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."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clinton Wins at Rules Committee

Well, Clinton managed to change the rules because she didn't like the way it turned out. Clinton got 1/2 the votes restored for Florida, much more than she was possibly entitled to. Also, the delegates from Michigan will be split 69/59 (with half votes each) even though Obama wasn't even on the ballot! I was very pleased to see Clinton's superdelegates on the committee supported the Florida compromise, and that 5 of the 13 Clinton supporters on the committee supported the Michigan compromise - all despite the jeers from some in the hall.

I hope that Clinton herself agrees to abide by this decision, even though it certainly means she will not be the nominee. However, Mr. Ickes already stated that he "reserved the right" to take this to a convention floor fight. Others, like Don Fowler and Alice Huffman, were much more statesmanlike. I hope very much that Clinton ultimately follows their lead and bows out gracefully after Obama clinches the nomination sometime next week or the week after.

But I've stopped expecting grace out of the Clinton campaign, even in victory. Yes, healing will take this party a while to do. Perhaps over the next few weeks Clinton will finally drop out and unity can take place.

New number needed to nominate: 2,118
New totals: Obama - 2052, Clinton - 1877, Edwards - 13.5, Uncommitted - 15.5 (from various contests, Florida and Michigan especially).
Obama needs 66 more delegates for the nomination under today's new rules.
[Thus, Clinton moved the goalpost ahead 25 delegates for Obama].

The final three contests have 86 delegates. Obama is likely to pick up around 40 of them. So this means that he needs about 26 more superdelegates - or all of Edwars and the uncommitted.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gitmo and Gulags in Our Backyard

I remember, back before 9/11 and the Bush Administration, I used to take my citizenship for granted. "I am an American. I am confident in my rights, and you can't touch me!" That was always my feeling. Not any more. We have written several times on this blog about human rights violations of this Administration and their complete disregard for the U.S. Constitution. But it has always been a little bit abstract for me until this week.

I recently picked up my Washington Post Weekly and saw 5 pages on how badly deportees are treated by homeland security and the scales fell from my eyes. It is a human rights scandal, Gitmo on our own shores. And if they can do it to them, they can do it to us. That is what the ironically named PATRIOT act allows for. Let me just give you a quick list of the Kafkaesque situation.

1. Detainees are moved around from holding facility to holding facility often without reason and often across state lines and in obscure places where families and attorneys can't reach them.
2. Holding facilities are owned and operated often by corporate contractors. The system is a mix of private detention centers, county jails, and other types of prisons where there is room.Many of these facilities do not have excercise yards and detainees do not have access to the outdoors. They are gulags.
3. Detainees often do not receive needed medical care. And their medical files while in detention are often falsified or filled with errors. The Post dug into the medical records of some 83 people who have died in custody due to untreated medical problems.
4. Increased suicides while in custody.
5. Detainees are being unnecessarily drugged with strong doses of multiple anti-psychotics for the trips home. They are given multiple boosters in route and often dragged across tarmacs and through plane aisles because they are so incapacitated.
6. Detainees are often held for years without seeing their cases progress.
7. Detainees have often lived in the US for many years and are married to US citizens, yet they are deported before the legal system can address their cases or while their cases are still pending in court.
8. Detainees are being picked up on old, minor charges which many already served their time in jail for or for which the statute of limitations has long expired.

I understand that constitutional rights and protections are, strictly speaking, reserved for US citizens. However, in the past, this country has always extended those protections to immigrants on our soil because it is a question of human rights. As contributors and signatories to human rights treaties and declarations, we have a legal, if not moral obligation to see to that people are treated humanely, justly, and rightly.

The Washington post has run an incredible 4 day series on the treatment of illegal immigrants by the Department of Homeland security. I encourage you to to read through some of the articles.

This will become a major issue. Last week Congress opened hearings on the in humane treatment of deportees.

This is the type of fundamental issue that I want to hear Obama and McCain address.

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Where's the Apology?

The latest in the stream of tell-all books is Scott McClellan. OOOOOO, wow, a former Press secretary. The press, who had to combat McClellan, and who McClellan accuses of being too easy on the Administration (ah hummm . . .), is going nuts!.Politico.Com calls this one of the "most shocking revelations". Know what I say? BFD! Too little too late.

Look for him on the standard book tour, starting at NPR and ending up on the Daily Show, Colbert, and then the weekend news shows. (These guys must all use the same booking agents). For the last 4 years, we've had one tell all after another- a stream of people trying to ease their guilt by confessing to the public, telling us what we all pretty much knew. However, aside from Richard Clarke, it seems that no one apologizes. It's as if confessing is enough. They rightfully condemn the Administration, but then seem to act as if they were victimized in some way. Spare me!

It's just irritating now. Unless someone is going to be tried for treason, I'm no longer interested in their confessions.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Senate Polls

Senatorial polls are interesting this time of year because, unlike presidential races that get so much more attention, Senate polls can be revealing. Incumbents should have a big advantage right now. If they don't, it's a sign of trouble.

Interesting notes: Incumbent Coleman (R) is leading (slightly) over Franken in Minnesota (why they would nominate a comedian, I don't know, even if he is bright).

Kentucky: Rasmussen has Democrat Lunsford beating Senate Maj. Leader McConnell by 49-44. Terrible for McConnell.

Mississippi: Musgrove (D) is leading incumbent Wicker (R)(semi-incumbent, really, as he was appointed in Jan) by 48-40. Tells you about the problem with the R label even in Mississippi!

Colorado: Udall (D) by 6 over Schaffer (R) (open seat)

NH: Shaheen (D) up by 10 over Sununu (R)-Incumbent.

New Mexico: Udall (another Udall)(D) beats either Republican by 20 points

Virginia: Warner (D) up by 18 points.

North Carolina: Most polls show Dole (R-inc.) with slight leads, although two polls shows Hagan ahead.

Texas: Cornyn (R-inc.) beating Noriega by 5 points or fewer. Very rough for him.

Oregon: Polls show antiwar Republican incumbent Smith tied or slightly ahead of likely Democratic opponent.

