Sunday, November 30, 2008
This weekend, I visited Hi Fi Sound in Minneapolis, which had moved some weeks ago to some secret location. Turns out, they're across the street from the new Twins stadium, which is seriously starting to take shape and looks poised to rock the baseball world in 2010. This upper side of downtown Minneapolis is a vast wasteland, strangely enough. Hopefully, the new stadium (right next door to Target Center, too) will shake things up. In that event, the folks at Hi Fi Sound will be very, very happy.
Anyway, I paid a visit to see what's new, and discovered to my joy that they had a Pro-Ject turntable on display. The 2 Xperience, in fact. I saw one before at Stereoland in Eden Prairie, a lost suburb that's impossible to traverse without a car - you're better off travelling by canoe than a city bus - where it was shyly tucked into a bottom shelf. I wasn't very impressed at all.
Saturday at Hi Fi, now, that's a different story. The 2 Xperience looked just fantastic.
You can see a photo of the Xperience above. It's a bit tough to find a good photo, since all I could find online were the company's stock photos. I don't think this was a big seller. Pro-Ject recently discontinued this model a few weeks ago. I didn't pay too much attention. I think that's because many of these tables are difficult to judge without seeing them in person. In online photos, the Xperience doesn't really look like much. In person, it's an entirely different game.
Pro-Ject's 2 Xperience retailed for $999, the same level where the RM5-SE now sits. Having seen both, I don't think there's really any competition. The Xperience is far and away the better looking turntable. The plinth (ugh, what a lousy name, just call it the board) is clear acrylic, as is the cover. The feet are shiny aluminum cones, and this gives the table an almost invisible presence. It also gives it a real "hi-fi" look. This fits in nicely with your big-screen HDTV and your state-of-the-art sound system. This baby just glows with style.
The tonearm is the very impressive carbon-fibre arm, and it's very big and beefy, moves nicely, carries itself nicely. Immediately, I knew this was a great leap from my humble Debut. You can see how Pro-Ject's tonearms become better designs the higher up the ladder you climb. At this point, between the entry-level Debut, and the high-end RM9, it's really starting to show its style.
The platter is a blackened mass of fiberboard (MDF) and vinyl on top. This is similar to what's used on the RM5, but it looks more polished, more coherent. This doesn't look like a slab of plywood; nothing about it looks cheap. It looks like a very solid, very stylish platter. I'm still greatly smitten by the acrylic platters, ever since I bought one for my Debut, so it's hard for me to move on to anything else. But I think this design works best for the Xperience.
The motor is located away from the platter and tonearm, on the back left corner. This is a feature for the higher-end turntables, when you know you've stepped into the next realm of hi-fi audio. The point is to reduce or eliminate the motor vibrations, and keep them away from that tonearm needle. This is the curse of all turntables, and most high-end models simply move the motor away from the rest of the board entirely. This mid-price range is where you begin to see this evolution. Music Hall's MMF5 and MMF7 tables also place their motors away in this fashion.
The Xperience just looks fantastic. I mean, it's really, really fantastic. This is the point in the story where I'm kicking myself for not getting one earlier, or saving up more money this year. Money has been a curse for me in 2008, mostly through my own incompent bungling. Living paycheck to paycheck is a highly risky game, like speeding your chopper down the highway withoug a helmet. One false move, one unexpected bump in the road, and you're finished. Once the swerving begins, you are officially digging yourself out of your own grave.
Hopefully, the new year will prove better. Hi Fi Sound was selling their 2 Xperience, alongside a pricey phono cart (I forget the brand), and a Speed Box SE, a giant, deluxe version of the Speed Box 2 that offers ten times the speed stability and comes with a digital readout. All in all, this is a $2,000 system, easily. Hi Fi is selling the package for just under half that. In layman's terms, this is a steal.
It will be gone long before I have the money saved. There's really no question to it. Ah, well. It's probably better this way. I have my mind set on a Rega turntable these days - one of the new P3-24's with the color boards, a vintage P25, a new P5 - so I really can't afford to suffer these dilemmas. Should I stick with the Pro-Ject brand, or jump to the other side? What happens if and when I get the tinkering bug again? Do I want to bother with upgrades? Who will best deliver to me the Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis I demand? Questions, questions.
Heaven help you if you find yourself in front of a Pro-Ject 2 Xperience.
Since I've been posting about turntables this weekend, I thought I should continue the thread and feature a few more tables that have caught my eye.
This turntable is Pro-Ject's RM5. The basic table sold for $650 until it was discontinued earlier this year. Needle Doctor was selling their supply at the dangerously low price of $500, one of the great steals of hi-fi audio. Unfortunately, I was completely bankrupt at the time, so I was never able to take advantage of that chance. Instead, I've stubbornly stuck with my humble Pro-Ject Debut III table, adding a few necessary additions here and there.
RM5 is now being sold exclusively as a "Special Edition" model, with a $300 Sumiko Blue Point 2 phono cartridge attached. The platter, made from MDF (medium density fiberboard), is given an extra layer of vinyl on top, so you can place your records on directly without any mat. I've never been a fan of those stupid turntable mats, anyway.
