Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Liberal Media Hit Pieces or just Wry New Yorker Humor?

Here is something a bit odd. I don't know what it means. Mitt Romney has Been the subject of the covers of four out of the last six issues of The New Yorker. Barak Obama has not appeared on the cover at all. The only time the president has been even suggested on he New Yorker cover on that time has been on the issue fail lowing the first presidential debate, in what was surely the sliest political cartoon so far this season, which showed Romney debating with an empty stool, a reference to Clint Eastwood's bizarre performance at the Republican National Convention.

Coming from New York City as it does, one might expect the New Yorker to feature the president more. After all, this is one of the most liberal cities in America. Conservative conspiracy theorists might also expect a New York focused magazine to be writing hit pieces on Mitt Romney, and indeed some of their coverage has been highly critical of him. But the New Yorker bills itself both as a rag so erudite that it is above the filthy business of politics (except for this weeks issue), and as a magazine targeted at the upper fraction of the one percent, or those who aspire to be like them, so they have a deep fondness and admiration for Mr. Romney (one that is not shared by their readers, to judge from the letters they choose to publish).

The covers display the wry humor typical of the New Yorker. The current cover is the most critical of Mr. Romney. Titled "skin deep" it is based on Norman Rockwell's famous "Tattoo Artist" cover from The Saturday Evening Post in March of 1944. The original has a sailor sitting on a stool with a tattoo artist, his back to us, hunched over, hard at work on the sailor's arm, where he is inscribing the name "Betty" below a list of other girl's names, all exes, all lined through. Behind the sailor and framing him is a wall of flash. The sailor sits there calmly, a little bored, knowing that Betty is unlikely to be last girl to have her named tattooed on his arm. In the New Yorker version, Romney sits in the chair, calmly, as the artists inscribes a line through the word "Outsourcing" on his bicep, below a list of other crossed out terms: Romney Care, 47%, Stem Cells, Immigration, Tax Cuts, Pro-Choice. The best part of the drawing is the flash on the wall, including a slipper ship above the legend "Cayman or Bust," a tip hat full of money, and a pinup girl on a binder with "Binders of Babes" written on it.

Another cover, from September 3rd, shows Romney with his running mate Paul Ryan in a series of scenes that could be from the opening credits of Mayberry R.F.D. One scene has the two (hunky) candidates, shirtless, bending over the engine of a '55 Chevy Bel Aire (the two tone paint, the chrome strip, and the lack of tail fins, if you must know). Another has them sharing a chocolate malt at a soda shop. In one, Ryan reads Atlas Shrugged to Romney as he drift's off to sleep. The one where they are trying to trap a puppy so they can tar and feather it clearly marks them as heartless bad guys, but is reminiscent of Romney's dismissal of his college era bullying of a gay classmate as "pranks and shenanigans."

But with all this, where is the president? As it turns out, inside. An item in the issue lists all the politically themed covers they did this year. Two of them featured Obama one more featured Romney. Clearly Romney is bigger news than the sitting president. Or maybe he is the target they want to make fun of. The two covers featuring Obama are anything but critical.

The best political cover of the year, though, is actually two. Roz Chast created two covers for the September 24 issue called "Bring In The Clowns," one tinted in red and the other in blue, mocking the sacred cows of both political parties.

(I found the article on covers just as I was finishing this post. Took a bit of the wind out of my sails, but I was proud of having recognized the Rockwell and Eastwood references, so I'm posting this anyway).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The final stretch.

I wanted to fight one more time this week. I fought on Wednesday and Thursday and I wanted to fight on Saturday. I tried to get people together but everyone was busy. I did not want to rent a Zipcar because renting and driving to Crown is going to be expensive. I ended up not fighting yesterday at all. As the last full week of training for Crown, however, it was pretty good. I did worked every day. I fought twice. I am finally down below 215 pounds. I am not at all satisfied with the results or where I am in my fighting.

The only things I have been doing is soup-can exercises for my elbow and stretching for my Achilles. The Achilles has been a bit sore with workouts every day.

