Saturday, May 31, 2008

Isolated Tribe Spotted in Brazil

One of South America's few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes has been spotted and photographed on the border between Brazil and Peru.
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The Brazilian government says it took the images to prove the tribe exists and help protect its land. The pictures, taken from an aeroplane, show red-painted tribe members brandishing bows and arrows. More than half the world's 100 uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru, Survival International says.


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These images are all from a later pass by the plane. The men, painted red, brandished weapons and fired off some arrows at the aircraft. The person in black may be a woman

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The first flight had an obvious impact on the tribe. By the time the plane returned, most of the women and children had fled and those who remained had painted their bodies.
The woman painted black looks really intimidating.

I find this absolutely fascinating. Think of the mindset and knowledge of these individuals and culture. In the information age and ever-increasing globalization, these individuals have remained completely untarnished. I mean - psychologically it's just amazing. Think of the divide between their culture and ours. They probably aren't aware of written language. They're surely not aware that Man has landed on the Moon, has conquered the atom, or has figured out ways to irrevocably effect the environment. The list goes on and on. These individuals are completely untouched by the global culture.

If there weren't a Prime Directive in place (along the lines of Star Trek, no less), I would be itching to have some interaction with them - or at least being able to observe them. Hell, I don't really have an interest in anthropology...but this is just utterly spellbinding. The culture, sociology and psychology must truly be intriguing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Senate rankings for May

I've put up my latest installment of my rankings of all the Senate races over on DailyKos. Check it out.

And Navid, Kentucky is now a top tier race. Rasmussen just released a poll this morning that has Lunsford BEATING McConnell. ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wanna win PA and OH?

SurveyUSA, the best pollster of 2004, has recently come out with some VP pairings for Obama and McCain. Sorry Hillary fans, she's not included in their polling. But what's interesting is who seems to help Obama the most in those seemingly crucial swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Check it out, and click on the graphs to see the crosstabs.





And for good measure, he'd even help Obama win Virginia, which hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.



Even here in California, Edwards would help Obama rack up the biggest victories.



Now I now what some of you (Aria?) are saying. This is simply name recognition at this point. Granted, that's part of it. Probably 99% of the country (and possibly quite a few Bruin Dems too) have never heard of Kathleen Sebelius or Tim Pawlenty. (FYI, they're the governors of Kansas and Minnesota, respectively.) But notice Edwards helps Obama more than Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell does for Obama in his home state of PA! This isn't just name recognition going on here.

Paul Rosenberg of OpenLeft has much more on this, an in-depth 3-part series as to why Edwards would make a great VP pick for Obama:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Also last year, I debunked the talking point that Edwards couldn't win North Carolina for John Kerry. This argument is based on some pretty bad logic and ignores what actually happened in North Carolina, as opposed to 47 other states in 2004.

I'll add this to Rosenberg's diaries. My feeling is that given how long this process is taking (thanks to Hillary threatening to take this fight to the convention), we're not going to get much time to introduce the country to our VP nominee. So if you really want the VP to help Obama first win the election so he can actually implement the necessary changes, then it would behoove you to have him pick someone with an already high name ID. And note how much better Obama/Edwards does in every matchup than the generic Obama vs. McCain matchup without any VP names given. For all the others, you'd have to hope that after building up their national name recognition, they would provide as much a boost to Obama's numbers, and there's no guarantee that will happen, as the GOP will be trying to define an unknown Democratic VP nominee at the same time to drive up their negatives.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Unforgivable

Keith Olbermann delivered a scathing Special Comment in the wake of Hillary's invoking of Robert Kennedy's assassination.



From his final statement:

We cannot forgive you this, Senator, not because it is crass and low and unfeeling and brutal. This is unforgivable, because this nation's deepest shame, its most enduring horror, its most terrifying legacy is political assassination: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy. And but for the grace of universe or the luck of the draw, Reagan, Ford, Truman, Nixon, Andrew Jackson, both Roosevelts, even George Wallace.

