Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keeping the undecideds home

I think we're seeing two very different strategies toward undecided voters in the last days of Unending Marathon for the Presidency. One is trying to convince undecideds that voting will just get you involved in a scummy operation that likely requires a shower. The other is trying to convince undecideds that it really is a nice day, and your vote isn't really necessary anyway, so why bother?

The undecideds. A fascinating, mystifying, terrifying tribe of primitives who walk among us. I will admit a real discomfort with all these graphs that are pretty steady at Obama 50-McCain 45. I can't shake the feeling that the remaining 5% covers many people who don't want to admit they're voting for McCain. Traditionally Democratic voters unwilling to tell themselves or their pollster that they just can't pull a lever for an African-American. This isn't a Bradley Effect per se, which is voters lying about their intended vote (or maybe not). This is the safest refuge of a racist scoundrel -- keeping mum about one's racism until the last moment. Of course, the state polls look better than the national polls, which is good. Another notable fact: a 51% Obama result is the best winning percentage since 1988.

On one side, McCain is hoping to keep independent voters away from Obama by calling him every name he can think of. I think they're unearthing early 20th century political attacks at this point, having run out of modern stuff like "terrorist" and "socialist". Expect McCain to issue a robocall that insinuates Obama is a "puzzlewit" or "honeyfugler" soon. And given the current competence of the RNC, they'll probably be dialing that call into Rhode Island and Hawai'i. Oh, and loyal Republican officials are doing their best to turn their little fiefs into banana republics and preventing the wrong kind of people from voting. So if voting will be so hard, and everyone's a scumbag, why vote?

On the other hand, Obama seems to be telling possible McCain voters not to bother. Candy Crowley introduced her latest Obama update as concerning a man on a schedule "aiming for a blowout". He's advising people not to let up, but he's acting like a man sure of his supposedly weak states. He's going all-red. And now he's openly planning for the transition:

Barack Obama's campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about possibly serving as White House chief of staff, officials said Thursday, looking ahead as the marathon presidential race entered its final, frenzied stretch with a Democratic tilt.

Self-important staffers talking smoke is par for the course in Washington, DC. But I suspect this is more than some self-important Emmanuel staffer talking out of line. I think this is pretty clearly Obama behind this. Witness:

The Democrats who described the contact with Emanuel spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to be quoted by name.

By name. As in "you can quote me, just don't use my name". As in Emmanuel and/or Obama said "tell this to the press, but don't let them use your name". Possibly Obama said to Emmanuel? Unless Emmanuel has lost all track of good sense at this point -- which I don't think is something he'd do, given his track record -- this is a bit of a gambit to tell demoralized Republicans not to bother.

I'm fascinated by the psychology of people who intend to vote even though they are undecided five days out from the endpoint of a two-year campaign. The fact that anyone could be undecided at this point tells me that they're probably better off not voting. However, an article I referenced earlier had a good line:

Most undecided voters, by contrast, seem to view politics the way I view laundry...a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible.

What better way of convincing such people not to vote by assuring them they don't really need to do that...extending the parallel, by telling them that somebody else has pretty much washed all sorts of clothing that our undecided could wear, so he may as well stay home.

Look, I'm aware that this does risk pissing people off at the presumptuousness of it, and I'm sure it will be part of the McCain repertoire by the end of the day. However, Obama is coming closer to an "inevitability narrative" than either Hillary or Dean got when they were trying. Doesn't exactly give me a lot of confidence given their end results, but I'm past the point of questioning the wisdom of the Obama campaign. They're running the smoothest operation probably since 1992.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Redistribution, or as I call it, civilization

McCain's pretend presidential campaign has settled on its newest attempted slur: "redistributor". Apparently "terrorist" and "socialist" weren't moving the polls, so instead we get a snappy five-syllable jab. To listen to McCain and his allies, the worst thing possible is to "share the wealth", to "take your money and give it to someone else."

Some Democrats have accused McCain of yearning for a "free market fundamentalism", but the consequences of his positions are far more reaching than that. Exacting taxes to pay for a military is a form of redistribution. Why should I fork over some hard-earned cash just so somebody can have fun running around and firing guns? For that matter, why should my work translate to pay for anyone else -- cops, border guards, domestic spies -- anyone?

