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."

Friday, February 29, 2008


Kathleen Sebelius is an interesting possibility for VP. She doesn't add to Obama's foreign policy credentials, but she could be a big hit in the midwest. She's a second-term Democrat in a red state, but a real Democrat: pro-choice, anti-death-penalty, opposed the KS anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. She's also a Catholic, 59 years old, and has two sons in their early 20s. Her husband is a federal magistrate judge and son of a former Republican congressman from Michigan. Her accomplishments include governmental budgetary efficiency, modest tax relief, and substantial new investments in K-12 education (over $1 billion).

Her father is former Democratic governor of Ohio, Jim Gilligan. She may have friends there too.


Looking Ahead to 2012

The basis of US representative democracy is the census, that apportions congressional representation and electoral votes. The 2010 census should show some dramatic changes for representation (to take effect after reapportionment by the 2012 election). At least one early projection shows that a dramatic shift to the South of 10 seats, with four going to Texas. California is also poised to lose a seat possibly for the first time in its history, as a middle class exodus slows the population growth to below national levels. Also, four seats should shift to the Mountain West. This changes the 2012 electoral calculus. Assuming the Solid South votes for the GOP nominee regardless, the GOP gets a natural 8-EV advantage for the 2012 elections. That is the equivalent of losing Oregon (which may be up to 8EV in 2012). This means that if the Democrat wins narrowly in 2008, the winning coalition will have to broaden in 2012 to include another medium-sized state. Put another way, if Kerry had won Ohio in 2004, he would have won the race. If a Democrat wins all the states Kerry did plus Ohio in 2012, it will not be enough.

The future of the Democratic party is in the Mountain West, in AZ, NM, CO, MT, and NV - the only "purple" states that are growing (I include Montana for a reason: it is projected to be within 10-20,000 people of getting a new seat in 2012, and that new seat could easily be Democratic depending on the gerrymander. Today, Montana has a Democratic governor, Democratic control of the Senate, and the House is split literally 50/50, so Dems may control the process. Of course, their legislature meets every other year, so it won't meet again till 2009 and 2011 respectively. Yes, I am so geeking out over this).

This is relevant to our discussion of a blue-state strategy or a 50-state strategy. Democrats cannot, I suggest, succeed without at least establishing themselves as a viable minority party with some Congressional representation in the Mountain West, Mississippi Valley, and South.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Clinton Really Ready to Work Hard from Day One?

To answer the question: Not if this campaign is any indication. The Clinton campaign is characterized above all by laziness. They assumed that they would win big on Super Tuesday, because they assumed that name recognition and big early votes would swamp any challenger. They were so assured that they didn't bother to put significant organizations in place in any of the caucus states that day. They also didn't bother to put organizations on the ground for the next ten contests in February, believing that nobody would pay attention after her victories on Super Tuesday, and she could coast through to Ohio and Texas for the final coup de grace. The amazing thing is that but for 3% of the NH vote, this would have been over weeks ago. It's been good for Obama, actually, as his political chops have improved over the past 8 weeks.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp has been carefully and vigorously organizing every state. Professional political operatives (the mainstay of the Clinton camp) laughed when Obama opened an office in Anchorage, Alaska. Nobody campaigns in Alaska. He did, and won nearly 3-1. Same in Idaho. He made a point of winning bigger in Illinois than she did in New York, netting delegates. Nothing ever taken for granted. She also thought she could coast on big donors; he has aggressively reached out to smaller donors, now with over one million. Now word (the impetus for this post) has come that in Pennsylvania, she didn't even bother to file a full slate of delegates for each district. Governor Rendell, HRC supporter, actually extended the deadline just for her campaign, but they couldn't be bothered. They will still get to nominate delegates later, so it won't have any electoral impact, but it's another sign of laziness. It means there is no local organization that needs to be rewarded (or wants to be) with delegate slots. They'll have to find loyalists after the coronation, I guess went the thinking. If I were undecided, I would wonder about Clinton's constant references to her desire to "work hard" and be ready "from day one." I see, instead, a lazy campaign that was overly self-assured and hoped to coast into a early nomination based on name recognition and the support of big-time donors and long-time party operatives.

If this campaign is any indication, Obama has both the energy and organizational skill to wage a vigorous 50-state campaign for his legislative agenda from day one, and Clinton does not. On Day One she would just sign a bunch of longed-for executive orders, introduce a bold legislative agenda far too aggressive to pass Congress (but ideologically satisfying, like the call for universal health care right away), and watch it stall out in the Senate for four years, perhaps sooner if she lost the midterm elections to the GOP in 2010.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Son of a Bi . . . scut

Ok, by how we've all heard, Ralph Nader Has suddenly decided to run for President. After all the millions spent by some 14 candidates over the last year and half, after all the damned debates, this idiot suddenly turns up . . . again. Did his party nominate him? Did I see his name on a ballot in any of the primaries? Of course, our electoral system makes primaries optional. Joy.

So now not only do we have to ask who is more electable, BO or HRC in November, we also have to ask who is most likely to loose fewer votes to the likes of Nader. The one thing that may make Nader irrelevant would be if Bloomberg were to jump in and siphon votes off of McCain.

Bottom line folks . . . there ain't ever going to be a viable third party in this country . . . not in my lifetime at least. So all you wishy washy types who remain undecided until 30 seconds before you check a box in the voting both, then whine about it later, give it up. You just had the largest field of candidates to choose from and you even got loonies like Ron Paul running on major party tickets. So I don't want to hear about you anymore. Make a choice, OB, HRC, Hukacrazeebeee and more-conservative- than-you-know McCain then plug your pie holes. Geeze. Bush was right. Democracy sucks sometimes.


Friday, February 22, 2008

More Than Presidents in November

While we are all focused on the presidential nominations race, I wanted to point out something: there has been a rash of announcements coming from Washington about Republican congresspeople who will retire at the end of their terms.

27 GOP congress people are planning to leave office. 5 of those announcements came in one week. According to the Washington Post, 10 of the 27 districts now held by these GOP congresspeople will be toss ups. So far, only 6 Democrats have announced that they will leave, all from safe districts.

As the Post pointed out, something similar happened in 1994 when 29 Democrats left office. Not surprising since no one really likes Minority status. However, that same year 21 GOP members left. So things were a bit more even.

OK, but here is the really interesting part. According to the Post, 2007 was the first time that the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC) has raised more money ($67.5 mil) than its Republican counterpart (NRCC) ($49.5 mil). The article goes on to say that the NRCC was in the red for most of last year. By the end of the year, the NRCC has only $5 mil in the bank compared to the DCCC with $35 mil in the bank, mostly from small contributors who gave $200 or less.

Could we be on the brink of a long-term Democratic take over again? Chew on that for a while.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Her True Colors

As a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton, I am nevertheless distressed by the negative turn her campaign may be taking. After the unpleasantness in South Carolina (for which I wrote she received a "stinging rebuke" from voters) I felt vindicated when I heard her positive, warm performance in the Los Angeles debate just a few days later. The Hillary Clinton I admired was restored.

But in the past week, ichor has started to ooze out quietly from Hillary headquarters once again. First there was that non-story about "plagiarism." Then another non-story cropped up about a remark by Michelle Obama taken out of context. Now a NY Times article reports that Mark Penn (and others) are pushing Hillary to adopt a "scorched earth" policy. That would be a travesty.

Hillary Clinton is a figure of inspiration and hope for millions of Americans--not only for women, but also for the gay and lesbian community. In California and New York (the only states where exit pollsters asked the question) self-identified gays and lesbians voted for Hillary 2 to 1. In Washington D.C., her highest level of support came from the Dupont Circle precincts. Despite all the ugliness that has been thrown at her over the years, we still believe in her.

To Hillary, I would say: now is the time to keep your faith with us. You are no stranger to times when the chips were down. Surely you know that it is in these times that one reveals one's true colors. In a beautiful message to LGBT Americans, you declared, "America deserves a President who appeals to the best in each of us, not the worst." If you are who I think you are, then I believe if you follow your own advice you will be the next President of the United States.

Of course, one can never be certain of these things. Hillary might not win, after all. And some will say my faith is already far misplaced. But of one thing I am certain: if Hillary surrenders to fear and negativity, she will lose far more than just the nomination of her party.


Serbia and Kosovo

CNN is broadcasting pictures of riots in Belgrade. About 150,000 filled the streets and set the embassy on fire. It took about 45 minutes for the Serbian police to arrive, which should tell you something. Fortunately, the US Embassy was closed this week because of the Kosovo issue. At least they weren't so naive as our president. Kosovo declared independence this week, with the full support of the USA and most of the EU, because final status negotiations with Serbia broke down. It's not just a small grievance for Serbia.

Most of the 10% of the Kosovar population that is ethnically Serb lives near the north of the Ibar river. No border adjustments were allowed or - likely - even discussed. The Serbian Orthodox Church has had its central headquarters in Kosovo for eight hundred years. The province of Kosovo even derives its name from Kosovo Polje, the field where Serbs lost their independence to the Ottoman Empire (more or less) on June 28, 1389. That day is the Serb national holiday (for those who don't realize it, June 28th was the day in 1914 that the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand chose to provoke the Serbs by parading himself through downtown Sarajevo, ending with tragic results for millions). The name "Kosovo Polje" means roughly "field of blackbirds" - referring to the swarms of birds descending over the corposes that day. This is Big Stuff for the Serbs. For Serb nationalists, it's like giving the Alamo back to Mexico. The US position is to hope this just blows over. It might not just blow over.

