The Phony Campaign

2012-09-30 Update

[phony baloney]

… and this week, President Obama widened his already hefty phony lead over Mitt Romney and Gary Johnson. It will take some pretty major phoniness in the next 37 days if Mitt wants to close that gap!

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 6,470,000 +220,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,620,000 -100,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 516,000 +43,000

And we turn to the past week's phony news:

  • Over in Iran, the VOA reports: "Iran's semi-official Fars news service Friday published a story on its website titled 'Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama.'

    The poll was reported in America's Finest News Source:

    CHARLESTON, WV--According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. president Barack Obama. "I like him better," said West Virginia resident Dale Swiderski, who, along with 77 percent of rural Caucasian voters, confirmed he would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama. "He takes national defense seriously, and he'd never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does." According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn't try to hide the fact that he's Muslim.

    Yes, it's the Onion. Wonder what happened to the Fars news staff who were duped into taking the story at face value? Demoted? Imprisoned? Hired at the New York Times?

  • A Huffington Post blogger notes that both Obama and Romney are pounding the protectionist drums about Red China, and how that fails to match up well with their previous actions.

    So... which of them is lying?

    Possibly, both are, as it's no secret that working class votes are up for grabs in key states like Ohio, which are trade sensitive. They may both be posturing at trying to help people who are only of interest to Washington every four years.

    The quoted blogger is (apparently) a die-hard anti-free trader, but his point is nonetheless valid: neither candidate is brave enough to embrace free trade, one of those rare issues where economists like Paul Krugman and Greg Mankiw largely agree: it makes countries more prosperous.

    If I had to guess, I'd say: Romney almost certainly knows better. Obama probably knows better, but admitting it would really piss off union leaders, so it won't happen.

  • Speaking of Ohio: J.D. Tuccille reports on a recent Ohio poll that showed Obama slightly ahead of Romney, 45.2% to 44.3%.

    But then adding Gary Johnson to the question, the numbers go to: Obama 44.5%, Romney 37.8%, Johnson 10.6%. Uh oh, Mitt.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:59 PM EDT

Fantastic Voyage

[Amazon Link] A few years back I decided to work through Isaac Asimov's science fiction novels, mostly last read when I was a youngster. I initially said: OK, but not Fantastic Voyage. It's not part of his Foundation series; there are no robots. And it's based on a movie screenplay, so technically it's somewhat less of an "authentic" Asimov novel.

But, as it turned out, I owned the paperback. I didn't remember buying it, but there it was on the shelf. So, why not?

It's a cold-war story: Benes, a scientist defecting from Their Side to Our Side (this is actually how Asimov refers to them), is critically brain-injured during Their one last attempt to assassinate him. A small clot is blocking a critical pathway in his brain, too deep for normal surgery. But without getting rid of the clot, Benes is a goner, as is the vital information his brain carries.

Fortunately, Benes's work involves the new technology of ultra-miniaturization. Which allows a small submarine, the Proteus, and its crew of five to be shrunk down to the size of a cell, injected into Benes, where a very small surgeon will dissolve the clot with his tiny laser. The time limit for the procedure is one hour; longer than that, and the sub will enlarge to its normal size automatically, killing Benes (and probably the crew) anyway.

But the Proteus is beset by bad luck; only minutes after they're injected into a brain-bound artery, they're set off course by a fistula, sending them the wrong way down the jugular vein toward the heart. Various technical mishaps also threaten the mission. Could there be a traitor amongst them? (Spoiler: yep.)

It's all pretty silly, but Asimov did a pretty good job of papering over the totally implausible scenario with an impressive display of scientific mumbo-jumbo.

I first read this as a fifteen-year-old kid in the old Saturday Evening Post, to which my parents subscribed. I watched the movie multiple times. (It was nominated for a Hugo Award, but lost out to a very good Star Trek episode.) So while this was not great literature, reading it brought on a pleasant nostalgia attack.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We have no actual evidence for the claim made in the title, obviously, other than Jiro's word in the matter.

Jiro Ono runs a small 10-seat sushi restaurant in the basement of a Tokyo office building. It costs about 30,000 yen or (Google says at today's exchange rate) $384 to sit down at the counter. Don't even think of just popping in; you need to book your seat months in advance. No menu; you just eat whatever the chef drops in front of you. Jiro is widely thought to be the best sushi chef in world, and perhaps number one in this arm of the galaxy.

So this movie takes a look at Jiro, a tiny 85-year-old man who's been making sushi since he was nine. He has two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, and the movie interviews them too. And Jiro is followed on the bullet train as he goes to his high school reunion.

On the plus side: Jiro is an upstanding, occasionally funny, guy. He's (obviously) dedicated to his craft, and the movie shows that dedication well.

However: that doesn't mean you'll find it interesting. How many times can you watch a very sharp knife slice a tuna steak just right to produce a beautiful little fishy masterpiece? The filmmakers think you want to see it a lot. I felt like I was stuck in a very special, very long, very repetitive, episode of Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. (But that's me: critics and IMDB raters think this movie's pretty good, and Mrs. Salad demanded to go to our local Japanese restaurant the next evening.)

Consumer note: Amazon Prime members can watch this for free, and it's Netflix-streamable.