Unfortunately, those additions place the RM5 at $999. That puts it into a whole new realm of hi-fi, and it's almost certainly too high. I've noticed that the prices for many of these tables have shot up in the past year, largely due to the collapse of the US Dollar. Yet another reason to be thankful for George W. Bush. There are new fewer options for turntables under a grand. You have the entry-level stage, where you can choose between the Debut, Music Hall's MMF2.2, or Rega's P1. Beyond that, you will find empty landscapes, except for a couple tables.
In any case, that's a shame. I think a table like RM5 could do very well in the $500-$700 range. It's a great improvement over the entry-level tables, but it's still a step down from the higher models. Corners still need to be cut, and the engineers must be inventive in creating great music for a low price. Besides, this doesn't really "look" like a pricey model. Really, where is the money on this thing? It's very stylish, yes, but very stripped down.
Sometimes I really enjoy the style of RM5. It's basically a giant circle, with just enough of a board to hold the tonearm. This design is based on Pro-Ject's high-end RM9, which retails for $1,800 without a cartridge. The motor lies within the encircled plinth (the board), unlike the external motor on the RM9. I'm sure it's much better than the cheap motor that's given me headaches on my Debut.
I think I would feel better if everything wasn't made out of wood. It does look fine, yes, and I do appreciate the piano finish. But it's still basically a slab of plywood. Most of the money on this turntable goes into the tonearm, a dazzling carbon-fibre arm that should handle just about anything. The carbon-fibre arms are a fixture of the Pro-Ject line (except, of course, the humble Debut), and they always look amazing. I've never heard them in action, but I have no doubt they are quite excellent? Are they as good as Rega's legendary tonearms? Ehh, I don't know. Probably not. But that's what being "legendary" means.
Every once in a while, I see an RM5 for sale at Audiogon, and I'm strongly tempted to buy one. Most audiophiles take very good care of their systems, so there's little worry about being sold a bill of goods. But there's still that possibility, so I remain hesitant. Perhaps I'll find one sitting in a storeroom one of these days.
I don't know where RM5 fits in the grand sphere of turntables. My own love/hate relationship with the Debut has made me a bit wary. Pro-Ject should be applauded for making quality products, that much is certain. But are they really competitive? Or are they always a step behind the big players? Always a step behind Rega? It remains, for me, a mystery. Even in Minneapolis/St. Paul, there are few places to walk in and visit, where you could just sit down and listen to the merchandise. Needle Doctor remains the dominant player, but they're basically a tiny storeroom in the heart of Dinkytown. They're packed in like rats.
Still...sigh, I have to wrap this up somehow...Pro-Ject's RM5 looks really good. My interest has waned somewhat in the past six months, but there's always a chance that one good listen would turn things around. As always, be sure to kick the tires and drive the car around the block before you commit. We're not talking chump change here. We're talking real money.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Rega is one of the lions of the turntable world, and their long-running Planar 3 model runs neck and neck with Technics as the world's best-selling turntable. This latest model is the P3-24, and comes in a variety of attractive colors. This is a photo of the Rega in green.
My current turntable is a Pro-Ject Debut III, an entry level table ($350) that's perfect for anyone who is new to analog lp's. I've decked my table with all the upgrades - acrylic platter, Speed Box II, Denon DL-160 phono cart, Vibrapods for the feet. And, of course, I've steadily worked on vibration control and isolation for my entire stereo system.
The Debut now sounds quite excellent, especially when compared to when it was just out of the box. This is a turntable I really like, but don't love. This is one of those relationships you always need to "work on." All the while I'm keeping my eyes open for the next upgrade. This next time, I want a turntable that I can hold onto as a long-term investment.
The Rega P3-24 is one of my top candidates. The cool color finishes are a standout, and that's one of the things I've always missed about my Debut. I bought a basic black model, while a series of color finishes are available for $30 more. Style is very important to me. This is music, after all. We do it for love.
This latest Rega model is a special model. In addition to the new colors, an external power supply, called a PSU (Power Supply Unit) is included. It's very much like the Speed Box for my Pro-Ject table; that is an essential addition to any compatible turntable, and the PSU is just as important for the Rega models.
All of this comes at a steep price, though. How bad? $1,295.00. D'oh!!
This is one of the viscious little kicks of the hi-fi audio world. The prices are outrageous for most normal people. This has long been a playground for the rich, as analog turntables became a niche market while the rest of us moved to Compact Disc and iPod. Now analog lp's have become the latest music fad, and a new generation of kids are seeking out turntables. I don't know if that means prices would come down. It's pretty doubtful. But at least there's the "budget" market available, where you can get into the scene for about $500.
Even $500 seems costly, but that's roughly the price of a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable and a Speed Box II. With that investment, you'll begin to discover the fun of lp's. Then you can upgrade later, to that acrylic platter (the stock platter is a steel gong) and a better phono cartridge.