There is no doubt that Milosevic's treatment of Kosovo convinced Kosovar Albanians that independence was a necessity. UN and NATO made war in 1999 to liberate the province from the grasp of the JNA (Serbian army), which was justified on the basis of stopping the ethnic cleansing then underway. We succeeded with the help of the KLA, a guerilla group with some unsavory ties to Muslim extremists (Kosovar Albanians are at least nominally Muslim).

So why are the Serbs attacking the US embassy? Unfortunately, the United States has shown almost no willingness to pay any respect to Serb grievances. And we have put the pro-Western Serb leadership in the terrible position of defending us and this gross offense to Serbian pride. We could have, and should have, offered some words of condolence to the Serbs and some further invitation for them to continue pressing ahead with EU membership. Utlimately, there will be no real border between Kosovo and Serbia if Balkan integration into the EU proceeds peacefully. Bush and Condi have a tin ear for such things. And in their self-righteous lauding of Kosovar independence, they have midwifed a tiny new unviable state in the poorest part of Europe. (The reason most Serbs gradually left Kosovo over the past century is that Kosovo is sort of the West Virginia of Serbia). Foreign policy should not be turned into a series of morality tales.


Solomon Awards Half a Delegate

Well, the word is finally in from the Democrats Abroad. They voted between 2/5 and 2/12, but the tallies are just in. They are allotted 11 delegates. Of those, four are "superdelegates." Seven are actual delegates. As overseas Democrats, however, they appoint 14 pledged delegates, each getting half a vote. This is because of a combination of mathematical gobbledygook too tedious to try to understand. The primary awards 9 delegates, the other five are awarded at the larger global caucuses to follow. Why Democrats Abroad would need a multistage process is beyond the ability of mere mortals to fathom. The results of the 9 awarded today? 5 for Obama, 4 for Clinton. This follows, somehow, the fact that Obama won by nearly two to one. Don't try to figure that one out either. So Obama gets 2.5 delegate votes, Clinton gets 2. Advantage, Obama? I wonder if AP and the NY Times are going to accurately report this or not.

There is no "Republicans Abroad" category. Probably because they think that ex-pats are all traitors or something. The Democrats Abroad say that one of the main reasons for the group to exist is that overseas voters cannot caucus. Interesting thought, that.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good News for Democrats and Bad News for GOP

Here's an interesting tidbit from the CNN exit poll in Wisconsin.

Among Democrats, only 17% would be somewhat or very dissatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 31% of Democrats would somewhat or very dissastified if Clinton was the nominee. Among Republicans, 23% would be somewhat or very dissatisfied if McCain was the nominee. What this says to me is two things. First, Clinton may have a bigger problem with Democrats than McCain has with Republicans. But Second, Obama is looking more and more like the nominee and he is better off among Democrats than McCain is among Republicans AND Obama is the possible Democratic nominee with the most appeal among Independents.

More bad news for the Republicans. Their race is supposed to be over and done. McCain won a long time ago, remember the announcement after Super Tuesday? But McCain only got 55% of the vote (Obama got 58%). In a supposedly hopeless effort, Huckabee and Ron Paul got more of the vote than Clinton did in a hotly contested race. This despite that one would expect a meaningless primary would exagerate rather than deminish the front runner's lead.

Even more bad news for Republicans. Wiscsonsin has been up for grabs in recent Presidential races. But Democratic turnout roughly trippled the Republican tournout. This pattern was seen even before Romney dropped out so we can't say it's entirely because of semi-official annointment of McCain. Besides, as noted above, why are so many of the people who are showing up to the Republican primary voting against the guy they KNOW will be their nominee?

The shakier things look for the GOP in the general election, the more important keeping control of the party will be for the Huckabee supporters. That is, as more Republicans give up on November, more of them will decide they'd rather make sure the party keeps its social conservative/Christian focus instead of "selling out" in a vain attempt to win. This could be the reason for Huckabee's continued candidacy.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

As Wisconsin Goes...

Wisconsin primaries show that Obama can win in the whitest of white states, with 58% of the vote. Exit polls show him winning almost every group except for white women over 60. If Clinton said that Virginia somehow "didn't count" because of all the black voters, the exit polls are now showing that a solid majority of Democrats of almost every stripe are voting for Obama. If these voting patterns continue to be seen, Obama will win Ohio, Texas, and the nomination. Already, polls are showing a much tighter race in Texas (Clinton's lead is 50-48 in one CNN poll) and in Ohio. The pattern continues: Clinton begins with a big plus for name recognition, but as election day approaches and the voters tune in, that lead vanishes. Even more amazingly, no poll predicted this big a victory. The Clinton vote matches the polls more or less, but apparently the undecided voters went for Obama in a big way.

For all those reasons, this is a very big day for Barack Obama. There's no way for the Clinton camp to "explain away" Wisconsin because it's too black, too young, or a caucus, or whatever. It is also a day of reckoning for the Democratic party. Obama is now clearly the frontrunner, ahead by approximately 150 in pledged delegates and leading overall including superdelegates. The math is becoming prohibitive. In two weeks, if these results are repeated, Clinton should do the honorable thing and pack it in.


Castro Resigns; Satan Dons Overcoat

It's finally happened. After 50 years of trying to force Castro to resign by punishing the Cuban people with trade sanctions, he has decided to resign because of ill health. Two cheers. No, not even half a cheer. Cuban exiles in Miami must be beside themselves with a sense of loss - what are they to hate so unflaggingly now? Poor Republicans too, no more communism in the neighborhood to rail against. For the US election, this provides an opening for the Dem nominee in Florida. Engagement with Cuba might make inroads there. This is perhaps more liberating for US foreign policy than even for Cubans themselves.

Next up: Bush and McCain will claim credit for this "victory."


Monday, February 18, 2008

The Texas Caucuses

Dr. S. patiently recorded Texas as an "open primary" state in his handy map. Except it's a little more complicated than that. Excluding the superdelegates, the Texas primary will only choose 2/3 of the pledged delegates. Yes, that's right, just two-thirds. The allocation is like California, where each district has a predetermined number of delegates based on prior elections. However, it is unlike every other state in that by "district" I don't mean congressional district, but Texas Senatorial District. The Republicans in Texas are using congressional districts for their apportionment, just to confuse matters. Unusually heavy turnout in rural Latino districts will not translate into additional delegates for those districts.

The other third of delegates are chosen by precinct caucuses on election night starting at 7:15pm after the polls close. Read that again. This is not a joke. The precinct caucuses choose delegates to county conventions, who then choose delegates to the state convention, which in turn meets in June and selects delegates on a proportional basis. So you kind of know on election night how the math will work out at the end... sort of.

Worse, the process of running these caucuses is, apparently, messy. According to the Washington post, the Democratic party is moribund in many precincts, so there may not be precinct chairs. According to the post: "If it is time for the caucus and there is no precinct chair, party officials decided, the task of overseeing the vote will fall to the first person who collects the packet of materials used to run the caucus.... The first person in the door picks it up and controls it. So the rules are designed to create a race to the packet. You can imagine what that might look like." Indeed, you can imagine. Hand it to Texas to add, to the indignities of party democracy, a footrace.

Who will this benefit? Electorally, perhaps Obama, in that caucus goers in this situation must show up twice and understand these bizarre rules, which favors a wealthier, more educated, and more-English-fluent voters. Otherwise, I don't think anyone benefits by such a godawful mess.

The only thing worse is the Washington democratic primary being held tomorrow, which chooses exactly zero delegates. Washington state law requires a primary, but doesn't require the parties to pay any attention to it. (Republicans allocate 1/2 of their delegates via primary, which sounds better, but means you can both vote and caucus. Voters are understandably confused about any system that asks them to vote twice).

I am beginning to understand what W.C. Fields meant when he said, "I don't belong to an organized political party - I'm a Democrat."


Pakistan Votes Today

By the way, if you want to see what a REALLY dysfunctional election looks like check out Pakistan.

The leading candidate has already been assassinated. Her party's supporters has been the target of numerous attacks - the latest coming in the last week or so.

There are widespread concerns that Musharaf will rig the vote. It is interesting that the Islamic Fundamentalists who are blamed for murdering Bhutto and attacking her supporters before and since, have not targetted Musharaf's supporters. I can think of a few reasons:

First, his supporters are far fewer in number. Second, they are largely in uniform and heavily armed. Third, a continued Musharaf dictatorship is preferable to the Islamic Fundamentalists than a democratically elected Bhutto regime (her son).


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Legacy of Bush v. Gore

There was a time when the Democratic party could choose its nominee as it saw fit. Time was when people would shrug and say, "Well, that's the rules of the game." This was arguably still somewhat true even as late as 1984, when neither Hart nor Mondale could muster a majority of pledged delegates, and the superdelegates handed the nomination to Mondale without any public uproar. And there are still terribly arcane rules by which votes are awarded to state delegations. But two things have changed since Bush v. Gore.

[I know this is a very lengthy post--but I hope you will read it thoughtfully and take it in the good-natured spirit it is written. Given the horse I'm backing in this race, my conclusion may surprise you...]

