Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, January 31, 2008

California über Alles

At long last, California's primary election really matters! (Hooray for our side!) In the Republican race, McCain still holds a clear lead here and Gov. Schwarzenegger has just endorsed him. New York is also McCain country, especially after the Giuliani endorsement. But California is where Romney is focusing his efforts. California is a must-win state for Romney and it is unclear if McCain will persevere if he loses here.

Yet the bigger battle is on the Democratic side. Of the three largest states to vote on Super Tuesday--California, Illinois, and New York--the latter two are the home states of Obama and Clinton respectively, and each is expected to win them handily. So the big prize is California. Until just recently, polls showed a 15 to 20 point lead for Clinton, but the race is narrowing fast. A Rasmussen poll gives Clinton only a 3 point lead--a statistical tie! And the effect of Edwards' departure have not yet begun to show in the polls.

It comes down to this: the candidates who win California will take the nominations in their respective parties. It's an exciting time to be a Californian.


Florida Exit Polls

You can see the MSNBC exit polls from Florida here.

Of some interest...Voters who made their decision a month before the election (i.e. before the Iowa Caucus), prefered Clinton over Obama 63% to 27%. Early voters prefered Clinton to Obama 50% to 31%. During this period voters would be disproportionately swayed by name recognition and celebrity. These groups made up 33% and 26% of the total voters respectively.

It is only in the last month in which the news coverage has been greater, the debates have actually gotten voter attention and the campaigns have really kicked in gear. Voters who made their decision in the last month prefered Obama to Clinton 47% to 40%.

Voters who made their decision in the last week prefered Obama to Clinton 39% to 31%.

Voters who made their decision in the last three days prefered Obama to Clinton 46% to 38%.

And Voters who made their decision the day of the election prefered Clinton 34% to 30% (with Edwards getting 29%). This is interesting to me because it looks like people who decide how to vote the day of the election looked like they vote more or less randomly.

This all suggests to me that voters who were paying attention to the campaigns in other states and to the brief and lopsided campaign in Florida, picked Obama by a substantial margin. Clinton won Florida largely because over half of the voters made up their minds before they had much information on which to base their decision. I have heard that this trend may be repeated in California.

This has implications for how the political situation is playing out. It suggests that the more people pay attention to the campaigns, the more they like Obama and the less they like Clinton. This may mean that Florida is not the kind of "bell weather" that Dr. S. hopes it will be. If I were a betting man, I'd look at this data and predict tightening races on Super Tuesday even in California. I certainly would not expect a 20% win for Clinton except maybe in New York.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

To Super Tuesday.... and Beyond!

The Republican and Democratic races are finally starting to shape up. Each has a presumed front-runner now--Hillary Clinton and John McCain--but each also has a strong challenger--Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. On February 5th, Super Tuesday, about half of the delegates will be effectively awarded. After a month of questions, as that date looms we are finally getting some answers.

On the Republican side, rumors are swirling tonight that Giuliani, who managed only third place (his best showing in any state) will drop out and endorse McCain at the Reagan Presidential Library tomorrow. There is also a rumor afoot that McCain has offered the Vice-Presidential slot to Huckabee on the condition that he not drop out of the race yet. (A Huckabee pullout is thought to favor Romney.) Thanks to a number of winner-take-all primaries, February 5th is likely to make McCain the presumed nominee.

On the Democratic side, Hillary's large victory in Florida has largely gone unremarked, but it is a bellwether for the rest of the nation since (as in Florida) most people have seen and will see little active campaigning before next week's showdown. Unless John Edwards drops out tomorrow to endorse Obama, Hillary's current large leads in the polls in the largest states are likely to place her significantly ahead of Obama in the delegate count after Super Tuesday... But thanks to the Democrats' proportional primary system, Obama should remain competitive.

Just four days later, on February 9th, Louisiana holds a primary and Nebraska and Washington will caucus. These races are likely to favor Obama, and give a boost to his campaign after Super Tuesday. Unless Hillary wins massively on Super Tuesday, I expect the race will continue for several weeks to come.


Free Money

Economic stimulus is all the rage on capital hill today. The reason is obvious: everyone is delighted at being able to hand out checks to taxpayers in an election year, and everyone wants as much credit as possible to redound to them. With Senate Majority Leader Reid's support, the House negotiated a deal with Bush that would be fairly simple: individuals would receive $600 and couples $1200. They would receive this as long as they were working, regardless of whether they paid income taxes or just payroll taxes. And earners over $75K (single) and $150K (couples) would see the rebates phase out towards zero.

The Senate has now proposed an alternate plan, this time also with Reid's support. It reduces the amounts to $500 and $1000 respectively, but extends it to senior citizens on social security and removes the $75/$150K income cap. It also extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks more. Both bills are expected to pass their respective houses, then conference committee and fights will ensue.

These plans are an interesting contrast. In one sense, the income cap ($75K/$150K) is sensible in that higher earners are less likely to spend rather than save the money. In another sense, it is asinine: as long as the government is handing out free money, it seems bizarre to cut out this segment of the politically active middle class. And it seems a bit unfair, particularly as it denies me my free money. As long as everyone's getting it, why not? I suspect the Senate plan will succeed for that reason. I'm actually not entirely sure why the House Dems were apparently so insistent on an income cap and a phaseout. The phaseout is idiotic, because giving less money to higher earners is a complete waste. If you think someone earning $100K would not do much of value with $600, what is he/she going to do with $200 or less?


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Exit Poll Numbers

Here is the MSNBC exit poll.

Some highlights:

Tellingly, Obama essentially tied Hillary Clinton among White Men.

So just after the Clintons said that Obama was the latest "Jesse Jackson" candidate...the "Black" candidate"...the "articulate young leader with a base in South Carolina" - Hillary has been exposed as the candidate of Baby Boomer Women and very little else. Clinton won in only one race/age category...Whites over 60. Well, she tied Edwards in that category actually.
Another telling stat: Obama tied Clinton among white non-Democrats. In other words Southern Whites who probably didn't vote for either Gore or Kerry vote for Obama (the supposed "Black candidate") in the same numbers that they vote for Hillary Clinton. Is the "New South" finally here?

Yet another telling stat: HRC did much better among those voters who said that personal qualities were more important than issues than among those who said issues were more important.

Finally, voters who responded that the country WAS NOT ready for a Black President voted mainly for Clinton. But Obama won among voters who thought the country WAS ready for a Woman President. So was this a case of Obama winning the "Black vote" or Clinton winning the racist vote?


Two Open Questions to Hillary Fans

Would you support Hillary Clinton for the nomination if Bill Clinton had died on the operating table when he had heart surgery a couple of years ago?

Would you support Hillary Clinton based on her own resume if she had never been First Lady?