Redistribution is the foundation of civilization. It's the recognition that our physical, cultural, and economic security is more assured when people work in groups, and those groups need funding. You can't expect to fund it on goodwill -- you need to exact a price for belonging to civilization. People give up a portion of their income toward people who provide security. My money is being "redistributed" to our soldiers and to cops on the streets. I don't have a problem with that. The alternative is not conservatism, because conservatism enforces redistribution as much as anyone else. Bush, for example, wanted redistribution to friendly corporations such as Enron and Halliburton. McCain probably does, too. At least, I hope that's what he means. Because if you take him at his word, McCain wants anarchy in this country -- no redistribution, everyone for himself.

Of course, McCain's problem is that Obama only wants to redistribute income to those who need it. Today, McCain attacked Biden for pegging the maximum annual income for the title "middle class" as those earning $150,000 per year. Seriously, McCain wants to run as the defender of the four percent earning $150,000 or more.

Anarchists, and the rich. At the end of the campaign, McCain comes back to his base.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Oh yeah, after $30 million to run an election, the results in Canada came back nearly the same. The losing party will be replacing its leader, as the "winning party" staggers along in Minority Government Hell. Prime Minister Harper is just, well, a boring guy who people don't like. Happily, the leader of the opposing party is an even boringer guy with poor English who people like even less. So, yeah, he resigned from his post.

Long story short, nothing got decided, lots of money got spent, somebody important got fired, and Canadians got pissed off. Good thing it's hockey season, or it could get ugly. Well, what counts for ugly in Canada, which is usually mumbling "excuse me" rather than saying it loudly enough to hear.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good for Livni

One of my favorite leaders on the world stage right now is Tzipi Livni, the tough-minded and strong-hearted leader of the governing Kadima party. Ehud Olmert took over as a caretaker after the party's founder Ariel Sharon died fell into a coma that certainly appears permanent. He kept things together surprisingly well, but eventually he resigned, and Livni took over the top spot.

Her first job was to assemble a governing coalition in the exceedingly fractured parliament of Israel, the Knesset. And she "failed". But it's a good failure.

For any coalition in Israel, the fulcrum is the Shas party. The Shas Party is actually the third-largest in the Knesset, even outpolling Netanyahu's Likud Party in the last election (something that would not happen were another vote held). Moreover, it has had a role in the Knesset similar to that of CiU in Spain -- a willing partner in pretty much any coalition as long as it gets a piece of the action. Party representatives in the Knesset have a criminal record echoing that of American Republicans. These ideological weathervanes have jumped in bed with a diversity of partners unkown outside Hollywood. A glance over the history of Israeli coalition governments turns up the Shas repeatedly, included in 9 of the 10 previous governments. The same party had no trouble mixing with Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu. They played games in 19999/2000, leaving the coalition before being bribed to return. Their ultra-fundamentalist communities get special treatment, including an exemption from compulsory military service.

Livni has said no to that -- specifically, a demand to blow another $350 million on child allowances that would favor the constituents of Shas. Instead, she is willing to go to the polls for an election when polls favor her opponent Benjamin "Nuke'em" Netanyahu, rather than play Shas's confidence game one more time. This is the kind of leadership Israel needs, and I hope it will reward her.

It's not for nothing. Shas has obtained some benefits due to its easy friendship: the fruits, obtaining military exemptions and a high degree of funding for its constituents. However, it often seems to be an Israeli parasite, taking up seats in Parliament in its corrupt, often criminal electoral extortion. Good for Livni for saying no, shame on Netanyahu for saying yes. I hope the Israeli people agree.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Carla Howell part of Carla Howell's conspiracy to preserve gov't waste?

Carla Howell has sworn up and down, round and round, that there is $12 billion worth of waste in state government. She won't say exactly where (the list is in the same safe as McCain's plan for finding bin Laden), but it's there. See, Howell is so much smarter than everyone else. Or something.