This was a great week according to my workout tracker on I biked 49.5 miles (actually more because I didn't track my whole ride on Tuesday). I did yoga on Monday, I fought Wednesday and Thursday, I did the WODs plus some yoga on Friday and Saturday. The biggest result of all of this is that, while today is supposed to be a rest day, I really want to bike down to Coney and workout on the par course!

The last fighting before the tourney should be about focus and endurance, but I was working on greatsword technique, with varying success. I am moving away from the Bellatrix techniques I used to use and employing a long-point technique that comes from Count Marc, but is related to the Japanese based bastard sword techniques I learned from Elrik. But I am also employing the standard high-center technique favored in the East Kingdom these days, and Gui's horse stance technique.

I fought at Nutley on Wednesday. I fought like ass. I started out with a greatsword set against Lou. I was doing pretty good. I used mostly the high center technique and won four or five of our fights. Wavy fakes were
Working best, however.

Next I fought Stephan. I did not lay stick on him once. Tim said I looked really good, and Stephan is the best fighter in the kingdom, but I did want to hit him once. I am certainly not where I need to be to win crown if my offense can't break the best fighters at least a few times. As Sagan says, you measure yourself against the best and by that measure I am still lacking.

After that I fought Vasilli, and that was where I thought I was not doing well at all. He took my leg and then pounded me in our first fight. He uses a short heavy stick and bull rushes, and he is really strong, but he is wild with a sloppy defense. He was taking my leg and hitting me with short stick slot shots. I should be able to defend that. In our last three fights I made some adjustments, I killed him with a hook thrust once, with a cut, and then by standing his rush up and attacking him on the of side helm, which beat him.

Then I fought John the Breeder, a true recipe for pain. I fought him really well. John is the new kingdom phenom, probably the best natural we have had since Stephan: fast, strong, great instincts, but also with a huge kite shield and fighting left handed. He has won ten tournaments in he last year. I fought him really well. I honk we only actually had three fights but they were all long. I beat him once, by triggering off his leg shot. I took his arm, which was not my plan but it worked. Three times i had him dead to rights but could not execute. Twice i missed open thrusts and once a cut. In our last fight it cost me. My thrust was off line, my follow through opened up my right side and he creamed my ribs, which is why i rarely thrust against lefties. The amusing thing about John, not only has he started to break down and analyze fights like a knight, but I learned
This week that his footwork, which is excellent, is based on a cha-cha step. I love dance based footwork. That warmed my heart.

I discovered, as I had before, that I probably need to rehang my shield again. The problem with this theory is that one reason it is hung as it is none is specifically for John and Gui, to give me a defense against lefties that approaches that of my old center grip kite, which was the best shield for lefties I have had. But I do need to raise my arm a bit. I am also squaring up too much. These combined make it harder to defend my leg. I should not be losing my leg so much with a 36 inch shield. But the other reason I was dissatisfied is that I am just not seeing he fights well right now. It is a mater of focus and reaction. I literally do not know what to do from one pass to the next. I am not targeting openings as fast as I should be, and I am not reacting to what I see. Hopefully, that is a product of seeing more stuff than I was six months ago, but if so then my computer needs to pick it up and process it.

Thursday night was all about the greatsword. I left my shield at home. I fought against Landon first, him using sword and shield. I won our first fight then lost the others. I found that if I closed with him a la Bellatrix I was doomed. Later I fought Damion, our new guy. That was probably not a good idea just because I was not in a training other people mood. I was in a training me for Crown mood. However, he is a beast, in the best shape of any of us there, and gets off on the contact, so they were still pretty good fights and he enjoyed them. I fought Landon again, this time with greatsword, then Gui, then Tormundr. In between Gui was teaching Tormundr greatsword techniques, mostly using long point in he way Marc uses it, thrusting, controlling strong to weak, winding, cutting along the blade. Then he went out and fought me and did all thy incredible Yoda shot he does and wiped me out. In those fights, when I closed with him and he could use his superior blade control, I was doomed. When I fought at the edge I was winning our fights. Gui says I need to put a pommel on my sword to weight it better. Funny, because I used to love counter weighted bastard swords, but I am really proud of my old school stick o rattan these days. Anyway, if you want to train for greatsword, Gui, is probably the best person after Gregor to train against. It was a great night.

