Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Running diary of the Big Prime Time Barack Obama Election Extravaganza!

He just lost votes in Philadelphia by delaying the World Series game even more.

7:01 "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message." I feel more inspired already.

7:02 Hey, this isn't in hi-def! Maybe it can be interpreted as a dig against McCain, champion of hi-def conversion. But almost definitely not.

7:02 Let's see how many battleground states he can feature and/or name drop tonight.

7:03 Lovely warm wood paneled office-type background. Coupled with the warm acoustic guitar music, it's obviously very reassuring. Like a barbecue restaurant.

7:04 Telling a story about a woman from North Kansas City (Missouri) with approximately 20 kids.

7:05 The family with 20 kids just can't make enough money to get by, especially with hubby's knee injury. Try having fewer kids.

7:07 Obama explains why everything is bad with the economy by talking about the skyrocketing deficit. The next sentence, he's talking about tax cuts and spending increases. Ron Paul, meet Lyndon Johnson.

7:08 "Tax cut for families making less than $200,000"? Uh oh. The republicans will see that number shrinking by $50,000 and grab a hold of it. Is this $50,000 difference from previous policy his October surpise?

7:10 BB King's house is in trouble? Noooo!

7:11 Larry (BB King) puts on a Wal Mart name tag to avoid foreclosure, but he doesn't make enough money as an "Associate salesman". There's your liberal wal mart jab.

7:12 So much wood! And that's not just Chris Matthew's leg thrill.

7:13 Natural gas reserves! He sends a yippie kiy yay T Boone's way.

7:15 Energy policy leads to Iraq policy pretty seamlessly.

7:16 Big ups to the 505!

7:17 Nice albuquerque scenes during the special needs segment. Maybe he'll shoot a scene in Oklahoma. Oh wait, he has yet to set foot in this state this year.

7:18 Ooh, Barack Hussein Obama Sr sighting! "He's not like us!!!!" say the Republicans. But it's okay, because the family history stuff is backed by warm acoustic guitar. Feel secure, America.

7:19 Lots of scenes from the Barackropolis from the Denver convention. On a prime time infomercial. Before a Daily Show appearance. What ego!

7:20 Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico ... Wonder where he's aiming his message.

7:20 Talking about the death of his mom to segue from health care policy. Sad piano tinkles.

7:21 "My mother never saw her grandchildren. That breaks my heart!" Hugs to 44.

7:22 First time we see Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. "He read Harry Potter to her". Yeah! Pissing off the social conservatives!

7:23 Dick Durbin. And uplifting woodwinds.

7:24 "I watched him incisively question Condoleeza Rice ... This guy's good" - J. Biden. Incisively?

7:24 Story time with fat guy. He's from Kentucky. Wow, if Kentucky's now a battleground state, its a landslide against McCain.

7:25 You know what word I havent heard yet? Maaaverick.

7:25 See, Appalachians living near Kentucky. White people can vote for black people too.

7:26 National security policies: renew tough diplomacy, refocus on Al Qaeda, rebuild military. Yeah, um, the differences with McCain are striking...

7:26 Holy shit! They dug up John Adams to endorse Obama! Well, if the second president thinks he's worthy...

7:27 Okay, now entering the uplifting inspiring stump speech part of the show. And lots of major chords and long airy tones.

7:27 Bill Richardson's beard makes an appearance at the uplifting part of the show. That sort of brought me down a little, I have to admit.

7:28 Live from Florida! Wait, how's he going to make it to the Daily Show on time?

7:29 Okay, so this Florida Rallly is filmed in hi-def, but not in 16:9 ratio. Still 4:3

7:29 Denver, Cincinatti, Ft lauderdale all named dropped. "All across this nation" ... if you live in a swing state.

7:30 Good job with the uplifting string arrangement that sounds suspiciously like the Olympics theme.

7:31 Cuts nicely to the uplifting Fox Sports music before the World Series. Elections and baseball. Man, if only I was eating an apple pie.

7:36 First negative ad of the night. Aw, that's just a buzzkill, McCain. Didn't you hear that uplifting music?

Four Things I Learned Today

1. U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell is married to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao!

2. Senator John Sununu from New Hampshire is not the same John Sununu from New Hampshire that was George Bush 41's chief of staff! (He's his son.)