I would imagine that anyone running for governor who knew how to slash billions of dollars of waste would say something. Mitt Romney, Christy Mihos, and Deval Patrick -- rank outsiders all -- kept mum about it. Ambitious insiders who know every inch of Beacon Hill also won't sacrifice that knowledge for their own ambitions. You know how hard it is to get Tim Cahill to do something he sees in his political interest, for example.

Can you imagine how easy it would be to become governor by showing how to save taxpayers thousands of dollars? It would be a slam dunk. Yet these guys decided, and still decide, not to go that route. Neither did some lady named...Carla Howell. Sure, she knew there was $9 billion being wasted back in 2002 when she ran for governor, but really wouldn't tell us where. Maybe Candidate Howell decided not to upset insiders with the secret knowledge everyone on Beacon Hill shares, that same secret knowledge that upsets Crusader Howell so much. Candidate Howell either didn't know, or didn't reveal how o save taxpayers' money and save her own campaign. Pity, too -- had Candidate Howell come forward with this information, she coulda been governor, rather than coming in fourth.

Or maybe Christy Mihos, Tom Reilly, Chris Gabrieli, Jane Swift, Kerry Healey, Shannon O'Brien, or other gubernatorial candidates could have said something but didn't. Yet apparently they were complicit in the Secret Society to Waste Taxpayers' Money. So it seems that everyone who's run for governor in the modern era knows about the massive waste in Massachusetts, but is too dishonest or incompetent to turn such understanding into a winning campaign. Or they're dumb enough that they can't find such obvious waste, which probably should eliminate them from any real role in state government.

Including Carla Howell. At least, according to Carla Howell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do you trust the RNC with your budget?

Here's the funny part. I don't much care if the Republican National Committee wants to blow $150,000 on a wardrobe for the Palin family, as if the governor of Alaska couldn't possibly own a decent set of clothing. I don't really care that the highest paid advisor on the campaign doesn't do foreign affairs or media handling, but makeup. I still maintain that making Sarah Palin look good couldn't be that hard. It's like making Michael Phelps a good swimmer.

In some ways, I'm glad that they're blowing money they don't have on frivolities. But...the people who want to run the country are blowing money they really need on frivolities. Let's be clear: from the beginning, it was obvious that Obama was going to outraise and outspend McCain. It was obvious that a campaign which accepted spending limits was going to need every dime it could keep when going up against a historically unprecedented fundraising operation.

So the Republicans went and blew a huge chunk of their dwindling cash -- several field offices' worth, several polls' worth -- on clothing, hair, and makeup. When the people running the McCain/Republican campaigns had a direct, personal interest in managing their budget smartly, they couldn't do it.

Yet these millionaires want me to trust them with my money. They couldn't manage money when doing so meant access to power and wealth but they want to be trusted with money that isn't even theirs?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell takes on Prejudice

I'm rather pleased that General Powell endorsed Senator Obama for president today. I think it helps in two ways: it may prod undecideds who prioritize national security in their votes, such as people in Virginia (the real parts). Furthermore, it dominates the news for one or days at least, and McCain can't have that.

However, I really like that Powell took head-on the ugliest prejudice that McCain's campaign has fully, joyously endorsed: that against Arabs and Muslims in our own country.

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is "no, that's not America." Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president someday? Yet I have heard senior members of my party drop this suggestion that he is a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Not content with hating Hispanics and African-Americans, Republicans are seizing on hatred of American Muslims -- a group as large as Jewish Americans. Filthy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Irish punter: McCain and Hillary almost even chance to win on Nov. 4

Once in a while, I like to look at how professional gamblers handicap the race. Not InTrade, but people who've been taking bets on politics for decades. So I slipped over to the Irish punter Ladbrokes.

Ladbrokes is offering odds on John McCain winning the presidency that are far below those of Obama -- and only slightly better than those for Hillary Clinton.

Obama: 4:5 ... 80%
McCain: 12:1 ... 8.33%
Hillary: 16:1 ... 6.25%

McCain's odds are 667% higher than Obama's.
Hillary Clinton's odds are 133% higher that McCain's.