These all show lots of work for Republicans to do, without much money.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Michigan and Florida

So what do we do about Michigan and Florida? They were told their votes wouldn't count and that their delegates wouldn't be seated at the convention. But, the DNC wants to seat them somehow to not piss off Florida and Michigan democrats. So what to do? Michigan seems to be the harder one to settle. You might recall that Clinton was on the ballot, but not Obama or Edwards. So in the end, Clinton got about 70 delegates while "uncommitted" got 50 or so. How do you split that to make a compromise? Never fear. Clinton shill Lanny Davis has a plan: give Clinton 101 delegates and Obama 27.

"But Bell Curve," you say, "that's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard." You're right, and one probably doesn't need to say any more about it. But in case you want a thorough takedown of the ridiculousness that is Lanny Davis, Poblano is happy to provide.

In real news, it looks like Florida's delegation will be seated as is, but with each delegate counting as 1/2. Michigan, meanwhile, looks like it will be seated with the 69/59 compromise. This is just the buzz on the street, though; don't read too much into it.

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Balloon Juice

John Cole is a former Republican who started to become disillusioned with the Republican party during the Terri Schiavo fiasco and left the Republican party during the Graeme Frost saga (that name not ring a bell? Check out the link). Since then he has become a die-hard Obama supporter and a fun blogger to read, so he's going into the blogroll today under "sell-out".

Anyway, he makes an interesting prediction today:

As the right-wing pundits begin to realize what a horrible drag the Iraq War will be on their 2008 electoral chances, expect the rhetoric to continue to shift from “It was the right thing to do all along” to “Of course it was a mistake, everyone agrees it was a mistake by that idiot Bush, no one has ever argued otherwise, but now that we are there we have to WIN! (ponies ponies ponies!).”
What do you all think of this? Are we going to see a shift in the Republican viewpoint? Of course, John McCain, when asked point blank if the war was a good idea, said "It was a good idea." So his viewpoint is fixed, one would think.

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Why Conservatives Fail at Diplomacy

If they speak of diplomacy at all, conservatives speak of it as a tool or a weapon--as just one more instrument one can "use" and then discard at will. At best, conservatives view diplomacy as they seem to view most interpersonal interactions: as zero-sum haggling rather than as a geunine relationship. Conservatives approach diplomacy as though it were some kind of high-powered business deal where the name of the game is to screw the other guy and grab as much as you can get. Conservatives think nations are corporations and a treaty is just another contract.

Thus conservatives fail to see why diplomacy requires honesty, personal and national investment, the institutional equivalent of good listening skills, and symbolic gestures of trust and good faith. Thus conservatives mock the idea that treaties might benefit from constructive ambiguity and fail to grasp that negotiations must sometimes be more about finding common ground than fixing the bottom line. Thus conservatives mistake diplomacy for appeasement... Because for all this corporate talk of modern "win-win" deals, deep down the only relationship conservatives truly believe in is the tug-of-war and the only equilibrium they understand is a stalemate.

In the fight against terrorism, conservatives are blinded by their ideology. They see no real distinction between nation-states and terrorist organizations--all of them are just "actors" on the international stage. (Conservatives only seem to discover the difference when it comes to the Geneva convention.) The term "terrorist state" encapsulates the poverty of this world-view. Diplomacy builds relationships between states, or de facto states with a recognizable constituency and effective territory--it does not "work" with Al-Qaeda-type terrorist organizations. To conflate the two shows how little one understands both of them.

I am no expert on international relations and so I am sure what I have said here is woefully incomplete, and just a mish-mashed re-hashing of well-known arguments. I certainly welcome clarification from those who actually know what they are talking about here! My basic point is this: I think the Bush administration fails at diplomacy for the same reason they fail at economic policy. Bush-Cheney Conservatives have only one ideology and its bankruptcy fails them again and again. When it comes to building nations or economies, on a very deep level they just don't get it.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cheap Bastards

The Senate and House passed, by large margins, a "GI Bill." For the first time in a couple decades, those who have served in the military for more than 3 years (since 9/11) will be afforded full tuition at a four-year college (in-state public university). Current benefits for college fall woefully short of that goal. McCain voted against it. Bush will veto it. It will nonetheless be enacted over his veto.

Why do McCain and Bush oppose it? They fear that such generous benefits will reduce re-enlistments as soldiers go to college. That's right - they want to make sure the benefits remain poor enough that soliders will re-enlist. I assume that's why they want to keep military pay low too, so that we can see TV shows where a whole bunch of people get together to build a house(!) for a military family, and that's supposed to be such a miracle. Wow, a house for our soldiers. Better to be on food stamps and in barracks, right? Then they'll have to re-enlist.

Now, this isn't entirely a ridiculous charge by Bush/McCain. The bill was crafted by two opponents of the war, Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Jim Webb (D-VA) both red state senators, who probably would not be unhappy if the bill reduced re-enlistements.

But there's another philsophical reason that's even worse. McCain also says that such a bill is not needed now, as it was in WWII, because "The difference being that that war effort required the mass conscription of millions of men called upon to sacrifice years of their lives - with none of the vast incentive system in place for those who join today's all-volunteer military." (From NY Post, describing McCain's views, and McCain puts it on his website). Translation: it's really not as much of a sacrifice for these tatooed punks as it was for me and my buddies in Vietnam who were drafted. After all, McCain keeps comparing occupying Iraq to the US experience in Korea, rather than Vietnam.

McCain openly believes his military record makes him immune from any criticism on military issues. He even claims that Obama is "compensating for something" by daring to criticize McCain on this issue. Well, McCain will pay for his arrogance dearly when Vets groups begin to realize how little he really thinks of the soldiers he claims to "honor" so much ("honor" is McCain's favorite word).

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Sideshow Bob

The Libertarian party just nominated former U.S. Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) for President. Apparently it took six rounds of voting to decide. In the first round, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) nearly tied him. So in the end, the Libertarians poked the Republicans rather than the Democrats. Perhaps they may swing a few percent away from McCain... Who knows? Incidentally, Mr. Barr is perhaps best known for his (unflattering) appearance in Borat.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Final Details of the Path to the Nomination (or Ten Little Superdelegates).

Well, it's almost endgame. Obama is 50 delegates (49 by some counts) short of the nomination according to the current rules.

