And All Was Right With The World

I’d have been happier with 40+ points, but a 36 to zippo shutout of Auburn ends the regular season for both teams. Auburn’s difficult year ends at 5 and 7, a game shy of a bowl slot, which suits us just fine. Tuberville may have a year left — his six-game Iron Bowl streak will probably buy him some time — but something tells me that next year won’t be much better, and the Auburn faithful aren’t likely to be very patient at that point.

Alabama, of course, improves to 12-0 and will continue to the SEC championship game in Atlanta next Saturday against one-loss Florida. Meyer’s Gators are hot, and have played very well since their shocking loss to Ole Miss, so the game is likely to be quite a brawl. The winner there will for certain go to the BCS game in Miami, meeting whomever ends up on top of the Big XII South. All three contenders in that division won their games this weekend, though only Texas‘s 49 to 9 over A&M was truly authoritative; Texas Tech needed a big late-game rally to escape Baylor, and Oklahoma allowed 41 points in their 61-point win over Oklahoma State. (Frankly, the confusion may actually be all hype: after the drubbing from Oklahoma and the scare from Baylor, smart money says Texas Tech is out of the running for good — and Texas has already beaten Oklahoma in the regular season, which ought to get them into the Big XII game ahead of the Sooners.)

Elsewhere, LSU continued their downward slide with a 31-30 loss to Arkansas, which we’re certain will give the Tiger Boosters a bit of heartburn considering what they’re paying Les Miles.

Next door in Mississippi, the Egg Bowl turned into a 45 to nothing slaughter that also ended Croom’s career there. I hate seeing the preppie bastards in Oxford win that game, but you can’t argue with 45 unanswered points and Houston Nutt’s near-immediate success in his first year there.

On the other end of the coaching spectrum, as always, is Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis. Just a year after an embarrassing 3-9 season, and only a week out from a collapse for the ages against 8-loss Syracuse, the Irish gave up 38 points against the USC Trojans in a pathetic excuse for a game that has pundits all over calling for Weis’ head. The bad news for the ND athletic department is that apparently Weis’ contract buyout is friggin’ huge. Look for several more years of Irish mediocrity with or without Weis; their lackluster performance goes back further than Weis’ tenure.

Happy Birthday To This

Eight years ago today, a mailing list I maintained called “Some Arrant Knaves I Know” transmogrified into a blog called Miscellaneous Heathen.

Much of the last 8 years’ subject matter has been political, because — let’s face it — we spent most of that time watching the Bush Administration carefully consider what the right path would be in any given situation, and then just as carefully select the opposite. That fueled lots of angry posts, at times even overwhelming the “here’s something weird” character of the ancestral mailing list. With Bush nearly out of office, I don’t think I”ll stop writing about politics, but I do expect the post mix to become a bit less political. And I don’t mind.

Here’s to a return to weirdness. Happy Heathen Day. Now I’m gonna go watch and see if Alabama can beat Auburn.

That’s some fine snark right there

Fed up with the advertising demonization of the word “chemical,” the Royal Society of Chemistry has offered a £1,000,000 bounty for the first person to present them with a sample of a “100% chemical free” substance.

In which we finally comment on the events of Saturday last

To say people viewed the Oklahoma – Texas Tech game with interest would be a wild understatement. Pretty much nobody outside of Lubbock has been happy to see Leach’s boys get this far with no losses, and Heathen Nation has been right there with ‘em. Smart money said that if the Raiders could get past the Longhorns, then the only team likely to stop ‘em would be Oklahoma — but pretty much everyone also expected a fairly hard-fought game.

Well, on that point at least, pretty much everybody was dead fucking wrong, as the Sooners managed to steamroll Texas Tech like a farm league team. Nothing the Raiders did worked; Oklahoma could do virtually no wrong, and by halftime it was very, very clear that Tech was no longer in the running for any championships — Big XII or national. Final score: 65 to 21, and it wasn’t that close. Tech’s final TD came with the Sooners’ bench on defense, and the Sooners’ played without starting QB Sam Bradford for the final quarter. Oklahoma improves to 34 and 1 under Stoops in home games, which is quite a stat.

This old-skool ass-whippin’ was utterly unforeseen, as we said; smart money said that if Tech lost, it would create a three-way tie in the Big XII South, leading to wailing and gnashing of teeth as folks tried to figure out who best deserved a shot at Miami. By folding up like a cheap suit, Tech eliminated themselves — and Texas beat Oklahoma already. By the time the BCS rankings came out last night, nobody outside of Norman was expecting anything other than what we got:

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Florida
  5. USC

Yeah, some west coast nerd had to shove the Trojans in there. Tech drops to 7. Penn State’s a slot behind them at 8. Still-perfect Boise and Ohio State round out the top ten. (Amusingly, the AP poll puts Florida at #2, followed by Oklahoma, Texas, and USC; USAToday sees 2-5 as Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, and USC — but neither poll matters.)

Texas still has to beat unranked A&M and get to the Big XII game against Mizzou to play in Miami, but it’s not that simple; the Longhorns don’t exactly control their own destiny. Ties in this conference are broken by BCS standings, and that’s where things get woozy.