(You can also take flyers for Al Gore at 33:1, Brian Schweitzer at 66:1, or Ron Paul at 100:1).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Ballad of Joe the Plumber

Sung in the tune of "angry", preferably in an ill-fitting suit and black tie.

O, Joe is a cracking plumber,
The bestest that could ever be
And Joe is an Ohio plumber,
I just wish he'd vote for me.

Verse I
I'll cut Joe's taxes, cut them deep,
I'll give him his guv'mint for free
I'll slash Joe's taxes, slash them deep,
'Specially if he's as rich as me!

Verse II
I'll defend Joe from that one's terr'rist pals,
The ones in those scary ads on teevee
I'll protect Joe from Barry's terr'rist pals,
That's all my campaign's got left, you see

Verse III
I'll help Joe's health with my super plan,
My tax credit or that one's giant fee
I'll heal Joe's health with my awesome plan,
Wait, his fee is zero? Big news to me!

Verse IV
I'll stop abortions Joe, I'll stop 'em all right now,
It's a hot button issue shucks golly gee
I'll halt abortions Joe, stop 'em all right now,
(Psst, centrists, don't listen now, I plea.)

I'm a maverick, Joe, a rebel, the man you loved!
It's my time, my turn, my chance, me, me, ME!
I'm your maverick Joe, who you once loved...
Can't you see me here on my knee?
I put my country first, you've seen my ads, Joe!
I've fought dirty Joe then, dirtier -- oh, my how!
What happened -- you used to love me Joe!
My Joe, my plumber! Mav'rick Johnny here -- don't leave me now!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Election results, eh?

A great opportunity to practice your election night rituals comes Tuesday night as the results of the Canadian election come in. Watch them here if interested. You may want to get a primer on Canadian politics from this site's archives or elsewhere beforehand.

If you want to know how things stand, it appears that the result of the election will be a Parliament that pretty closely resembles the Parliament that the Prime Minister dissolved. Considering that the main impetus behind this election was to escape Minority Government h--l, that's kinda funny.

I'd also mention how much Canada's political class sucks about putting fun things online. There should be interactive maps where you can switch around who's going to win what ridings, but there's nothing interesting out there.

How's O-bama feel about O-hio?

Exciting times for left-wing pollwatchers, as polls from a number of companies and a number of states flood us every day. Everybody seems to be trending Obama: Pennsylvania and New Hampshire away from the center, as well as Michigan thanks to a good shove from McCain. The Bush state of New Mexico and Iowa are called "safe Obama" by a number of prognosticators. Entering the swing zone from the right are Indiana and North Carolina as well as West Vriginia and even Georgia. The main exception seems to be Ohio -- go ahead, ask the pollsters. More on Ohio in a second.

With this multiplicity of swing states and routes to 270 challenge the Obama campaign to balance these opportunities. There are more states in play this election, and Obama has to prioritize, a tricky balancing act for the Senator.

Using the WashPo's handy candidate tracker, I counted up the number of Obama visits to each state since September 1. I count September 1st as the beginning of the true campaign, as opposed to fundraising. I counted up the number of Obama's visits to each state, as opposed to the number of events during visit or the duration in days of a visit. I do this because regardless of number of events, each news cycle is one day long, and the main impact of visits is news coverage. "Obama still in Florida" doesn't really have much impact on the news as "Obama arrives in Florida", and the investment of resources to move the entire campaign is a bigger statement than renting two buses to drive 150 miles down the road. Here's what I found:

State and number of visits:
Michigan 4
Florida 4
Virginia 3
Wisconsin 3
North Carolina 2
Ohio 2
Pennsylvania 2
Nevada 2
Colorado 2
New Hampshire 1
New Mexico 1
Indiana 1

New York (9/11 and debate) 2
Mississippi (debate) 1
Tennessee (debate) 1

An odd collection. There are many calculations that go into these visits: it's often a question of where Obama exhibits more "value-added" over a surrogate, such as Biden, Michelle or the Clintons. However, there are a couple things that jump out at me on this list:

* Obama has spent a lot of time in Michigan.
* Obama evidently feels rather comfortable about Iowa, ignoring the state altogether.
* For a state into which Obama has put much field effort and money, I'd have expected more than one visit -- and a single event at that -- in Indiana.
* Ohio, I'll note, has many multiple-event visits. But still, only two visits?