Bounces and Lags

After Obama's win in Iowa, he temporarily surged in the polls in New Hampshire, but it fell away in five days. The polls were only able to capture the surge, however, because they tend to work in two-to-four-day running averages. Zogby, for example, reported that they were getting results that proved accurate on Monday night, but they had to average these in with earlier answers that told a different story.

In other words, we saw in New Hampshire that even a large Poll Bounce can last as little as three days, while the Poll Lag is about three days. And Florida's election is three days after South Carolina's. So while Obama should get a boost from his huge win in South Carolina, possibly a big boost, we will not be able to measure it. So we really won't know who will win the Democratic Primary in Florida until the votes are in.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hillary Stumbles, Obama Triumphs

The election in South Carolina was a huge, huge win for Barack Obama and a stinging rebuke to Hillary Clinton. Obama won an outright majority of both men and women, and he won a plurality in every age bracket. More black voters chose Obama than Clinton, and more white voters chose John Edwards than Clinton (by a couple of points). Hillary was demolished, and the defeat is even more astonishing when you consider that she was leading in the polls just two months ago.

To his great credit, Obama has surprised many and demonstrated that he can outfight an aggressive opponent, which makes me much happier should he win the nomination. Obama managed to tarnish the Clintons' historic rapport with African-Americans (that MLK/LBJ flap) but more important, he turned the tables on the Clintons: he transformed Bill from Hillary's greatest asset to her greatest liability. The media narrative shifted from, "the mean guys are ganging up on poor Hillary," to, "the nasty Clintons are ganging up on poor Obama."

But Obama has done much more. The pundits thought he was "too black" to win in Iowa, and he proved them wrong. The pundits thought he was "not black enough" to win in South Carolina, and he proved them wrong. He has shown strong appeal across all sectors of society, all races and genders, all ideologies. I now believe Obama will be President one day, if not in this election, then four or eight years from now.

When I contrast Hillary's strong performance in the Nevada debate, where the candidates made peace, with Hillary's poor performance in South Carolina, where the candidates made war, the lesson seems abundantly clear. Hillary needs to go back to doing what won for her in New Hampshire: neither attacking her opponents nor responding to their attacks, but simply championing her key themes of knowledge and experience. She needs to put Bill firmly back on the sidelines again and once more shine for who she is. She should find a way to make peace with Obama also. If she cannot do any of those things, she does not deserve to win the nomination.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Voting Season Again

As the members of this blog know, I usually serve as a poll worker during elections. I will do so again on Feb 5. We just had our training the other night. And I will tell you that before long, average citizens will no longer be able to volunteer to work in polling places. And those of us who do will quit. The processes and requirements are becoming more and more complex and the public less appreciative.

1. The days are very long and getting longer. We do 14 hr. days on Election Day plus the 2.5 hr. training before hand. You can't break things into shifts because that would be a security issue (the more people around, the harder to ensure security), and we just don't have that many volunteers. It is exhausting- especially in big elections. And 80 year olds are, for the most part, not the best types of volunteers for this sort of thing. Most are slow, easily confused, and not accustomed to how professional this has become. You can't just be a smiling old lady in the polling place. You have to be professional and official because of the increased scrutiny. For the Feb 5th election, the CA Secretary of State has chosen several counties (including mine) for observation. We, in my county, are to expect secretary of state inspectors at some point throughout the day and we have to be ready to answer pop quizzes from State officials.

2. Because of the problems in 2000 and the additional problems in 2004 and ever since, poll inspections and monitoring are at an all time high. The number of disgruntled and mistrustful voters is rising. The corrosive effect of poorly run elections across the country is showing. Candidates are quicker to contest results (note: Kucinich required a recount in S.C.), voters are showing up in larger numbers, but are less confident in the process, and local elections officials are indirectly held responsible for mistakes made by officials in other states and thus must react to everything with additional preventative measures. So we have to take more and more precautions, which translates into more and more bureaucracy.

3. The number of elections is rising. In my county this year, we will have 3 elections within a 12 month period. Since 2000, we have had a number of special elections- largely because Governor Arnold likes to "go to the voters" for everything. This means that the elections commission is now full time employment with much bigger budgets, staffs, greater accountability, and more opportunities to mess up than in the past. The logistics behind organizing elections are complex, costly, and time consuming. You need to call up volunteers, organize training, organize your polling places, assign your field officers, send out ballots to mail-in-voters, keep track of more equipment, etc. It means that it is taking longer to verify voters, rosters, and final election night results.

Now, the Feb 5 election in CA is especially hard because it is going to be a very HOT election.

1. After trying to get voters on the machines, we are now pulling them back. The primary method of voting is going to be by paper ballot. Each precinct will have 1 Sequoia machine and only one. Voters can opt to use it. This is a change. In the past two elections, we had all machines and voters had to opt out of the machine and request a paper ballot. This is no longer the case. FYI: our county always had a paper trail- even when using the machines. The machines have printers attached that printed 2 copies of each ballot cast. Now, at the end of the evening, we will have to print an additional copy of all the votes cast on the machine and post it outside on the precinct wall.

2. In the past, the machines had 2-3 seals- one over the power switch, one over the memory card slot, and one on the printer. Now they have 6 different seals including 3 holographic seals. All the seals are tamper proof and all have a number of them. In setting up the polls, two poll workers must be present to witness and record all the numbers on these seals. We have to re-record the seal numbers 3 additional times during the day and once at closing. That means we have to check the seals a total of 5 times.

3. If anything goes wrong with a machine, anything at all, we are to decommission it can call the elections office right away.

4. No voter is to be turned away from the polls for any reason. If the voter is not listed on our roster, if his/her political party affiliation is incorrect, if they are in the wrong place, etc. we are to offer them provisional ballots. The key is to put up as few barriers to voting as possible.

5. There are several documents now that all the poll workers must sign. In the past, it was only the inspector and one poll worker. Now it is everyone.

6. Voters are not allowed to place their own ballots in the boxes. We place the ballots in a "secrecy sleeve" and drop them in for the voters.

These are just a few of measures we have to take in addition to the regular stuff like dealing with the media and poll watchers, inspecting the polling place to ensure there is no electioneering going on, update the public roster every hour, etc. It is not a easy day and it isn't getting any easier.


Get Back in Your Cage

Two days ago, Palestinians blew up the wall separating them from Egypt, and tens of thousands of refugees streamed across the border into nearby Egyptian towns--on foot, in donkey carts, a few in private cars--to purchase food, blankets, and clothing, and to celebrate their momentary liberation. Authorities instructed hotels not to accept Gaza refugees as guests, so private citizens opened their homes, and thousands slept on the streets.