It is one week until Crown, which will be my next time in armor.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garbage in....

Anybody who thought the election was over in September was an idiot. Governor Romney's performance in his debates with New Gingrich and Rick Santorum, as well as President Obama's weakness against Hillary Clinton four years ago, should have given everyone pause. Rand Paul and Chris Christy were going around int he week before the first presidential debate trumpeting how their guy was going to wipe the floor with the president, and that is exactly what happened.

It was also pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention that the Vice Presidential debate was going to be entertaining. This one went true to form. The administration's resident pit bull, Joe Biden, went out and did his best to chew the yippy little terrier of the GOP, Paul Ryan, to shreds, as though it was Michael Vick and not Barack Obama who had sicked him on the little guy. Ryan fought back, but he was no match for the grinning, the eye rolling, and the tenacity of Biden. This one played more true to form, with the Republicans insisting their guy had won (because he had more decorum) and Democrats insisting their guy had won (because he had drawn more blood).

Not that any of it mattered. Nobody votes for Vice President. And the polls are where they should be at this point in the race. As tracked by, the race is a dead heat, with all polls basically within the margin of error. If it stays this close the election will be a fight between the Democrats get-out-the-vote apparatus and the Republican's vote suppression efforts, and the whole thing will end up in court.

But all of that aside, the most interesting thing I saw this week was the Melissa Harris Perry show on Sunday, where she did a long segment and led a panel discussion on relative truth--the current political reality in which nobody can even agree on what a fact is, let alone what is true. Each side has not only their own policies and paradigms, but their own sets of facts, and if you call those facts into question you are part of the conspiracy of lies being spread by the other side. It is a valid question to ask, given this situation, can democracy even function at all? 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sick Sick Sick

With Penn State's romp over Northwestern and Ohio State's complete destruction of Nebraska, both on Sunday, the Big Ten finds itself in a very embarrassing position. It is becoming obvious that the two best teams in the Big Ten this year (in which, don't blink, there are twelve teams), are both on probation, both ineligible for the post season, both already eliminated from competition for the conference title and the paperweight formerly known as the Joe Paterno Trophy.  This is bad. Penn State is supposed to be in a shambles after losing four years of eligibility, eighty scholarships (twenty per year) and most of their best players to transfers, following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Ohio State, playing under a more mundane one-year bowl ban for recruiting violations, actually poses a bigger problem, not just for the Big Ten but for the NCAA. Sitting at number 8 and undefeated, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes are undefeated and have a very good shot at running the table--particularly considering that they only have conference games remaining (the toughest one being against those self same Nitatny Lions of Penn State). As explained in this piece from Florida Today,  the Buckeyes could end up being declared national champions in the AP poll, even without playing a post-season game.

This scenario is a nightmare for the NCAA, just as the success of the two banned teams represent a black eye to the Big Ten. If the best team in the country is not allowed to play in the title game the game will be even more meaningless than it already is. The rampant hypocrisy of the NCAA, with its bogus sanctions and sanctimonious penalties, will be even further exposed. As  proponent of the old Bowl system, antipathetic toward any so called "national championship" (I am still upset at the Rose Bowl for joining the BCS), I find this at best amusing. But it is in fact deadly serious for the NCAA

Last year, before realignment forced the BCS to go to a plus-one format (the death knell for traditional post-season football), there was talk that the big conferences, once realignment was complete, would remove their football programs from the NCAA entirely and form their own league with their own rules regarding eligibility. This scenario could lend even more fuel to that fire. Coaches, athletic directors, and alumni all hate the NCAA and their rules. They rightly point out that the NCAA reaps millions of dollars in profits from their football players but refuse to let the university give those player money to buy clothes, go to a movie, or even eat off campus. Presumably, the change would mean more realistic scholarships, cash stipends for players, and a tacit acknowledgement that big-time college football is really a semi-pro farm system for the NFL. In that world, neither Ohio State nor Penn State would likely have been sanctioned at all. The so called "recruiting violations" of Ohio State would be the accepted norm, and Penn State's issues would be dismissed as "not a football matter." They would be happy banning Sandusky and possibly JoePa for life, donate to a victim's fund, and get on with the real business of football, which is putting quality competitive entertainment on television. This new league would of course be organized around a play-off system with an undisputed national champion, and the NCAA would be left trying to hype the successes of the Marshals and Fresno States of the world (maybe not Fresno State. Like TCU and Boise State, they would likely find a place in the New Football World Order).