We don't know exactly how Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota will vote in the primary, but Conventional Wisdom holds that Clinton will win PR (55 dels), while Obama will win Montana and South Dakota (16 and 15 dels respectively). A fair estimate is that Obama will get 40 of the last 86 pledged delegates. So that puts him 10 delegates away from the magic number: 2,026. Presumably, Obama will get the 10 delegates this next week, then allow pledged delegates to put him "over the top." No doubt Hillary Clinton's campaign is threatening as many people as possible not to be among the ten. How the rest of the 200 superdelegates react to the victory celebration is crucial. Clinton basically cannot win the nomination now unless she gets *all* of them.

Of course, Clinton's dream scenario is that MI and FL are seated in full, making the magic number to nominate = 2,209 and a majority of pledged delegates = 1,784. Obama will probably end up with approx 1,770 pledged delegates at the end of this process, just shy of a majority, assuming the 55 uncomitted Michigan delegates remain "uncommitted." The Edwards delegates (18 outstanding) could give Obama a majority of pledged delegates even without Michigan. That's the best case scenario for her. He would need about 100 more superdelegates. That scenario won't happen, though.

The reality will be some compromise. Given how close it is, any outcome that allows some of the Michigan delegates to be seated for Obama will give him a majority of pledged delegates, but leave him with more superdelegates to collect for victory. On May 31, the Rules and Bylaws committee of the DNC will consider plans to seat MI and FL delegations. My guess is they will take Michigan's plan to split delegates 59/69 in favor of Clinton and seat all of FL's delegates. That puts Obama in the lead with pledged delegates, but he will need 50 more delegates for the nomination.

Where will the 50 come from? We can guess that 18 of these will come from the rest of Edwards' delegation. That leaves 32. Then there are the add-on delegates. State parties select "add-on" delegates at their state conventions. Most states get one or two "add-ons" who normally are selected to endorse a candidate, and do almost so immediately. By looking over the remaining states, we can safely predict that Obama will get between 20-25 newly-elected "add-ons" between now and June 24th. So that still leaves about ten superdelegates left, even if Clinton manages to change the rules in her favor next week.

So that's where we stand. I believe Obama needs to attract just 10 currently-named superdelegates to win the nomination, and the question is whether he clinches on June 3rd or whether it takes another month.

Who will the ten be? We also know now that at least five superdelegates (including Nancy Pelosi, her daughter Christine, and Jimmy Carter) are expected to endorse the person with the most pledged delegates (Obama) on June 3rd. My guess is that by June 6th, Obama will have enough superdelegates in the bag that his nomination - via add-on delegates if need be - will be assured. The only question left, then, is when Clinton will get out of the way and let Obama have a big party.

Come on, ten little superdelegates!

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why Hillary Didn't Lose Sooner Than She did

So in the last post I addressed the question of why Hillary Clinton lost despite starting out as the "inevitable" nominee a year ago. I pointed out several factors that put her at a serious disadvantage. To be honest, any ordinary, run of the mill candidate with the kind of disadvantages Hillary racked up would have been "one and done" and would have dropped out after coming in third in Iowa. So how was Hillary able to hang, at least technically, on until now and even still be in the running until April? Here are several reasons (again, I'm sure there are others but these seem most interesting to me now).

First, "Inevitability": Hillary Clinton started out this process with what looked like an insurmountable lead. From January 2007 to January 2008, Hillary led Obama in national polls among Democratic primary voters by huge margins. You can see the tracking poll chart here. In a multi-candidate field, Clinton had something like 40% support for most of this time. Obama was hovering around 20% with Edwards and the rest dividing up the scraps. That kind of starting point is worth something. It meant that despite Obama's long term funding advantage and his taking the momentum after Iowa, Clinton was still defending sizable leads in most states rather than hustling to close the gap. Granted, she blew that lead in most cases but if she had started out behind or even perceived as more or less on equal footing (as Obama and Edwards were before Iowa), she would have dropped out much much sooner.

Second, "Come back Shane, come back!": Hillary Clinton relied heavily on the popularity of the Clinton administration's time in power. She frequently claimed credit for many of the good things people remember about the 1990s and encouraged people to see her candidacy as a chance to return to the good old days. Her heavy reliance on Bill's campaigning skills in South Carolina may have backfired in the long run but it probably kept her campaign from spirally completely out of control. Bill's presence appealed to a lot of people who all but said that they were hoping that putting a Clinton (any Clinton) back in the White House would bring back all those good things. Some supporters even believed that Bill Clinton would be a kind of activist "First Husband" and almost a co-President. To the extent that Bill was popular that was a vote getter.

Third, money: Despite her chronic debt problems Hillary was able to us her own personal fortune (she's loaned her campaign at least $11 million) and big money fundraiser contacts to maintain the flow of cash even as the ship was starting to sink.

Fourth, she didn't quit: Edwards caved in early. Many of his supporters think he quit too early. I've heard from people close to Edwards himself that he quit largely for "personal reasons" which I took to be an allusion to his wife's health. Regardless of the reason for his quitting, you can't win if you don't play. Hillary didn't quit at the first sign of disaster where some candidates might have and did.

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Why Hillary Lost

So Hillary is still in it but the new theme of her campaign is "Dead Candidacy Walking." So how did someone who was the nominee presumptive a year ago come to this? How did someone who was supposedly going to go on a multi-state victory lap on her way to the Democratic convention lose? Here are some of the reasons (I'm sure there were others but I think these were the biggest).

First, the war: Hillary waffled like crazy on the war. From the start she has had a calculating rather than principled position on the war. Her lead in Iowa began to erode over this issue. People may be forgetting now that Hillary was being heckled and booed at campaign events because of the war. After a couple of months of that she started to develop a new version of her position that gradually evolved into her current anti-war stance. I can say that in Iowa this was a big problem for her. All through the summer of 2007 she was getting flack from Democrats in Iowa about the war. It was the war that weakened her and opened the door in Iowa to Obama.

