Friday, March 14, 2008

Congressional Balls!

For the first time really since the Democrats regained a majority in the House of Representatives, they finally decided to wield the power the voters gave to them in the elections of 2006. They didn't cave (yet)!

I am writing this regarding the House's vote in favor of a FISA bill that would substitute judicial review for blanket immunity. Instead of letting the executive branch use a private phone company as a tool to piss on the Constitution's 4th Amendment without legal recourse, the House's bill would allow a phone company to defend itself based on evidence presented in compliance with the Constitution's 6th Amendment.


Of course this alternative bill will be vetoed by the President, and there's not enough support from both the House and the Senate to override it, but so what? We've gotten by for years only relying on the original FISA bill without the illegal part that the President wants. We'll be fine. I'm just glad the House was willing to stand up to the President for once.

White Guilt

Earlier this week, Geraldine Ferraro was trying to make a point about the motivating power of white guilt by stating that Barack Obama would not be in the position he is today were it not for the fact that he happens to be black. She was subsequently railed against by both the mainstream media and the blogosphere, with numerous calls for her resignation from her informal position on Hillary Clinton's campaign. After trying to defend herself instead of apologizing to the Gods of Umbrage like so many Democrats before her, she was cornered into a resignation.

White guilt certainly exists, and it is definitely a benefit to Barack Obama's popularity especially among liberals, but it is by no means the singular reason Obama is held in such a favorable position by the Democrats. That would be equivalent of saying that the EEOC is the number one reason that black people can have good jobs. I believe that an individual's own competence and ambition plays a much larger role in his or her own life than any external factor. You could say that Barack Obama couldn't be where he is now if he were white, but he also wouldn't be where he is now if he didn't have a presidentially-accepted resume like a Harvard degree, experience in local, state and federal governments, and an ability to give a fantastic speech. Much more important to his ability to become President are the fact that he is over 35 and born in the U.S. And besides, any advantage he has from certain voters who vote for him because he is black is probably outweighed by the disadvantage from certain other voters who vote against him because he is black. We'll see that more in the general election.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Where the Real Election Is

The vultures were picking at Hillary Clinton in late February as the media was beginning to leave her for dead in the presidential race. But last night Clinton staged another comeback by winning Texas and Ohio primaries without the aid of crying in front of television audiences (for once). And now the theme in the press is that Clinton's campaign is rejuvenated, and the primary will still be quite contested until the Democratic Convention, which will give every Democrat in America the chance for their primary votes to actually mean something (incluso ustedes, Puerto Rico). This is a lie.

After last night's primaries, it is now mathematically impossible for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win the nomination without the aid of superdelegates. Unlike pledged delegates, superdelegates can vote whichever way they choose using whatever rationale they choose, and as Georgia representative John Lewis proved last week, they are not even obligated to stay on the same side that they had previously "committed" to. Even if Barack Obama, the pledged delegate leader, were to win 100% of the remaining pledged delegates, he would still have to make sure that at least 46 of his superdelegates remained on his side.

Now, in all likelihood it would not be hard at all to retain the support of 46 fickle party leaders, but a complete sweep of pledged delegates from now until the convention will never happen, not even if Mike "I Majored in Miracles" Huckabee was still in the race. At the very best, you're never going to get more than 75% of people in a state to agree on the same person, and that would be even assuming some kind of major blunder by an opponent. If Barack Obama won 75% of the remaining pledged delegates, he would still need 200 superdelegates. Since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be campaigning as hard as they can the next month or two, no candidate will get more than about 55% of the remaining delegates. This means Obama will need somewhere between 320-380 superdelegates to gain the nomination, while Clinton will need somewhere between 460-520. This is the only part of the primary election that still matters.

If I was a candidate running for president and looking at these numbers, I would be diverting as many of my resources as legally possible in trying to convince everyone on the superdelegate list that I was the best choice. I'm not really sure what lobbying rules there are for buying influence with superdelegates, but I'd be buying all that I could buy because basically the pledged delegates no longer matter. Obama for instance has already raised somewhere like $80 million this year. If I had that money, you can bet that I'd be buying every superdelegate a few steak dinners, a few new cars and a high dollar hooker or two (but then, I'd be corrupt). But my point is that at best, all the campaigning, rallying and debating in the world will only serve now to reduce the number of superdelegates needed by about 50 or 60. It's a much more efficient use of time and money to go exclusively after superdelegates.