Anyway, I'm on to the next stage, where I'm solidly hooked and seeking out something in the mid-priced range. That brings me into the realm of Rega's P3-24, with shiny new colors and PSU. These are the kind of tables you hold onto for 20 years or more. It certainly would look great. I'll have to find a way to hear one before I commit with the money. Money, what's that? I thought we were headed into another Great Depression. We'll have to wait a couple more months before I decide to spend any great amount of money on this. Who knows? Maybe a used model will appear at Needle Doctor or Audiogon by then.
If these turntable manufacturers could just get their prices down, then we'd really be making progress.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
You could imagine how holidays are. Oops! I said the word "holiday!" I'm part of the conspiracy to destroy Thanksgiving and Christmas! Oh, no!!!!1!!!!
Oh, haven't you heard? Now the absurd and nonsensical "War on Christmas" believed by the stupids has expanded to Thanksgiving. I'm not sure exactly where President Obama, the "fascist-mooslim preznit who wants to kill babies" fits into this. I could never muster the inner strength to resist punching anyone out. And that would be terrible, of course, because this is family. So I either keep my mouth shut, or wander off to play with the small children, who thankfully haven't been turned into bitter, stupid, paranoid wingnuts like their parents.
That's unfortunate, and it's my loss, really. I miss a great opportunity to learn from a group of people whose worldview is the polar opposite of mine. But, since I grew from those roots, I know all the secret code-words, and all the favorite rantings from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and Fox News. At this stage of my life, my patience has been burned away, worn down to the bone like old, rusted joints. I no longer have any tolerance for such impenetrable bullshit.
And that's what the wingnut worldview is, really. Nothing but collosal horseshit. A terrible thing to admit, I know. But you try spending your life with people who believe in such things as the Confederacy (they really should have won the Civil War, don'tcha know), the rantings of Limbaugh ("the magic Negro" who is a "halfrican American), or the repressed denials of organized religion (Protestant, meet Catholic...Catholic, meet Protestant).
Sooner or later, the subject will turn to whatever mental exercises are required to deny any responsibility for the state of the American economy, or its global reputation, to say nothing about the eight years of George W. Bush. Obama, you see, is really a fascist. I have no idea what that means, exactly. Does that mean Obama will start tapping my phone and reading my emails? Does that mean he'll start detaining American citizens in secret locations without trial or habeus corpus? Does that mean he'll start an illegal war against some nation that never attacked us? Does that mean he'll rack up trillions in debt, collapse the economy, or hand the keys of the Treasury to Wall Street execs?
Again, I never can put up with this horseshit long enough to ask. For that, I am sorry. I should be a better person. I should have thicker skin. I should have fun with this. After all, the reality-based community won this election. Obama is our President, the Dems control both houses of Congress, and the era of conservative rule in our nation has ended. We all know how foolish it is to make sweeping declarations about political power, but the changes that have brought about this sweep will not reverse. The GOP hard right will find themselves out of power for a very long time. I should have taught myself to let much of this go. But I cannot. My patience has worn away like dried tears.
Family members moaned and whined about how Obama and the Democrats will spend, spend, spend, and the deficit and debt will skyrocket. These are told without irony or awareness of any kind. Any unpleasant reality is simply wished away, la la la la. The collapse of the American economy is really the fault of the Democratic Congress, you see. They're the ones to blame. And just what exactly did they do to bring about the end of the great Bush Economic Boom? What legislation was passed to change this? And how was George W. Bush and the Republicans so masterfully sidelined for the past two years? It's almost as though they no longer existed. They're not to blame.
And besides, they weren't true conservatives, anyway. You see how this little game plays itself out. It's a form of mental jujitsu; it's really quite entertaining, like watching old kung-fu movies. The wingnut never accepts any blame, never accepts any responsibility. Nothing is ever their fault. Nothing bad ever happens on their watch for which they shall be held accountable. Everything is the fault of everyone else. If only we listened harder to the wisdom of Limbaugh (the Clintons secretly murdered people); Glenn Beck (Mexican immigrants should be thrown into ovens, and their ashes used for fuel); Sarah Palin (Obama palls around with terr'sts, ya yoo betcha); Jerry Falwell (read his segregationist beliefs if you have the stomach); Rod Parsely (America was founded to destroy Islam); Pat Robertson (ugh, where do you want to start?); John Hagee (Adolph Hitler was God's hunter against the Jews, oh, and the Catholic Church is the 'Whore of Babylon'). And on and on and on and on. I could make a career out of this. Many journalists and scholars do.
This is the world where I grew up. This is the world I must revisit every holiday season. Oh, no! I did it again! I'm part of the conspiracy to somehow destroy Christmas and Thanksgiving! I blame subliminal messages in my rock-n-roll albums.
Last year, I discovered that one of my sisters was collecting Confederate flags on her computer. Shocked and outraged, I confronted her, and heard a stream of horseshit that sent me reeling. I came within a hair's breath of slapping her across her jaw. But that would be a terrible action, a line I am not willing to cross. I am not willing to shatter family relationships for the rest of my life. My sister's horseshit notions about the Confederacy and slavery, you see, come from my father. My father taught this to his daughters. I have been aware for many, many years that he held certain views that were deeply troubling. But I could ignore them, or hope they stay buried away.