This is a rather incomplete picture, but I'd like to consider that last question in more depth. Ohio is becoming a bit like New Hampshire, perversely proud of being undecided and prevaricating. In short, Ohio is getting needy. After a high-spirited primary battle in 2008 and a arm-wrestling match in 2004, Ohioans may have become resistant to appeals and attention from campaigns. Just as we've seen over-entitled pigherders and farmers in Iowa and New Hampshire demanding more toadying with every cycle, so too are Ohioans. A recent photo showed some smug idiot wearing a sign that proclaims "undecided Ohio voter". The nastily entitled grin on his face told everyone just how special he thinks we should all consider him. He could be an embodiment of the state.

Yes, Ohio has 20 electoral votes, but that is a number reached through all sorts of combinations from other states. I have no idea, but if I wouldn't be shocked to learn that the Obama campaign privately feels that Ohio is too much of a headache, and there are much easier way to gain that yield of 20. Media is expensive and jaded, if not downright nutty. For example, Virginia + Colorado = 21, and those states seem to show more impact from visits and attention. The Ohio "ground game" in 2004 wasn't exactly gang-busters, especially compared to the operation that's been in put in place in Colorado and Virginia. (Remember what I said earlier about Colorado? I still stand by it. If this election is close, I'm glad Obama will be able to look back at having invested a great deal out there.)

I'm not at all saying abandon Ohio, but I'm not sure we get much bang for the buck there in terms of candidate visits. They both have a higher "return on investment" according to Nate Silver, as well. So while we may expect that Obama Road Show to stop by Ohio from time to time, I'd guess that not too many eggs are being nestled in the Buckeye Basket.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain: Arab or family man. But not both.

The most notorious moment of the McCain campaign this month comes from a McCain rally, as he has to correct a supporter:

Supporter/ Bigot: I can't trust Obama. He's a...he's a Arab.
(McCain takes mic away from her.)
McCain: No ma'am. No ma'am. He's a...he's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.

So McCain is going through the motions of denying the lies he helped spread. And the media is giving him plaudits for the equivalent of giving up on beating his wife. True, though, that at a time when the line between Palin rally and lynch mob keeps narrowing, this is probably a good thing. But what isn't a good thing is McCain's reaction.

McCain doesn't tell the lady that no, Obama isn't an Arab but an American with African and European heritage. He doesn't tell her that Obama can't be an Arab because McCain knows his background. The way that McCain can tell Obama isn't an Arab, apparently, is that Obama is a "decent family man".

To McCain, Obama can't be an Arab because he's a decent family man. And apparently, McCain can assure us, Arab-Americans -- the 3.5 million in this country -- simply aren't decent family people. I guess McCain saw how Obama loves his kids, loves his wife, and tries to do the right thing, and thought "there's no way somebody like that is an Arab." How sad that this represent progress for McCain and his supporters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Holy Crap! Best ad of 2008

My man Mark Begich is facing a deal: if Ted Stevens is indicted convicted, he wins. If Stevens gets off...looks shaky. But check out this take-no-prisoners-mofo'n ad:

PS: Anybody wishing an education in our criminal justice system would be well-served by tracing the records of prominent 21st century Republicans.

What's left?

I knew the 1992 election was over when President Bush got up there and said of Clinton and Gore "look at these guys...they're a coupla bozos!" It was an attack so disconnected from any larger narrative, any important issue, anything that the voter remotely cared about, you could tell it was garbage time. There were questions (I suppose) about Clinton's judgment, experience, priorities, dedication, morality, sincerity, perspective -- but nobody could question the man's intelligence. I didn't understand the psychology of it in technical terms, but at 14 years old, I could tell Bush was not just out of ideas, but out of motivation to find them. He was done. When you saw Bush using a taunt a 9-year old would find passé, you saw raw frustration. Desperation is trying to start a conflagration from the dying embers of dark suspicions...frustration is fire-starting with a lighter and cup of water just to have a flame to wave around.

