let me see if I’ve got this straight… Banks/financial institutions hold a lot of iffy CDOs (aka Big Shitpile/matryoshka lemons) – bundles of loans that likely contain sub-prime stuff that may default. They’ve covered themselves against the possibility of the loans going bad by buying insurance from monoline insurers (MBIA and Ambac are the ones in the news). Now, loans are going bad – it’s hitting the fan. The worry shifts to the insurers – how are they going to make good? Because folks are thinking that the MBIAs of the world aren’t going to be able to cover the CDO losses, their stock price tanks. Low stock price = even less capital in reserve at the insurers. If the monoline insurers go tango uniform (toes-up tits-up – de-bowdlerized by audience request), the balance sheets of the institutions holding the CDOs take awful hits. So, lets have the banks (some of whom have got to be holding the paper in question) bail out the people who are insuring them.

Seems a bit circular to me – my guess – only a matter of time before I, as a taxpayer, have the privilege of bailing out Wall Street…

Update – check the comments if you are interested in the topic. Prof. Kleiman replies to my email query:

…if the monolines’ guarantees are seen to be worthless, the shitpile grows. (I love “matryoshka lemons,” by the way.) And they could suffer from a kind of “run on the bank” even if they’re actually solvent. So it’s possible that pumping more equity capital in would actually stabilize the situtation, whether it’s the banks’ capital or someone else’s. But the banks have an especially strong reason to want to stanch the bleeding.

One last pre-primary political post

Something to keep an eye on – there are a lot of independents in NH. We can vote in either primary; you walk in, ask for an R or D ballot, vote and then, if you’d like to revert to undeclared status, swing by a table on your way out to sign a piece of paper renouncing your presumed (assumed?) party affiliation.

John McCain needs independents. He did very well eight years ago, but that’s ancient history. If Barack Obama (and to a lesser degree, John Edwards) can rally independents to his banner, McCain may suffer. There are not a lot of 27-percenter independents – McCain’s willingness to stay in Iraq for a hundred years may not be a selling point – and Obama is enjoying a significant ‘holy sh1t, maybe this guy can do it’ post -IA bounce. On the other hand, McCain is not as hated by the local R establishment as he is, apparently, at a national level, and there is local experience with the Mittster (we saw him before he became a conservative – a conversion that coincided, unsurprisingly, with his decision to run for President).

Update - I didn’t see this till after I posted (I swear!):

If the independents-go-Democratic scenario plays out again in New Hampshire, the Democratic primary winner will almost certainly be Obama. And the winner of a Republican primary cleansed of independents and dominated by the conservative base would not necessarily be John McCain.

end of update

It’s going to be interesting – as long as the little man looking for a balcony (9/11!) continues to get whupped, I’ll be happy. As a thank you to readers who have put up with my ranting – a new fave webcomic: the Perry Bible Fellowship.

Four days

I’m anticipating the campaign/PAC/issue group/push poll phone calls will be absolutely out of control for the next four days. I can’t decide between unplugging the land line or just turning the ringers off.

Word of the day: Huckenfreude. It’s the enjoyment one feels watching the Republican establishment squirm as the theocons assert themselves. It would be a little more enjoyable if Huckabee wasn’t as fake as the Mittster, but without Willard’s thin veneer of competence.

Paleocon watch – will Fox allow Ron Paul to debate? If not, will they throw Rudy! 9/11! out too? I’m a little surprised that Paul is not polling better here in NH – his brand of libertarian-inflected conservatism seems like a good match.

Media watch – it’s very apparent this go-round how wedded traditional media is to certain narratives. I don’t think it’s a new thing; what is new is that there are other voices willing to pull the curtain back. The narrative rolling at us here in NH is that of a resurgent John McCain. He’s been on the rise here, no doubt about it – but apparently a 4th place finish in the IA caucuses is a mandate.

The guy I was very close to voting for – telecom retroactive-immunity filibustering Chris Dodd – dropped out. Heavy sigh – back to the drawing board. I heard An American Tune on the radio this morning and it actually brought tears to my eyes.

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it’s all right, it’s all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

Time for the antidote – Anarchy in the UK or The Guns of Brixton as loud as it’ll go.

Update – great media/McCain snark:

I think Kansas will beat Virginia Tech, but the real winner of the Orange Bowl will be John McCain as the merest thought of football reminds voters of his toughness. *

Seasonal bits

  • Less than a week until the NH primary. It can’t come soon enough for me – the steady diet of the same political commercials over and over and over is the least of it; more intrusive are the phone calls. I’m getting (order of magnitude) a dozen calls a day from campaigns, unidentified 800 numbers and “out of area” caller IDs. I’ve stopped even looking at the caller ID to see if I should answer…
  • It has been snowing like mad here. If we hadn’t gotten some rain a week or so back, the snowbanks would be overhead. It was the snowiest December on record and we started the new year with six inches or so of wet snow yesterday afternoon/evening.

Snowfall on Monday [12/31/07] helped set a new record for snow in December, with 44.5 inches falling in Concord. That broke the record of 43 inches set in 1876. *

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Taken at dawn this morning.