I'll state the first change now, and get to the last at the end of my post. I'll call this the "Gore" lesson: that the public--at least, the Democratic sector of the public--will not accept a situation where they perceive that unelected delegates have overruled elected delegates. It does not matter that the "elected" delegates are selected by wildly varying processes and are not awarded proportionally. The perception that the voice of the people has been betrayed will ruin the party.

Now I'm just going to come out and say it: for that reason alone, the Democratic party must seat the delegates selected by the voters in MI and FL. Some of you may be tempted at this point just to dismiss this post because I support Hillary. So listen to the wise words of The Law Talking Guy instead... In a comment to the post, Waiting for Gardner, from November 9, 2007, LTG wrote:

I think it is shocking that the Dems (and now the GOP too) have agreed that NH,NV,IA, and SC are allowed to have polls before 2/5, and all others are punished (except Wyoming, which has its GOP caucuses on 1/5, and nobody cares). The shocking thing is that they will disenfranchise Michigan and Florida voters for doing what other voters in other states can do.

LTG also reacted in horror at the specter of Obama "winning" the pledged delegate count only because MI and FL were excluded. In a comment to the post, To Super Tuesday... And Beyond! LTG wrote,

With all the effed-up rules for delegates, superdelegates, and the rest, a brokered convention would be a nightmare. Imagine if Obama were leading in elected delegates, but won because Michigan and Florida were denied seating. Or lost because of party elders and superdelegates. Mississippi Freedom Party, anyone? [My italics]

Some will point out that Obama and Edwards withdrew their names from the Michigan ballot on October 9, 2007 (although their campaigns later encouraged supporters to vote for "uncommitted"). Furthermore, NBC quoted an Obama campaign memo saying he had wanted to pull out of Florida too.

But their decision to pull their names from the ballot was curious. After all, everyone knew there was (and still is) a good chance that the delegates would ultimately be seated anyhow. As LTG wrote in an August 8, 2007 post, Et tu, Iowa?,

The parties have tried to forbid earlier primaries by claiming they won't seat delegates, but nobody takes that threat seriously. Besides which, the main benefit of the early votes was always the public perception of being a winner, not the delegates.

The real reason Obama and Edwards pulled their names was a strategic one. CNN's early analysis of the move by Obama and Edwards:

CNN's Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider suggested the Democrats who withdrew may have calculated that it was simply in their best political interest to do so.
"If there's no campaign, the candidate most likely to win Michigan is Hillary Clinton," Schneider said. "Her Democratic rivals don't want a Clinton victory in Michigan to count. They want Iowa and New Hampshire, where they have a better chance of stopping Clinton, to count more."

Obama and Edwards made the stategic choice to try to kill any momentum Hillary might gain from Michigan, and they certainly succeeded. But to withdraw from the ballot, reap the benefits thereof, and then argue the results should not count because you were not on the ballot seems like trying to have your cake and eat it too. It certainly seems unfair to disenfranchise those who voted for Hillary just because Obama withdrew his name. The "Gore" lesson trumps everything: failing to "count all votes" in the public's mind (especially those from Florida) just won't fly anymore.

Here is my suggestion of a compromise, which feels the most in line with "counting all the votes" without letting an unelected clique overrule the people. The Democrats should seat the full delegations from Michigan and Florida as is--superdelegates, uncommitted delegates, and all--but then they should not permit any superdelegates from anywhere to participate in the first ballot. Using LTG's useful numbers, that means a vote by 3,584 pledged delegates, of which 1,792 would be needed to secure the nomination. If neither candidate can secure that magic number, then and only then would the voting would proceed to the second ballot, where superdelegates would be able to vote and break the tie. And yes, there is a possibility that the first ballot would not be determinative since there are 26 Edwards delegates and at least 55 uncommitted delegates from Michigan.

But Hillary has not suggested this path. She is focused on the number 2025. And that, I believe, is because of that second lesson from Bush v. Gore I alluded to earlier. I will call it the "Bush" lesson: that the first person who can reasonably claim to victory by the rules, even if they are unfair rules, often wins anyway--possession being 9/10 of the law. So long as it seemed to the public that Gore was trying to overturn a victory that had already happened, he had little chance of succeeding. I believe this is precisely what Hillary hopes to accomplish by racking up the superdelegates early and talking up 2025. And this saddens me.

Although the compromise I suggest likely favors Obama--as LTG explained in the last post of his I referenced, Michigan and Florida are not really the "ace in the hole" Hillary supporters might hope for--I feel it is the most democratic thing the Democrats can do. Whichever candidate wins needs to win the "Gore" way, not the "Bush" way. Given the history, this is more true for the Democrats than anyone else: it's not just who wins, but how they win. Here's hoping (wishful thinking, I know) that the Democratic Credentials Committee recognizes both lessons from Bush v. Gore, and heeds the right one.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Danish MPs Cancel Trip to Iran

A group of Danish MPs were scheduled to make a diplomatic trip to Iran. But the Iranian government demanded that they apologize for the fact that 11 Danish newspapers reprinted one of the infamous Mohamed cartoons.

The MPs decided not to go. Then I saw on the BBC website that one of the MPs, Villy Soevndal (SF), said that it was Iran that should apologize for their poor human rights record. Mr. Soevndal is the leader of the far left Socialist People's Party. How refreshing to see a leftist politician stand up for this kind of thing instead of bowing to the kind of PC moral relativism one might expect.

Here's to you Mr. Soevndal. I'd probably never vote for you if I were a Danish voter but my hat's off to you today.


Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Most of the superdelegates are old enough to know the ugly past of party elders and the un-Democratic nature of some of the Democratic party in the South. Believe me when I say that older black Democrats in the south like John Lewis know this history personally. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic party was formed in 1964 to challenge the white Democrats that refused to let blacks participate in the Mississippi nominating process. The party elders at the convention in Atlantic City tried to block them from sitting. Eventually, given the strong support by Northern liberal delegates, they were offered a compromise: two seats. They declined angrily. Later, the all-white delegation refused to pledge loyalty to all the Democratic candidates (including the northern black liberals) and walked out. Some white northern liberals walked out and gave their credentials to the black Mississippians. They were taken away from them later.

The specter of seeing Obama lose the nomination due to superdelegates only, if he has a majority of pledged delegates, raises old ghosts the Democratic party sought to exorcise years ago. Barack Obama - who was four years old when this all happened - would probably support party unity, but he's not alone in this. African-Americans everywhere have given him their overwhelming support, and their demands that he be treated fairly are not under Obama's control. This is yet another reason why a superdelegate known well to me personally - a Clinton supporter - was explaining to the press yesterday that she hopes very much that the voters make their preference clear so that the superdelegates can just ratify it. She does not want to have to make a decision unless it is plain that the race between Clinton and Obama is too close to call otherwise. Another superdelegate in the same interview acknowledged that the incredible enthusiasm of voters across the country will be in great danger of turning to anger in the Fall if they perceive that their votes were in vain and the choice was taken from them.

I say this now because I know that Clinton supporters everywhere are preparing their apologia for why Superdelegates should be allowed to make a choice 'for the good of the party' - that this is the way the system was created, etc., etc. - the same sort of argument GWBush made for the Electoral College defying the clearly expressed populr vote. That is a very, very dangerous path to go down. Democratic legitimacy cannot, I repeat cannot be achieved by the votes of unelected superdelegates. If Clinton is behind in pledged delegates, superdelegates cannot tip the balance to her without more process taking place. Obama has already said publicly that if he has: (1) a majority of pledged delegates; (2) a majority of states; and (3) a majority of the popular vote, that he then expects to win the nomination without opposition from superdelegates.

Incidentally, Clinton has been less than clear about what role Florida and Michigan delegates should play. She said recently that "it's all about who gets to 2,025 delegates" and repeated "2025, 2025". Well, that number is a majority excluding Florida and Michigan. She must know that.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Muslim Youth in Denmark Protest Against Democracy

With all the fuss in the US about the primaries (and the latest mentally ill guy to go on a killing spree), there has been little attention to what is going on in Europe. See the BBC story here.

A few days ago, Danish authorities believed they uncovered a serious plot to assasinate one of the cartooonists who drew cartoons depicting Muhamed in various satirical poses. The authorities apparently did not have a very good case built up when they made the arrests. One of the suspects (a Danish citizen of Morrocan decent) was released the next day for "lack of evidence." Two other men, both Tunisian citizens, are to be held until they are deported but not put on trial.

In solidarity with the intended victim, several newpapers in Denmark reprinted the cartoon he had done (it's the one with Muhamed wearing a turban that has a bomb in it). Hundreds of youth in the Danish Muslim community responded to this slight with a nation wide wave of violence and arson. Marching through the streets chanting "Free Speach is like a plague!" they turned over cars and threw rocks at police. The latest development is that several schools have been set on fire.

I'll say it now. Free speech is NOT a plague but people who oppose it are. The supposedly more moderate leaders of the community are blaming the victims. It seems that it is the Danish media - not the violent protestors - who misunderstand what is going on. The Danish media thinks this about a simple case of free speech - and they are correct. The radical elements in the Muslim youth think it is about respect for Islam. Well, it might not have started out that way but with every school they burn down, it gets more and more like that for me.