3. There's another Marion Berry, and he's a U.S. Representative in Arkansas. And white!

4. Sarah Palin is a socialist! From the New Yorker:
For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Failed Policies of George W. Bush

According to almost every news source in America, the Democratic Party will win big on November 4. Presidential candidate Barack Obama is far from the only Democrat who will ride into Washington on the coattails of bad feelings for President George W. Bush. Almost every Democratic candidate for office in America, fairly or not, has enjoyed a bounce in popularity by campaigning on a platform of being anti-Bush, or by linking his/her opponent to the "failed policies of the Bush administration". Indeed, George W. Bush has never had a lower approval rating than right now, partly because of the recent financial crisis. But what these Democratic candidates are not doing is reminding people what it is that is so bad about the "failed policies of George W. Bush" in the first place. If the American public remembers that it can't stand that Bush guy but can't remember why, then the "failed policies" will surely be repeated by elected members of the Government. So to serve as a reminder mostly to myself, I've jotted down 33 "failed policies" that I think have made our country worse off thanks to the 43rd President of the United States of America.

1) "The United States doesn't torture." Except when it does. George W. Bush vetoed anti-torture bills, watered down water-boarding by referring to it as an interrogation technique (like how rape is just a sexual technique), and flauted the Geneva Conventions time after time when confronted in interviews or press conferences.

2) Unfounded wars on sovereign nations. Bad intelligence that should have been ignored about WMD and yellow cake fissile material led to a war against Iraq. The previous sentence was the best-case, most P.C. explanations for George W. Bush's intentions in the Middle East. Speculation abounds as to his real reasons for war with Iraq, most of which would be inconceivable if you told it to anyone eight years ago.

3) Secrecy. Over-classification of classified documents.

4) The Patriot Act

5) Bullying. Bullying of foreign nations for support for the above unjust Iraq war. Bullying of congressional leaders for support. Bullying of the U.N. to pass the war resolution, or else. It's called negotiating when there's a give and a take, and it's called persuasion when there's a well-explained and well-grounded rationale for action. It's called bullying if threats are made and fear is induced in entities that should be our allies.

6) Over-simplification of foreign viewpoints. You don't have to be either "for us or against us".

7) "Axis of evil". Well so much for negotiation.

8) Isolating North Korea to the point that they needed to build an atomic weapon to get any bilateral negotiation with the U.S.

9) War on terror. How does one win a war against extremism? You can't kill 'em all. There are always fringe elements in even the most tightly regulated societies, like gay people in Iran, bloggers in China, and terrorists in America.

10) Pre-emptive wars. The "Bush Doctrine", I think. Even police *should* have to wait until a crime is committed to detain people. And speaking of detaining people...

11) Guantanamo Bay. And more importantly, the lack of trials for prisoners there. (I hesitate to call them "detainees".)

12) Oh wait, not "prisoners" or "detainees". "Unlawful Combatants".

13) "Extraordinary renditions". They lead to "erroneous renditions" in the absence of the law.

14) Over-reaching of executive power to facilitate illegal wiretapping. FISA courts are just not necessary anymore.

15) The Alberto Gonzales Department of Justice. Attorney firings for partisan reasons, mealymouthed testimony by most Department of Justice officials including the Attorney General himself on several occasions, the approval of warrantless wiretapping, and the attempted repeal of Habeas Corpus.

16) Incompetent "loyal Bushies" like "heckuva job" Brownie.

17) Highly competent yet highly evil "loyal Bushies" like Dick "Overlord" Cheney.

18) Anti-choice-ism

19) Anti-intellectualism

20) Anti-Europeanism.

21) Right-wing judicial nominees. I'm not talking about Roberts or Alito, which almost any other Republican president would have nominated. I mean all the other judicial appointments to lower courts that add unfounded legitimacy to an extreme right-wing judicial viewpoint by giving high-level careers to cronies. This will lead to future right-wing judicial nominees to the Supreme Court who should have gotten rejected long ago for their lack of objectivity being seen as legitimate. These juditial nominees also nearly tore up the rules of the Senate.

22) Federal Marriage Amendment. So glad that one didn't get anywhere.

23) Stem cell research. Not so much for the position (federal funds only for "existing" stem cell lines) but for the process of letting the church's viewpoint into a science decision.

24) Not signing the Kyoto protocol for anti-UN reasons.

25) While we're at it, John Bolton.

26) Sabotaging the EPA to the point where entities are now suing the EPA because it's not strict enough in regulating emissions.

27) Trying to privatize social security. How's that stock market idea looking now?

28) Increasing the national debt from about $5 trillion to about $10 trillion. This riles me up so much, I'm going to need some more bullet points about the budget.

29) Tax cuts benefitting the wealthiest of our society at a time when we were finally getting Reagan's debt under control.

30) Massive non-mandatory spending increases primarily benefitting the military industrial complex. We've got loads of money for super advanced fighter jets, but we're losing wars against people who make explosives out of pvc pipe and wire.

31) Making war spending separate from the budget. This would make sense only if the expenses were unforseeable.