I would hate it, but the world would love it, and the NCAA will be stuck with basketball, which isn't such a bad thing, after all.

All that aside, you can bet everybody at the NCAA, let alone the Big Ten, will be rooting for Ohio State to beat Penn State when they play, and then for Michigan on Rivalry Week. Because their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Look, I don't know if the new unemployment figures are cooked. I don't see how they could have. I know that here in New York City, and in the suburbs, a lot more people seem to be working, feeling happy, and acting confident, but we were not hit that hard in the recession anyway.

But there is one thing I do know, one thing that you can count on, and that is conservative conspiracy theorists. Most famous conspiracy theories come from the left. As Noam Chomsky said, the left has a pathological need to see conspiracies everywhere (or something like that--look it up). But the right has gone absolutely bonkers with conspiracy theories over the last, well, lets say three and three quarter years. Obama was not born in Hawaii. Obama is a secret Muslim. Obama is a Manchurian Candidate for Al Queda. Obama is a socialist. Obama is a secret racist. Hilary Clinton and the Obama Administration are conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to bring Sharia Law to America. The left has its whackos, sure: but on the right seemingly intelligent, competent people, when it comes to our first Black president, show themselves to be stark raving nuts. It is so odd coming from a liberal background in San Francisco and now living in New York, because I see everything that they see and my reaction is "huh?". I get that we live in different worlds and have different paradigms, but this is crazy. A lot of the things they accuse him of, like being a racist, just sound ignorant and stupid where I live. (I watched the tape that supposedly shows him using racially divisive language. None of it was inflammatory, none of it was racially charged, and all of it was so obviously true that when Tucker Carlson stood up and shouted about it my reaction was "well, yeah, and?")

And so we come tot he jobs report. Unemployment fell to 7.8% and Jack Welch's brain exploded. He tweeted that the numbers had to have been cooked, and every conservative blog and radio show picked the idea up. Of course they had to have been cooked! Good numbers would be good for the president, and so they must have been manipulated, because anybody can see how bad the economy is! It's a vast left-wing conspiracy!

But housing, both new construction and existing homes, were both up in the last report. Retail sales are at a four month high. We've all seen how the stock market is doing: in fact, it is obvious that Wall Street believes the jobs numbers, because as i write this the Dow is up 52 points.

Mr. Welch, as a rather disreputable Marine once put it "you can't handle the truth!"

The truth appears to be that the economy is doing better over the past few months. This is obviously good news for President Obama, and helps him after his horrible debate performance on Wednesday. But the right wingers see a commie behind every tree (or hugging it), and know that (a) the sky is falling because we have a black radical socialist professorial East Coast elitist America hating president, and (b) the people will throw him out if they can just be made to see the truth (most of which these yahoos are making up).

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

I may have been wrong

Last time I wrote that no matter what happened in the debate the spin meisters would declare that their side had won, and that was basically true. But, quite surprisingly, the media did not follow suit...not quite. You expected the Post to declare victory for Romney, but this morning the New York Daily News, a pro labor mostly Democrat paper, declared "Mitt's a Hit!" on their front page. Immediately after the debate finished NPR declared victory for Romney before even looking at the spot polls (I was listening on the radio on my way home from fighter practice, so I did not avoid it completely). Chris Mathews on MSNBC, with a smile even, declared the night a victory for Mitt Romney and said it would change the complexion of the race. Rachel Maddow on her blog acknowledged the polls, but, more true to form, quickly pivoted to decrying the limitations of televised debates, highlighting Romney's flip-flops, and furiously fact-checking Romney's points. But she also admitted that Romney had won. All of them did. Even the Times.