Democracies have a right - no - an obligation to defend themselves against these kinds of threats. I hope that Danish authorities use every legal means at their disposal to crack down on these riots. If the Muslim immigrants insist on imposing anti-democratic standards on their host country, they must lose that argument.

The Danish far right used to have a slogan, "Danmark for Danskerne" (Denmark for the Danes). That would be a mistake. But it is perfectly legitimate for a democratic Denmark to insist that those people who voluntarily come to seek a better life, conform to the laws and standards that made that life so much better in Denmark in the first place. Danes are under no obligation what so ever to start limiting their own liberties to accomodate the medeival attitudes of people who claim to be interested in a better life.

If such people think that "respect for Islam" is the paramount criteria for their lives there are many countries which can accomodate that desire...unfortunately such countries are not very pleasant places to live - precisely because of their backward and wrong headed ideas about religion and liberty. So these "radical" troublemakers stay in Denmark and destroy things periodically rather than actually putting "their money where their mouth" is so to speak and moving to Saudi Arabi or some other totalitarian state in the Middle East where no one will ever make fun of Mohamed.


Nomination Contest Format Map

I scoured the web to try to find a map of the nomination contest format for the Democrats. In the end, unable to discover one, I created my own. In states with both primaries and caucuses, I labeled the state with whichever format the media pays most attention to, usually the one with the most pledged votes up for grabs. And be sure to read the definitions below--they are crucial. (Click the map to enlarge it.)

Closed: Only party members may vote, and they must have been registered with the appropriate party prior to election day.

Quasi-Closed: Technically speaking, only party members may vote, but voters may register with the party at the caucus door, or will be registered automatically by virtue of voting in the party's primary. (It took a good deal of digging to work out this category. I think I got them all right, but you never know.)

Open: Both party members and independent voters may vote. In some states, crossover votes are also permitted (e.g. Republicans could vote in the Democratic primary) but I did not distinguish between these two cases.

What do we learn from all this? Mostly that there is regional bias toward certain formats. It may also be interesting to compare this to the Obama/Clinton contest. (I recommend this updated version of the map I noted in the "Rust Belt and Island Warfare" post.) The most obvious trend is that Obama has won the vote in every caucus except Nevada, and even there he won the plurality of delegates. (OK, Hillary won American Samoa's caucus.) Given the regional clumping of caucuses though, I can't say whether Obama's success is explained better by the format or the demographics.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cupid's Arrow Hits a Little Too Close to the Mark?

Hillary Clinton spoke on the telephone to the girlfriends of two reporters traveling with her today and apologized for monopolizing their boyfriends on Valentine's Day. Reporters could not hear the other end of the telephone conversations, only Clinton's.

Speaking to the girlfriend of Fernando Suarez, from CBS News, Clinton said, "Well, I would love to be Fernando’s second choice for Valentine’s Day." (One wonders if she may have more practice than most in playing that role...)

Then later on in that same telephone call, Clinton was overheard to say, "Well, I have something that just doesn’t go away either, it just hangs on and hangs on." She explained later that her remark concerned a lingering cold. To repeat, a cold. Not a certain tenacious Presidential candidate, or a certain former President.


Still counting votes in California

There were hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots in CA. Conventional wisdom was that earlier-cast votes would go for HRC. That does not appear to be the case. The margin, while still significant, is shrinking. It now stands at HRC 51.3% to 43.1% for Obama (4.1% for Edwards).


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I do not believe Roger Clemens

Henry Waxman's committee in the House held more steroid-in-baseball hearings today. To many voters, it is hard to understand why Congress is doing this. I would suggest that, at least, Congressmen relish being on the sports page and ESPN in an election year. There is also a bit of payback. Roger Clemens was a big Bush supporter and raised money for him and allied candidates. Naturally, Republicans defended him.

First, there's the obvious. Roger Clemens is a substantially bigger man in his 40s than he was in his 20s. That is not normal for an athlete, unless it's sumo.

There's also the curious pscyhology of Clemens' testimony. He began by saying that no matter what happens to him at the hearing, nothing will remove the stain on his name. He must have thought he was playing the victim card, a good strategy. No doubt, however, it felt good to say these words. Too god, really. They are part confesion, and all true. Nothing will remove the stain because he is guilty. His adamant denials also refledct that he is ashamed of what he has done and wishes he hadn't done it. Like a small child who states loudly "I didn't do it!" with a cookie in his hand, chocolate chip smears on his mouth, and a broken ceramic jar next to him. Marion Jones did the same thing, denying and denying. We see this over and over again with athletes. Clemens could probably pass a lie detector test. He's not a steroid user; he used steroids. These are very different statements. I've seen witnesses in court take similar paths. It's very hard, actually, for guilty people to be really figure out how to behave as if they were innocent.

The worst part was when Clemens was confronted with Pettite's testimony corroborating the story of Clemens' steroid use. Clemens defended Pettite as a friend, then said he must have "misremembered" what Clemens told him. Incredibly unlikely testimony. Defending Pettite's goodness is also a strange giveaway. Clemens has a hard time adding the false accusation, "Pettite's a liar" to the weight of an already guilty conscience.

There's a reason for putting this on a political blog, and not just because it's occupying Congress for some reason. In this political season, when we need to judge candidates and others based on their statements, it's worth thinking about how we tell lies from truth.

As a lawyer confronted with live witnesses sometimes and written testimony often, I feel like I have learned more about this task than your average bear. I have explained to my own witnesses that they should not be worried about being "tripped up" so long as they are truthful and don't try to say things to make their testimony sound better. The truth is that state of affairs that is consistent with reality; as the fabric of the evidence is laid out, truthful testimony will be woven into it.

The goal of lying, as I see it, is to find a statement varies from reality in such a way that its variance can be isolated and contained, rather than unraveling it all. This is can only be done by misdirection - by persuading the truthseeker not to investigate beyond a certain point, i.e., not to see where the fabric is torn. That is the art of the con artist. We all know that elaborate lies can work if they persuade the hearer not to question further - to carry on the metaphor, presenting such a large piece of apparently intact fabric that the hearer is satisfied it is connected with the fabric of reality. The elaborate lies can fall apart easily. Smaller, vaguer lies (e.g., "I have a family emergency...") are easier to contain (harder to falsify) but provoke more skepticism (they are known to be easier to contain and harder to falsify). The dead giveaway is the guilty conscience that communicates "I'm sorry I'm lying" at the same time as it lies.

Watching and listening to George W. Bush is all about observing various kinds of fascinating lying behavior. Mitt Romney was just ugly to watch. He could hardly say he was a conservative without seeming embarrassed. Obama, at least, knows how to contain his lies. I have been delighted on occasion to hear him tell the truth about embarrassing things. That's an example of political resilience. After the 2004 convention speech, he was asked by Tim Russert whether he agreed with John Kerry's vote in favor of the Iraq war. Obama lied. He said that he didn't know what he would have done if he were in the Senate and had the information that Kerry had, but from where he sat, the case was not made for war. The lie, of course, was twofold (1) that he would have made the decision based on the evidence rather than the politics; and (2) that he didn't know how he would have voted. When asked by Tim Russert, Obama explained very simply that he had just nominated Kerry and did not want to speak against him. Yes, I lied, he said. But it was expected of me. And everyone knew I was lying too. It was oddly satisfying.

See... baseball holds the keys to everything.


This is what the Election of 2008 is About

According to NPR this morning, "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he doesn't see anything in the Constitution that prohibits the torture of detainees for the purpose of getting information. Scalia told a BBC interviewer that torture would be unconstitutional if it were inflicted as a punishment."

WTF? The 8th Amendment says that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted. The fifth amendment says that: (1) no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself; and (2) No person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law. Now, it doesn't take a genius to see that torture is outlawed by this. Any "originalist" like Scalia would know that the founders intended to ban torture by the state.

Scalia, though, pretends that IF torture is: (1) not imposed by a court as a punishment; and (2) only used to get information that will not be used in court, then it is okay. Unfuckingbelievable. Let's be honest, for once. Scalia also believes that the government can abolish habeas corpus. So there's no reason for a person to EVER be in court. The government can just take you, "rendition" you to another country, or send you to Gitmo, or just call you an enemy combatant, torture you and hold you forever, according to Scalia. If that's constitutional, then the bill of rights is a dead letter. Scalia knows this. He's too smart not to know it. He just won't admit it, because he's a coward.

Imagine that. Patrick Henry must be rolling in his grave. A single terrorist attack on this country, and every Republican and Conservative is desperate to throw away all of their constitutional liberties and the separation of powers if someone promises that doing so will keep them safe. It won't.

Now, McCain doesn't like torture. But other than being nicer, he's got no problem with tossing out all the rest of our liberties so that he can be a Strong Leader.

This election is about liberty, people, plain and simple. Vote Democratic or lose the rights our forefathers and fore-mothers bled and died for in the revolution and in the civil war. I, for one, will not give up without a fight. My vote for Obama is that I know he gets it. I have expressed before my fear that Hillary Clinton may not.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Rust Belt and the Islands

Wikipedia has a nifty map of the Democratic nomination race at the county level that is well worth pondering. You have to fill in a few things by hand, and take all of Michigan with a huge grain of salt, but the finer resolution seems revealing. Here is how the map of remaining contests looks to me. (Pledged delegates only in parentheses.)