Second, change vs. status quo vs. nostalgia: In sarcastic reference to Bill Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century," Hillary Clinton's campaign has been ridiculed by opponents for trying to "build a bridge back to the 20th century." In addition to being a cute and snarky tag line, it sticks because it rings a little true. Hillary's main selling point has been her supposed competence and experience and she has pointed to her role as First Lady in the 1990s as evidence of both. I won't debate the validity of her claims in this regard here, but her over arching argument for why she should be President was based on experience and an implied promise of a return to the prosperity of the 1990s. But this badly misread the mood of the country. Large majorities of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction and they blame traditional Washington leadership of both parties for it. We know they don't like Bush. They don't like Congress. They don't like the Republicans in Congress. But they don't like Democrats in Congress much either. In elections such as these, claiming to be the safe insider leader is a dangerous line to take. People will be drawn to outsiders in elections like this. Governors/mayors (like Richardson, Huckabee, and Giuliani), mavericks (like McCain) and perceived "new faces" (like Obama) will have an advantage. All the governors got weeded out of the primary race early but Obama is nothing if not a "new face." Clinton had been banking on setting up an image as a safe, non-threatening leader for years. She carefully crafted each position from the war to trade to the economy to sound moderate and avoided any boat rocking. What she and her advisers failed to realize was that when 80% of the country thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, they want a little boat rocking. The only thing about her candidacy that really cried out "CHANGE" was her gender. Everything else, her name, her positions etc, cried out "I WON'T ROCK THE BOAT TOO MUCH."

Third, mismanagement: Since she was running as the experienced candidate, the one who would be ready "from day one," it is particularly problematic that her campaign has been so badly run and openly seen to be so. Despite raising more money than any Democrat in a primary in history with the exception of Obama and even out raising Obama in the early stages, Hillary's campaign is reportedly over $20 million in debt (some of the Internet sources say the debt is as high as $30 million but I think this can be traced back to a math error by an LA Times reporter). Regardless of whether the debt levels are at the "Holy Crap!" level or the "OMFG!" level, her own donors began to complain openly about her campaign's spending priorities. Much of the debt is owed to one political consultant, long time Clinton associate and former chief strategist for the Clinton campaign , Mark Penn. It is widely understood now that Penn blew it. His most flamboyant error was to design a strategy based on the wrong electoral system! He thought Democratic primaries awarded delegates on a winner take all basis rather than proportionally as they do. Hillary's mistake was keeping him and his strategy in place even after they looked the rules up and found out he was wrong. Penn resigned in April but by then Clinton's chances of winning the nomination had suffered a fatal blow (by the time Penn quit, Clinton needed to win over 62% of the vote in every remaining state something she had not done in any state up to that time).

So that's why I think she lost. Another worth while question is why she was able to stay in as long as did with all these problems. I'll post about that later.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

More on November 2008

Hi Again,

Part of the worry that Democrats have is that Hillary Clinton's version of events in the last few months is correct. That the party is hopelessly divided along class and racial lines and that only she can bring everyone together. In particular, Obama simply cannot win working class voters and cannot beat McCain in swing states where there are not large number of African American voters to boost his numbers.

However, with the world FINALLY acknowledging that Hillary will not be the nominee, polls are just now being put in the field that make no mention of Hillary Clinton. This is important because including questions about Hillary can prompt voters. Professional pollsters are well aware of this "Heisenberg Effect." Asking several questions about someone's preferences between Clinton and Obama then asking them whether they would vote for McCain or Obama is likely to effect the responses.

Recent polls in swing states that put Obama directly against McCain without including Hillary in the mix of questions have Obama beating McCain in several important swing states. You can see these polls at RealClearPolitics.Com.

Here are some highlights of the averages of the recent polls:

Obama beats McCain in Pennsylvania 46.3% to 40.5%

Obama beats McCain in Ohio 44% to 42.7%

Obama beats McCain in New Hampshire 45.7% to 45.3% (48% to 43% in the latest poll)

Obama beats McCain in Virgina (according to the latest poll): 49% to 42%

Obama beats McCain in Iowa 47.3% to 41.7%

Obama beats McCain in Colorado 48% to 42%.

Virginia, Ohio and Colorado all voted for Bush in 2004. If these poll results hold or improve as Obama gets into his campaign, it would mean 42 electoral votes switching from the Republicans to the Democrats. That's a huge swing!

Bush won the electoral vote in 2004 by a count of 286 to 251. If 42 of those votes switched, the Democrat would have won by a count of 293 to 244.

These observations are also interesting because Ohio and Pennsylvania are alledged by the Clinton Campaign to be unwinnable without her. These polls show that, thankfully, Hillary's analysis is incorrect. Obama has the edge in both states despite not having done any general election campaigning there. Just wait until Obama gets 20,000 or 30,000 people to show up to a rally in Columbus (75,000 showed up to his rally in Oregon).

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What will the November 2008 election map look like?

Here are some random thoughts about what the electoral map will look like in November 2008. Feel free to critique them or add your own.

Some notes about the 2004 voting: Here is CNN's 2004 exit poll.
White men made up 36% of the electorate (62% for Bush; 37% for Kerry). Non-white men made up 10% of the electorate (30% for Bush; 67% for Kerry).
People making less than $50,000 per year made up 45% of the electorate (44% for Bush; 55% for Kerry).
People making more than $50,000 per year made up 55% of the electorate (56% for Bush; 43% for Kerry).
White "Born Again" Evangelicals made up 23% of the electorate (78% for Bush; 21% for Kerry).
People who self identified as Democrats made up 37% of the electorate (11% for Bush; 89% for Kerry).
People who self identified as Republicans made up 37% of the electorate (93% for Bush; 6% for Kerry).
People who self identified as Independents made up 26% of the electorate (48% for Bush; 49% for Kerry).

How will 2008 differ?
Most importantly, the number of people self identifying as Republicans is way down while Independents and Democrats are up.
Next, it is looking increasingly to be the case that McCain will have real problems matching Bush's retention of 93% of his own party even in the face of lower Republican turnout (either because of Obama's cross over appeal among suburban, moderate Republicans or because of Bob Barr running as a Libertarian).
McCain also has real problems with evangelical conservatives - Republicans only solid base these days.
Polls suggest that Obama has far more appeal among Independents than Kerry did vs Bush.

Latest Favorables/Unfavorables (from pollingreport.com):
Obama: 44% fav/30% unfav/20% undecided/6% haven't heard of him
McCain: 44% fav/35% unfav/19% undecided/14% haven't heard of him

Speculation:
I think Obama's fund raising advantages over McCain as well as his appeal to Independents, Suburban voters and African Americans puts the following states in play that Bush won in 2004: Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana. I think Georgia might also get threatened. Some of these (Missouri, Florida and Ohio) are usually swing states anyway. But the Southern States being in play will force McCain to play defense with his scarce resources.