And he did. Romney was charged and aggressive. He was respectful while being forceful. He took control of the debate from the start. He finally made his long awaited pivot to the middle and it looked pretty good. The president, by contrast, was professorial, wonkish, pedantic, and frankly boring. Listening to the last ten minutes of the debate in the car that much was clear. Looking at the outtakes it was even more so.

None of this is surprising. As Bill Maher tweeted, the President really does need that teleprompter. He is a much better speaker than he is a debater. Romney is a CEO who is used to going head to head with people in board rooms. He would be the first PowerPoint president. He is a little bit like Ross Perot but with better hair (I know Romney couldn't use PowerPoint in the debate, but I do wish he had taken a few foam-core charts with him like Perot did). I had this fight with my sweetie the night before the debate. An Ayn Rand loving Econ grad, she nonetheless is fervent in her support for Obama. When I told her I was worried about the debates because Romney is the better debater, she said he only looks that way because of the baboons he was debating in the primary. I disagreed and still do. This was a lot like the way Romney went after Gingrich last fall--another professorial professor. He trounced him. No big surprise.

None of which might mean anything. The first debate usually goes to the challenger. Ronald Regan looked like a dottering old fool against Mondale in their first debate and then blew him away in the second. If the election had been held right after the first Bush/Keary debate, Keary would likely have won.  Obama still has the best organization of the two, and still has the benefit of incumbency, but this race is far from over. And that might be, not only the big victoory for Romney, but for the press as well. The narrative has turned against the President. Yesterday afternoon his election was a foregone conclusion. Now Romney is viable again and the press has a horse race. As Scarborough put it last week, they may lean left but mostly the Press leans to the story, and they want the best one. A real race, with real debates, where the polls are close, the issues matter and the attacks are furious is what sells papers and attracts viewers. So maybe it's not so surprising that I so was wrong after all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


With all the hype surrounding the first presidential debate tomorrow night (which I won't even watch if I can find a way to get to Nutley practice tomorrow) I can safely predict the winner without even thinking about what the two candidates will actually say:

The winner will be the guy you liked coming in.

FOX news will tout Mitt Romney's masterful grasp of the issues. MSNBC will pillory him as ineffectual and obtuse. Chris Mathews will practically come talking about how eloquent Mr. Obama was, Lawrence O'Donnell will sound like every great sports caster making the greatest call of his live ("Down goes Frazier! Do you believe in miracles? Look at Mills! Look at mills! Look at mills!") Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow will smirk and go into excruciating details about the issues nobody really understands or cares about. Rush Limbaugh will bloviate, Bill O'Reily will pontificate, Ann Coulter will just insult everybody, and both Glen Beck and Keith Olberman will weep, because they are weepers. The only people likely to offer a cogent analysis are Jon Stewart and, God Help us, Joe Scarborough (this all acknowledges that nobody watches CNN anyway).

Because it's not about facts and it's certainly not about policies. For these people it is all about ideology, values, and spin.  

Monday, October 01, 2012

Wow! Another MediaGrouch post!

I have been avoiding politics the past couple of weeks. It started with a one day political blackout on 9/11 initiated by my most conservative, and angriest, FaceBook friend. I followed suit and stopped posting, sharing, or commenting on political posts. It has been frustrating keeping my mouth shut when I see something that makes me angry, or sharing my Schadenfreude when I find something deflating the opposition, but mostly it has been liberating.

But here I have no such restrictions. Most of my friends don't read this stuff anyway.

There are three things which I find really interesting right now about the campaign. The first is the rabid conspiracy theorists on the right who are turning on conservative news outlets for reporting actual news. The second is the amazing spin machine working overtime in the Romney camp, and the third is the predictions. All of these are, of course related: the predictions are seen as a conspiracy that must be spun by Romney's people, but they are interesting because they have moved beyond the sublime and into the truly absurd.

This morning on Morning Joe, my favorite conservative news show, Joe Scarborough tore into the conspiracy theorists who were accusing him and his staff of trying to make Mitt Romney look bad in a brief video of a campaign stop. Here is Morning Joe's original coverage.