Should Oklahoma win convincingly over their 9-2 cross-state rival Oklahoma State, they’ll get lifted in the BCS model — but Texas’ last remaining game is against a helpless 4-7 Aggie squad, and beating them won’t impress anyone. The BCS gap between the two is small enough that even a slight increase in Oklahoma’s rating relative to UT could push them into the #2 spot and the conference game. The only certain thing is that it’s the Big XII South vs. the SEC in Miami; the North division hasn’t won since Kansas State in 2003, and Mizzou isn’t gonna break that streak (they already lost to Texas once this year, back in October, to the tune of 56 to 31).

Elsewhere, a couple other lovely things happened. Well, I say that, but when Ole Miss and LSU play, I really sort of wish both could lose. This time around, though, it was the Rebels winning big over a Tiger team clearly on tilt after some rough losses, but still ranked #18 going into the game. After the 31 to 13 drubbing, though, LSU’s nowhere to be seen — and Ole Miss popped up at 25 on the AP.

And where would a Heathen football comment be without some Notre Dame hate? We’ve got you covered: the Irish managed to suck out against coachless Syracuse, 24 to 23 at home in South Bend. This is a collapse of almost Texan proportions, as the Irish led 23-10 in the fourth quarter.

The Orange improve to 3 and 8; it’s the first time EVER for ND to lose to an 8-loss squad. They’ll still be bowl eligible at .500 assuming they lose, as expected, to USC in their season closer — which sets the stage for the Irish to extend their (NCAA record) winless streak of bowls to an even TEN. The 2007-2008 two-year span also boasts the most losses of any such span in program history (14, and they haven’t played USC yet). But keep Weis up there, Irish. Really. We’re sure this is gonna work out just fine, and don’t worry about the restless natives:

The Irish players were pelted by snowballs on the sideline for much of the first quarter by fans sitting on the student section. Defensive end Ethan Johnson was struck on the left cheek and several other players also getting hit by snowballs despite three announcement urging fans to stop.

The Irish were booed several times during the game, including Clausen on Notre Dame’s next-to-last possession when third-and-8 the Syracuse 31 he missed a wide open David Grimes.

Weis is at 28 and 20 over 4 seasons, or batting about .583; ND aced the last two coaches in that statistical neighborhood, but Weis still has 7 years left on his contract.

Oh, and the historic multi-year collapse of ND is actually showing up on non-sports blogs now. This pleases us at Heathen Central, as do a couple stats from the article the blogger links:

  • ND has beaten only one team with a winning record this year: perennial powerhouse NAVY.
  • The combined record of the teams ND has beaten this year is 18-46.
  • Under Weis, the Irish are 12-17 against teams with winning records.

Widely linked; still cool.

Google has the entire Life magazine photoarchive.

Some lovely finds:

Your afternoon is ruined.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that Heathen Tom’s uncle is actually in the archive. How cool is that?

Wow. It’s like the definition of tone-deaf.

The Detroit CEOs who went, tin cup out, to request a bailout went to Washington in three separate corporate jets.

So it was hard to feel sorry for the executives when Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), late in the hearing, reminded them again that “the symbolism of the private jet is difficult,” and mischievously asked the witnesses whether, in another symbolic gesture, they would be willing to work for $1 a year, as [Chrysler head Robert] Nardelli has offered to do.

“I don’t have a position on that today,” demurred [GM CEO Richard] Wagoner (2007 total compensation: $15.7 million).

“I understand the intent, but I think where we are is okay,” said [Ford top Alan] Mulally ($21.7 million).

“I’m asking about you,” Roskam pressed.

“I think I’m okay where I am,” Mulally said.

And don’t even think about asking him to fly commercial.

The only “Chinese Democracy” Review You Need To Read

From the A/V Club, by Chuck Klosterman. It includes this excellent paragraph:

Throughout Chinese Democracy, the most compelling question is never, “What was Axl doing here?” but “What did Axl think he was doing here?” The tune “If The World” sounds like it should be the theme to a Roger Moore-era James Bond movie, all the way down to the title. On “Scraped,” there’s a vocal bridge that sounds strikingly similar to a vocal bridge from the 1990 Extreme song “Get The Funk Out.” On the aforementioned “Sorry,” Rose suddenly sings an otherwise innocuous line (“But I don’t want to do it”) in some bizarre, quasi-Transylvanian accent, and I cannot begin to speculate as to why. I mean, one has to assume Axl thought about all of these individual choices a minimum of a thousand times over the past 15 years. Somewhere in Los Angles, there’s gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the “Sorry” vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, “You know, I’ve weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I’m going with the Mexican vampire accent.”

Another Senate Dem

The counting’s all but over, and it is now possible to call the Alaskan Senate race. Multiple-felon Stevens is OUT; Begich is in.

The Senate now holds 56 actual Democrats plus Joe Lieberman (who is not an actual Democrat; he lost his primary but ran in the general anyway as an “independent Democrat” in 2006) and Bernie Sanders (an actual Independent, from Vermont). The race in Minnesota (Coleman v. Franken) is still in recount hell, but could break for Franken easily.