So, instead of losing my cool, I bought my sisters a $99 portable turntable and a pile of records. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan. Good stuff. We'll see if that has any positive effect. But I still burn with a deep hurt and anger. I am really not in a proper mood to deal with that right now.
Which reminds me. Michael Medved has a new book out. In it, he argues that American slavery was actually good for the nation's economy. He makes a lot of sympathatic claims about slavery. A year ago he wrote an online column in which he actually defended slavery (go ahead and read if you can stomach it).
So, on a brighter note, the food was excellent, and everyone was polite and nice. They had to be, since I almost removed myself entirely. Best not to speak to anyone, lest something happen. Happy Holidays.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I'm searching that I can use for an isolation platform for my stereo system. It involves placing metal ball bearings into an aluminum cup, which is then placed underneath the stereo components - speakers, turntable, yadda yadda. This photo is an example of a custom-machined job, but I'm searching high and low for something similar that I can find at retail.
My best success so far has been with drawer knobs. Recessed drawer pulls, in fact. They work as a kind of bowl for the ball bearings. Unfortunately, these knobs are either nickel, bronze, brass, or chrome. These metals produce a "chatter" effect, which gives off a bright, hard sound. It doesn't work. Aluminum is the ideal material. Any luck out there?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
January 20 can't come fast enough.
This is a copy of the letter I fired off to the American Family Association when I discovered this monstrosity. Feel free to send them your own comments. It's the 21st Century. Why is this even legal?
Excuse me, I don't mean to sound crass, but are you fucking insane?! Have you lost your minds? Are you really selling burning crosses?!
I can't fucking believe this. Please tell me some KKK member hacked into your website and planted that. You can't possibly be fucking stupid enough to pass something like that along as a legitimate product. And now, of all times, when we have elected our nation's first African-American President?! Is this some kind of statement?! Are you trying to send some sort of message?!
I should probably explain, at this point, that I am not the kind to write furiously angry letters that are peppered with swear words. This should probably demonstrate how stunned and shocked beyond belief I am. How could any reasonable person respond in this day and age?
Again, I must very politely ask you, in the name of all that is holy and decent: have you lost your fucking minds?! Who the hell is in charge of this operation?! Who the bloody hell is responsible?!
Daniel Thomas MacInnes
Videogames of the Damned (political blog)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Don't assume that Puritanical tyranny is the sole domain of the Republican right. The left has its own strain as well, and they eagerly piled on Bill Clinton all through the 1990's for being a pro-business moderate. And the rumblings are already there for Obama, barely days after winning his election, here and there on the blogosphere. Whether it's Joe Lieberman or possible cabinet picks or the swirling gossip surrounding Washington (the city where high school never ends).
In Minnesota, at least, the Comic Book Guy types tend to migrate to the third parties, leaving the DFL pretty much alone. That essentially left them powerless innefectual, but failure offers its own sense of freedom. It's easy to criticize everybody else when you aren't burdened by responsibility. Everyone else is a turncoat or a sellout; you alone remain pure.
Whatever. It's infantile and it's stupid. It needs to stop. Thankfully, most Americans are more than willing to give Obama a fair chance. He's smart and disciplined enough to handle things properly. And he won't become the President until January 20. So calm down and relax.
My apologies for not blogging enough these past few days, btw. I've been swamped at work, and much of my spare time has been devoted to my latest stereo/turntable tweaks. Free advice, kids: Vibrapods are your friends.
Are there really Republicans who want Palin to be their new standard-bearer? They can't be serious. God can't possibly like me enough to let that happen.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team.
A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition.
In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.
"The kind of regulations they are looking at" are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy.
In the first of an expected avalanche of post-election regulations, the Bush administration on Friday narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid’s outpatient hospital benefit.
Public hospitals and state officials immediately protested the action, saying it would reduce Medicaid payments to many hospitals at a time of growing need.The new rule conflicts with efforts by Congressional leaders and governors to increase federal aid to the states for Medicaid as part of a new economic action plan.
George W. Bush never abandoned conservatism. This is exactly what conservatism looks like. This is the same ideology that gave us the Katrina scandal, the Iraq War, and a smashed economy. Theirs is a cult of cruelty. Never forget that.
Johnathan Chait's opening line from his TNR article summarizes this perfectly: What part of "overwhelming electoral defeat" does the GOP not understand? The answer, of course, is very simple. The GOP does not want to understand. They've functioned in their strange alternate reality for so long, these people simply cannot function in the real world.
Better for the rest of us, I say. The tighter and tighter the hard right spins in on itself, the greater the damage to their party and the conservative brand. So go ahead. Live in denial. Make Sarah Palin the GOP standard-bearer. The longer the denial, the longer the exile. And America will simply move on.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Yay!! Time for another downtown block party!!
I was hoping that Obama would win North Carolina. It was going to be close, but he just barely eeked it out. This is really more symbolic than anything, since the race is already decided, but it remains a powerful symbol nontheless. The Republican hold on the South is being broken, as the racist politics of the Southern Strategy give way to 21st Century America. We're living in a radically different nation than the America of 40 years ago. We should all feel pride and satisfaction for all our hard work.