 If you read the virulent comments below you will get an idea of what the Conservative blogsphere is saying about it. Joe Scarborough, who is an out front Romney supporter, one of the most conservative figures on television and a hero of the Gingrich should apparently go to jail for doctoring this tape (these people have obviously never read the constitution no matter what they claim). Ignoring the fact that he has declarted his support for Mitt Romney, and never actually listening to the content of his broadcasts in which he continuously touts conservative economic and political ideas and solutions, they are claiming that Joe Scarborough and his staff doctored the tape to make it look embarrassing to Mitt Romney. The Blaze broadcast it and other blogs picked it up. called it "The Greatest Catch of All Time" . It did not matter that other outlets reported the same thing. It doesn't matter that the CNN live feed of the rally sounds exactly the same. They ignore the real issue: that it was Romney himself who brought attention to the fact that some in the crowd were chanting his VP's name and not his own. What they see, and what they actually believe, is that MSNBC is doctoring the news to make Romeny look bad and they have accused a conservative icon of leading the way. The truth does not matter. The facts do not matter. This story is out there in the blogsphere and millions of people believe it. Don't get the idea that I'm saying this phenomenon is limited to Republicans. There is propoganda and idiots on both sides of the aisle. But it has reached absurd proportions on the right because their guy is losing and they so completely hate President Obama that they can't stand anything that might be critical of Mitt Romney. The result of all of this is that Scarborough, whom I have never really liked because of his radio show and the horrible things he has said about people on the left (like me), is starting to look like the model for Will McAvoy, the hero of Aaron Sorkin's new series The Newsroom: a news anchor who tries to break out of the tabloid mold and ends up telling the truth about his own party, and gets attacked from the right as a shill for the liberal media. I never saw that coming.

Of course the spin coming from Romney is rough. Their guy is down int he polls. They have locked onto the conspiracy rats spin, that the polls are all liberally biased and don't show the truth: that Romney is winning in almost every state. The idea behind this is that, in the polls, more people identified themselves as democrats than as republicans. Of course the republican spin ends up begging the question. The polls showing more people are planing to vote democratic are biased because more people say they are planning to vote democratic. It is pathetic, but the Romeny campaign and many conservatives have picked up on it as a way to explain away the fact that their campaign is going nowhere. I swear, every time I open up my web browser I read another disgusting political lie from the right, and I wonder ow these people can possibly exist in an otherwise sane and just world.

But that leads us to predictions. I expect MSNBC's prediction to lean Mr. Obama's way. Joe Scarborough and Michael Steele aside, they work from a pretty clear pro-Obama stance, and are constantly cirtical of the right. They can report the same numbers as everybody else, will likely put a shiny face on things for Mr. Obama. Toss up states will lean his way, for instance. They won't report the margin of error on states that are close. But they are not only reporting their own numbers, but those from Rasmussen and Gallop, which lean conservative, and which also show Mr. Obama well ahead in several swing states. It is telling that FOX, which is as right leaning as MSNBC is left leaning, is reporting the same poll results--even from their own polls (this has prompted some in the blogsphere to declare that even FOX news is part of the liberal media conspiracy). However, there are a lot of great predictors out there. For Instance, in a story that was carried even on HuffPo, a rather reliable economic model out of University of Colorado predicted a Mitt Romney victory. Most models predict an Obama victory. I am not sure anythign is set in stone right now. Tehre are still ways this race could tighten up, and if voter suppression efforts in Florida and Ohio work, Romney could well win even now. But it looking into the wisdom of crowd sourcing, I came upon what might be the most interesting predictor out there: the Intrade Prediction Market forecasts the election results based on the betting line, on who is wagering money online as to which candidate will win which state. It is probably as good a predictor as any. They have Obama winning with 332 electoral votes. 

Nothing matters until November, of course, but here is my prediction: if Mr. Obama wins you will see the rending of garments and the pulling out of hair. Several tea partiers will suddenly appear in white cassocks marching along the capital mall, sure that the end days have reached us. Glen Beck will weep for America. Several Christians will immolate themselves in front of the Chicago Board of Trade. Ted Nugent will blow his head off in an act of despair. And Rush Limbaugh will growl, laugh and continue to make millions of dollars spreading lies about the liberal threat to America because that is how he makes his living. Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter too. Like Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and Stephen Colbert on the left, they are immune.