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What McCain and Lieberman Don't Understand about Foreign Policy

A few days ago, Joe Lieberman wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal about foreign policy, praising John McCain and blasting Barack Obama and the Democratic party. In the article, he nonetheless praises Al Gore (with whom he ran in 2000, of course) as promoting a "freedom-focused foreign policy, confident of America's moral responsibilities in the world, and unafraid to use our military power." He says that John McCain alone understands "the difference between America's friends and America's enemies."

In short, Lieberman – like Bush and Mccain - understand foreign policy as a crude morality play. In short, they believe: The USA is Good. Everything we do is Good. Likewise for Israel. Anyone who doesn't support everything the USA and Israel do is against the Good. Our enemies are Evil. Talking with Evil is pointless. You can't negotiate with the devil. Anyone who proposes we do so is weak, na├»ve, or, worse, an appeaser. Negotiation is, by definition, appeasement. Such people, McCain, Bush, and Lieberman believe, do not understand Reality.

These are horribly destructive attitudes. Worse, such attitudes exemplify what they accuse their opponents of: naivete. The world is not divided into good and evil. Neither are individual people, by the way. Other nations, even our "friends," do not regard us as automatically good. We pursue our own economic and political self-interest more often than The Good. Others know this and expect this.

This is not an adult foreign policy.

The Lieberman/McCain/Bush view is absolutely grounded on a misunderstanding of what happened in the 1930s and its meaning. Indeed, the morality tale of WWII is about the only foreign policy or history these people know.

And they get the history wrong:

1. The error of Chamberlain was not negotiating with Hitler – it was giving in. Talking was not the error.
2. The other great error of foreign policy in that era was the failure to form an alliance with the USSR against Germany. Lieberman/McCain can't admit this, because it would mean negotiation with evil people.
3. The USA did not wage war against Hitler to stop the holocaust.

The truth, also, is that Hitler's insatiable desire for world conquest is a very poor model to use for foreign policy. The conclusion that any adversarial power is "just like Hitler" teaches all the wrong lessons. Let's be blunt: the lesson that we draw from confronting Hitler is that the only possible reaction was to wage war. The Lieberman/McCain view leads to that same conclusion with any of America's adversaries: the only "real" solution is war. That is why they supported war as a first resort in Iraq. It is why electing McCain means war with Iran. Don't doubt that for one minute.

This attitude is dangerous and deadly as nuclear weapons proliferate. It leads to pollitical and economic instability. And it only creates more enemies. It also causes us to make poor choices. Under Reagan, such attitudes helped create the Mujahedin in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Their "friendship" blinded us to the dangers. Such attitudes caused us to blindly support Iran under the Shah, leading to another enemy. They turned Cuba from another tinpot island dictatorship to a half century of humiliation. Such attitudes, as exemplified by McCain and Cheney in their anti-Russian rhetoric, threaten to turn Russia from an annoyance to a real problem. (We can only thank God that Republicans have been able to handle China in a grownup fashion).

It is also profoundly contrary to the morality values Lieberman and McCain pretend they support. This was the same right-wing attitude during the Cold War that abhorred any negotiation with the USSR as "appeasement." It was the same attitude that regarded the Yalta and Potsdam conferences as immoral sellouts. It was the attitude that got us into Vietnam and made it impossible to get out.

War is not the only answer to powers that oppose us. It is rarely a good answer, in fact.

I do not mean, however, that morality has no place in foreign policy. Consider Woodrow Wilson, who demanded that democracy and freedom be the cornerstones of US foreign policy, who nonetheless advocated negotiation and conciliation with our enemies. Consider Eisenhower and Kennedy, who both sought a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union while fashioning the ideology of human rights, democracy, and liberty that America adopted during the Cold War.

Finally, consider the words of the Father of our Country. Here are some excerpts from George Washington's farewell address in 1796 discussing foreign policy. Think about them in terms of Iran, Iraq, Israel, Cuba, and China.

His proposed policy and overall reasoning:
"Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?"

His attitude to dividing the world into "friends" and "enemies."

"[N]othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. ... Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions… Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious.

His attitude towards overuse of economic sanctions:

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing[.]"

To summarize my points:
Foreign policy is not the struggle of Good versus Evil. Rather, it is a constant practice we must engage in to promote our interests while maintaining peace and stability as best we can. Diplomacy is our primary and most powerful tool. The use of force is not just a last resort – it is generally a symptom of the inability to conduct foreign policy properly. McCain and Lieberman (who may yet run together) exemplify a naive and dangerous foreign policy that will lead to war, political instability, and resulting economic damage. Such attitudes and policies tear at whatever good globalization has and can do, and ultimately leave the United States of America far less safe.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Really?

Over at Daily Kos, DHinMI argues that Al Gore should be Barack Obama's running mate. While I am fully aware of Gore's many advantages, I have a question for you.

If you are a candidate for president, running as an "outsider", who wants to "change the way things are done in Washington", do you select as your running mate a guy whose father was a Senator and who himself was a Senator? Who had an office in the White House for eight years? Who was born in Washington, D.C. for Christ's sake?

I don't see it.

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Stop it NPR!

I have heard NPR call the very natural disaster in China, 'China's 9/11". That is irresponsible. 9/11 was a terrorist attack. It was planned, possibly preventable, and very foreseeable. It also killed 3000 people, not 30,000 people.

If what you mean, dear NPR, is that it has given rise to feelings of national unity and solidarity, then say that. But don't continue sending the meta-message that terrorist attacks and natural disasters are on the same footing.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kiss This

Want to know how bad things are in Iraq, and how desperate we are? Read this from this morning's NY Times:

"BAGHDAD — A day after the American military confirmed a soldier had used a Koran for target practice at a shooting range, the commander of United States troops in Baghdad apologized to local leaders and tribal sheiks, saying he was asking for their forgiveness.
Responding quickly to an incident ripe with the potential to stoke unrest, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond also read a letter of apology from the soldier, who was not identified.
“I come before you here seeking your forgiveness,” General Hammond said at the meeting, in remarks carried by CNN. “In the most humble manner, I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers.”
General Hammond quoted a letter from the soldier, saying, “I sincerely hope that my actions have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed together.” Another American . officer kissed a Koran and gave it to the tribal leaders, according to news agency reports."

The good general then then leaned over and kissed their asses.