The politics of this nation is steeped enough in blood, Senator Clinton, you cannot and must not invoke that imagery, anywhere, at anytime! And to not appreciate immediately, to still not appreciate tonight just what you have done today, is to reveal an incomprehension about the America you seek to lead. This, Senator, is too much. Because a senator, a politician, a person who can let hang in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around in part, just in case the other guy gets shot, has no business being, and no capacity to be, the President of the United States.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ellen, McCain, and Gay Marriage

John McCain was on Ellen's show today, and the two of them had a discussion about the recent California court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Ellen's words are convincing and persuasive, and I am proud to have her as a spokeswoman for LGBT individuals. Take a look at her challenges to McCain - asking him at one point, "so you'll walk me down the aisle?"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

TX-07: The Obey smackdown

So I figured that with most of the action over in California, I'd turn to the House and Senate races around the country to highlight some interesting races. There will be a quiz in November, so take notes, LOL. I've already highlighted races in IL-14, CA-12, LA-06, NY-13, and MS-01, plus a look at some California House races and some key Senate races, which I will periodically update. Now, before anonymous Republicans try to spam the comments section, the races that I'll be highlighting do not necessarily mean I'm guaranteeing a Democratic victory in those places. Many of these places are going to be Republican strongholds. This is meant to provide a window into what's happening all over our country as we head towards November, to get other Bruin Democrats reading this more familiar and aware with what's happening on the ground in other places. In 2006, as we celebrated taking back the House with a big scorecard marking down congressional districts one by one as they flipped, most of us didn't know who the Democrats that won even were, or the Republicans that they defeated. Hopefully these posts will make it more personal come November. :-)

That said, let's look at a House race deep in the heart of Texas, in its 7th district. Rep. John Culberson (R) is the current representative, having served there since 2001. He's been the source of some comedy gold on the blogs this week for getting totally smacked down by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) on the House floor. If you're gonna rail against a bill, you might want to read it first to know what you're talking about. Oops. Oh, we had some fun with him!



Now that's some serious pwnage.

This year, Culberson is facing a serious challenge from an energy executive. What's that, you say? A Democratic energy executive? Well, yes, an alternative energy executive. His name is Michael Skelly, and he's the former chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy. Now here's the amazing thing.

Businessman Michael Skelly is positioned to be at the top of the Democratic fundraising list for the year’s first quarter, according to a Democratic operative, raising about $750,000 from individual donors without even tapping into his substantial personal wealth. Another Democratic operative said it could be the “best first quarter ever” for any House Democrat in his first filing period.

Skelly has already handily outdistanced Culberson in fundraising — rare for a challenger — banking more than $402,000 in mid-February, according to his latest FEC filing.


Skelly's incredible fundraising is getting both local and national blog attention. By the end of the 1st quarter (January - March 2008), Skelly had 246% more cash on hand than Culberson. Here's the local ABC affiliate's report on the race.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

MS-01: Dems win another special election!

Now this was sweet. In another special election in northern Mississippi, Democrat Travis Childers beat Republican Greg Davis by a healthy 54%-46% margin.

The seat had been in Republican hands since 1995, and the district, largely rural and stretching across the northern top of Mississippi, had been considered one of the safest in the country for President Bush’s party, as he won here with 62 percent of the vote in 2004.

Having lost a similar Congressional race this month in Louisiana, Republicans had worked desperately to win this contest, sending Vice President Dick Cheney to campaign for Mr. Davis, along with Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; President Bush and Senator John McCain recorded telephone messages that were sent to voters throughout the district.

Merle Black, a Southern politics expert at Emory University, called a Democratic victory potentially “a huge upset, and an indication of a terrible year ahead for the Republicans.” He added, “In theory, this should be an easy win for them.”


What's especially important about this race is not just that Democrats were able to compete in a deep red district, but how the Republican attacks didn't work. The GOP was actively trying to use Rev. Wright and Obama against Childers. And what happened? Childers did BETTER in the runoff than he did in April!

But the Republican strategy of trying to link Mr. Childers to more liberal national Democratic figures fell short, as it did in Louisiana. Indeed, voters here were bombarded by advertisements equating Mr. Childers with Senator Barack Obama, a tactic intended to turn conservative whites away from Mr. Childers and which some politicians said played on white racial resentments. Mr. Childers, for his part, fiercely resisted the connection, calling himself over and over a “Mississippi Democrat.”

....

In the end, tying the white Democrat to the black presidential candidate may have helped Mr. Childers more than it hurt him, as campaign aides reported heavy black turnout, heavier than in a vote three weeks ago when he came within 400 votes of winning.


This was such a blow for the GOP, the NRCC didn't even try to spin the loss. The Washington Post has more.

Nathan Gonzalez, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said polling data in key eastern portions of the district before the race showed that Childers's numbers "aren't getting any worse" because of the ads.

....

Some Republicans are clamoring for their leadership and the NRCC to craft a new strategy, fearing a repeat of the 2006 elections, when Republicans lost 30 seats that they previously held and Democrats did not lose a single seat of their own.