Saxby Chambliss in Georgia didn’t win a majority of the votes (he got 49.8%), so he’ll have to sit for a runoff — a runoff in which the entire Democratic party will be pushing for his opponent, Jim Martin (46.8; the Libertarian candidate got 3.4%).

Chambliss won his seat in 2002 by painting decorated veteran and triple-amputee Max Cleland as somehow unpatriotic in a series of smear ads on local media. He’s a douchebag of the first water, and deserves to be kicked to the curb more than anyone I can think of. Godspeed, Jim Martin.

I know you can all do math, but one possible endgame here is that the Dems seat 60 in their caucus come January.

Dept. of Cool Shit You May Have Forgotten About

We launched Voyager 1 in September of 1977. By January of 1979, it was sending back amazing shots of Jupiter and its moons (including the first evidence of volcanic activity on Io). With November 1980 came Saturn and its moon Titan.

As of now, in late 2008, Voyager is still at work. It’s long since passed the planetary part of our solar system, and is now more than 107 AU from the sun, or about 9.94 billion miles, making it the farthest man-man object by a vast margin. It’s also significantly beyond the orbit of Pluto (30-49 AU; shut up; it is too a planet); signals from Voyager 1 now take in excess of fourteen hours to reach earth.

Sadly, it has not yet produced any contact with Godlike extraterrestrial intelligences nor hot bald alien women.

Even now, I tell young geeks about such things, and they scoff

The computer lab at Alabama I first worked in was actually a roomful of terminals hooked to an IBM 3081d mainframe. One wall of the room had a long shelf attached, on which was approximately 12 linear feet of documentation for VM/SP, Rexx, Xedit, Mail, FORTRAN 77, and God knows what else, all in one enormous expandable “binding”. You don’t see that anymore.

It was that culture of documentation that led IBM to ship each PC with a commensurately excellent set of docs weighing in at something like 4,000 pages.

My MacBook Pro came with a thin brochure. Of course, there was no Internet to speak of in 1981, either.

Well that didn’t take long. I’m already disappointed.

The Dems will let Turncoat Joe keep his chairmanships despite his active anti-Dem campaigning AND his utter failure to use said chairmanship for anything useful during Bush’s presidency.

So, Senate Dems will be allowing Lieberman to keep his plum spot despite the fact that he has been deeply awful in that role, and despite the fact that he endorsed efforts by the GOP to imply that Obama is in league with terrorists, suggested that Obama endangered our troops, and said Obama hasn’t always put the country first.

Worse, Reid is echoing an argument he knows is false: That this is only about retribution. Reid and his fellow Senators have made the political decision to leave Lieberman in a job that he was a disaster at, rather than make the good governmental decision to remove him for the good of the country.

That it was apparently Obama’s decision makes me only slightly less annoyed.

Happies

Please join the Heathen faithful in congratulating longtime Heathens Ear O’Corn and Lady McHorne on their anniversary today.

eric-lindsey.jpg

A Heathen Jazz Primer

So, longtime Heathen Tom asked on Facebook for a top-5 or top-10 list to serve as a jazz primer of sorts. I started typing, and then realized a wider distribution might spark more interesting discussion, so here’s where I exercise a staggering degree of hubris in compiling just such a list: the Heathen Jazz Top Ten.

First, an aside. What popular culture thinks about when they think of “jazz” is probably the stuff that happened in the late 50s and early 60s, and that period is well represented below. This isn’t to say that the stuff before (Charlie Parker! Louie Armstrong!) or the stuff after (Ornette Coleman! Terence Blanchard!) is less valuable; only that my the Heathen playlist is sort of centered there, and on things that grew directly out of that period (Miles’ electric work, e.g.). All that said, I’ve got enough ego to suggest that this might make a good survey of jazz for those interested but unexposed. Jump in here; branch out as indicated. In other words, come on in; the water’s fine.

So, more or less off the cuff — and in chronological, not quality, order — here we go:

  1. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959. This is the biggest jazz record ever. I am not exaggerating. (It’s also the best selling — 4,000,000 and counting.) Davis’ band for this record includes giants-in-their-own-right John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly. Its recording is the subject of a book. Despite being hugely popular and famous, it’s also incredibly important, and represented a real departure at the time. Jazz as we know it today would be impossible without Kind of Blue (hell, MUSIC as we know it wouldn’t be the same, either). Bonus: Totally safe for non-afficianado audiences.

  2. Time Out, Dave Brubeck, 1959. You know half the songs on this disc already. It’s also the only example of “West Coast” or “Cool Jazz” on the list. Superclean and precise, its sound prefigures Steely Dan in some ways. Like KoB, it’s also extremely accessible; play it at a dinner party, and your guests will praise your taste.

  3. Mingus Ah Um, Charles Mingus, 1959. You can’t have any list without Mingus. It’s just silly. MAU is my go-to Mingus recording.