There are many, many reservations about Obama -- not too dissimilar from Clinton back then, I guess. But "bozos" is grandma-talk compared to what we're seeing. A campaign staffer wrote an op-ed, something to be published, that reads as a white guy trying to update Parliament Funkadelic's Chocolate City> Sample line: Obama's administration would divert more foreign aid to Africa so 'the Obama family there can skim enough to allow them to free their goats and live the American Dream.' " Our would-be vice president says that Obama pals around with terrorists! She is suggesting that Obama likes to hang out with somebody at least two people who actively try to change political discourse through violence and spreading fear. Her crowds have picked up the message, too: slandering African-Americans, while McCain smilingly presided over a supporter labeling Obama a terrorist. His brother tagged northern Virginia as "communist".

Hunter Thompson wrote that McGovern's team knew he was going to lose one month out. Hillary Clinton knew she was going to lose a coupla weeks out from the final primary. They finished with style and dignity. Here, it's October 7th, We've four weeks to go. For McCain and Palin, that's four weeks to kill.

But we have seen little to think that McCain will show the dignity and grace of Thompson or Clinton. Even the comparative restraint of Bush. But if you're already calling your opponent a terrorist with 4 weeks to go, doesn't that imply that you're still "saving up" some blockbusters in the final moments? That's the way campaigns usually work, but ya gotta wonder what names are still left after you've spent "communist" or "terrorist", the dirtiest terms in contemporary American discourse. We're past desperation, and into frustration -- can McCain and Palin survive the next 4 weeks without grevously wounding the Republicans?

What angles are available to a once-promising Republican now drowning in the Titanic's backwash, who looms larger in the history of Saturday Night Live than American history?

What rhetorical attacks remain for an angry man who will die without clawing his way into the White House?

What's left?

PS: For my friends in the Republican Party:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Status quo losing ground all over North America

It's been interesting watching the parallel campaigns in the United States and Canada, as both kick the tires of their ruling regimes. As I have several times remarked, the politics in the two countries don't match up well, and there are dangers in comparing the two. For example, in Canada the right is also in power, but it had the power to set an advantageous election date, it entered into the campaign with a more popular and likeable leader, one who won the debate, a stronger infrastructure, and frankly a much better record on governance. The Conservatives seemed to have every advantage going, and were ready to coast.

Until recently. Their poll numbers are doing the same exact thing that McCain's are doing, despite all the heretofore mentioned differences -- nose-diving. In fact, the only thing the Conservatives of Canada and the Republicans of the United States seem to common is that they are incumbents. Which increasingly appears to be crime enough.

Open Yer Wallets, Mass. Congressmen!

The elephants are on the run! From Palin's Alaska to McCain's Arizona, Republican Congresscritters are sinking in polls faster than they can race away from Bush and McCain. On CNN tonight, Huckabee's Campaign Director Ed Rollins pronounced himself satisfied with 12 losses.

With so many slow-moving targets, no wonder Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders are asking safe Democratic Congressers to fork over some cash. With one of the safest Democratic delegations in the country, you'd think that Massachusetts Democrats would be leading the charge. The truth falls short, excepting Congressers McGovern, Olver, and Tsongas. Check out the numbers:

Cand.DCCC contrib.Cash on Hand% given
Jim McGovern$240,000$317,00075.7
John Olver125,000194,000 64.4
Niki Tsongas10,00033,00030.0
Ed Markey425,0002.65 million16.0
Barney Frank100,000768,000 13.0
Stephen Lynch85,0001.3 million 6.5
Richard Neal71,5002 million 3.6
John Tierney35,7311.3 million2.75
Mike Capuano25,000948,0002.6
William Delahunt-1.4 million0

These figures were gained from data in the online FEC database. "Cash on Hand" is the most recent update from the FEC, and "DCCC contribution" is any listing from 2008 only. Naturally, these numbers may be a few weeks out of date, but in any case, too many of our Congressmen are not doing their part. It seems that we have too many self-satisfied politicians sitting on war chests with their eyes on Kerry's and/or Kennedy's Senate seats, and worried about whose seat will be districted out of existence after the 2010 census.