Obama's score now stands at 364. Missouri is now the final state to be determined. I picked that state for the win, so I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It's a remarkable event, one that will puzzle and amuse historians of future generations. What was John McCain thinking in choosing Sarah Palin to be his running mate? What originally appeared to be a reckless, hail-mary move born of desperation grew to a lightning rod for the nation. Palin became an instant hero to the Republican right, and a virtual laughingstock for the rest of us.
Even now, for those of us who kept track of her every move, who watched her two television interviews, it still feels almost surreal. Is Palin really that dumb? Did she really blank out on every question? Does she really not know what the Bush Doctrine is? Does she even read? I've seen some cynical politics in my day; George W. Bush was probably the apex of Republican cynicism, a spoiled lazy brat who couldn't be bothered to pick himself off the street if he wasn't born into wealth. I've never seen anything as shameless and brutally cynical as the pick of Sarah Palin.
This decision summarized our era, the whole period of conservative dominance, the era of the Wrecking Crew. They rule by propaganda and fear, selling the public on one absurd fantasy after another. And for a while it worked. No doubt they hoped they could sucker the masses one more time; just squeeze one more tank out of a broken-down car. It's stunning that McCain came so close to succeeding. This shall forever remain a blemish on the character of this nation.
Thank all that is holy that McCain and Palin were defeated. Had they won, the results could have been catastrophic. May God have mercy on your children if that woman ever gets into the White House and takes the reins of power. But the economic crisis snapped the masses out of their hypnotic daze, and they paid attention. They did the right thing.
I think this is why I'm not as eager to write Palin off. I am hopeful that the conservative era has finally closed, and that the Republican Party remains deeply divided and thoroughly defeated cannot be denied. But look at what they nearly achived. Look at what they almost did with this fool as a candidate. They offered up nothing more than a celebrity prop. If technology advances, the day will come when the Party will offer up a computer-generated character as a candidate, posing as a real person. Hell, 25% of this nation will swallow anything that's being sold by these criminals. Never discount the power of skillful magic tricks.
During the final weeks of the campaign, as the rift between McCain and Palin grew, we heard more and more rumblings from behind the scenes. Rumblings about Palin's sheer ignorance and incompetance, revelations about her lavish spending sprees, stories of an unknown who was primed to be a star, only to buy into the hype. Behold, the reality television candidate. The person you want to have a beer with.
Americans need to be smarter than this. Americans need to be more aware, more mindful, more skeptical. You need to turn off the teevee and learn to function on your own. You've been fed the fantasy from television for so long that you're beginning to believe the fantasy is real, and your own lives are illusion. Television isn't the truth. Television is a damned amusement park.
Sarah Palin, you could say, was the Television Candidate. An instant celebrity machine for the dumb proles; the biggest and brightest of all the reality competitions. Today, it's the singing contest. Tomorrow, the dancing contest. After that, the President! Being President is fun! Because, you know, you can, like, go places, and, like, do stuff. You know....umm, stuff.
Then the stock market crashes and the fantasy crashes hard into that unavoidable force called reality. The Soma of our age works its magic, but reality cannot be denied. The Republicans only hoped they could keep us drugged and dazed for just a little while longer. If you sobered up on November 5, to a Palin in the White House, so what? We win. We got our mandate.
Americans need to be smarter than this. Americans have proven that they will do the right thing, and choose to engage history when the crisis strikes. Thank goodness for that. Will you be smart and wise enough to learn? Will you be able to avoid this fate again? Even if Palin disappears completely, she will be replaced by another drone, another movie prop, another Barbie Doll which was programmed to recite talking points. Will you be smart enough to see through the illusion and reject the fantasy?
For your own sake, kids, you damn well better hope so. You will face this terrible machine at some point during your lives. It doesn't matter which generation I'm talking to. I'm talking to all of you. Yeah, you, the kid in the back row, class of 2099. Sit up and pay attention. This is going on your permenent record. I didn't risk my neck so you could beome another mindless tool. You're going to have to be smarter. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine. Trust me on that. Good luck.
Sorry to sound cranky, considering our historic victory last night. This is a great day for America. But we still have a Senate race here in Minnesota, which is headed for a long and thorough recount. But these remarks from Norm Coleman just roiled me. There are times when I think the man is someone I can live with, a moderate Republican and not a hardcore ideologue. And then he goes and does something incredibly arrogant and stupid.
Minnesota state law requires an automatic recount when any race is closer than 0.5%. The Franken-Coleman race is seperated by only a few hundred votes. It's about as close to a tie as you can get.
I woke up this morning, hearing the AP call the race for Coleman. I kind of expected that, so I tried to take it with grudging acceptance. Maybe Norm will reemerge as that moderate who was they mayor of St. Paul back in the '90s. Maybe this race will end smoothly.
Fat chance on all fronts. The state is preparing for the recount, which may take a month before completion (yes, that's right, kids - we won't have a winner until December). Then the AP took back its call. Then Norm held a press conference this morning, where he declared himself the victor and declared there shouldn't be any recount. Nice. So much for getting along nicely with that guy. Now all the bad blood from the campaign, and from the last eight years of Preznit Stupid, comes flooding back.