Israel doesn't want to deal with the mess. They "withdrew" from Gaza two years ago and have since closed all the checkpoints, effectively creating the world's largest concentration camp. Now some cabinet members say that if the border with Egypt stays open, Israelis can finally cut off all electricity and supplies, as they have wanted to do for years.

Pious Arabs mouth the usual denunciations, but they don't want to have to deal with a million starving Gazans either. Egyptian police moved in today with rolls of barbed wire, water cannons, armored cars, and human chains in riot gear to shut the border again. But the Palestinians fought back. They fought back hard enough to force the Egyptians to re-open one of the three main gates.

It is an outrage that this tragedy receives so little coverage. One wonders if the Western media outlets are so tired of covering all the human misery that they wish the Gazans would just go away. An opportunity for real change is being squandered by the hour. For if images of refugees streaming over a wall to freedom cannot move Western hearts to help them, nothing will.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Field Narrows

I'd like to draw your attention to an excellent graph on RealClearPolitics showing the national polling averages for the Democratic nomination. There have been some ups and downs over the past few weeks, but in the end there is only one story: Obama's support has gone up about 8% while Clinton and Edwards are right back where they were in November.

If you look at the Florida graph, you see the same result. (Unfortunately, the South Carolina running averages are skewed by a couple of strange surveys last week that disagree with others by 20+ points.) This suggests strongly that uncommitted, Biden, Richardson, and Dodd supporters have all lined up behind Obama. With Kucinich's departure today, expect Obama to climb another 3% or so. But it also suggests that Obama has not yet won anyone over from the Clinton or Edwards camps.

It is truly a divided Democratic Party. Let us all hope Super Tuesday gives us a clear front-runner, or there will be a long, horrible blood-letting within the Democratic party and nothing good will come of it. As an HRC supporter, I have my fingers crossed that Edwards will remain in the race until Super Tuesday. Right now it looks like HRC will dominate Super Tuesday, but it would be a free-for-all if Edwards dropped out to support Obama.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Economic Crisis, Yet We Progress

Amid all the bad news about the stock market and the fears that the theory of "decoupling" has been proven wrong, we may loose sight of the amazing economic and social progress that has taken place. When I look around my apartment, I realize that thanks to global trade and moderate credit, I have a very comfortable life. I can now go to the store and buy French music and movies, something I could not do when I was I learning French in high school back in 1991. I bought a surround sound system from Sony for $300. How cheap is that? And will own it for several more years. Even the poor in the United States have TV sets and cell phones.

So along those lines, I wanted to post this talk, again delivered at TED last year. The statistics are great, the graphics informative, and the speaker is amazing. Take look and a listen! Be impressed. Watch poverty nearly disappear and see the health and longevity of the world improve!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Then There Were Four. (Or Five.)

Fred Thompson withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination today. Though he did not have all that much support, the race is very close so it may well matter where his supporters go. That leaves four major candidates: McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and Paul.

You may say, "Where's Giuliani?" And the answer is, "Nowheresville." His track record is a few sixth place finishes and a couple of fourth place finishes. He has polled no more than 9% anywhere. Ron Paul, on the other hand, won second place in Nevada and has outpolled Giuliani everywhere except New Hampshire, where Giuliani narrowly edged out Paul by 2000 votes. Yeah, Giuliani says he is banking on Florida, but frankly I think that is a face-saving measure because he knows his national campaign is toast.

It's still a toss-up between McCain and Romney, I think... but McCain has the momentum going into Florida.


Monday, January 21, 2008

The Abuela Factor

Some nationwide statistics from the US Presidential Election in 2004:

White voters (77%): Kerry - 41%, Bush - 58%
Black voters (11%): Kerry - 88%, Bush - 11%
Latino voters (8%): Kerry - 53%, Bush - 44%
From 2000 to 2004, Bush made a +9 point gain in the Latino vote, the largest gain in any racial group.

18-29 y.o. (17%): Kerry - 54%, Bush - 45%
30-59 y.o. (60%): Kerry - 47%, Bush - 52%
60+ y.o. (24%): Kerry - 46%, Bush - 54%
From 2000 to 2004, Bush made a +7 point gain in the 60+ vote, the largest gain in any age group.

Female (54%): Kerry - 51%, Bush - 48%
Male (46%): Kerry - 44%, Bush - 55%
From 2000 to 2004, Bush made a +5 point gain in the female vote, larger than his gain in the male vote.

In a comment to the Nevada post below, I posted exit polls from the Nevada caucus. In terms of party identification (which I will get to later), Obama held a +14 point edge with self-described Independents while Clinton held a +12 point edge with Democrats. But otherwise, Obama's support in Nevada showed very little ideological difference (liberal/moderate/conservative) from Clinton's voters. The most dramatic differences between the voting blocs were in terms of race, age, and gender.

Obama won a landslide from African-American voters and 18-29 year old voters--groups in which Democrats already do well. Clinton won a landslide from Latino voters, 60+ year old voters, and held +13 point advantage with women--all groups in which Republicans have made the greatest gains in the past election. They are also generally larger groups (note that Latinos will be closer to parity with African-Americans in the next election).

Of course, Nevada is Nevada, not the entire U.S. But the demographic differences were so pronounced that I have to assume they will carry over to some extent across the nation. And they are fully consistent with the New Hamsphire primary breakdown too. (I'll call Clinton's appeal to elderly Latino women the "abuela" factor.)

I think you can see where I am going with this. If racial/gender lines prove more important than party identification in the next election, it looks like Obama's demographic appeal is less useful to Democrats than Clinton's would be. To be crude, when it comes to playing the "Black Card" or the "Woman Card", you gotta remember that there are a lot more women and African-Americans already vote Democratic. Likewise the elderly, who apparently prefer Clinton's claim to experience, outnumber the young, who apparently prefer Obama's call for change.


Passion and Leadership

Underneath all of the politics, we have been talking on this blog essentially about leadership. And there has been some debate amongst us about who would make a better leader- Obama or HRC. And the views have been that Obama is popular in part because he is inspirational and talks about hope. HRC is more pragmatic and claims to have more experience in bringing about change. I am still leaning to HRC. But I think both of these people bring a great deal of passion to this election process. And so whoever we end up with, so long as it is either one of them, I think we will have some new and hopefully wonderful leadership. But the key is passion. Without passion for the nation and the people, there is no leadership. That is what we have lived over the last 8 years- people leading without real and well-intentioned passion.

The other day, I was entertaining myself by listening to a series of TED Talks . These are a series of talks- limited to about 20 minutes- given by some of the world's most interesting and innovative people. They are hosted each year in Monterey, CA. The talks are archived if you are interested in killing 20 minutes and coming away with something interesting to consider and work your head on. They can also be downloaded into iTunes.