"Some people in the conference, to some extent, have been complacent to waking up to how badly the brand was damaged in 2006," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a leader of a conservative coalition, said in a recent interview.

This week, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled a new campaign theme that directly embraced Obama's "change" message by establishing "change you deserve" as the new mantra for the House Republican Conference.


It was then pointed out that the slogan already exists... for the anti-depressant drug Effexor. How... fitting. And the GOP still doesn't get it, thinking the only reason Childers won was because he's a social conservative, and not because of the bread & butter things like getting us out of Iraq, and being an unabashed economic populist. Show us that you're for the middle class and the working people, and not for corporations and their CEOs; that's what most voters want to see (CEOs excluded).

So, we now head into the November elections with Democrats holding a 236-199 lead in the House. That's right, there's now less than 200 Republicans in the House.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chancellor Block's Inaugural Address

If you have seventeen minutes, it's worth taking a look. After all, as cheesy as it sounds, we do own UCLA. Here's the new CEO.

Daily Bruin columnist, and friend of Bruin Dems, Matias Ramos has some interesting commentary on Block's inauguration. He challenges Block to take on Sacramento in defense of UCLA students.

Our school does have a lot to offer a chancellor. The salary is good, the weather nice, the chancellor residence spiffy – and chances are you will get a building named after you, just like past chancellors and provosts Franklin Murphy, Vern Knudsen, Clarence Dykstra, Earle Hedrick and Earnest Moore have.

But aside from being automatic public figures, chancellors can also be public advocates in the political realm. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau set an example when he authored an opinion piece in support of the California DREAM Act last year.

The fact that he was willing to defy the opinion of Gov. Schwarzenegger meant that the welfare of the students was his priority, beyond any type of political commitments. With ongoing concerns about the enrollment of historically underrepresented students, fee hikes and campus safety, Block will have plenty of opportunities to make a student issue his own.




Monday, May 12, 2008

Don't Tell Kyle

Here is a hilarious website that hasn't expired. I don't know whether I should laugh or shake my head.

This is Hilarious

Who says I don't have a sense of humor? I think this website is hilarious.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

NY-13: Vito Fossella (R) has DUI, secret family

Well, the beginning of May got off to a shocker in New York, when the only Republican congressman in New York City, Vito Fossella, was busted on DWI charges in Alexandria, Virginia, and faced a possible five days in jail. But then the story got even more intriguing when a "mystery woman" picked Fossella up from jail.

But on Thursday, another bombshell dropped. Fossella admitted to having had an extramarital affair with the woman, and fathering a child with her. Except he's already married with three kids. Sadly, it looks like his family found out about all this the same time the rest of us did.

Interestingly enough, while the New York papers all seem to be telling Fossella to resign, the residents of NY-13 actually are saying the opposite, with 61% saying he should not resign, and only 32% saying he should. A majority of both Democrats and Independents say he should stay in office, along with two-thirds of Republicans. But only 53% of residents say he should run for re-election. Now, part of this may be because some Democrats feel running against Fossella would now be easier than running against a fresh GOP face that doesn't have all this scandalous baggage attached.

And now this weekend, conflicting reports. WNBC is reporting that Fossella is about to resign, perhaps by Monday. But then the New York Post reports that Vito is defiant, and won't resign. So who knows what will happen now.

Keep up with the latest news from New York at The Albany Project.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Don't be an Idealist!(?)

As conservative as this P.J. O'Rourke "commencement speech" is, it is still pretty funny. In the spirit of creating conversation, and because graduation is right around the corner, check it out.

I found this part particularly challenging. O'Rourke advises our generation to refrain from idealism:

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Does anyone care to parse words?

P.S. I wish the Bruin Republicans were half as witty as O'Rourke.

P.S.S. I don't actually agree with Rourke; I think he's about half-right. I definitely agree with his characterization of his generation, though.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Which states count?

Keith Olbermann went through the Clinton argument on Monday.

Monday, May 05, 2008

LA-06: Dem wins special election!

Democrat Don Cazayoux (D) won the special election in Louisiana's 6th congressional district. This seat had been in Republican hands since 1974, and Bush got 59% of the vote there to Kerry's 40% in 2004. Basically, we're talkin' about a pretty red district.

A Louisiana Democrat captured a House seat held by Republicans for the previous 33 years, defeating a former GOP state legislator yesterday in a special election that Republicans tried to turn into a referendum on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

With all precincts reporting, State Rep. Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. had 49 percent of the vote to Woody Jenkins's 46 percent, overcoming a barrage of ads from GOP committees that tried to paint Cazayoux as an ally of Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Democrats said the result in the Baton Rouge-based district showed that an anti-Obama campaign has its limits and that they are poised for very large gains this fall.