I can't say I'm happy with the way Al Franken's campaign has been run. It was just like a Vikings game - messy, sloppy, too many dumb mistakes. But he somehow managed to keep the race tight, even enjoying slight leads in the polls. And he shows no willingness to concede anything.
Coleman's margin of victory? 571 votes. Damn. This really is the perfect capstone to the Bush era, isn't it? We're right back where we started. No doubt the right will be pumping their "sore loser" propaganda at Franken. Ugh. Deja vu all over again.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
AUSTIN — State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.
The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.
"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."
In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."
She also suggests Obama would seek to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I seriously hate these Republicans. Nothing more than an organized crime syndicate posing as a political party. And Sarah Palin is dumber than a bag of rocks. I'll be glad to see them and their sorry lot kicked out of power. The party of torture, cronyism, and the Permanent War deserves banishment for the rest of our lives.
A pox on your houses if any of you are stupid enough to be taken in by these con artists again.
Now we really have to work extra hard. Let's give Obama the landslide victory he deserves.
We're very near the end of the campaign. Don't lower your guard. Don't coast to victory. Don't expect the entrenched power to concede without a fight. Our real work begins on November 5, and January 20. We have a generation of conservative rule to overcome and a nation to repair. Every person must do their part.
Get to the polls tomorrow! Text five of your friends, and tell each of them to text five more. Pass it on!
Sunday, November 02, 2008
"Hi, boys and girls! I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group."
Jimmy Carl Black passed away last night. He sends a final farewell on his website, and tells us not to be sad. I'll try, but I'm sad anyway. I'll miss him dearly.
After nearly two years of ads, rallies, debates and barnstorming, Obama is up 54 to 43 percent among likely voters, in the new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll. And the ranks of persuadable voters has dwindled to 7 percent heading into the final day. One part of McCain's steep challenge is that more than a quarter of the probable electorate has already voted - among these early birds, 59 percent said they voted for Obama, 40 percent for McCain.
Obama has firmly reestablished his advantage on handling the economy (back up to 15 points) and beaten back a challenge on taxes (he's +11 there). On handling an unexpected major crisis, what had been a double-digit McCain lead to start the fall campaign, is now a 6-point advantage for Obama.
And on the measure that most often correlates to turnout, enthusiasm, Obama holds a massive 26-point advantage in deeply enthusiastic support. In late October of 2004, George W. Bush held a nine-point edge over John F. Kerry on this metric.
With two days left until the presidential election, Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain by 13 points among likely voters, 54 percent to 41 percent, a new CBS News poll finds. The margin in the new poll, released Sunday, is identical to that in a CBS News poll released Saturday.
As the number of undecided voters has dwindled, so has the number that says their minds can still change. More than nine in 10 of each candidate’s voters now say they have made up their minds about who to vote for and are not likely to change. Just seven percent of Obama voters and 8 percent of McCain voters say they still might change their minds.
PRINCETON, NJ -- The final Gallup 2008 pre-election poll -- based on Oct. 31-Nov. 2 Gallup Poll Daily tracking -- shows Barack Obama with a 53% to 42% advantage over John McCain among likely voters. When undecided voters are allocated proportionately to the two candidates to better approximate the actual vote, the estimate becomes 55% for Obama to 44% for McCain.
The trend data clearly show Obama ending the campaign with an upward movement in support, with eight to 11 percentage point leads among likely voters in Gallup's last four reports of data extending back to Oct. 28. Obama's final leads among both registered voters and likely voters are the largest of the campaign.
All of our hard work during the long Bush years will pay off on Tuesday.
Oops. Seems to have disappeared. Never mind:
Pollster John Zogby: "Obama has consolidated his lead over McCain. His single day lead today was back to 52%-42%. He leads by 10 among independents and has solidified his base. He leads among Hispanics by38 points, African Americans by 88, 18-24 year olds by 36, 18-29 year olds by 25, 25-34 year olds by 16, women by 8, and men by 3. He has a 17 point lead among those who have already voted, 22 by those who have registered to vote in the past 6 months, Moderates by 34, Catholics by 10. He even receives 21% support among Conservatives.
"So what happened to give McCain a one-point lead in the one-day polling on Friday? It was a day of consolidation for him, too. He had been losing support among key groups and began to regain some of his own base. He now leads by 21 points among NASCAR fans, 9 among investors, 6 among voters in armed forces households, and 2 among voters over 65 years old.
"Remember, as I said yesterday, one day does not make a trend. This is a three-day rolling average and no changes have been tectonic. A special note to blogger friends: calm it down. Lay off the cable television noise and look at your baseball cards in your spare time. It is better for your (and everyone else's) health."
The race is so close, in fact, that it may be decided by absentee ballots, which means one thing...we won't have a winner in Arizona on election night:
Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University who specializes in voting patterns, predicts the highest turnout in a century. "We're going to definitely beat the turnout rate in 2004. The question is by how much," McDonald said. "It's not just an election of a generation, it's an election of generations with an 's.' "
Reed said 827,380 Maricopa County residents had requested absentee ballots or had voted early as of 2 p.m. Friday. The county has seen 566,656, or 68.4 percent, of those ballots returned. There are about 1.7 million registered voters in the county.