This talk, linked below, was given in 2007 by Isabel Allende. And I think that it offers some great wit, but also some thought into the role of passion in leadership. I found to be one of my favorite talks thus far. If you have time, I encourage you to listen.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nevada Bets on Hillary

Nevada was a watershed election for Clinton. Her victory was no landslide--indeed, thanks to complex apportionment rules, Obama will likely receive one extra delegate to the national convention than Clinton will--but it was huge in terms of who voted for her. Clinton won half of the women, half of the white vote, two-thirds of the Latino vote, and she managed an outright majority across Clark County (Las Vegas) where the influential Culinary Workers Union had endorsed Obama.

Some had predicted the historically huge turnout (117,000 voters, ten times the 2004 figure) would favor Obama, but as she showed in New Hampshire, Clinton can also draw in many new voters. Moreover, the tiny apportionment for Edwards--far less than the raw polls predicted--suggests that a good number of Edwards supporters chose Clinton as their second choice candidate when Edwards was not viable in their precinct. Finally, Clinton managed to poll a (thin) majority across the entire state, the first Democratic candidate to do so in a contested primary or caucus.

If the message from Iowa was supposed to be "Anyone but Hillary", that has evaporated: the message from Nevada is that it has become a two-person race, and both Clinton and Obama are being weighed on their own merits. With the Clinton victory in Nevada, South Carolina's primary next weekend has become a real bellwether for Obama. If he cannot win a primary in that state, his prospects for the 2/5 primaries will look bleak--but if he can pull off a convincing win in South Carolina, his candidacy will remain very strong.

We might also note that the turnout for Democrats was triple that of the Republicans... And libertarian fringe candidate Ron Paul came in second place, which tells you all you need to know about how serious their side of the election was. This also bodes well for November.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fuel and Biofuel

This morning's New York Times has an article I think everyone on this blog should read. It reports that food shortages around the world are growing dramatically in one particular area: food oil. I had no idea that the price of cooking oil was rising so rapidly in Asia. The particular focus of the piece is on palm oil, a staple of Southeast Asia. Apparently the demand for biofuels and the US cutback on "transfats" (the bogeyman du jour of American nutritionists, who used to promote margarine based on the same sort of poor science) has led to a massive diversion of production of soy and palm oil from food to fuel, causing soaring prices.

It was long thought that developed nations were constrained in their ability to consume the agricultural production of the third world by the number of calories their population could consume. (For the last 25 years, the US has seen that it is possible to increase the number of calories per person where government agricultural policies produce an excess of corn: it is made into high fructose corn syrup and sold at rock bottom prices. Obesity is the natural result). The growing tragedy in the third world is a new fact, that the food needed by the poor can now be sold instead as a consumable commodity with unlimited demand (energy) in the developed world. Previously in history, the only way for this to happen was to divert acreage from food production to other sorts of agricultral production, such as cotton, coffee, tea, or trees (or even opium and coca). But demand for such things never matched the demand for a commodity so fungible as fuel.

Of course, this is not to say that biofuels are bad. Biofuels were intended to spare the environment from global warming and the ill effects of petroleum-based economics. Unintended consequences can be horrid, however. Few dreamed that biofuels would literally take food out of the mouths of starving people, as now appears to be the case.

In "The Omnivore's Dilemma", Michael Pollan points out that we use a huge amount of petroleum in the form of fertilizer, and that this is what the "green revolution" was in large part about. In other words, we were previously eating petroleum products (in a memorable phrase, he says that food in the USA is primarily a "petroleum byproduct.") He make a compelling argument that biofuels produced through application of large amounts of petroleum-based fertilizer does little to reduce carbon emissions. All it really does is divert agricultural production. Our Iowan friend here can speak of ethanol. The US issue is not soy diversion, but corn diversion, btw. We don't see rising prices here for food, since the US was overproducing (for domestic consumption) anyway due to food subsidies. Corn prices are rising, but food prices remain rock bottom in US terms (fast food "value" meals have been priced at about $5 for more than a decade, despite a steady 3-4% inflation rate that has caused everything else to inch up in price by 30-50%). Of course, each such $5 "value" meal is priced far above what a couple billion poor people can afford.

What can be done? The conservative/libertarian/free marketeer answer is "do nothing." Or one could blame government programs in the developed world (and Brazil, for example) promoting biofuels for the problem. The "free market" answer is to suggest that if no government anywhere interfered with (subsidized or banned) any kind of agricultural production, the market would sort it out for itself.

That's wishful thinking. We cannot as a planet rely on a "free market" that would lead to sustained dramatically higher food prices for the poor. Imagine, for a moment, that food production drastically reduced in favor of biofuel production until prices finally rose for food high enough to make food production worthwhile as an alternative. That scenario, to which we are headed, is a disaster for the poor. Demand for food is relatively inelastic. We must consume a certain # of calories to survive, but can only consume so many calories each day per capita (note the obesity issue, above, an example of the, well, limited elasticity of the market). That demand must be satisifed for humanitarian, or at least political reasons. Hungry people are the major source of political instability in the world.

Unfortunately for the free market theologians, the solution here will require government action in addition to free market prices. Simply put, we must ensure that a certain amount of land is devoted to food production even though biofuel production would be more profitable.

The other problem, not addressed by the NYTimes, is that loosening of strictures on agricultural markets (i.e., free trade) means that, for example, a Mexican farmer who used to supply corn cheaply to his local market now grows tomatoes for export. This is already a problem in Mexico, as corn prices have risen and there have been little-publicized tortilla riots in poorer areas. That problem would grow worse if productive land in developed countries actually went fallow (or was devoted to specialty crops like fine cheeses or wine) for economic reasons, and we instead bought our food from poor countries. That would be, however, the natural result of eliminating subsidies on food production in th edeveloped world.

The problem is rather like the shame of a rich person cleaning out the Salvation Army Store because it is cheaper, leaving no clothes for the poor. Or middle class people taking government cheese. Such things would interfere with the intention to produce below-market goods for a segment of the population that cannot afford them. (Note that the Salvation Army prevents this, not so subtly, through shame and stigma attached to shopping there, and the government prevents it by making you wait on long lines and, again, feel shame and be stigmatized - while this hurts the self-esteem of those who must, it prevents the market from sucking up these underpriced goods). The failure of rent control is a similar problem, btw. The idea of rent control is to make sure that lower-income people can afford a home; that is severely perverted when high-income people (all over Manhattan) take advantage for themselves. The difference, of course, is that housing is not a consumable commodity like food. It is more like capital. But I digress...

The model that RBR has proposed for agriculture around the world - that poor nations would prosper by selling food to the rich who are selfishly insisting on producing their own through subsidies - reaches its limit where the poor nations need the food but are simply outbid, then left to starve. If we accept that the free market can lead to food prices above levels needed for subsistence, then we need to find some way to alter it.