32) Not addressing health care at all. Seriously, during a decade in which health care spending rose faster than any other industry, how was health care almost completely ignored by the Bush administration?

33) Well, he did address one thing. He vetoed SCHIP.

I'm sure there are plenty more policies I dislike, and I know there are plenty more policies that others dislike (No Child Left Behind, immigration). But none of this stuff gets specifically talked about by any of the Democratic candidates. We need to remember this so that we can hold future administrations accountable.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Electoral Vote Map

Click here for a downloadable pdf so's you can color along with me on November 4th!.

No Go for Ho from FoCo, Yo!

Word this morning is that the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) is cutting off funding for ads and such in three house races because they view them as losses. One of those is Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado's district 4 (Fort Collins, Loveland, Windsor, Greeley, and many small towns way out there on the high plains). I couldn't be happier at that news this morning.

Marilyn Musgrave has been a vocal advocate of outlawing abortions and banning gay marriage. Apparently she sponsored a resolution for congress to declare 2007 the "National Year of the Bible". She's one of those lawmakers who views her role in government being a soldier for God. (Local Oklahoma politician Sally Kern is another one, as is Sarah Palin, although she's less outspoken about it).

Please, Windsor residents with the last name of Bortner, go out and vote for whoever is running against Marilyn Musgrave. Wikipedia tells me this is Betsy Markey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Election Breakdown! Because Maps are Fun!

Analysis of the November 4th election? Why, I don't think anyone else has predicted and analyzed the upcoming election yet.

Okay, so, if you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, or the District of Columbia, well, I hope you have a competitive senate race or a gay marriage initiative to vote for (or against) because your electoral votes have already been allotted to one candidate or another for months years now. This results in a "Definite" Obama baseline of 183/270 electoral votes, and a "Definite" McCain baseline of 152/270 electoral votes, while generously leaving 19 states up for grabs.

Barring some electoral miracle or sudden adult-onset racism, Barack Obama will "Likely" gain an additional 55 electoral votes by winning Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and New Hampshire, bringing his "Likely" baseline all the way up to 238/270. Thank you, upper midwest sensibilities. John McCain doesn't have states that can be called "Likely"; hence, his "Likely" baseline is still 152/270. If he was still the same John McCain beloved by the press and campaigning cleanly, he could have won New Hampshire. But he'd probably have a huge electoral deficit elsewhere.

The next tier of states ("Probable") break down as such: Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia for McCain (163/270); New Mexico and Pennsylvania for Obama (264/270). Montana and North Dakota continue flirting with the Democrats, and polls show anywhere from a 1 point Obama lead to a 5 point McCain lead, but in two states dominated by ranchers and without large urban areas, I don't see them turning blue just yet (ranchers = libertarian tendencies = Ron Paul voters = begrudging John McCain voters). As for West Virginia, I expect the Republican base to show up and the Democratic base to, I don't know, die of black lung. Bush beat the poll predictions by 5% in 2004.

Pennsylvania is a blue state. Pennsylvania has been a blue state for awhile. It was one of the few states where Kerry finished stronger in 2004 than polls would have indicated. John McCain is practically hanging his campaign on Pennsylvania, a state that last voted for the Republican candidate in 1988 (when only 11 states voted for Dukakis). This is not a winning strategy. If Philadelphians turn out to vote in large numbers, McCain's presidential run will be practically over.

New Mexico is bananas. It always has been. It's just that the nation is only now realizing it. The national exposure New Mexico has received from having Bill Richardson as governor has elevated my stomping grounds to the national consciousness, and I see PBS specials and candidates making frequent trips to Albuquerque and NPR hosts walking around wondering what makes these people tick. Polls show a 10+ point lead for Obama, but I don't believe them. Here's my prediction: Obama will win by 2 or 3 percent, long lines will form at polling places, election officials will be unprepared, and my dad will call me on election night to bitch about voting irregularities from Doña Ana County.

So, the "Probable" baseline for each candidate is Obama - 264/270 and McCain - 163/270. I think eight states are truly "Questionable" or "Toss-ups" or "Swing States" or "Undecided" or "Unswayed by two frickin' years of non-stop election coverage": Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and (of course) Florida. McCain must win all eight of these states to win the presidency. This is unlikely. I think it's a 0.4% chance assuming a random distribution of these states. Each state has a nuanced electorate with different voting patterns, any and all of which can affect the outcome of the election, but it's way more fun to describe states as dichotomies. In Nevada, it's Californian emigrants versus the military; in Missouri it's rural versus urban; in North Carolina it's black versus white; in Indiana it's Chicagoland versus farmland; in Virginia it's sweet tea versus unsweet tea; in Ohio it's racists versus white guilt; in Florida it's old people from the northeast versus old people from the midwest; and in Colorado its young ski bums and a developing liberally-minded Denver versus ranchers and military and Focus on the Family.