Early ballots figure to create a significant delay in the compilation of final results. Officials expect that about 200,000 early ballots won't be marked or mailed early but instead will be walked into a polling place or will arrive via mail on Election Day.
Those ballots won't be processed until two days after the election, Reed said, and Maricopa County hopes to have all of them compiled by Nov. 21.
There are always a couple states like this on election night, it seems. Thank goodness Arizona won't be deciding the election. I don't think any of us can handle another all-night nailbiter like election night 2000.
I am especially thrilled at the turnout predictions - 80 to 80 percent. That is just fantastic. Those are Minnesota numbers. If only the rest of the nation could be bothered to tune in like that.
Or, to put it another way, conservatives are crybabies. "Daddy's perfect!!" is their mantra. Only, "Daddy" represents not any one leader but the conservative movement itself. When convenient, the Party will toss Bush aside as a traitor and a sellout, as a closet liberal who betrayed the principles of conservatism. Reality is irrelevant. Truth is irrelevant. All that matters is the Party and the movement. Daddy is Perfect. Daddy Can Do No Wrong.
So you can expect the spin from the hard right in the future, as Republicans try to convince themselves that America is overwhelmingly conservative, and it was the "liberal" George W. Bush who cost them the election. The Democrats who will win the election, what of them? Naturally, they won because they ran as conservatives. Yep. All these new Democrats are really conservatives. But the Democratic Party is still ultra-liberal, and Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.
It's a funny little bit of jujitsu, one designed purely to deflect any and all criticism, truth and logic be damned. There is no point, really, in trying to appeal to logic or find flaws in these arguments. These are not arguments in any real, adult sense. These are excuses, whiny tantrums spluttered by screaming toddlers who can't have their way.
Don't let conservatives spin away George W. Bush. George W. Bush was, and shall always remain, the very face of the conservative movement. He was practically worshipped as a religious figure for years; the Christian Right never really liked that Jewish Messiah, anyway. Too liberal. Always talked about the poor. Always denounced the wealthy and the powerful. Naw, Dubya is our Messiah now.
Republican conservatives have failed because conservatism itself has failed. Nobody likes them and what they represent anymore. Perhaps most Americans never did. The GOP only managed to fight the 2000 election to a tie (and credit must be given to Al Gore's hideously awful campaign). By September, 2001, Bush's approval ratings were already sinking. Then the terrorist attacks struck on 9/11, and America just lost its mind. And the Republicans played that fear and madness like a pipe organ for years.
And now, at long last, Americans have sobered up enough to figure out the scam. It won't work anymore. And conservatism is about to be handed its second consecutive defeat at the polls. This one will prove far more painful, with a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress with healthy majorities. Karl Rove's hubris of a permanent majority lies in tatters, and it will hopefully remain so for many years.
The lesson of the 2008 election? Nobody Likes Republicans. Nobody Likes Conservatives.
Chuck Todd explains McCain's chances with the numerous tossup states, and why exactly his campaign has focused on Pennsylvania. It's pretty much common knowledge at this point, but informative for those who haven't paid much attention.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
CNN's battleground states right now include the following: North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. Important to note that these are all red states that Bush carried in 2004. If it's true that Obama will hold all of the 2004 Kerry states, plus Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, then he wins the election.
The "extra" states that really grabbed my attention - Georgia, Montana, and Arizona - aren't listed as tossups here. Perhaps they still consider those to be narrow McCain wins. That's the probable outcome, but the numbers are very close, and the ground game is where Obama dominates. I wouldn't want to be in McCain's shoes when looking at Arizona.
Coming into the final hours, consulting these tea leaves will become useless. It's all in the hands of the voters now. It's all down to the ground game - mobilization, organization, and turnout, turnout, turnout.
If the national polling is any indication, it will be a close finish, with Obama winning by 5% in the popular vote. On the electoral vote, again: Kerry 2004, plus Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. Nevada's probably the weakest link here.
Everything else is up in the air. Those battleground states could swing either way. I could envision a scenario where heavy turnout and a sense of the inevitable results in a massive Obama sweep. Even if my "dream scenario" played out, and Obama won 400 electoral votes, I don't believe that would mean a massive political shift in America. We're really just seeing a vast rejection of George W. Bush and the Republican economy. The stock market nearly crashed, and suddenly everyone becomes a swing voter.
America remains a deeply divided nation. What gives me hope is that Obama will have an opportunity - the first real opportunity since Reagan in 1980 - to build a new coalition and shift the scales of American politics. He's going to have the football and control of the clock. Whatever happens between now and 2012 is all on him.
Now get out there and hustle, people! Fight, fight, fight!
It's important to remember that Republican politics is largely a con game. Yeah, I know, politicians are liars and con men. What a shocker. Excuse me while I reach for the smelling salts. But this is especially the case with Republicans. There is a public face they present to the voters every election, and then there is the private face they present when they actually govern.