  4. Sketches of Spain, Miles Davis, 1960. It’s almost impossible to believe that Davis produced this and Kind of Blue in the same two-year period, but there it is. Sketches is unusual in lots of ways, but the biggest departure is that Davis worked with composure and arranger Gil Evans here, and so we get a “jazz” record that’s far more composed and far less improvisational than nearly anything else in this category. Davis’ own contemporaries tried to suggest it wasn’t jazz because of this, to which he is said to have replied “It’s music, and I like it.” You will, too. It’s an excellent choice for the dim-room-and-fine-wine treatment.

  5. My Favorite Things, John Coltrane, 1961. Trane plunges headlong into free jazz here, but not in a way that makes the record inaccessible to casual listeners; the title track is a long way from Julie Andrews, but it’s also clearly the same song. I’m particularly fond of “next steps” records where artists are really finding a new form; this is a great example (as is Silent Way, also on the list), and reminds you of how incredible the 1959-1972 period was for American music. By this point, Trane’s already got McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones with him; they’ll still be there for “A Love Supreme,” below.

  6. Money Jungle. Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus recorded this in a single day session in 1962. To hell with the Sun “Million Dollar Quartet;” I’d give eye teeth to have seen this trio. This disc is never “put up” at my house, and I have copies on my laptop, my iPod, and my iPhone at all times. It’s staggering and beautiful while also being COMPLETELY safe for nonjazz people. (Remember the black-text-on-white Flash animation “Samsung Means To Come” I blogged some years back? Its music was taken from Money Jungle.)

  7. A Love Supreme, John Coltrane, 1965. Widely viewed as one of Trane’s masterworks, this modal opus is the earliest “concept album” in my whole collection. Play it all the way through the first time you listen, preferably in a darken room. Intoxicants are optional. Dramatically less accessible than Brubeck, but still recognizably post-bop and not anywhere near the free jazz or fusion entries you’ll find elsewhere on the list. Also still safe for dinner parties, but only very hip ones.

  8. Straight, No Chaser; Thelonious Monk, 1966. I’m not the student of Monk that I am of Davis, but this record cooks.

  9. In A Silent Way, Miles Davis, 1969. This is when things start to get a little far out for the mundanes. IASW is still recognizably the same kind of creature the early sixties produced, jazzwise, but is also well on its way to something else entirely. Miles and his band — which at this point included household names like John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Chick Corea, and Wayne Shorter — are fully electrified here, which signals the start of a trend for Davis that would reach its apotheosis with his next album (Bitches Brew, only a year later but light years beyond in style and approach) and his live performances in the 1970s (e.g., Black Beauty, Dark Magus, Agharta, and the Cellar Door Sessions that became Live-Evil). N.B. that while Silent Way is listenable for nonfans, dropping the needle on anything after that — especially BB — will clear a motherfucking room. It’s musical durian. Of course, some will stay behind, but you’ll like them enough to open up the good Scotch.

  10. Root Down, Jimmy Smith, 1972. There is little more magical and alive than the sound of Jimmy Smith at a Hammond B3. This live record captures him at his peak. Do NOT miss this one. (It’s also the source for the sample in the Beastie Boys track of the same name. Them kids got taste.)

And two not on the list:

  • On the Corner, Miles Davis, 1972. Bitches Brew meets Funkenstein. I actually like OTC better than BB, but that’s not the “scholarly” opinion. I say check ‘em both out.

  • A Tale of God’s Will, Terence Blanchard Quintet, 2007. Like Davis’ Sketches, this is much less improvisational than the rest of the list; jazz isn’t always improv through and through. Blanchard’s reasons here are similar to Davis’ in 1960: he involves an orchestra. His tribute to his hometown of New Orleans — it’s subtitled “A Requiem for Katrina” — will raise goosebumps with its beauty.

Where the GOP goes from here

Frank Rich has much to say on the likely future of the “party of Lincoln.” Hint: the internal Faithful are wildly wrong — and we’re probably worse off for it.

ELECTION junkies in acute withdrawal need suffer no longer. Though the exciting Obama-McCain race is over, the cockfight among the losers has only just begun. The conservative crackup may be ugly, but as entertainment, it’s two thumbs up!

[...]

The Republicans are in serious denial. A few heretics excepted, they hope to blame all their woes on their unpopular president, the inept McCain campaign and their party’s latent greed for budget-busting earmarks.

The trouble is far more fundamental than that. The G.O.P. ran out of steam and ideas well before George W. Bush took office and Tom DeLay ran amok, and it is now more representative of 20th-century South Africa during apartheid than 21st-century America. The proof is in the vanilla pudding. When David Letterman said that the 10 G.O.P. presidential candidates at an early debate looked like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club,” he was the first to correctly call the election.

On Nov. 4, that’s roughly the sole constituency that remained loyal to the party — minus its wealthiest slice, a previously solid G.O.P. stronghold that turned blue this year (in a whopping swing of 34 percentage points). The Republicans lost every region of the country by double digits except the South, which they won by less than double digits (9 points). They took the South only because McCain, who ran roughly even with Obama among whites in every other region, won Southern whites by 38 percentage points.