My predictions are that McCain will be able to hold onto both Florida and Ohio, as well as states that should never have been in question like North Carolina and Indiana. I predict that the perpetual bellwether Missouri will get it wrong for the first time since 1956, because they will go for McCain. I predict perpetual bellwether Nevada (which voted for Ford in 1976 and before that William Jennings Bryan in 1908) will get it right and elect Obama. I predict Obama will also carry Virginia and Colorado by at least 5%. Obama will win 291-247.

Of course, I also thought Kerry and Gore were going to win.

P.S. I think I'll live-blog on November 4th. Should be fun! For only me!

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Lieu of Flowers...

Yeah, and you thought Barack Obama's fundraising totals were high for September? Wait until he releases his fundraising totals for October, after everyone in America gives him $10 'cause of his grandma.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Red State Debate

The big debate occurred last night. No, not that "town hall" debate from Memphis we sat through between two guys hammering talking points on a round stage with extraordinarily crimson carpet. I'm talking about the one and only debate between two-and-a-third term U.S. senator and biblical literalist Jim Inhofe and one-term state senator and former John Mayer impersonator Andrew Rice. This debate sounded like any debate in the country between a Republican and a Democrat right now, as the Democrat Rice hounded the Republican Inhofe about the current state of the economy and attempted to tie him to the failed policies of George W. Bush. In most states, this would mean that Andrew Rice would have won the debate. In Oklahoma, it just showed how out-of-touch Andrew Rice is with Oklahoma voters.

Jim Inhofe wore his voting record on his sleeve. While John McCain was landing punches with his proclamation that Barack Obama was the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate, Jim Inhofe himself proudly found several watchdog groups that called him the most conservative senator in the U.S. Senate. He's proud of it. His support for Israel's occupation of the West Bank comes from a chapter in Genesis. He wants to openly discriminate against gay people. He voted against banning torture. He voted to make it harder to repay student loans. As the second largest recipient of oil company campaign contributions, he wants to make sure oil companies can drill directly into the skulls of polar bears. He compares environmentalism to Naziism. I only made one of those things up. After proclaiming himself the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate, he stated that there wasn't a race in the country with more idealogically opposed candidates. This would probably be true no matter who the opponent was. And yet, Inhofe leads in the polls by 15-20 points. Oklahomans adore conservatives.

At one point during the debate, Andrew Rice successfully compared Jim Inhofe to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Since I only read about the debate in the paper, I have no way of knowing whether Inhofe's response was "Thanks for the compliment!", "Oh, you're too kind!" or "No way! My family doesn't have a single gay or lesbian member unlike Dick Cheney's family!" Bush may be unpopular everywhere else in the country, but I guarantee you that George W. Bush would win a reelection in this state were it to be constitutionally possible.

Andrew Rice also made a reverse-voter-pledge by urging those whose lives are better off than they were 8 years ago to go ahead and vote for Jim Inhofe. This would be a small voter pool indeed in most other states, but probably not in Oklahoma. Over the past 8 years, our oil-based economy has boomed due to the skyrocketing price of oil. House prices still haven't fallen. Our state budget has been filled with surplusses for years. Unemployment is roughly the same as it was in 2000, and (through August) unemployment has been down from last year. We had a GM plant close in that time period, but who hasn't? We have mostly been able to offset those manufacturing jobs with higher paying jobs. Oklahoma has received a boon from the base realignment commission, which called for increases in the levels of soldiers at our Oklahoma military bases. Our colleges and universities have seen increased enrollment even with tuition rising sharply over the past 8 years. Our state even landed its first professional sports team. All in all, if everyone really thought about it, I'm almost positive a majority of voters in Oklahoma truly are better off than they were 8 years ago. But even those whose lives are not better off probably are going to vote for Inhofe anyways.

Let's face it. No matter what Andrew Rice said, he would never have had a chance against the entrenched and well-funded Jim Inhofe. But he spoke at the debate as if he was talking to favorable audience members in his poor urban Oklahoma City senate district. He should have been more like Brad Henry, our two-term Democratic governor who is more of a moderate on most issues and points out his openness to Republican issues like tax cuts and abortions in debates (even if he doesn't follow through on passing them) and who enjoys substantial rural support.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What's That Stuff Trickling Down Again?

I read this on a comment on a Freakonomics blog post at the NY Times:

Maybe people would be more inclined to believe that Wall Street failure would trickle down to Main Street if Wall Street success had trickled down to Main Street as well.

— Posted by Michael P

This sentiment exactly sums up what we plebes are thinking about generosity towards Wall Street banks.