The obvious solution to this problem must include, dare I say it, a form of agricultural subsidies in the third world and some trade barriers to prevent diversion of food production from domestic consumption to foreign export. Something must be done to ensure continued production of food at low prices for poor nations. Put another way, the highest and best economic use of the land is not, in fact, its highest and best social use. Where these diverge, the free market and the invisible hand cannot accomplish their magic. Are direct subsidies to the world's poor the answer, so they can participate in the market with more money in their pockets? Is that inflationary? My head hurts.

What are the Citizens' thoughts about this complicated subject?


Friday, January 18, 2008

The State of the State Department

Two years ago, I wrote that Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns was probably the Bush administration's "best hope" for implementing a diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. Now we have news that Mr. Burns, 51, will retire from the service in March. Whatever chance Bush's recent push for peace in the Middle East had is now significantly diminished.

Mr. Burns is hardly at retirement age and he is not leaving to, "spend more time with his family." The Washington Post speculates the "personal reason" behind his departure is that, "he will soon have three daughters in college." Translation: he needs more money than he can get at the State Department. (And probably also he does not feel Bush's plan is likely to succeed, or else he might stay on. It is the holy grail of Middle East diplomats, after all.)

That the State Department is unable to keep a diplomat of Mr. Burns' quality, and that one diplomat's departure should be headline news, is sad commentary on the state of the State Department.


Bush, Recession, and Tax Cuts

As we may have noticed, we are in or about to enter a recession - brought on largely by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage companies. A big part of the problem is a wide spread trend of living beyond our means both at the personal and governmental levels. Personally, Americans are swimming in debt - credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, car loans, student loans. Of those kinds of debt only student loans and mortgages can be thought of investments for the future. Credit cards, home equity loans and car loans are merely consumption with deferred payment. When interest rates were low, the incentives to incur such debt for consumption's sake were high. Interest rates are rising now and people large amounts of this kind of debt and those who over leveraged on the other kinds of debt, are facing serious problems.

But that isn't the only cause. The Bush administration has chosen an economic path that combines unrestrained and unpredictable spending (largely on the war) with significant reductions in revenue through tax cuts. The result is that the U.S. Government borrows hundreds of billions of dollars (about 250 billion in 2005) to make up the short fall. Also as of 2005, the US debt/GDP ratio exceeded the amount permitted to E.U. Member States for entrance into the Monetary Union. That excess isn't by much but it is unprecedented, I believe. In any case, this massive increase in US government debt is sucking up capital from the market, exacerbating the problems caused by the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The high level of U.S. debt is a major cause of the increasing interest rates that are at the root of the foreclosures associated with the sub-prime lending crisis.

So today, George W. Bush announced that his proposed response to the recession is ....drum roll please....MORE TAX CUTS! The reasoning is that by injecting more capital into the market, tax cuts would goose the economy. In the short term it would probably work. But in the medium term such a move - if not followed up with a major reduction in spending (preferably by ending the war) - would worsen the underlying causes of the recession.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Michigan primary results were interesting on both sides. Romney's victory, however it is spun, shows that McCain has a tough row to hoe. Romney will get a bit of a bump in the national polls because of this - he is, after all, now a winner, and of the biggest state yet.

On the Democratic side, even though HRC was the only big-name Democrat on the ballot, she only captured 55% of the vote. The "uncommitted" vote - how Obama and Edwards supporters were encouraged to vote - was 40% (not surprisingly given the tenor of this race, Ann Arbor voted strongly for "uncommitted."). Obama and Edwards didn't campaign in the state, and didn't have their names on the ballot, but still HRC couldn't get more than 55%. That's a telling result. Every political scientist and pollwatcher will tell you that strategic voting (for "uncommitted" in order to "really" vote for Obama or Edwards) is relatively rare and hard to organize. Here, little or no money was spent trying to organize such a strategic result. According to the Washington Post, among black voters, Clinton was crushed by "uncommitted," 70% to 26%. That's a rather stunning result all by itself.

Moreover, the fact that Clinton did not "abandon" the state (by taking her name off the ballot) should, and probably did, help her with some voters. I expected her somewhat pro-Michigan stance in that regard to reap her better than it did.

I believe this demonstrates a significant reluctance by Democrats to vote for HRC yet. She doesn't have "the big mo" yet. The national poll lead is not great. I hope that, if she does become the nominee, she makes her case before the convention and, thus, wins overwhelmingly. A 60/40 split going into convention is really bad for unity, particularly if she (as seems plain) won't offer the VP slot to Obama (or Edwards). So a lot rides on Nevada, SC, and Florida. Will Dems begin to coalesce before Super Tuesday? Will they after?


Monday, January 14, 2008

What's Hurting Michigan

I just saw a CNN interview with Michigan's Governor Granholm. She was making a heartfelt appeal for greater influence in the primaries for her state. Leaving aside the usefulness of the Iowa and New Hampshire head starts for the moment, I'll focus in this post on her assessment of he causes of Michigan's problems.

Michigan's economy is in terrible shape. Jobs are fleeing the state even faster than its population. This despite a weak dollar which should benefit export oriented manufacturing sectors like the auto industry. Granholm blamed this decline on "unfair trade agreements." The gyst of her argument was that failure by the Bush administration to enforce trade agreements has hurt Michigan's auto industry. The implied solution is that the way to help Michigan is to put restrictions on trade and shield the Michigan auto-industry from "unfair" competition.

I would like to put forward an alternative explanation and solution. I suggest that the problem with the auto industry isn't their competition. The problem is the ossified conservatism of the auto executives. I've talked to friends of mine who have worked closely with the auto industry. They all agree that there is nothing more unwilling to change than a US auto executive. They said that the mood in Detroit's halls of power (such as they are these days) is one in which fuel economy is a passing fad. That SUVs are still a good design to bet on for the future. That hybrid and electric car technology is not worth exploring etc etc etc. And why? Because they have always been bailed out and protected by past governments - which is exactly what Granholm is proposing we do now. The US auto industry won't recover so long as they are stuck in the 1970s. Another bail out (either through a cash payment like Carter did for Chrysler, or a protectionist trade bill like Granholm wants) won't solve the problem. Granholm would do better to diversify Michigan's economy (much as Ohio did in the 1980s and 1990s).

This brings me to another alternative explanation other than "we're being beaten down by trade." Oil is currently selling for about $100 a barrel - largely because of the aforementioned weak dollar. With gas costing so much, the gas guzzling cars coming out of Detroit aren't selling as well either here or abroad. And why is oil so costly? Two related reasons come to mind. First, the dollar is really weak against other currencies and oil transactions take place in dollars. When the dollar is weak, oil costs more. Second, Bush's policy of destabilization in the Middle East and South/Central Asia encourages speculation and uncertainty about the future availability of oil. That makes the price go up too. And of course, a big reason the dollar is weak is because of the war and the debt that Bush has imposed on the country to pay for it.