(Reference: Slate's Delegate Calculator)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I Got It, I Got It!!!

From Marc Ambinder at

The Clinton campaign said tonight that Obama precinct workers illegally obtained caucus packets in the following Texas caucus precincts:

Precinct 2316 in Tarrant County
Precinct 1205 in Dallas County
Precinct 3127 in Bexar County
Precinct 3082 in Ft. Bend County
Precinct 18/224 in Harris County (Houston)
Precinct 3221 Dallas county
Precinct 87 in El Paso County
Precinct 458 in Travis County

Basically, whoever "gets the packet" controls the caucus. Technically, before the caucus begins at 7:15 CT, the packet is controlled by the precinct judge. But in reality, it might just be laying on a table somewhere. The Clinton campaign claims to have evidence that Obama supporters have, in eight instances, obtained in far in advance, which violates the rules set out by the state party.

There's nothing the state party can or will do. They're overwhelmed at the moment.

Wait, so the Texas caucus is won basically by a rousing game of Capture the Flag? This is democracy?

Monday, March 03, 2008

MAPS for Millionaires

Tomorrow, March 4th, 2008, a few Oklahoma City residents will go to the polls for a special election to decide whether or not to continue a 1% city sales tax so that the 5-year-old Ford Center can be renovated to include some luxury suites and inflatable bouncy things for kids. It is just about the most ridiculous usage of municipal taxpayer money I could imagine.

First of all, some background. The MAPS projects (Municipal Area Projects, or something) are funded by Oklahoma City sales taxes, and they have been around since the early 90's. In the past, they have generally been used for good rather than for evil, funding infrastructure improvements to downtown and certain city streets, and also providing funding for school improvements. A lot of good stuff has happened to Oklahoma City in the past 15 years because of the MAPS projects, including Bricktown, which, despite me making fun of it constantly, actually improves the desirability of Oklahoma City. MAPS was also the impetus behind the building of the sports facilities near Bricktown, including the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, where the Oklahoma City Redbirds play, and the Ford Center, where the New Orleans Hornets played for two years. Both arenas are fan-friendly venues with great seating located within the walking corridor of Greater Bricktown, and the citizens of Oklahoma City generally approved of their construction even though we still have a perfectly cromulent arena across the street from the Ford Center.

The only winners in the whole Hurricane Katrina debacle were the basketball fans of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City proved it could host a major league franchise and have better attendance numbers than other larger metropolitan areas, a fact we in central Oklahoma knew for years (higher than average percentage of sports fans + lower than average numbers of other cultural activities = sports teams should do well here). Those two years of success for the mediocre Hornets got the attention of the big brass of the NBA and of the big brass of private oil company barons like Clay Bennett, who now owns the Seattle Supersonics and is blackmailing that city in order to steer the team to the Sooner State. If Clay Bennett can't get taxpayers in one municipality to vote in favor of unnecessary arena improvements (Seattle), he will take the franchise to another municipality, one in which taxpayers will probably vote in favor of unnecessary arena improvements (Oklahoma City).

Now I know sports are generally stupid and frivolous, but I would have been in favor of building a city-owned arena like the Ford Center since Oklahoma City didn't have anything NBA-worthy at the time. I would probably even vote yes to renovate an old stadium with crappy bathrooms and bench seating if it was more than about 30 or 40 or 50 years old. I would not however be in favor of expanding the capacity of a stadium if the sports team that occupied it had created a larger demand than the city had supplied. It should be up to that team to expand and update the stadium at that point. And I'm certainly not in favor of using taxpayer money to put useless upgrades in a stadium that hasn't even lost it's new arena smell yet. The thing was just opened five years ago, and it was supposed to be NBA quality. The dirty secret is that it still is NBA quality. The proposed renovations aren't going to be felt during, say, basketball games, unless you happen to be a skybox donor.

Proponents of the ballot measure have spend $113,000 in an ad campaign to get the public to vote yes on the measure. Opponents have been fairly grass-roots and unorganized and clearly in need of some better web design. But I hope that the public will be able to see that $121,000,000 for some luxury suites, hot dog vendors, foam finger retailers and cushy executive offices won't make a bit of difference whether or not an NBA franchise relocates to Oklahoma City.