Those occasional counties that tilted more Republican in 2008 tended to be not only the least diverse, but also the most rural, least educated and slowest-growing in population. McCain-Palin did score a landslide among white evangelical Christians, though even in that demographic Obama shaved the G.O.P. margin by seven percentage points from 2004.

[...]

In defeat, the party’s thinking remains unchanged. Its leaders once again believe they can bamboozle the public into thinking they’re the “party of Lincoln” by pushing forward a few minority front men or women. The reason why they are promoting Palin and the recently elected Indian-American governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, as the party’s “future” is not just that they are hard-line social conservatives; they are also the only prominent Republican officeholders under 50 who are not white men.

And here’s the completely-full-of-truth money shot:

The good news for Democrats is a post-election Gallup poll finding that while only 45 percent of Americans want to see Palin have a national political future (and 52 percent of Americans do not), 76 percent of Republicans say bring her on. The bad news for Democrats is that these are the exact circumstances that can make Obama cocky and Democrats sloppy. The worse news for the country is that at a time of genuine national peril we actually do need an opposition party that is not brain-dead.

For the Republican Party to avoid brain-death, they pretty much have to tell the religious right to pound sand and adopt actual small-government positions — which means shutting up about gay marriage, immigration, pro-intelligent-design crap, and all the other issues so important to the know-nothing fringe. You see that happening? Me either.

More on Prop 8 Backlash

TBogg nails it, on folks on the right complaining about boycotts targeting individuals and businesses who contributed to Prop 8 passage efforts:

The kind of person who contributes money to deny their fellow citizens their civil rights are not someday magically going to be part of the solution: they’re the problem. These are not people to be reasoned with; they’re ignorant, they’re haters and they’re bigots and the only thing people like that understand is power.

So when they stick their noses in other people’s affairs, they forfeit the right to be considered just another “ordinary person”. They’re involved and they would be foolish to expect that those other people in whose private affairs they have meddled wouldn’t return the favor. As they say: you pays your money and you takes your chances.

The Weekend of Almost Surprises

Another Saturday has come and gone, and it is more or less as it was. Florida continued its domination by handing Spurrier his worst loss EVER and drubbing to the tune of 56 to 6. Alabama played badly for the first half, but still stuffed Mississippi State 32 to 7. The only remaining real test for either squad is now each other in the SEC champtionship game, the winner of which will almost certainly play the Big XII champ in the big game come January.

The almost-surprises were downballot, so to speak. LSU very nearly fell to Troy State; the Tigers were outscored 24 to 3 in the first half. Miles must’ve kicked some serious ass at halftime, though, as the final score was 40 to 31.

It’s not a surprise in either case, but it does please us that both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are bowl-eligable with their wins on Saturday. The Rebels blanked Louisiana-Monroe, 59 to zip, to improve to 6-4, 3-3 SEC. Vandy beat the SEC’s other football whipping boy, Kentucky, in a close one (31-24), and in so doing rise to 6-4, 3-3 SEC — and head to a bowl for the first time in 26 years. (More fun: Vandy could actually beat a demoralized Tennessee next Saturday.)

Texas won (35 to 7 over Kansas), and Texas Tech was idle, so don’t expect much if any movement in the BCS. The finalization of the Big XII could get complicated, since we may see a 3-way-tie in the Big XII South if Oklahoma can deflower the Red Raiders on Saturday. On the other hand, if TT wins out, there’s no drama at all, and they’ll meet the SEC champ in Miami.

New Heathen Comment Policy

You’re going to need to jump through some additional hoops to comment at Heathen. Anonymous comments will require a valid email address; authenticated comments are possible with a TypeKey or LiveJournal account. Spam’s a huge problem, so while I’m sorry to have to make it a bit of a hassle, it’s really the only way I can keep comments open.

More proof Obama is made of Win

President-elect Obama has endorsed an 8-team college football playoff system:

When asked what change he’d make in sports during last week’s Monday Night Football broadcast, Obama said “I think it’s about time we had playoffs in college football. I’m fed up with these computer rankings and this that and the other. Get eight teams — the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a national champion.”

That the money-grubbing BCS presidents disagree is unsurprising.

NOW DON’T STRUGGLE

This will only sting a little. After wrasslin’ for way too long with the terminally unfinished and almost completely unsupported Typo, Longtime Heathen M.A.D. courteously helped us migrate this afternoon the that modern-day hegemon of blogging, Movable Type, and what’s more he’s even hosting it for us. If you can see this post, you’re already here — and as part and parcel of this lovely little migration, feeds ought to work again, too.

All hail Michael for his selfless work here — he custom-coded a Typo-to-MT script for me as part of this deal. Now, enjoy.

Some things will be a little different, and the whole commenting thing will be weird for a bit while I sort out what degree of authentication I want to impose thereon. Since working feeds will allow me to syndicate Heathen via my Facebook presence, I sort of expect comment volume — specifically, angry reactionary Republican comment volume — to spike unless I impose some accountability there. ;)

Things you don’t get to be surprised or upset about

If you actively support taking away someone’s right to marry, then you absolutely do NOT get to claim some sort of moral high ground or express surprise when the community you’ve attacked decides they want to hit back.