Obama Country:

North Carolina (115)
Oregon (52)
Mississippi (33)
Montana (16)
South Dakota (15)
Wyoming (12)
Vermont (15) -- (Consider counties and IL/MO border. I think this makes sense.)
TOTAL: 258

Clinton Country:
Texas (193)
Kentucky (51)
West Virginia (28)
TOTAL: 272

Rust Belt Battleground:

Pennsylvania (158)
Ohio (141)
Wisconsin (74)
Indiana (72)
TOTAL: 445

Island Warfare:
Hawaii (22)
Guam (4)
Puerto Rico (55)
Rhode Island (21) -- (Too cute to resist!)
TOTAL: 102

Anyhow, that's how I think it comes down. What I think of as their native territories are pretty much equal. But I think Obama will sweep the Islands--in fact, some would just lump them in Obama's column right now--so the big battle will be in the Rust Belt. Obama needs only a draw; Clinton needs a convincing victory. It is hard to conclude that Obama is not the front-runner at this point.


Democrats by the Numbers: What to Do about Michigan and Florida

There are 4,048 delegates to the convention. 2,025 needed to nominate.
There are 3,253 pledged delegates. 1,627 is a majority of pledged delegates. Whichever candidate reaches that number first can claim that they deserve not to have the nomination stolen by "insiders."

The above numbers do not, of course, count the Florida and Michigan delegations. Those are 210 and 156 respectively. Michigan would have 81 for Clinton, 55 "uncommitted" (presumed to be intended for Obama or Edwards), 2 "write-ins" (unknown) and 18 superdelegates. Florida would have 210: 111 for Clinton, 69 for Obama, 13 for Edwards, and 17 superdelegates. Altogether that's 192 for Clinton, 137 for Obama/Edwards. I think it's safe to presume that any deal to seat those delegates would award all 137 non-Clinton pledged delegates to Obama. This would mean that Clinton would get a net 55 delegates if Michigan and Florida pledged delegates were seated. That would be 3,584 pledged delegates, of which 1,792 would be needed for a majority of pledged delegates.

If Michigan and Florida were to be seated (although Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan, which causes problems of its own) there would be 4414 delegates, of whom 2, 208 would be needed to nominate. That's 183 extra delegates needed to win. I suspect any deal to seat their delegations would not include the 35 superdelegates (how do they add to the legitimacy of the process?) If so, that would be a total of 4,379 delegates, of whom 2,190 would be needed to nominate.

If Michigan and Florida are seated now as proposed (192 for Clinton, 137 for Obama) all it would really do is wipe out the net gain (~50 pledged) in delegates from the February 12th voting for Obama today. Obama's large margins of victory net him lots of delegates today (168 total pledged available today, Obama will likely get 100-105 of them). Therefore, I suspect that those Michigan and Florida delegates will ultimately be seated. They're not the ace in the hole some might wish they were.


On to Richmond!

Obama won Virginia in a landslide.
According to exit polls, Obama won both men and women (women by 58%, men by more).
He won 55% of the Latino vote and tied Clinton for the white vote (50% Clinton/49% Obama). So that's a great broadening of his coalition that bodes well. Maryland and DC polls close in minutes.

Virginia's Republicans, however, are in their own civil war. The exit polls show Huckabee should win a narrow victory, say 46-44. So far, votes are looking to come in like that too. If so, it's WTA, and a huge, huge blow to McCain going forward.


Gotta Love Gruesome

So, I just read the most ghoulish obituary for the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) . The Green Papers ( - a site you should all become familiar with) notes that with his death, the number of Democratic "superdelegates" is reduced by one. O tempora, o mores.


Weird Science: Laboratories of Democracy

State governments in the USA have often been referred to as "laboratories of democracy." Places where ideas in governance and policy can be tried out. Most Americans assume that state governments are pretty much all alike. Some quirky differences are more widely known. (E.g.: Nebraska has a unicameral legislature; Maine and Nebraska apportion electoral vote by congressional districts, not winner-take-all; Texas has separate supreme courts for civil and criminal matters; Louisiana has runoff elections sometimes). Other things are not well known.

For example: the veto power. I have known for a while that many states (43, it turns out) give the governor "line-item" veto power, the ability to accept or reject portions of a bill or (more normally) "line items" of spending from a budget. Six states have an "amendatory" veto, that allows the government to veto a bill, rewrite it, and send it back for approval in his format. In Illinois, a vetoed bill requires 3/5 to override, but the "amended" veto bill can be enacted with a simple vote of the legislature. This is a powerful bargaining tool.

I was moved to post this by something I learned about Wisconsin's veto power. There, the veto power can be used to strike individual words and mess with grammar to create new language.
They have what some call a "Frankenstein" veto. Apparently, in 2005, Democrat Jim Doyle used the power to strike out 752 words from a budget bill to produce, instead, a single 20-word sentence that diverted $427 million from transportation to education. Imagine the legislative drafting that must go into creating a bill that can't be altered in this way, if you can even do it!

FYI, it turns out that it used to be worse in Wisconsin. Until 1990, the governor had the power to delete individual alphabetic letters and numerical characters in a bill to change the intent of the legislation! That practice was dubbed the “Vanna White Veto" during the 1990 campaign that succeeded in abolishing it.

Bottom line: Institutional design requires a lot of sophistication. Democratic government is about WAY more than just counting votes. In this election season, where we're learning about superdelegates (and will soon be learning about "bonus" delegates - extra delegates awarded by the DNC to states that have agreed to delay their voting in primaries/caucuses until later in 2008, thus giving, for example, 30% extra delegates to North Carolina than the normal allocation would permit) and other arcane rules, this is a good time to think about American government in general. Isn't it strange how, over the course of two centuries or more, it calcifies and produces strange growths?


Monday, February 11, 2008

As long as I'm posting videos ...

Happy Dick Cheney day! Has it really been two years?


Monday YouTube

First, there's this video for Obama:

... and then this parody video for McCain ...



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clinton Fires Her Campaign Manager

Reports came out this afternoon that Clinton just fired her campaign manager, Patti Soli Doyle (who has been with the Clintons since they were in Arkansas), and replaced her with another long time aid, Maggie Williams.

Of course the reports say that Doyle decided to leave "on her own" and was "not forced out." But we all know what that means when it comes the day after Obama won a primary and two caucuses in his immediate follow-up to the acknowledged draw on Super Tuesday. She was fired.

This is the third announcement of bad news in a week for the Clinton campaign. First, Obama was announced to have raised three times as much money and from more donors as Clinton and it was announced that Clinton had to loan her own campaign $5 million of her own money Second, Obama had his little miny sweep on Saturday. And now a management staff shake up.

This is in addition to the fuss about Chelsea and the fact that the Super Tuesday results were inconclusive with talk that momentum may have shifted in Obama's favor.

This is beginning to look like a campaign in trouble and "off message." Of course this wouldn't be the first time the Clinton campaign looked to be on the verge of disaster only to bounce back (look at the week before New Hampshire, the week after South Carolina for prior examples). However, how many times can the "The Comeback Kid II" come back in one primary campaign?

The future is set up for her to do just that. Texas is almost custom made for Clinton. Lots of hispanics in the Democratic party and a population so large that it will be hard for Obama to use his personal magnatism to greatest effect.


Obama, Clinton, and the 50 State vs Blue State strategies

One of the big debates in the run up to the 2006 election was whether the Demcoratic Party should try to fund competitive candidates in as wide a range of races in as many states as possible (the 50 state strategy) or whether they should do what they did in 2000, 2002, and 2004 - focus resources on those areas where they know they have strong support and get the base out.

If you look at the primary results, there may be indications of how Obama and Clinton would campaign in November. With the special exceptions of the Clintons home state of Arkansas and its immediate neighbors to the north, east and west (Missouri, Tennesee and Oklahoma), Clinton has lost - and lost big - in most of the states in the middle of the country and the south (Florida and Michigan shouldn't count in this strategy analysis for obvious reasons). It appears that after the South Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign has addopted a "big state" strategy - largely abandonning states in the Midwest, South and even the Pacific Northwest.

Obama has won states of every region, size and proportion of Democratic registration and has competed vigorously even in states he lost.

Do these two observations add up to hints about November? Are Demcorats not just chosing their candidate but also chosing a strategy? Does picking Clinton mean a campaign that hopes for this map (1992) but may end up with this map (2000)? Does picking Obama mean a campaign that tries for the Democrat's version of this map (1904 - but with Obama playing the role of Teddy Roosevelt)?

What would either strategy mean for the Congressional races "down ticket?" Would a "get out the base and hang on" strategy help the Democrats win Congressional seats? It is questions like that this that have lead many of the "super delegates" from states where Democrats face fierce competition from Republicans to endorse Obama rather than Clinton. They seem to believe that a Clinton candidacy will leave them twisting in the wind - exposed to the full force of the famous Republican vitriol towards the Clintons.


Obama Wins a Several More States, Clinton Plays the Victim Card - again.

The big political news of the day is that in the first primaries/caucuses after Super Tuesday, Obama won - by fairly big margins: Obama won Louisiana 57% to 36%, Nebraska 68% to 32%, and Washington (state) 68% to 32%. Washington and Nebraska were both caucuses. Louisiana was a primary. Obama won (or will win or whatever the NYT says) 74 delegates. Not a big haul.