When dealing with the American public, fear and loathing are the calling cards. It's all about suckering working class and middle class voters into going against their own best interests. Be afraid of Iran. Be afraid of China. Be afraid of Russia. Be afraid of terrorists. Be afraid of Muslims. Be afraid of taxes. It doesn't matter which shifting targets are employed. In the end, it's all the same. Fear, fear, fear.
It's also no secret that the neocons responsible for the Bush Doctrine have their sights set on Iran. It's a minor miracle, really, that this hasn't happened in Bush's second term. Perhaps our army was too tied down in Iraq; perhaps the Pentagon brass stood up and resisted. I know the Democrats didn't put up much of a fight. Push comes to shove, and they'll cave. They always do. It's their way of trying to show the voters they're not wimps. Which, of course, is really, really funny. Except for that whole Permanent War thing.
So why hasn't Bush and Cheney bombed Iran? They've even let up on the sabre rattling. Is it that the dumb masses have woken up? Hmm, maybe. I'm a bit cranky to believe that, even with the prospect of a sizeable Obama victory on November 4. Perhaps it's a combination of things. Perhaps Bush and Cheney just got tired of playing the game, and decided to let it be handled by the next frontmen for the wrecking crew. That's all Republican Presidents are in this nation, anyway.
I think that's why I can laugh and fear Sarah Palin at the same time. Yes, she's an idiot. Then again, I can remember at least a couple Presidents who were considered idiots. Ronald Reagan has become lionized as a Republican saint (which, by the way, is really, really creepy). George W. Bush will be swept under the rug until circumstances change. Then he could be lionized again. Or he could merely be replaced by the newer model. Bush was only a frontman. A simple prop to occupy our time.
The only thing seperating Sarah Palin from becoming the next George W. Bush is an ability to memorize the script. And all that requires is time. She will be a far stronger candidate in 2012, and you're a fool to ever believe otherwise. If it suits the Party to have her as their frontman, then she will become the next nominee. They were expecting to lose this year, anyway. Having John McCain, who is despised as a traitor to the hard right, will serve their purposes. The current and future exodus of Republican moderates and intellectuals serves the same purpose. It's the purging, the purifying. Soon, there won't be anyone who isn't carefully following the script. Having a "maverick" like McCain around to denounce your hypocricies hurts your brand. Having moderates who work with Democrats to stop the corporatist smashing of America hurts your brand.
So don't get yourselves too smug, kids. Don't kid yourselves for a second. These criminals are not going anywhere. They are not going to become a permanent minority in this nation. And they sure as hell aren't fools.
As for Iran....well, what do you want to hear from me? A vote for the Republicans is a vote for the Permanent War. What part of this did you miss these past eight years? Once they can find a way to wage the next war without paying any of its costs - and this is where the privatization of our military is so dangerous - the next war will commence.
Part of me still fears that Bush would bomb Iran on his way out the door. The recent strikes inside Syria and Pakistan demonstrate this possibility. I'm not so sure now. I have the feeling that if this scheme would have worked, it would have happened by now. There simply isn't enough time to smash Iran to pieces and then profit from all the chaos. War is a racket, remember. It's the one true reason why the Iraq War was a success. With the Democrats sweeping into majority rule, there simply isn't enough time to rob the banks.
Better for the gang to wait it out in their hideaway, and plan for the next big heist. Their opportunity will come. The Republican noise machine - mass mailings, talk radio, Fox News, fundamentalist religion - is still fully intact and operational. The tactics honed to perfection during the Clinton Era will be employed again, and in full force.
So you think Sarah Palin is a comic fool? Perhaps. But if it weren't for the Wall Street crisis in the middle of September, odds were very good that she and McCain were about to win this thing. The stupids in this nation can always be manipulated, herded like cattle, sleepwalked into their cages. This is almost always the rule; almost always, except for the rare event when the cattle wakes up. The threat of economic collapse will do that.
The great American battle of the next four years will be to keep this herd of cattle wide awake and aware of their surroundings. If they are lulled to sleep again....well, there's no point in telling them what's inside that large building they're being herded into. It would only upset them to know they're about to be churned into Happy Meals.
And Barack Obama is there to congratulate him. Nice. Obama's the toughest "nice guy" you'll ever meet.
And notice how Obama calmly rebukes the crowd for booing Cheney. "You don't have to boo, you just have to vote." Compare this to the countless displays of vulgarity from the McCain-Palin rallies. Their silence has spoken volumes.
This is the final push, folks. This is the end. Earn it.
Go head over to Conversations on Ghibli and see what's up. Obama will still be winning when you get back.
Is this really all the McCain campaign has going for it? Is this the best they could do? What a pack of miserable losers. This, really, isn't any different than the last generation of Republicans to come since Reagan - smarmy, dishonest bullies - but it just feels so tired and worn out. I am so sick and tired of these pathetic losers. I suspect most Americans feel the same way.
And kudos to CNN for standing firm and demanding answers. It would be nice to have some semblance of tv journalism in this country, instead of the vapid high school drama we're usually stuck with.