....

With a poorly funded candidate in Jenkins, the National Republican Congressional Committee and conservative groups poured about $1 million into an advertising campaign that in the final weeks focused on linking Cazayoux to Obama and Pelosi. The ads accused Cazayoux of supporting Obama's "big government scheme" on health care and his "radical agenda" on other issues.

GOP strategists considered the Cazayoux-Jenkins race a test run of the emerging strategy to pin Obama to many House Democratic candidates, thinking that his liberal voting record and recent controversies involving statements by his former pastor make him a drag on down-ballot Democrats.


And yes, this was very much a test run for the GOP in seeing how anti-Obama ads would play out in a district like this.

If their strategy succeeds here in the Deep South over the next 10 days, GOP strategists expect to take it nationwide. "We like the way that's unfolding," Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters this week, adding that he would like to see races become debates about broad, "national" issues this year.

One of the NRCC ads in the Baton Rouge market suggested that "a vote for Cazayoux is a vote for Obama." Another 30-second spot asked simply: "Is Obama right for Louisiana? . . . You decide."

Obama's backers on Capitol Hill are watching anxiously, hoping Democratic victories in Louisiana and Mississippi will blunt Clinton's argument to uncommitted superdelegates that she would be a stronger general-election candidate.

"It'll be very interesting to see how people react to these kind of subtle, or not so subtle, quasi-racial appeals," said Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an Obama supporter.


And who could blame them? Obama has a 37% approval rating in LA-06, and a 50% disapproval. But in spite of those numbers, and the GOP's association game, Cazayoux still won. But hilariously enough, even after losing, the NRCC claimed it was a warning shot... for the Democrats.

The NRCC continued that it had cut deeply into the supposed lead held by Cazayoux by running ads that sought to tie him to more liberal Democratic leaders such as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the front-running candidate for the party's presidential nomination, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

"This should come as a warning shot to Democrats," the NRCC said in a post-election press release. "The elitist behavior of the Democratic front-runner and the liberal and extremist positions that he and his fellow Democrats in Congress have staked their claim to, do not appear to be as salient as they once hoped."


Which is really funny, considering the highest amount Cazayoux ever got in any poll was the SurveyUSA one where he got... 50%. Even his own internal polling had him at 49%. And he finished with... 49%. Well, that's the NRCC lowering the bar, saying Democrats need to be on the defensive for winning elections in deep-red districts. LOL, I'll take 15 more of those kinds of "defensive" victories come November. :-)

Up next is another special election on May 13 in Mississippi's 1st congressional district. This district is even more red than LA-06. Bush got over 62% here in 2004, and Obama's approval here is an even lower 32%, with 58% disapproving. (And I don't think they all disapprove of him because of his positions on the issues.) But again, Democrat Travis Childers has a real shot of capturing this seat, and both parties are spending money like crazy. Dick Cheney's even flying in next Monday for a rally, so you know the GOP feels they could actually lose this seat.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ben Stein disses UCLA

In promoting his sham of a film, Expelled, which basically tries to brainwash their audiences with intelligent design, Ben Stein dissed us while speaking in Vermont.

Stein has recently drawn fire for "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," his documentary on the failure of the theory of intelligent design to be accepted by the scientific community.

Pamphlets that scolded the filmmakers for blaming Darwin for the Holocaust were given out to the audience.

The topic was largely not addressed in his main lecture, but was contentiously raised several times during the question-and-answer segment of the talk.

When asked how he could say "with a straight face" that intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory, Stein responded that Darwinism could not account for large-scale evolution, only microevolution.

Stein finished his talk touching on the importance of community and education. He said that the only way to turn the economy around is "not about taxing millionaires, but keeping families together."

Stein criticized educational systems, but put the blame largely on students for not having the kind of "mental discipline" necessary to perform well on testing.

He also joked about the lack of educational standards, "What do you get after driving around the UCLA campus in a red BMW for four years?" Stein said, "a degree."


For more information on what's so wrong with Stein's "documentary", see the Federation of American Scientists for an explanation of what biology and science really are, and read this to learn how Stein's people violated copyright law by ripping off John Lennon's "Imagine" without paying for the rights to use that song. Also his producers lied to The Killers about what their film was about in order to get the rights to use their song in it too. Tsk, tsk.

For a complete debunking of the film, see Expelled Exposed.