In other news: Hillary Clinton has started threatening to pull out of a debate sponsored by MSNBC because one of their anchor commentators, David Schuster, refered to the Clinton campaign use of Chelsea Clinton to lobby for celebrity and super delegate endorsements as "pimping" her out. Yikes! That's in bad taste. Schuster has apologized for the comment and been suspended. Of course, Hillary is making this into a HUGE deal. She's saying she won't debate on that network anymore.

In isolation, I'd take her word for it as an angry mom. But given that her campaign plays the "victim card" whenever they get behind the eightball, I'm a little suspicous about motives. Is it that Hillary is only doing this as a angry parent or has she "run the numbers" and figured that she'd get more of a "bounce" in support from making a fuss about a thoughtless comment about her daughter than she would debating Obama in the run up to another round of big state primaries?

I'm not saying that's absolutely what her motives were but I do think, given past behavior, it is a reasonable candidate for an explanation. Oh, and by the way, it also gives her cash poor campaign a good deal of free air time as long as this fracus stays in the news cycle.


I stand corrected. Ouch.

In a response to an earlier post about NY Times delegate count, LTG wrote,

The NYTimes count is not pledged delegates only. It includes superdelegates! I actually added up the NYTimes columns and came to this result.
When I wrote my response (and several argumentative follow-up comments) I failed to check the NYTimes totals. I should have. I assumed their explanation was accurate, when it said,
"The New York Times counts only delegates that have been officially selected and are bound by their preferences."
Nowhere do they explain that they include superdelegates in their reported totals, nor do they provide separate breakdowns. I notice that the NYTimes has now added an explicit line showing the superdelegate totals, although their "explanation" such as it is remains misleading. Color me chagrined and disappointed.

Thank you, LTG, for resolving this matter.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and administrative governor of the Church of England, has made an ass of himself once again. He is saying that some form of Sharia law, particularly in family affairs, will have to be adopted in England for muslims to opt into. Read that again, if you need to. So-called "Sharia law" is precisely that thing about fundamentalist Islam that most resembles fascism (Cheney et al. get the Islamofascism thing wrong, of course). Sharia law claims to be an ancient tradition going back to the days of the prophet, but it's really a modern invention - almost a postmodern invention - dressed up in Koranic language. It would be akin to a "Jewish law" that tried to literally enact the penalties of Leviticus (e.g., stoning for adultery), claiming to be an ancient tradition [note: some of the more dramatic language in Hebrew texts must be understood in light of linguistic and cultural traditions. When Jesus said "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" few of his hearers believed he was advocating self-maiming.]. But the Archbishop plods ahead pretending that he is being progressive and sensitive. What he ought to have said is that England should do its best to make muslims feel at home, that the English should love their neighbors, and this may mean respecting some traditions but challenging other traditions that oppress. Jesus was all about challenging traditions that had become oppressive or no longer made sense.

This is the same Archbishop who refuses to tell the African and what we politely call "Southern Cone" Anglican churches that it's not for them to tell the Americans that they cannot embrace gay people. In other words, this archbishop doesn't seem to understand that he needs to take moral stands, even if they be costly (the real lesson of the crucifixion). I have blogged about Episcopaliania before on this blog.

At any rate, Tony Blair's recent conversion to Roman Catholicism makes me wonder, in my paranoid moments, f he deliberately sabotaged the Church of England by putting a miter on such an ass. For those who don't know, the Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed by the King or Queen of England, in a tradition dating back to well before the Reformation. The modern interpretation is that the church administrative councils propose four names, of whom the Prime Minister selects one for the Queen to approve. Or, just as bad, did Tony Blair think that the Anglican church was a namby-pamby liberal organization with whom a namby-pamby Rowan Williams would fit?

Mr. Williams now says he was just trying to start a dialog, btw, and that he didn't mean to imply that Sharia should be a parallel civil jurisdiction.

This is the worst thing liberals do in public. Some liberals confuse tolerance with moral relativism. This is what gives the opening to conservatives to claim that they alone understand moral values. Sadly, even ironically, they are the ones often pimping "biblical" values every bit as postmodernly-constructed as Sharia law. (Jewish ultra-orthodoxy is of the same ilk, by the way, but I digress.).

This blog post is relevant outside the religious world because I am trying to hold up the feature of liberalism (notoriously, the California liberal) that is the most politically damaging, and most irksome to those of us who call ourselves liberals. This is what makes people vote Republican, the fear that liberals will try to understand terrorists, even prepare apologia for them, rather than fight them. Actually, we must defeat terrorists through the power of love (man, it's hard to say that without sounding too '60s and goofy). This means we must act to defend ourselves against terrorists, attackign them where they lie, with compassion for their neighbors. We must try to understand why people support them, and persuade them of their error. We must live out our values - not preach democracy while devaluing elections (see Palestine) or coddling dictators (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan...). We must not preach hate against their religion, or against bogeymen like Islamofascism. I could go on. You get the point. We need to win Arabs and muslim people over to our side. This requires, in the first instance, that they come to respect us, if grudgingly, as people with consistent values who respect them in turn.

And we don't say "okay" to Sharia law with its sexism, medievalism, and homophobia.

p.s. For those who aren't up to literary allusions: the title of this blog is a version of the quote attributed to Henry II that resulted - as intended - in the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (whom Henry appointed, but who quickly used the post to challenge Henry's rule).


Friday, February 08, 2008

Super Tuesday in Red States

Here is another take on Super Tuesday from a NY Times blogger/columnist.

Here's a quote about how Idaho was won:

"The runaway victory came after a visit by Obama last Saturday, when 14,169 people filled the Taco Bell Arena in Boise to hear him speak – the largest crowd ever to fill the space, for any event. It was the biggest political rally the state has seen in more than 50 years. "

From Alaska:

"In Anchorage, Alaska, for example, traffic was backed for nearly a mile from people trying to get into a middle school to become part of an Obama avalanche. "

Finally, overall:
"Now broaden the picture and look at the vote among white males, traditionally the hardest sell for a Democrat. While losing California, Obama won white men in the Golden State, 55 to 35, according to exit polls, and white men in New Mexico, 59-38. "

This is Obama's argument for electability in a nutshell. He claims, and is starting to be able to prove it, that he may be able to win parts of the country and the electorate that Hillary Clinton cannot.

Of course, as a Democrat, even an HRC supporter should be happy to see such an outpouring of participation. These people who voted for Obama in such excitement in red states are also signalling a clear willingness to consider vote for Democrats in the general election. Imagine if, by contrast, any Republican were attracting throngs in Berkeley, Boulder, and Cambridge! That's not happening at all.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Don't Play With Your Food

Chalk another one up for LTG and RbR. LTG wrote a lengthy post Fuel and Biofuel just a few weeks ago about the deleterious effects of the biofuels market on developing countries. RbR raised environmental, economic, and political concerns in a series of posts starting mid-2006: Alternative Fuels Bush Style, Just Say No to Biofuels, and most recently Bush, Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Ag and Ethanol.

Well, now two of the most comprehensive studies of their kind confirm all of LTG's and RbR's predictions and go even farther: in addition to any other disruptions they may cause, corn- and soy-based biofuels are also just plain bad for global warming. Not only do we burn more energy to grow the corn and soy in the first place, but because we are converting U.S. cropland to the purpose of fuel, we buy up food supplies from developing nations, which then must clear-cut the rainforest to grow the food they need for themselves. Thank you, WTO.

All told, corn- and soy-based biofuels are estimated by this study to release something like twice as much carbon as gasoline. Unfortunately, these are by far the most well-developed biofuel technologies, but biofuels based on native, non-edible plants that do not displace crops or forest (e.g. the infamous switchgrass) is still a decent bet. It just won't make many midwest farmers or corporate fat cats particularly happy. And it just goes to show that we really shouldn't mess with the food supply while people are going hungry.


Tricke-Up Theory

The "Stimulus Package" will soon be law. Republicans in the Senate approved an amendment to extend benefits to 20 million low-income seniors and veterans, but rejected a Democratic proposal that would have doubled the income ceilings that apply to the rest of us. Under the Democratic alternative, the phasing out of benefits would have begun at $150,000 per person instead of the $75,000 adjusted gross income threshold that was approved today.

So now if anyone still had any doubts, the truth has come out. When they really need to get the economy moving again (like, say, in a critical Presidential election year...) the Republicans know that money needs to flow to the working and middle classes--and to only those classes. Supply siders: a bunch of hypocrites, all of them.


Okay, now I'm mad.

I've read this article several times and I still have a hard time believing it. Michael Mukasey, the attorney general of the United States who was put there by Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer, now says the following:

"I think what I said was that we could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a Justice Department opinion."
Got that? If someone does something the DOJ says is legal, then it's legal. Period.

But what if there was a mistake? What if the DOJ misinterpreted a law?
That made no difference, Mukasey said. If a later legal opinion came to a different conclusion about whether something was lawful, the person who relied on the earlier, erroneous interpretation was still protected.
It's time to impeach. If you can't impeach for this then you can't impeach for anything. If we are willing to stand by and let the government say this, then there's nothing we won't let slide.

Impeach now.