The fact that a soldier was using a Koran for target practice is a reminder of just what the military is dealing with: an all-volunteer force that is disproportionately of poor, rural, biblethumping origin. I am trying to imagine an American general kissing the Koran. Remember when Republican Representative Virgil Goode of Virginia made a huge hullabaloo last January over the first Muslim member of Congress taking his oath over the Koran? Around the country, Republicans are bitching and moaning about the possibility of anyone showing respect to the Koran in this fashion. The same people murmur that the man they call B. Hussein Obama is a closet muslim. Asalaamu aleikum, assholes. We'll be kissing a lot more Republican Congressmen goodbye in the Fall, when even right-wing generals realize that America's foreign policy is so screwed up they have to start kissing the Koran and begging Iraqis for forgiveness (the same Sunnis who were killing US soldiers just months before).

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good Government, Disaster Reactions and Legitimacy

The tragic disasters in Burma* and China give us a chance to observe a number of differences among developing countries.

The cyclone that hit Burma recently now looks to have claimed at least 70,000 lives (Katrina killed just under 2,000). What is worse is that the Burmese government has actively hindered international relief efforts. Where Bush and his cronies in FEMA merely bungled the job, at least they tried within the limits of their competence. These butchers in Rangoon however, are going out of their way to prevent anyone else from giving aid. The result is human tragedy on a scale that reminds us of the 2004 tsunami.

The massive earthquake in China presents us with a picture of a government that gets the political significance of these events. The Chinese government immediately sent in the army and has made a big public show of exerting maximum effort. The death toll there is approaching 30,000. The Chinese people will be comparing this disaster (and their government's response) to the 1976 Tangshan earthquake which probably killed somewhere between a quarter and half a million people depending on which Chinese government claim you look at.

So here is the political aspect of this. The Burmese government may have finally reached a point where they will no longer be tolerated by the international community. Even China (their protector in such matters) will be hard pressed to justify their continued grip on power as this plays out.

In contrast the Chinese government dealing with a disaster with comparable potential to kill mass numbers of people is making a big show of trying to help. And this in a region of the country (Sechuan) recently embroiled in ethnic conflict and insurrection. Not only are they doing what they can (i.e. sending in thousands of soldiers and relief workers) but they are making sure that they are SEEN to be doing so. I must say, I am cautiously impressed with the Chinese government reaction. I say "cautiously" because we cannot be sure we are getting whole story just yet. It may come to light that the government failed to do all it could or used the quake to their advantage in dealing with the Tibet situation (Tibet neighbors Sechuan and much of what is now Sechuan, used to be part of Tibet).


* I note with interest that the international media has gone back to calling the country "Burma" instead of "Myanmar." Myanmar is the name insisted upon by the military oligarchy that rules that country. I would like to think that this change back to Burma is a coordinated effort to humiliate the thugs in Rangoon.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why I Want Feminism to Change

This is a reposting from a comment that I made on a previous thread (Edwards Endorses Obama). The comment was sparked by my mentioning why I felt sort of sad that HRC did not preform better in this race than she did.

At RBR's suggestion, and because I was so interested to read LTG's take on things, I decided to post it on the front page.

This provides me with an opportunity to talk a little bit about my experience of feminism that spans 3 generations.

The baby boom women had a very confrontational approach to feminism. You had to challenge men on their turf by using their rules. This is HRC's generation. And this is her feminism.

These women told their daughters, my generation, that we could be it all. In fact, we were obliged to have it all. They had destroyed all barriers to entry. Now we could have the career and the children and if men didn't like it, too bad. Thus the "battle of sexes" that you see in a whole culture of books like "Mars vs. Venus". So we faced a great deal of pressure. If you went to college, everyone said that this was wonderful. Then their next question was, "Is she seeing anybody." My mother still gets asked this about me. And the relief my mother felt when she met my boyfriend and liked him was evident. In the meantime, my grandmother, who was happily married for 57 years until my grandfather's death, looks at my life with a touch of jealousy. She says, "Man, if I could have had the choices and the life you do, I wouldn't have bothered getting married. I would have loved to work outside the home. I wanted to. Your grandfather wouldn't let me." At the same time, Boomer women are pressing us for grandchildren.

Then comes my niece, the Echo group. She has none of the desire to confront men or be competitive with them. She is doing her own thing. She doesn’t measure her success against the boys or other girls for that matter. I live next door to a housing unit for graduate students from Stanford U. I see how these younger people interact with each other and I admire how they harmonize. They and my niece seem oblivious to racial or gender differences. They are kind to each other. And I see how nearly tribal they are with their colleagues. They are the Barney generation, the “I love you, you love me.” The tee-ball and soccer group where no one looses and boys and girls play together. Everyone wins all the time.

My generation is the Sesame Street generation. We were taught that we all live in a community and that everyone should play nicely together and be aware of and tolerate of racial and gender differences. I know I was unhappy when I entered the work force and I saw how Boomers would cut off their noses to spite their faces. Rather than creating win-win situations, they would always set up win-lose situations.

My generation of women, as we move into our mid 30s and 40s have already figured out that you don't get to have it all. You can be a great mom with a moderate career or a amazing success in the office, but not so good at home. But you can't be a high flyer on both counts. It will just make you crazy and unhappy. And our men have also adjusted to this reality for themselves. And we are all tired of the Venus vs. Mars thing.

That is where I find hope. As RBR pointed out, HRC lost in part because people are tired of Clintons. But I think she lost in part because my generation and the Echos didn't come out in hordes for her. We don't want combative male vs. female feminist politics anymore. Even if we deeply identify with her struggle, we just found a lack of integrity at a certain point. I found myself put off by HRC throwing back whiskey to "prove" she was one of the boys, and her weird personality shifts from Obama-loving to Obama-attacking. At the same time, I admired her drive, her experience, her energy, and her mastery of policy details. So my support for her has always been conflicted. And I still feel a need to speak up for her when people critique her. "Hey, lay off. She has done a hell of a job, she hasn’t had it easy, and you have to admire that!"

But RBR is right! This election really wasn't about race or gender. It was about politics and who could best lead us out of this mess we are in. But it has given me a chance to really think about where I fit in this society today, and what my values are as a woman, as a person, and as a voter.

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California Supreme Court Victory!