So Granholm is right to blame Bush for much of Michigan's woes. But she is dead wrong about it being Bush's trade policies that are cause. Rather it is the war and the slavish devotion to big business and corporate welfare that are causing the problem.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Non-Primary Posting

Some of you may recall the National Popular Vote proposal about 2 years ago which would create an interstate compact to bypass the electoral college in favor of the popular vote. States controlling a majority of electoral votes would agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote, regardless of the actual vote in their own state.

Maryland has signed this into law. Today, New Jersey and Illinois legislatures both sent bills to their governors (both Dems expected to sign the bills) for signature. Two states (Hawaii and CA) passed the bills only to have them vetoed by GOP governors.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I just want to take a second to complain. News media is making a big deal over HRC's mild show of emotion. (Thank God Jon Steward is back for he too has mocked the media reaction!) Some people have even said she was "crying". She did not cry. She did get choked up. And it was appropriate for her to do so. She has been under huge stress and it has been a long run- for her and all of the candidates on both sides. I would venture that she has been under more stress because she has been more criticized due to her last name. She has been harshly judged by men and woman for her personal choices in her private life- only women get criticism like that by the way. No one would critique a man for staying with a cheating wife. As a woman, I know that her stress is a very different experience than for male candidates. Men release their stress in different ways, apparently by having a lot of sex judging by the level of scandal in Congress.

It is about time that we accept these differences and perhaps even celebrate them. Why the male/female wars? We accept racial differences. As Gloria Steinem points out in her NYT editorial, Obama is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations yet HRC is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club. I have said this before on this blog. The fact that black women are at the bottom of our cast system is further proof of the power of gender over race in this country. Sexism is one of those things like racism- unless you have felt it, you tend to deny it exists- that isn't to say that it can't work in your favor. I have also said this before in this blog.

HRC showed emotion with dignity and I don't think that should be headline news or a YouTube spectacle one way or the other. She should get a plus for being honest. I agree with Dr. S. I want someone who will vomit over that which is disgusting.

For now, she has my vote. I understand RBR's concern that she would be red meat to the Republicans. But I am not sure I want the Republicans dictating my vote in that way. I wanted to stay out of that issue all together by voting for Biden. But a bunch of people in Iowa have forced my hand.


In the meantime, way out in California . . .

While we were all watching New Hampshire returns, Arnold Schwarzenegger was delivering his state of the state address in Sacramento. I actually watched it for once. And boy, legislators were less than interested in his speeching. Many were working at their desks. It was a very passive audience.

There is no big news here. We all know that the state is in financial straights to the tune of $14 billion *yes that is a B*. This will mean, he said, across the board cuts. So unfortunately, he couldn't talk about new programs or improvements. Of course, he didn't set priorities either. In short, the state of the state ain't good.

He is planning to raise home insurance rates in order to raise funds. This may trickle down to everyone, even renters. If my landlord's rates go up, my rent does too. In addition, considering the softening housing market, how would higher insurance rates affect people who area already having trouble making their mortgage payments?

According to the LA Times, he is also hoping to add surcharges to insurance policies for renters and homeowners to cover firefighting efforts. Well, guess what? I don't live in a fire zone like the folks who have built in forests. And I don't get a tax break for my rent either. So it seems sort of unfair to hit renters.

The big thing he wants to do is introduce an amendment that would automatically cap spending when tax revenues increased more slowly than average. When revenues were flush, it would put extra money aside in a holding account for future use.

I have mixed feelings about this. He is right that once the spending starts, it can't be stopped even if it runs out. This forces the state to take more loans. I know that we need to rein in state spending, but that would really mean a new state constitution in order to overhaul tax collection and budget allocation rules. The governor failed to set any spending priorities. I don't think you can just blanket stop spending on everything. What do my fellow citizens think?


What a McCain Presidency Would Mean

Check this out. (NOTE: When I first posted this, I pasted the wrong url to the link to the left. I've fixed it so you can see the video I was talking about below)

We've talked about it on this blog and it's been around the web a few times but it really is getting to the heart of what this election is about. By the way, the guy standing behind McCain is none other than former Democrat, Joe Lieberman.

You remember Joe. He's the guy who lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont then ran as a pro-war Independent against the Democratic party nominee.

McCain may be a straight talker. But what he's talking about is putting the USA smack in the middle of a war without end in the Middle East.


The Nevada Race or What Happens in New Hampshire Stays in New Hampshire?

Five minutes ago, the influential Culinary Workers Union endorsed Barack Obama for president, following the SEIU's earlier announcment of support for Obama. This is a major boost for Obama in Nevada, where the 60,000 members of the CWU are expected to be the majority voting bloc in the Nevada caucuses on 1/19.

The Michigan primary is a mess because Obama is not even on the ballot there. HRC's victory there on 1/15 will not mean much. According to the Michigan Democratic party, supporters of Richardson or Obama (neither on the ballot) should vote for "uncommitted."

This means that the Nevada contest in 10 days is the next Big Thing for Dems.

The Republicans are all on the Michigan ballot, so that matters. They also have an SC primary on the same day as Nevada (1/19), while Dems don't get an SC primary until 1/26, one week later.
Florida votes on 1/29 for both parties. All candidates are on the FL ballot.
Then of course, Super Tuesday on 2/5 should decide the election.

We hope.

It would be an unimitigated disaster for the Dems if the nomination process were to be so divided that the unelected superdelegates or the unseated Michigan/Florida delegates would be outcome-determinative.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Early Analysis of New Hampshire

OK, they have not yet called the Democratic side of the primary. For now it looks like an increasingly narrow advantage for Clinton. Regardless of whether this holds when the smoke settles, I doubt either Clinton or Obama will drop out. But this is a devastating blow for what's-his-name, er Edwards.

I sincerely think that Obama is a better presidential candidate. But of the three main candidates among the Democrats, I've decided that Hillary Clinton is my second choice. Edward's position against trade and his populist, class warrior tone is just too much for me in the end. Which is why I welcome the results in New Hampshire. Edwards is likely doomed. He's running such a distant third that he starts to look more like Richardson or Kucinich than Obama or Clinton. I think as of tomorrow morning we'll have a two person race for the Democratic nomination. At this point, I just hope it doesn't get negative. Of course the political scientist in me tells me negative is exactly what we're about to see. On policy positions, Clinton and Obama are very similar. They have little opportunity to differentiate themselves on policy. Instead they'll get personal. Yuck.