The Mormons had the audacity to issue a statement with these paragraphs:

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

Really? That’s the angle you’re taking? “Hey, it’s just politics, and it’s inappropriate to retaliate?” No, I don’t think so. Turns out, politics works both ways, and you shouldn’t be surprised that there are consequences to enacting hateful legislation.

What’s really amazing to me is this story. Precis: Mormon musical theater director in California ends up having to resign — surprise! — because it turns out that he donated $1,000 to Prop 8. Dude, WTF? And his sister’s even a lesbian. From his statement, quoted in the linked article:

“I understand that my choice of supporting Proposition 8 has been the cause of many hurt feelings, maybe even betrayal,” Mr. Eckern said. “It was not my intent. I honestly had no idea that this would be the reaction.”

Either this man is an incredibly brazen liar, or he has no empathy whatsoever. Prop 8 was not some abstract piece of legislation; prior to its passage, gay couples could legally marry. After, they cannot. To suggest that he “honestly had no idea” that the people around him affected by it would be feel angry and betrayed by his material support of the measure is simply absurd.

Also, good luck finding theater work now, Mr Eckern. Your donation was a matter of public record already, but now you’ve been on record in the New York Times as a homophobic bigot.

Ah, GOP, do you NEVER stop being evil?

Rolling Stone has much to say on the GOP’s voter suppression efforts.

Suppressing the vote has long been a cornerstone of the GOP’s electoral strategy. Shortly before the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Paul Weyrich — a principal architect of today’s Republican Party — scolded evangelicals who believed in democracy. “Many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo goo’ syndrome — good government,” said Weyrich, who co-founded Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell. “They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. . . . As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Today, Weyrich’s vision has become a national reality. Since 2003, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, at least 2.7 million new voters have had their applications to register rejected. In addition, at least 1.6 million votes were never counted in the 2004 election — and the commission’s own data suggests that the real number could be twice as high. To purge registration rolls and discard ballots, partisan election officials used a wide range of pretexts, from “unreadability” to changes in a voter’s signature. And this year, thanks to new provisions of the Help America Vote Act, the number of discounted votes could surge even higher.

[...]

To justify this battery of new voting impediments, Republicans cite an alleged upsurge in voting fraud. Indeed, the U.S.-attorney scandal that resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began when the White House fired federal prosecutors who resisted political pressure to drum up nonexistent cases of voting fraud against Democrats. “They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments that would scare these alleged hordes of illegal voters away,” says David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired in December 2006. “We took over 100 complaints and investigated for almost two years — but I didn’t find one prosecutable case of voter fraud in the entire state of New Mexico.”

There’s a reason Iglesias couldn’t find any evidence of fraud: Individual voters almost never try to cast illegal ballots. The Bush administration’s main point person on “ballot protection” has been Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who has advised states on how to use HAVA to erect more barriers to voting. Appointed to the Federal Election Commission by Bush, von Spakovsky has suggested that voter rolls may be stuffed with 5 million illegal aliens. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a recent analysis by Lorraine Minnite, an expert on voting crime at Barnard College, federal courts found only 24 voters guilty of fraud from 2002 to 2005, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. “The claim of widespread voter fraud,” Minnite says, “is itself a fraud.”

Go read the whole thing.

Keith on Prop 8

It’s about the human heart.”

Some choice bits:

This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about Prop-8. And I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics.

This is about the… human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not… understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want — a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

[...]

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage.

If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal… in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry…black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are… gay.

[...]

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness — this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness — share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

This is cool

It’s Veteran’s Day, which was once Armistice Day — i.e., the day that commemorated the end of World War I, which ended 90 years ago today. You might think all the US veterans of that war are dead. You’d be wrong.

What happens when we wonder late in the day

So, I was just wondering:

Our presidential electoral system is kind of weird, and some of its weirdness is based on the idea that it’s valuable to apportion some amount of Electoral College representation based simply on statehood, without regard to population. This means that even the tiniest “state” gets a minimum of 3 EC votes, even if it’s only got a single Representative in the House. It’s probably not absurd to handle Congress this way, given the separation of powers between the Senate and the House, but it’s far from clear that this is a good idea for Presidential elections.

Because low-population, largely rural states are overwhelmingly conservative, this tends to give a small electoral advantage to Republicans. I wondered, then, what if the Electoral College was concerned ONLY with population-based representation? We’d still have the all-or-nothing state-by-state EC system, but without the Senate-based distortion. How might this affect recent races?

In this world, the smallest number of EC electors is 1, not 3 (I’ve given DC 1, since it currently has 3, but has about half the population of another 3-EV state, Montana.) Instead of 538, candidates vie for 436 (435 House members + 1 for DC). The magic number is 219, not 270.

So then came the math. It turns out to be pretty easy to do this, since Wikipedia has all the data a mouse click away. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that this “New Math” can only affect races where (a) the winner has more states than the loser and (b) the difference in states won is greater than half the electoral college margin of victory. Only one race in the last 50 years would be affected by this, and it’s the same one where we sent the guy with fewer popular votes to Washington. Go figure.