Estimate: Hillary +100 in Pledged Delegates

The NY Times is conservative but up-to-date in reporting delegate totals. For the states they tally, they are more complete than CNN, but they omit several states. NY Times explains, "The New York Times counts only delegates that have been officially selected and are bound by their preferences." (And of course they count nothing for Michigan or Florida for the Democrats.)

As of 7:45 PST 2/7/08, NY Times shows 892 for Hillary and 716 for Obama without any superdelegates. Yes, those are pledged delegates only. But wait! They have not yet tallied results from seven states, all of which favored Obama in delegates. (They are also waiting for final results from American Samoa.) But we can add estimates for pledged delegates for these states from CNN. I show them explicitly here to avoid confusion.

STATE/TERR.: Obama, Clinton
Am. Samoa: 1, 2 (Wikipedia)
Alaska: 9, 4
Colorado: 37, 18 (CNN says 13, 6 but omits 36. I assume 2-1 split for Obama)
Idaho: 15, 3
Iowa: 16, 15
Minnesota: 48, 24
Nevada: 13, 12
North Dakota: 8, 5

Adding in these results, the more complete delegate estimate is therefore: Clinton, 975; Obama, 876. Then you need to add in the superdelegates on top of that. NY Times says 99, 204; CNN says 106, 193. I'll use the more even CNN estimate.

DELEGATE TYPE: Obama, Clinton
Pledged: 876, 975
Super: 106, 193
TOTAL: 982, 1168
NET: +186 for Hillary

In other words, Super Tuesday was not a tie but really a modest victory for Hillary: she earned about +100 net in pledged delegates, to add to her existing +100 edge in superdelegates.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Money Wars

The AP is reporting that today, Clinton acknowledged that she lent her campaign $5m last month. She raised $13.5m in January; Obama raised $32m. The $5m was on to pof the $13.5m. This helps explain the caucus victories for Obama: he had more money to run a 24-state race; she was forced to focus on fewer states. A candidate lending money to his or her own campaign is always a bad portent for the future. If that news had been leaked before Super Tuesday, it would have been a bombshell and widely portrayed as an admission of weakness. How clever of them to keep it under wraps until today (or of the media not to report it).


Mini Tuesday Sideshow

On Tuesday, March 4 ("Mini Tuesday") the second biggest chunk of delegates will be awarded. This day includes the big prizes Texas and Ohio. This was Super Tuesday in years past, but everyone stampeded a month earlier.

But in other news, the California Supreme Court announced today that they finally will hear oral arguments in Marriage cases, In re on this date. The questions at hand include (I quote from the official summary of issues):

Does California's statutory ban on marriage between two persons of the same sex violate the California Constitution by denying equal protection of the laws on the basis of sexual orientation or sex, by infringing on the fundamental right to marry, or by denying the right to privacy and freedom of expression?
Then, of course, comes the long wait for a decision. I have high hopes they will rule in favor of same-sex marriage. However given past history, I expect the court will announce its decision (whatever it may be) at some politically inopportune time. Like the end of October, 2008.


He's Ba-a-a-a-ack...

In California, Ralph Nader won primaries in both the Green party and Peace & Freedom parties yesterday. He pretty much swept the field except in San Francisco, where they know better. He also won handily across New York. It is hard to find information for each state--the Greens are famously disorganized--but there is a good chance we will see Nader again in 2008.

In other news from the silly side of politics, the classic angry white male Libertarian party in California voted for a woman.


The Fat Lady has Not Sung for McCain

McCain is claiming front runner status. Perhaps, but it's far from over. It was really Huckabee's night! McCain didn't get more than 50% of the vote anywhere except NYC, NJ, and CT: Giuliani country (on the Democratic side, the fact that HRC did not win all three is the biggest surprise of the night, and I don't think RBR is right that it's all about Lieberman - Obama has been nice to him too). Shockingly, even in his home state of AZ, McCain only got 47% of the vote. By contrast, Clinton, Romney, Huckster, and Obama each won their home states by mor ethan 50%.

The map tells a different story. Huckabee won every state in the South except Missouri, which he lost by 1 point, and OK, which he lost by 2. Romney won the caucus states in the plains and west. What does this mean? It means that outside of the coasts, McCain is really struggling, and there only with Giuliani's support.

The Republican race from here on out looks different than the Democratic race - different dates, different states, different issues, different rules:

Feb 9: Kansas and Louisiana (creationism-land: All Huckabee), Washington caucuses (McCain or Romney) (in both KS and LA are proportional)
Feb 12: DC, Maryland (McCain), Virginia (old-line conservative - 3-way tie at best) (all 3 are winner-take all!)
Feb 19: Washington primary (non-binding: may favor McCain), Wisconsin primary (probably Huckabee - see Michigan results where Huckabee won UP). (WI-winner take all)
Feb 24: Puerto Rico primary (McCain?)
March 4: VT, RI (small votes- McCain); Ohio (?), and Texas (?). McCain hardly has a lock on Ohio with its many evangelicals (don't start, RBR, you know it's true), and Texas is not at all McCain friendly. (TX - winner take all if more than 50% in a district, otherwise proportional by district; Ohio-winner take all, VT-winner take all, RI - proportional)
March 11: Mississippi (Huckabee country) (MS - if more than 50% in state, winner take all, otherwise proportional)
then nothing until...
April 22: Pennsylvania (Rick Santorum endorsed Romney) ( a "loophole" primary: voters choose delegates, not a candidate, who are then un-pledged and free to do as they wish)
May 6: Indiana, N. Carolina (neither favors McCain - both are creationism places)
May 13: Nebraska primary (see Kansas)
May 18: Hawaii (lots of Mormons in Hawaii.... so who knows?) (caucus)
May 20: Kentucky (Huck), Oregon (McCain) (both proportional)
May 27: Idaho primary (Romney w/ Mormon vote huge) (proportional)
June 3: New Mexico (curious - see AZ and the immigration anti-McCain backlash) and South Dakota (what-ever). (both proportional)

So if I'm McCain, I'm not so sanguine about the path from here. The primaries McCain can win are largely proportional; those for other candidates largely WTA.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Split Decision - Eyes on Ohio?

There are many ways to analyze what happened tonight. In terms of delegates, it's nearly even, although probably HRC will pick up more because of a superdelegate lead even in states that voted for Obama. The bottom line is that there was no decision in the Democratic race tonight, as widely expected. In fact, it is more contested now than it was a week ago, because it is clearly a two-person race with each candidate able to rack up big wins (Illinois, New York) and close wins (Connecticut, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico).

In CA, according to CNN exit polls: Clinton won 69% of the Latino vote and 75% of the Asian vote. Obama won 78% of the black vote. White vote in CA was 45 Clinton, 42 Obama, 9 for Edwards (whoops). Gender split also. But these preferences are not ideological - it's all about identity politics.

The road from here is tough. February will be, or should be, Obama's month.
Feb 5-12: Democrats Abroad (plays to Obama's strength in wealthier, more educated voters)
Feb 9: Louisiana (large black electorate), Nebraska caucuses (see Kansas), Virgin Islands caucuses (black vote), Washington state caucuses (very educated, youthful Democratic electorate)*
*Note: Washington state has both caucuses and a primary. The caucuses select delegates to the state convention, the primary is non-binding.
Feb 10: Maine (no Latinos; often supports insurgents)
Feb 12: DC, Maryland, Virginia (large black electorates)
Feb 19: Hawaii (home state for Obama), Washington primary, Wisconsin primary (HRC's best chance to win another state this month).
March 4: Texas, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island (all primary states, only VT obviously favors Obama).
March 8: Wyoming caucuses (nobody knows or cares)
March 11: Mississippi primary (black electorate)
... then nothing until...
April 22: Pennsylvania (probably a Clinton win with blue-collar Dem vote).
May 3: Guam (nobody knows or cares)
May 6: Indiana (Clinton), North Carolina (Obama).

So Clinton's goal is to avoid a public perception of defeat until March 4, when she may nail a ton of delegates. Texas is good for Clinton with the Latino vote. Obama's strategy is to create a public perception of victories in February to tip the scale in Ohio and Texas.

Ohio will -as usual - be a showdown state.


CIA Admits Torturing Three Prisoners

It will be buried amid election results today, but today CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged waterboarding and named three prisoners they waterboarded during 2002-03. He justified the practice of torture before the Senate Intelligence Committee as follows.

We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time... There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al Qaeda and its workings. Those two realities have changed.

Note that the feared attacks were "inevitable," not "imminent." The interrogators were not operating under the "ticking time bomb" scenario so often used as a bogeyman by the Bush administration. Note that Hayden was not involved with the CIA during the timeframe cited--the Director of Central Intelligence (as it was called at the time) was George Tenet.


Political Shenanigans Begin

In West Virginia's convention today (a caucus substitute), Huckabee won over Romney, 52% to 47%, with McCain at 1%. Wow, McCain at 1%, what happened? Well, on the first ballot, Romney got a plurality%, Huckabee came in 2nd, and McCain came in 3rd. McCain, it turns out, told his supporters to back Huckabee on the second ballot, because they preferred to see him get the win rather than Romney, particularly as it would (as it was) be broadcast mid-day on Super Tuesday.

It only gets wilder from here folks, if nobody wins outright today.