The California Supreme Court today struck down the ban on same-sex marriages. To my further amazement, Governor Schwarzenegger immediately issued a statement saying not only that he would respect the court's decision, but he would also oppose any attempt to invalidate it by ballot initiative. I confess, I got a little choked up.

The heart of the Court's 4-3 ruling was this: if you grant a domestic partnership or civil union all the rights of a marriage, as California has done, then you must call it a marriage. Naming it anything lesser has no legal purpose other than to be discriminatory. There may be practical, negative consequences of that ruling on the fight to secure domestic partnerships and civil unions in other states--or federally--I do not know.

But mostly I am speechless. And I am so thankful to the justices, so honored to live in California. I am sure it was a difficult call for them. All I can say is, when your verdict is greeted with gasps, cheers, hugs, and tears of joy... from thousands of people... You have probably made the right decision.

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Why I'm a Feminist

USWest writes "My generation of women, as we move into our mid 30s and 40s have already figured out that you don't get to have it all. You can be a great mom with a moderate career. But you can't be a high flyer on both counts."

As a man who is a husband and now a father, I confront similar issues. In the 1970s and 1980s, women alone were confronted with a sad reality that they were expected to be career women and single-handedly raise a family while the men continued a workaholic lifestyle that left little or no time for involvement in the children's lives. Men of my generation began having kids in the 1990s, and we wanted something different. We want to be Dads. We don't exactly understand why prior generations assumed that raising children was primarily a woman's job.

But corporate life is set up so that taking the time to be involved with my child, sadly, means sacrifices on the career path. Workdays are rigid. "Face time" at the office is required. And there are plenty of men out there (and women who support them by staying at home) who are willing to play the old-fashioned workaholic game, sacrifice family, thus, out-compete me. And corporate America is more than happy to reward these people and punish those who want to balance family and work. In fact, women may find it slightly easier than men to do the balancing because a set of legal structures, diversity committees, and so forth is set up to try to make it easier for women to balance work and family. Men who do so are just considered slackers. It's frustrating. I was permitted six weeks' parental leave for my newborn, something that was part of my compensation package that I considered proper for me to use. Trust me - even some of the women from the boomer generation think that I'm just free-riding on a benefit designed for them. The older men totally don't get it. "When my wife had our first child, I was back to work that very afternoon blah blah blah."

Screw that. That attitude is why I will never vote Republican.

The problem we all face is that the workday has changed to be incompatible with family life In the 1960s and 1970s, nine-to-five meant just that. Today, nobody gets home before 7pm. Those two extra hours are most of family life. Yet to find a job that would allow me to go home so "early" (what my parents' generation thought of as normal) is an income and career sacrifice that is too costly. This all got messed up in the 1980s, as unions were crushed, wage and hour laws were beaten back, all creating a ripple effect that destroyed normal work schedules. The marketplace was allowed to reward "productivity" in terms of those who would work longer and longer hours, at the expense of those who could not or would not. Thanks a lot, Ronald Reagan. Thanks a lot, boomer generation.

So that's why I consider myself a feminist. And why I'm a liberal. And why I consider the Republican party hostile to real family values. Family values means creating a world where we honor, respect, and reward family life. Honoring family life means that we have to work, through legislation and the bully pulpit, to force corporate America to open flexible schedules and back away from the expectation that "getting ahead" means working 60 hour workweeks with no vacation. Simply put, US corporations strongly favor the traditional workaholic man / stay-at-home wife over modern family life. They dishonor families and punish family life. We are all poorer for it - our children most of all. And if RBR wants to know why I sometimes seem hostile to some aspects of "free market" capitalism, this is why.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama

Edwards endorsed Barack Obama today. This should bring most of his 19 delegates to Obama's aid (31 with Florida delegates). It is the first real sign of party unity, beginning to coalesce around the presumptive nominee. Obama will achieve a majority of pledged delegates on Tuesday (under current rules). Expect the Edwards endorsement to bring additional superdelegates on board. This should also help Obama in Kentucky as well.

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Bob Barr - "Libertarian"

With all the fuss about Hillary and her "hard working, white" constituents in West "By God!" Virginia, it was missed that former Republican House Rep, Bob Barr of Georgia, is going to run for President as a Libertarian in November.

We were just talking about the special elections in Mississippi and how they bode ill for the GOP. This is just as bad if not worse news for them. A Southern conservative who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton is going to run for President as a Libertarian. Bob Barr is even less of a libertarian than Ron Paul. He was a leader on the "War on Drugs" and on the "Defense of Marriage Act." He's also a strong opponent of family planning funding. And he supports constitutional bans on flag burning. He's no libertarian. He's a hard-core, southern social conservative and nationalist. He'll take a lot votes away from McCain! If North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia weren't already in play because of Obama's ability get out the black vote, they are now.

The Democratic party has a real chance here to go beyond the 50% + 1 approach of the Bush-Clinton-Bush era. With southern conservatives divided, there is a chance to build a broad coalition of liberals and moderates, Democrats and Independents, from all regions of the country.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mountain Momma

Forty-one point margin. Every county in her column. Huge voter turnout. West Virginia will only close the gap by a dozen delegates--not nearly enough to make a difference--but if Hillary was looking to end on a high note, she found it.

She might be running just for vanity. She might be angling to be Obama's running mate. She may be working to scuttle Obama's candidacy so she can run again in 2012. She might be holding out for that tiny chance she might win. She might just keep running because she does not know what else to do. I cannot say--I do not know her.

But I can say this: against all my expectations, I find myself proud to see her soldier on. And if, as I suspect, I am not alone in this, then I believe that sense of pride creates unanticipated affirmative opportunities that would not have been possible had she given up and left her supporters nothing but the taste of ashes. Anyhow, I thought that observation was worth mentioning.

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Holy Special Elections, Batman!

By a lopsided 54-46 margin, Democrat Travis Childers won election to the US House of Representatives, replacing longtime Republican Roger Wicker who vacated the seat when he was appointed to take Republican Trent Lott's Senate Seat. Nobody thought the Republicans had a chance of losing this seat. They brought Dick Cheney down to campaign there and spent their time linking Childers to Obama (a black man - oooooh, scary). This district voted 2/3 for George Bush in 2004. This is the third special election the Dems have won that they were not supposed to this year - one in Illinois (Speaker Dennis Hastert's old seat), one in Louisiana (Cazayoux) last weekend, now this. This now gives the Democrats a 236-199 majority in the House, the largest majority for either party since 1992. It also adds another superdelegate, for better or worse.