Now, in the Republican primary, we have McCain winning big. But McCain came in a distant third in Iowa and is widely rumored to be broke. If Giuliani wins in Florida the GOP will rip itself apart all the way to the convention. The Republicans also are very similar on policy (with the exception of Ron Paul) and Romney has already earned a reputation as a nasty campaigner. If Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee (who came in a distant third tonight) and Romney more or less evenly matched going into Super Tuesday...look out because there will be flagrant violations of Reagan's 11th Commandment galore.

On a side note, McCain's victory speech included the following defiant statement regarding the "war on terror": "We won't surrender, THEY WILL!" Makes you feel good. It can temporarily compensate for certain...uh...physical deficiencies shall we say...but it sums up McCain's world view: MILITARY VICTORY IS POSSIBLE AND DESIRABLE. Talk about naive!


Why I Support Hillary

OK, I'll try to explain why I'm supporting HRC. In a comment to the previous post, LTG asked me to start a dialog on this subject, and I am honoring that kind request.

There are five issues that lead me to support HRC: (1) hardnosed political experience, (2) health care reform, (3) national defense, (4) religious values, and (5) honesty.

1. Political Experience. Don't get me wrong: I like Obama--heck, what's not to like? His message is hope and change, and he personally symbolizes both. He is an accomplished orator (I will avoid calling him "articulate") and he has now proven himself a good campaigner.

But--call me a cynic, I guess--I don't believe his honeymoon with the media will last until November. When the current, post-Iowa Obama bubble bursts and expectations return to earth, what will happen then? Will the young and independent voters prove once again why they are considered the most fickle and unreliable of demographics?

Obama still has yet to face serious opposition in his national political career. His fellow Democrats treat him with kid gloves: they have never challenged his character. They rarely even mention him by name. It's easy to exude optimism when the public loves you, but when they grow disillusioned and start booing... Do you have the guts to keep going? When Obama's parade meets the buzzsaw of the Republican attack machine, will the result be anything but carnage?

In contrast, HRC is a veteran of the worst Republican dirty tricks. She already knows what it is like to be viciously slandered and hated by millions, and she no longer gives a crap about it. Even her detractors admit she is a tough, strong woman. Do I care that she can be a bitch? Hell yes. That's why I'm voting for her.

2. Health Care. I trust Hillary on health care: I believe it has become her mission in life to put right what was derailed 15 years ago. I think she will work her heart out to make that happen. I trust Obama's heart but not his ability to fight it through to the end. This ties in to the political experience.

3. National Security. I also trust HRC better to make the tough choices when it comes to national security. She is more of a realist; Obama is more of an idealist. But unlike the Republicans, there are certain lines and principles she will not cross. I believe stopping torture is one of them. There is a story that, after listening to women in Darfur describe frankly their experiences, HRC had to leave the tent and nearly vomited. It would probably make the worst political slogan in history, but I want a president who vomits.

4. Religion. On a more personal note, I approve of HRC's privacy concerning her religious views more than Obama's public profession of his faith. The church Obama belongs (the Trinity United Church of Christ) is not mainstream and, if you will pardon the expression, Republicans will use its "Black Value System" to crucify Obama in the general election. I seem to recall LTG brought that to our attention several months ago.

5. Honesty. I am not saying Obama is dishonest. But I think he is willing to allow expectations to be inflated beyond what he knows is reasonable. For example, a little-remarked difference between Obama and HRC is that Obama says proudly he would repeal all of DOMA, whereas HRC says she would repeal only the section that defines marriage federally—she has stated she would not try to overturn the section of DOMA that explicitly allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. And yet, if you dig a little deeper, you find Obama is willing to reject that section of DOMA because he argues it is “redundant” with existing constitutional precedent. I ask you which candidate is being more forthright about what rights gay people will or will not get out of their administration.

I think HRC learned from her husband’s campaign that it’s harder to deliver on gay rights than you think. There’s a lot of strange opposition to it that crawls out of the woodwork, under a dozen different rationales. Compromise is necessary to move things forward sometimes. People can forget that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a step forward from the previous UCMJ policy of "Don't Exist."

Likewise, I think a lot of the bipartisanship rhetoric of Obama is just so much smoke and mirrors. Sure he means well, but I have to think he is smart enough to know reality is different. It takes two to tango, and the Republicans aren’t going to cut him any more slack than they cut anyone else. He can chant that we are “one people” until the cows come home, and it still won’t buy him 60 votes in the Senate.

Obama also says he is against lobbyists and all that Washington stuff, but his campaign is full of Washington insiders and he did not raise $100 million from wide-eyed college students. He has good bundlers too. HRC, on the other hand, actually defended lobbyists. On August 4, 2007 she told an audience in Chicago (which booed her, by the way), “A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They represent nurses, they represent social workers—yes, they represent corporations that employ a lot of people.”

Ironically, for one so accused of triangulation and focus-grouping her message, I think HRC tells it like it is more often, while Obama tells us what we’d like to hear. And I guess, when it comes down to it, that's why she has my vote.

Expand this post to read my thoughts in depth. And if you've made it all the way through, thanks for reading!


The Mother of All Primaries

That's what it's looking like. Turnout is being called "absolutely huge" and there are fears of running out of (Democratic) ballots.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Obama on the Issues

Here's a quote from Obama that will help explain why I decided to support him:

“When I am this party's nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don't like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok… I will end the war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

— Barack Obama, Des Moines, Iowa, November 10, 2007

In boldface are the issues that matter the most to me. When it comes to all the other legislation, social programs, etc., I expect compromise and that's fine with me. I don't want a big-spending liberal, just someone who really gets what the rule of law is about.


Riding the Wave

Of course, it takes a while for polls reflecting Iowa's results to come out. Over the weekend, we began to see the effect for Obama in NH. Nationwide other results are coming out. 10 mins ago, Rasmussen announced that in S. Carolina, it's 42-30 Obama over HRC. His 4-day tracking poll (so, Thur-Sun) has HRC down to a 4pt lead. Unless HRC does better than expected in NH, it is going to be hard for her to regroup in Mich, FL, or Super Tues. The Nevada Culinary union has not yet endorsed anyone, and they are expected to be pivotal. that will be a big test for HRC and Obama.


This rocks

Hat tip: Crooks and Liars

Happy Monday!


Who Could Beat McCain?

Bear with me for a moment, please! I am looking for wisdom from the group. Assume that McCain will be the GOP nominee. (Many of you do not accept this premise, I know, but ignore that for now.) My question is: which Democratic candidate would have the best chance of defeating McCain?

I have looked at the head-to-head polling data, but I cannot see a clear indication. While the most recent polls show Hillary losing to McCain while Obama and McCain are in a dead heat, those numbers have fluctuated wildly over the past several months, depending on circumstances.