Monday, February 04, 2008

The Education of an American Voter

I was going to make a set of broad observations about all of American politics, but I began to realize that I was talking more about me than about the country as a whole. Still, I think my comments have some relevance to others. Just bear with me.

A little foreword, though. I was not part of the 1960s. Many who were part of the 1960s took part in cultural wars, not political wars. The countercultural movements of the 1960s are often portrayed in nonpolitical terms. This is part of effort to render this period politically inoffensive to those promoting music from that era, I think. I mention this because I think you have to realize that I became politically aware at the end of the 1970s for these comments to make sense. I think for Americans under 40, my comments have some resonance.

Politics in America has always seemed to me, and I think to many Americans under 40, to be pretty basic, and pretty square. Elections were one-person, one-vote, for all persons over the age of 18. Elections happened regularly, were clean, and without incident. Government functioned according to broadly accepted principles. Governors and presidents were presumed to make policy. Change was slow to happen. Unwritten rules governed many aspects of political life. For the most part, politics was for political junkies and people who wanted to feel mildly patriotic and proud of their civic involvement, the kind who like voting but think politics is too controversial. Remember the cartoon on "how a bill becomes a law"? Something amazing has happened when people can seriously consider describing the successful working of parliamentary machinery as a nonpartisan, content-free triumph for the bill.

An analogy can be made to international politics in the Cold War. While tumultuous and punctuated by crises, the truth is that international politics moved at a glacial pace from the 1950s-1980s. There were no wars between big powers, nothing really changed hands, nothing really changed, at all. Then came 1989. Suddenly, things that seemed impossible began to happen more quickly than anybody could imagine. The Berlin Wall was taken down. In a week, the people of Czechoslovaka brought down a tyrannical government that had held sway for two generations. I like to say that "I believe in miracles - I saw them on the streets of Prague." It was as if international politics woke up. In 1908, Andre Tardieu said of the United States and its isolationist tendencies, "It is seated at the table where the great game is played, and it cannot leave it." Yet, for most of the latter half of the 20th century, the great game was like watching pong on autopilot. Then, in the 1990s, the players began to assemble again. But even in the 1990s, we paid little attention. International relations was the province of history buffs. Then came 9/11. That day was nothing so much as a warning that the Great Game was on again. Among young people, especially, interest in international affairs soared. Suddenly it became clear that things could change.

Well, US politics, it turns out, had never really been the gooey Parade of Progress to consensus, and Democracy that they taught us in schools. Real rowdy rough-and-tumble politics was not just a thing of the past. Politics was just hibernating.

In the 1990s, we began to learn that constitutional details mattered. Impeachment could happen. In 2000, we learned for the first time in more than a century that the electoral college was still here, and could matter. For some of us, it was the equivalent of an Englishman blinking and realizing that the House of Lords could still block legislation. After 9/11, we learned that liberty was not a safe cornerstone of American life, but a contested political value. Some would trade it all, even the liberty to be free of torture, to assuage the fear of terrorism. Seemingly basic things such as the separation of powers were actually contestable and political. In the Senate, Republicans tried to abolish the filibuster in 2005; in 2007, they raised it to new heights never before seen. Old ways, old agreements, all the unwritten rules lay in tatters. America is not a simple democracy or a parliamentary democracy. We are a federal republic with very, very complicated rules. And even the idea of western liberal democracy itself it contestable. The Republican party today more or less stands against liberalism in favor of authoritarian state control. Which of the Bill of Rights (other than #2 and #10) would they not abolish if they could? Constitutions can be amended.

Now, to bring my tale forward, the deconstruction of American politics has entered another phase: the party conventions. Nobody thought delegates mattered until this year. Now we are hearing about details of the delegate selection process, which was normally thought to be arcana. It matters that the Republicans in California assign delegates to each congressional district on a winner-take-all basis, and actually weight the districts equally, so that 20,000 Republican voters in San Francisco (80%+ Democratic congressional district) will get as many national delegates as the 80%+plus Republican congressional district with ten times as many Republicans. It matters that Democrats assign most delegates on a proportional basis, even within congressional districts, but have some 20% of all delegates unelected "superdelegates." Suddenly, we are realizing that these arcane rules are not like the rules for calculating the date of Easter. They are politically motivated, and have political consequences. They are to be politically contested. It all really matters.

If so much is the subject of political contest, then political contests - however vapid they may appear -are actually deciding these incredibly important things. Will my daughter grow up in a country like the one I did, or will she ask me someday, in hushed tones, what freedom was like? Or will she ask, in angry tones, what I did to keep it for her?

These are my thoughts as I go to the polling booth tomorrow to mark my inkavote. I was always a student of government and a political junkie. It has taken years to become more aware of what politics really means. It is not just "the struggle over scarce resources." That's economics. Politics is the struggle to define the future of the human community.

So thanks, USWest, for making this all possible. Because I forgot to mention that what you do in running the polls, and in trusting that your efforts matter, makes it so that we don't have to have our political fights on the streets.


The Art of Fake Budgeting II

This is a follow-on of sorts to a post I made three years ago, The Art of Fake Budgeting. Bush has released his budget for 2009, and what it amounts to is a three trillion dollar tissue of lies. They're not even trying to hide the lies anymore. Here are the most egregious phoney assumptions in the plan:

1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecasts. They don't get much better than this. At a time when the word "recession" is on everyone's lips, Bush assumes a healthy 2.2% growth in GDP. This GDP prediction table says it all.

2. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The Wall Street Journal writes that in Bush's budget, he assumes that the AMT--the Katrina of tax law--will continue as written (except for a one-year exemption this year). That's right: while Bush calls loudly for the AMT to be repealed, he quietly counts on the financial bonanza that would be reaped if Congress lets the AMT overrun the levees and drown the middle class. Everyone knows this would be untenable, but he needs it to extend his tax cuts for the wealthy beyond 2010. From his own document, here is Bush's assumption for federal revenue:

3. War spending. Even the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Republican Judd Gregg (Republican, NH) says the defense numbers are, "absurd on their face." Bush's budget assumes a piddling $70 billion in funding for 2009 and nothing beyond that! Meanwhile Bush simultaneously urges Congress to pass the $105 billion supplemental funding for 2008, to bring this year's total upwards of $190 million.

4. Social Security. Continuing a long tradition of obfuscation, Bush's 2009 budget counts net income from Social Security taxes to offset the deficit. Without the net excess of funds accrued from Social Security, Bush's actual projected deficit for 2009 would be $611 billion for, not $407 billion. (You can see the figures here.) In any other accounting system, the extra $200 billion would be considered a liability, since it is supposed to be part of a trust fund owed to future payees--but in practice there is no trust fund. Congress has spent the lot.

Meanwhile, the national debt has risen to $9.21 trillion dollars, and interest paid on the debt was $430 billion last year. What a disaster.


Those Pesky Propositions

Californians have 7 propositions to consider this time. (See original voter information guide, and supplemental guide.) Here's how I am voting, and why. My general theme: stop monkeying around.

91: NO.
Official summary: "Prohibits certain motor vehicle fuel taxes from being retained in General Fund and delays repayment of such taxes previously retained. Changes how and when General Fund borrowing of certain transportation funds is allowed."
My reasoning: Another lame proposition pushed by special interests to restrict how Sacramento can spend money. It is exactly this kind of (sometimes well-intentioned) monkeying around that has helped create state budgetary impasses and chaos. Just say no.

92: NO.
Official summary: "Establishes in state constitution a system of independent public community college districts and Board of Governors. Generally, requires minimum levels of state funding for school districts and community college districts to be calculated separately, using different criteria and separately appropriated. Allocates 10.46 percent of current Proposition 98 school funding maintenance factor to community colleges. Sets community college fees at $15/unit per semester; limits future fee increases. Provides formula for allocation by Legislature to community college districts that would not otherwise receive general fund revenues through community college apportionment."
My reasoning: (see previous proposition)

93: YES.

Official summary: "Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years. Allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both. Provides a transition period to allow current members to serve a total of 12 consecutive years in the house in which they are currently serving, regardless of any prior service in another house."
My reasoning: Though this is far from ideal, it at least loosens the current term limits for most members. To my mind, it undoes some of the monkeying around of 1990s term limit initiatives. But this is not a strong vote for me.

94-97: YES.
Official summaries: "Ratifies amendment to existing gaming compact between the state and [Pechanga/ Morongo/ Sycuan/ Agua Caliente]; amendment would permit tribe to operate [5,500/ 5,500/ 3,000/ 3,000] additional slot machines. Omits certain projects from scope of California Environmental Quality Act; amendment provides for Tribal Environmental Impact Report and intergovernmental procedure to address environmental impact. Revenue paid by tribe to be deposited into General Fund; tribe would make [$42,500,000/ $36,700,000/ $20,000,000/ $23,400,000] annual payment and pay percentage of revenue generated from the additional slot machines to the state."
My reasoning: We never should have been asked to vote on these in the first place. The Governor and legislature negotiated and ratified these four compacts already. Outside interests have spent millions hijacking the initiative process to force referenda on all four compacts--and you can be sure this is for their financial protection, not ours. Say no to monkeying around and just let the original agreements stand. That's how the process was supposed to work.

I welcome comments! I am curious to know what the other California Citizens think, especially if they have seen information or analysis I have not.