You can decide how little is too little. Tsongas has sympathy in my book as an almost brand new Congressperson, and is now building her fundraising machine. In any case, I include one last list of information you may find useful if you want these guys to do their part:

Representative Bill Delahunt 202-225-3111
Representative Michael Capuano 202-225-5111
Representative John Tierney 202-225-8020
Representative Richard E. Neal 202-225-5601
Representative Stephen Lynch 202-225-8273
Representative Barney Frank 202-225-5931
Representative Edward J. Markey 202-225-2836
Representative Niki Tsongas 202-225-3411
Representative John W. Olver 202-225-5335
Representative James P. McGovern 202-225-6101


Sunday, October 5, 2008

SNL misses their chance

scene: SNL Produces Lorne Michaels walks into the writers' room

Michaels: Good news everyone! Not only have we talked Tina Fey into coming back to open the show as Sarah Palin, we are going to have a real live Oscar nominee on stage with her -- Queen Latifah! Star power, baby!
Pale Writer: Done! This VP debate skit is going to blow them out of the water! Palin is the gift that won't stop giving, and we got her nailed this time! Hey, see if the prop department can scare up a flute...
Network Guy: The hype is already huge...this will probably be our biggest audience of the season leading in! We're back baby! Back! Chris Rock and Dana Carvey can kiss my ass! Hey Lorne -- fist jab!
(incredibly awkward fist jab between Network Guy and Lorne Michaels)
Michaels: Okay. We got a killer musical guest, a decent host. Great opening skit. We limp through the opening monologue, and the second half of the one-two punch. What is it?
(Awkward silence. A tumbleweed blows through the room as the writers concentrate on the laptop in front of them.)
Bearded Writer: Umm...can we extend the VP debate skit for twenty minutes? Like, just have Fey read the transcript from the debate?
Michaels: No! We need relevance! This is our big moment...we need to pull a Church Lady out, a Wayne's World -- something people will quote around the water cooler on Monday! We need something people care about right now! Think dammit!
Lady Writer: The bailout?
Minority Writer: Gas prices?
Overeducated Writer: Brittany Spears?
Canadian Writer: OJ Simpson?
Michaels: No, no, and no! All that stuff is too trendy, we're going for timeless...something that everyone will key into! Something that will hold that audience for a few commercial breaks -- this is our biggest chance of the year, don't screw it up!
Old Writer: I got an idea, but it takes guts. We have to be ready for some blowback here because no other show would dare touch it. We've talked about this Lauren...
Lauren: You're not actually serious. I mean, do we really have the guts.
Old Writer: This is it. We have to do it now. Let's pull out all the stops and go after...the Lawrence Welk Show!
(Silence grips the room as Michaels' face slowly broadens into a smile)
Michaels: Genius! If lampooning a fifty-year old show doesn't bring us back, nothing will! Do it! Watch out Lawrence!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Could Dean Barkley return to the Senate?

One of the most vicious Senate fights in the country is in Minnesota, where Republican Norm Coleman is running for re-election. If you'll remember, Coleman was elected because his opponent, the late great Paul Wellstone, died late in the campaign. Walter Mondale was rushed in his place as the Democratic nominee, but to no end.

Now, Coleman is looking to earn his seat against a living, breathing opponent, jokester Al Franken. Of course, a liberal Jew who worked in Hollywood, used drugs, and made distasteful jokes may have trouble in Minnesota, so things are essentially tied. Tied as in low-40s to low-40s, depending on which poll you read.

The polls are so low largely because of a third-party candidate, Senator Dean Barkley of the Independence Party, a breakaway faction of Perot's Reform Party. Barkley actually gets to use the title (as he does in his website address because he was appointed to the office to fill out the remainder of Wellstone's term by governor Jesse Ventura. So naturally, people may wonder if Minnesotans were crazy enough to elect Ventura, why not Barkley?