The simple answer would seem to be: Obama appears to attract more Independent support than Hillary--more even than McCain--so Obama would seem to have the better chance. But here is my worry: when the Obama bubble gets punctured and the media end their love affair with him, will Obama's support dry up? Obama still has not faced any strong opposition. Can his message of hope and optimism survive the Republican attack machine? Can Obama avoid being painted as a light-weight? As RbR points out, even while they are ga-ga over Obama, the media still downplay the substance of Obama's campaign.

My vote depends on the answer to this question, perhaps entirely so.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama-Napolitano? Hillary-Clark?

While I'm indulging in wild speculation... I wonder if these combinations would work. Janet Napolitano has been mentioned as a VP or Presidential candidate for some time, and could provide additional female appeal for Obama--who is looking like the new front-runner in the Democratic race. I cannot see him picking a Washington insider, not after Iowa voted so strongly for "change"--and that rules out all remaining Democratic hopefuls, I think. On the other hand, if Hillary sticks it out and pulls off a win, Gen Wesley Clark, who endorsed Hillary months ago, would provide additional national security credentials.



Imagine a McCain-Huckabee ticket. As a Presidential candidate, McCain would appeal to Independents; as VP Huckabee might be enough to draw in the evangelicals. The two men are getting chummy with each other these days. Could it be?


Thursday, January 03, 2008

My First Iowa Caucus


The real story is the turnout. Both parties set records for caucus turnout in Iowa. You can see numbers here. The GOP had 120,000 attendees beating the previous record of 87,000. The Democrats had 227,000 attendees beating their 2004 count of 125,000.

In my precint, in the first vote we had 661 attendees. In 2004 our precint had 441. Obama got 286 in the first vote. Clinton and Edwards both got about 120 votes. Now, you need 15% support to be "viable" - to get a delegate - in any precinct. In our precinct you needed 100 votes to be "viable" so Clinton and Edwards barely made it. The crowd overall was very young. There were many first time caucuse goers. The Edwards and Clinton groups monopolized all the chairs very early on (their supporters were much older than the average in the room - like 20 years older!). When the dust settled and the non-viable supporters transfered their support, Obama had 6 delegates to the state convention from our precinct, Clinton had 3 and Edwards had 3. In other words, in our precinct, a black man got 50% of the vote from a room packed with people with almost no black people in it.

You can see the results at this link. The link is to the Des Moines Register because all the national media has been reporting what has been going in Iowa so badly that they don't deserve attention. Keep in mind that the national media practically anointed Hillary nearly a year ago. They've been on the Hillary bandwagon from day one. And in Iowa she came in third! Not first. Not second. THIRD! I said on this blog months ago that this was a likely outcome and some said "we'll see." Well, we saw.

Iowans don't like superficial, Machiavellian, over-polished politicians who are playing not-to-lose. That is Hillary all over. Every Clinton event I've been to had Hillary standing up contradicting any number of her previous statements (or statements by Bill on her behalf).

Obama has been consistent in his appeal to hope! And he has been FAR MORE SUBSTANTIVE than the pin heads at CNN have admitted. I've seen multiple events by Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Richardson, Kucinich, Biden and Dodd. According to CNN, Richardson is the "most substantive, the one with experience and the details." Obama, again according to CNN, was very attractive but not good on details. I call BULL SHIT on CNN. I saw an Obama event and a Richardson event practically back to back and the level of substantive detail was practically identical and Obama had been presenting it from very early on (since about August 2007) and presented it with more hope and optimism than Richardson, or any of the others, can imagine!

Where Obama talked about - for lack of a better word - a "City on a hill", Richardson talked about some guy he rescued from being tortured in Sudan. OK, rescuing guys from warlords is good. But I'm not voting for a Green Beret, I'm voting for a President!

A black man just beat a white guy by 8% in one of the whitest states in America. He beat a white woman by 9%. That's historic. Iowa is leading the way. Will American dare to follow!?

As for the Republican winner in Iowa, I've talked to one person who knows his children so well as to have been invited inside the Gubernatorial Mansion in Little Rock. This person said that Huckabee has two sons: John Mark and David. John Mark embezzled funds from the state Young Republicans budgets to buy himself a new Play Station. David was arrested for torturing and killing neighborhood dogs. I should add, that my source was an officer in the state Young Republicans at the time. Huckabee has skeletons that have yet to be revealed.

Rudy "9/11" Giuliani came in next to last with 4%.

Iowans are smart as hell!


Make it 100

If John McCain wins the Republican nomination, this has GOT to be the issue. Keep pressing him on it. Keep bringing it up. This will lose him the general election.



That's the message out of Iowa.

For the Dems: Anyone But Hillary
For the Republicans in NH and onward: Anyone But Huckabee



Gosh, The Ironic Times is funny.

GOP Hopeful Thompson: U.S. Not Ready for Woman President
Is ready for lazy, unmotivated bit actor Richard Nixon once called “dumb as hell.”

Happy caucusing, Iowa!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Obama Pre Caucus Ad

I just saw an Obama ad on my TV. He concluded with something like this:

"I'm reminded every day that I'm not a perfect man. And I won't be a perfect President. But I will listen to you and I will listen when I've made mistakes....So please come out to the Caucus. Not just for me but for you and for the country we hope we can have..."

That's why Obama is so much more popular in Iowa and New Hampshire where people have actually seen him than he is in places where the campaigns haven't arrived yet (and in the case of California, may never arrive). He exudes an air of intelligence and confidence without being arrogant. His positive attitude is a HUGE difference between him and Edwards and his energy is much better than Clinton's.


Final Pre Caucus Update

Hi Everyone,

The polls are predicting that both the Democratic and Republican caucuses are too close to call. Assuming they are right, that could mean the big story coming out of Iowa on Friday won't be "who won" but rather how the two parties turned out.

In 2004, 125,000 or so Democrats participated in the Caucus. If the Democrats can top that already high number, it could be an early indication of turnout in 2008. If the Republicans turn out in significantly lower numbers, that could be a bad sign for them. Keep in mind that the proportion of Republican and Democratic voters in Iowa is roughly the same.

I've been hearing a lot lately that Obama's support is coming from independents and even some former Republicans. Indeed, I've heard that in New Hampshire, the McCain campaign thinks they are competing for votes not just with other Republicans but with Obama. It seems that many independent minded Republicans genuinely like Obama as well as McCain but let's be frank. Obama has a better position on the war (he's against it) and he's a hell of a lot more charismatic than McCain. He's also younger and in obviously better health.

The problem for Obama is that independents and young voters (his strength) are about the least likely to turn out for the Caucus. So a big turnout for the Democratic Caucus would not only be a bad sign for the Republicans but it could a good sign for Obama.

More after the Caucus.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Style

Trying out a new style for the new year. Comments welcome! Please be kind.