  • 2008: It’s not even close, but let’s look anyway. Obama won 365 electoral votes, and McCain 173 — a margin of 68% to 32% in the Electoral College. Obama won 29 states; McCain 22. If we reduce each candidate’s total by (states * 2), the adjusted score is 307 to 129, and the margin of victory changes to 70% to 30%. For 2008, then, the extra weight given to small states wasn’t that big of a factor.

  • 2004: Bush won 286 EV, 53% of the EC, and 31 states; Kerry won 251, 47%, and 20. If we apply the same math here, we get Bush 224, Kerry 211, and no electoral change (though a narrower EC race at 51% to 49%). Bush took a 62 EV hit, and Kerry 40, but the real-world margin was too much for the state adjustment to flip the race. The state margin (11) is far less than half the EV margin (40, half of which is 20).

  • 2000: Here’s the money shot. Bush won 271 (30 states, and a hair over 50% of the EC) to Gore’s 266 (21 and 49%) (yes, we’re missing an elector because of the rogue dude in Minnesota who voted for John Edwards). Eliminating the small states’ advantage drops Bush to 211, below Gore’s adjusted store of 224 and flipping this hypothetical race even with Bush carrying Florida. As predicted, the difference in states won (30 – 21 = 9) is more than 1/2 the Electoral Margin (271 – 266 = 5).

With that in hand, let’s delve further. Needing the race to be close to be worth analyzing pushes us pretty far back. Clinton won about 70% of the EC in both his elections; George Herbert Walker Bush won with 79%. Reagan famously waltzed off with 91% in ’80 and 98% in ’84. With EC margins like that, the Senatorial noise becomes immaterial.

  • 1976: Carter, though, was somewhat closer with 55% of the EC in 1976, 297 to 240 for Gerry Ford. However, Carter won fewer states (24 to 27), so the race can’t flip (just to be clear: it means Ford would take a bigger EV adjustment than Carter).

  • Nixon’s 1968 run was also close, with about 56%, but the peculiarities of the year save him: first, he won 32 states and bagged 301 EV — but most significantly the opposition vote was split by Humphrey (Dem, 191 EV, 14 states) and George Wallace (46 EV, 5 states). Ding Nixon his 64 votes and he’s still above the real-world totals of his opponents, so no change here, either.

  • We have to go to 1960 for another “close” race: JFK won with 303, 22 states, and 56% of the EV compared to Nixon’s 219 and 26 states. (Harry Byrd won some votes that year, plus we’re far enough back the the total is actual 537, not 538, hence the funny totals.) Again, we can’t flip the race with the new math because (a) the margin’s too big and (b) JFK won with fewer states.

And all of a sudden we’re back in the 1950s. Actually, the forties; the 1948 race was relatively close, but not enough to get interesting. Truman won 303 electoral votes and 28 states; Dewey bagged only 189 and 16 (Strom Thurmond picked up 39 and 4), so no flip here, either.

To find another candidate for adjustment we have to jump back to 1916, with Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Hughes. Wilson got 277 EV and 30 states; Hughes got 254 and 18. The key rule is, again, if the difference in states is more than 1/2 the EV margin; the state difference is 12, and the EV margin is 23, so we’d expect the adjustment to flip the election. Wilson’s 277 less (2 x 30) is 217; Hughes’ 254 less (2 x 18) is 218, and all of a sudden there’s a new President for the First World War.

It’s clear that the EC kept the popular vote winner from the White House in 2000. It’s interesting to see that a small change to the EV system would rectify that; however, it’s also obvious that the barrier to entry on such a change (depending as it does on supermajority (2/3) votes in both houses of Congress PLUS ratification by 75% of the states) will keep this exercise firmly in the realm of the theoretical.

Oh, yeah: Rammer Jammer

Roll Tide. Saban went home to Baton Rouge and just barely escaped with the win in OT. Rivalry games can frequently get unpredictable, but the way the Tide played for much of the game was just embarrassing. Still, a W is a W, and the results solidify Alabama’s number 1 BCS position. Other weekend events kicked PSU out of the elite club, leaving the top 5 40% SEC and 60% Big XII; an all-Southern championship game is now almost a given. Florida and Alabama will meet at the SEC title game in Atlanta, and the winner there will likely play the Big XII winner for all the marbles in Miami come January.

Because Someone Asked Somewhere Else: Heathen’s Top Ten Bond Films

  1. Dr. No (1962, Sean Connery). It all starts here, when Connery introduces himself at the baccarat table. Ursula Andress wows audiences as she strides out of the sea in a belted bikini as Honey Rider (the image is iconic enough that it’s been referenced twice since then, first by Halle Berry in the forgettable “Die Another Day,” and then in the #2 film by Bond himself). Jack Lord co-stars as Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA counterpart; Lord was already too famous from Hawaii 5-0 to continue in the role, however, and the role proved somewhat intermittent anyway — since ’62, he’s been in 9 films (counting the upcoming Quantum) and been played by 7 people (most recently Jeffrey Wright).