Well, Barkley is running on familiar stances, a pox on both houses kind of thing. On issues, he's (like Ventura and his mentor, Perot) anti-bailout, hawkish on the deficit, pro-gun, pro-gay marriage, pro-withdrawal from Iraq, pro-clean money, pro-free market health care. Pretty much a libertarian approach.

Oddly enough, Barkley hasn't garnered much attention on the blogs or news that I could find. The venerable Senate Guru has little to say, and MN Campaign Report is similarly quiet. But there are reasons, I believe, that this bears watching:

  • Minnesotans have elected one libertarian type before and liked him while in office why not again? Oh, and the guy is appearing in Barkley's ads.
  • His poll numbers have been slowly but consistently rising since he got into the race. Considering that he started in July, he's already having quite an impact. In a recent poll, Barkley hit 19% -- already half of Ventura's total when he was elected.
  • Minnesotan Democrats haven't exactly united behind Franken. Popular attorney Mike Ciresi ran a bitter race against Franken before dropping out shortly before the primary.
  • Minnesota is a swing state in McCain's sights. Combined with a heated battle for Senate, we can expect the Republicans to get unimaginably dirty in that state. I think this dynamic frustrates and angers voters, and makes them more open to voting for an independent as the GOP tries to drag Democrats into the muck with them. He's doing a great job of using that angle in his campaign.
  • A good appearance in Sunday's debate can help Barkley gain exposure against two much better funded candidates.
  • Barkley is no stranger to campaigns, having run for Senate twice, served in the Senate briefly as mentioned, and for the US House. He also managed Ventura's winning campaign for Senate.

Of course, this guy was earlier this year driving a bus for a living -- we're not talking an experienced hand. He doesn't have any real party infrastructure, nor even Ventura's high profile before entering the race. But he does know campaigning as a Minnesotan third-party candidate at a time when dissatisfied Democrats and fiscal conservatives just might say "the hell with both of you" and put this guy in the Senate.

Which would be interesting, to say the least.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My unsophisticated thoughts on the bailout

I'll steal Lance Mannion's line on this one -- remember while reading this that I know less about the economy than even John McCain. But this is my simplistic understanding of the "crisis":

The main concern seems to be that without this bailout, there would be a contraction of credit. "Credit" is a financial term that means "getting money from people by promising to pay it back with a little extra". The reason it's getting harder to get credit is that a lot of other people who got money from people by promising to pay it back with extra clearly won't be paying it back. The problem is, these people -- subprime mortgage holders -- were the first level of a byzantine chain of fiscal stunts such as mortgage-backed securities and company paper that are all designed to make it easier to get credit. In other words, for a long time it was really easy to get money from people. So easy, that our economy adapted to the point where it expected that money was pretty much out there for anyone asking for it.

Now we find out that giving money in return for a promise and a wink isn't such a good idea. And we're being told that unless the government replicates these idiotic business practices, credit will tighten up. That is, credit will smarten up. This means that in addition to learning from the stunts that have failed, it may also ignore the stunts that still seem to work.

So rather than go through the pain of the economy adjusting itself to a smarter attitude toward extending credit, we're making more credit available from the government because everyone is too used to doing it the stupid way.

It makes me think of an analogy (I think best with analogies).

Imagine you have a large party boat. You want to throw bangin' parties on this boat, so you load it up with a great sound system, well-stocked coolers, and a satellite dish tv system. Problem is, all that weight causes water to slowly enter the boat. So you also buy a pump to bail out all the water coming into the boat so it doesn't sink.

Well, the pump fails. Now, most people would lighten the load. Sure, it might bring down the party a wee bit to have three kinds of light beer rather than four, but isn't three really enough? Isn't a great party still acceptable?

The government today said no, handed us a bucket, and said "start bailing".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP debate: Neither met potential

Biden is an experienced Senator. He's experienced, knowledgeable, shrewd. Biden has the potential to be a spectacular debater and was instead "only" great.

Palin is a nearly accidental pick. She has a string of disastrous interviews, and scored a small victory by correctly identifying the podium and standing on the correct side of it. Palin has the potential to be a disastrous debater and was instead "only" weak.

Biden had a great debate. Palin had a weak debate.

Somehow lots of folks will claim that Palin won.