  2. Casino Royale (2006). Daniel Craig renews the entire franchise. It’s really that simple. That’s a little over-simplistic; they did well by hiring Judi Dench a few films ago, but the wholesale reboot here makes the whole affair seem fresh, even if the parkour sequence seems a bit contrived up front.

  3. Goldfinger (1964, Connery). Look, how do you NOT love a film wherein Honor Blackman introduces herself as “My name is Pussy Galore?” The other star of this one is the Aston-Martin DB5 (the same make and model Craig’s Bond wins at poker in Casino Royale) chock full of, shall we say, aftermarket goodies. (“Ejector seat? You’re joking!” “I never joke about my work, 007″.)

  4. From Russia, with Love (1963, Connery). By far the most complexly plotted of the original films, it’s still somehow under-appreciated by modern fans. Bonus: nemesis Red Grant is played by Robert Shaw, later famous as the salty old fisherman Quint in Jaws. The gadget thing starts here with a fantastic trick briefcase.

  5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, George Lazenby). The odd one out; you can win bar bets by knowing this Australian model’s name. The story is that Connery left the role for fear of being typecast, and Lazenby got the nod. Then Connery decided to come back one more time (for 1971′s Diamonds are Forever), and poor old George got the boot. The film is quieter and a bit more subtle than most Bond outings; it’s also the only one with an actual romance (until 2006, anyway). Bond’s paramour in this one is played by Diana Rigg, and by the film’s end he’s married her. Sadly, she’s also murdered by arch-nemesis Blofeld (a viciously cackling Telly Savalas!) before the credits roll. [Blofeld, Bond's most persistent antagonist, appears or orchestrates action in five films, but shows his face in only three. In those, he's played by three different actors: Savalas here, but previously Donald Pleasance ("Halloween") in "You Only Live Twice" and subsequently by Charles Gray (the Criminologist from "Rocky Horror") in "Diamonds are Forever."]

  6. GoldenEye (1995, Pierce Brosnan). I always thought it was cool that Brosnan got a second shot at Bond after NBC wouldn’t let him out of “Remington Steele” to take the role in ’86. It’s a damned shame only one of his films is worth watching. It’s only in checking facts to write this that I realize why this may be: GoldenEye was directed by martin Campbell, who also directed Casino Royale. The plot here is more plausible than most, too — post-USSR heavy weapons are ending up in the wrong hands, and Bond has to stop it. It earns extra points by casting Royal Shakespeare alum Sean Bean as the bad guy, and even MORE points by returning to classic nomenclature with Famke Janssen’s lethel “Xenia Onatopp.” Somewhere, Fleming is smiling. (Robbie “Hagrid” Coletrane makes his first appearance here, too, as ex-KGB Bond associte Zukovsky.)

  7. Live and Let Die (1973, Roger Moore). Bond does the Voodoo, and fights that 7-Up dude. No, really. Actually, the main bad guy here is the mysterious Mister Big, played by Yaphet Kotto (see also “Homicide”), but Geoffrey Holder does appear as Baron Samedi, a voodoo priest. Jane Seymour plays a virginal (until Bond gets to her, anyway) clairvoyant. This one’s the first Moore outing, and includes the delightfully absurd super-magnetic Rolex with a bezel that doubles as a circular saw. Suffice it to say that this is where the gadgets get goofy.

  8. Moonraker (1979, Moore). It’s terrible — a few years after Star Wars, and even Bond is in space — but it was also the first one I saw. My dad took me when I was 9 — at a drive in. How dated is that? Also, the wrist-mounted dart gun is a delight, even if we are a bit afraid that the by-then 52-year-old Moore will pass out in the G-force testing apparatus. (Bad news: Moore holds on until the patently ridiculous “A View to a Kill” six years later; even Christopher Walken and Grace Jones couldn’t save that one from the idea of 58-year-old Bond.)

  9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, Moore). This gives us the first appearance of two late-70s Bond fixtures: the Lotus Esprit the doubles as a submarine, and Richard Kiel as the 7-foot steel-toothed henchman Jaws (he returns in Moonraker). It’s otherwise reasonably forgettable, except for Barbara Bach as KGB agent Triple X.

  10. License to Kill (1989, Timothy Dalton). By the 80s, the producers at Eon were well out of unmined material with only a few exceptions, and apparently felt that it was too early for a third version of “Casino Royale” (there’s a 1954 American TV version, plus the satirical ’67 take starring David Niven and Peter Sellers). Several of 80s films were actually cut-ups taken from some of Fleming’s short fiction, and LtK is the last of those scripts. As such, it’s kind of a mess, but the central thread is still fun: Bond’s off the reservation and is hunting down the drug lord who killed his pal Felix’s wife (remember him?). (80s note: the wife was played by Priscilla Barnes, near-famous for replacing Suzanne Sommers on “Three’s Company.”) The film’s also fun because of its cast — Robert Davi chews scenery as the baddie, and Bond’s girls include a pre-Law-and-Order Cary Lowell. Lovable gadgetmeister Desmond Llewelyn makes his only field appearance when Q heads to central America to aid the technically unemployed Bond in his quest. Oh, and Wayne Newton shows up as a crooked TV preacher. What’s not to love?