This bodes very, very well for November. If Republicans are so dispirited as not to be able to win a special election (note: special elections are usually low turnout affairs that naturally favor the GOP) in Mississippi, it's going to be a nightmare for them in November. Already, polls are showing that Dems are likely to pick up Senate seats in Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. I expect the GOP will essentially concede those five in order to conserve their funds and prevent a filibuster-proof majority. That means they will conserve their money to defend the last two liberal Republicans in the Senate (whom they loathe), Smith from Oregon and Snowe from Maine, and the once-thought-safe seats in Alaska (embattled Ted Stevens), North Carolina (Liddy Dole), Nebraska (Hagel's old seat).

Ahh... I only hope the GOP doesn't get the gift of Hillary Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket to scare them back to the polls.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Month of Cataclysm

It has been a rough ride as of late:

May 12: Earthquake killing 9000+ in China

May 10-11: Tornadoes tear through Oklahoma, Missouri Georgia and many other states, killing nearly two dozen and injuring hundreds more. It wiped out Picher, Ok, which was a super fund site. And they are saying it will be the worst tornado season in 10 years.

May 3-4: A level 3, low level 4 Cyclone hits Myanmar/Burma. As of May 12, the death toll was around 32,000. NPR reported that the death toll may be up due, in part, to the destruction of Mangrove trees.

May 2: Volcanic eruption in the Patagonian region of southern Chile, ash still raining down as of May 10. It had been dormant for 2000 years.

May 1 to today: not to belittle the importance of victim suffering, but My personal disaster: USWest suffering from the worst, nonstop allergies ever! And so it seems, is everyone else. I know, a very middle-class-white-girl problem, but it's my problem, so . . but it is a very cold spring by our local standards.

I am still trying to decide if natural disasters are more common, or if it is just that we hear about them more, and for longer periods of time. Currently, I am leaning toward the "more often" theory. I think they may be more common due to environmental degradation and we hear about them more because people are living where they didn't in the past. We hear about them longer and in more detail because we have 24 hour news to fill. And they are more striking to us psychologically because so much around us seems bad- the economy, politics, energy costs, etc.

There are always some types of natural disasters going on in the world. For a depressing look see EO Natural Hazards page put together by NASA. Then you will sit back and either feel lucky that it ain't you getting smashed by nature or you will hold your breath and hope the next earthquake isn't in California.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Really Short History of the Modern Democratic Party

I thought it would make sense to blog about the Democratic party's history to put the current campaign in some aditional context.

Here's my pitch for understanding the last 25 years:
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) formed in the 1980s to combat the new Republican party. Reagan cemented a solid conservative south with suburbanites. The Democratic party had withered after 1968 with reduced urban cores. Its standard-bearer in 1992, Bill Clinton, sought a new winning coalition to reach out to suburbs. It wanted to submerge the 1960s radicalism, at least its public face, to win them. Clintonites believe they succeeded, but I disagree. In fact, social conservatives triumphed in 1994, defining American politics for a decade to come.
Four things happened that were not predicted.
First, what were then called Hispanics (now Latinos) began to vote in large numbers. Republican immigrant-baiting unexpectedly created a large voting bloc for the Democrats of voters who were socially more conservative than most. Social conservativsm did not sway this bloc of voters. The reason was, in part, revitalization of the labor movement among Latinos in the early 2000s cemented another important coalitional connection. Labor is more influential now than at any time since Reagan broke their back in the early 1980s.
Second, a new generation embraced city life with the tech-boom of the 1990s. Rejuvenation of inner urban cores and young white voters' drift to the cities changed the cities from areas of decay to growth. Urban-suburban aliances have grown up. And over the past 10 years, since impeachment and the mainstreaming of gay rights, the Republican party has begun to age, as it turned off young people except in the Bible Belt. George Bush's extremely polarizing politics has been a godsend in this regard. Political parties in American have realigned as urban/rural, with suburbs as battlegrounds. With a nation massively urbanized, Republican political success depends entirely on geography - the fact that the urban voters are crammed into a smaller number of very urbanized states.
Third, in the Western states, high levels of urbanism - combined with natigve libertarian discomfort with bible-belt big-government populism - have provided new political bases for Democrats. Western-state suburbs are much more urban than eastern-state suburbs, as they were created by developers out of scratch. Democrats in the mountain west tend to be socially moderate, fiscally cautious, and focused on building: building schools, roads, and communities.
Fourth - finally, the gender gap has become a chasm. Republicans have embraced patriarchal religion, militarism, and hostility to public spending, even on schools. Democrats have done well with women as a result.
So, since 1996, the Democratic Party become a nationwide coalition of Latinos, Blacks, immigrants of all stripes, Native Americans, gays, Union voters, and younger, educated Urban and suburban voters, and (non-Evangelical women). It's a dicey coalition, mixing different ethnicities and socio-economic groups, most of whom vote in low numbers. Clintonites did not expect to see Obama succeed because his base - the new urban voters -didn't exist when Clinton took office in 1992. Keeping this coalition together is important. I fear that the Clintons are happy to tear it apart.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Have You No Shame Ma'am?

In an interview earlier this week with USA Today, Hillary Clinton said the following:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

I think this is the most offensive statement to come out of the Clinton camp in the entire campaign - a campaign marred by several thinly veiled appeals by highly placed surrogates (such as Bill Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro) to racist thinking and attempts to define Obama by his race alone. If this were an isolated gaffe, I'd be willing to let it go. But this is part of a clear and persistent pattern. How sad that she is choosing to end her candidacy on such a sour note.

Hillary will have some serious damage control to do with her constituents in New York City before she runs for reelection to the Senate in 2012.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hillary defeated in Michigan

The AP is reporting that the Democratic State Party in Michigan just agreed to ask the DNC credentials committee on 5/31 that its delegation be split 69 for Clinton, 59 for Obama. The election results had 80 for Clinton, 55 uncommitted, and 13 for Edwards. (Obama's name was not on the ballot). Clinton needed Obama to get nothing in order to have some numerical argument to make. With 59 for Obama - even with just the 55 uncommitted - he is certain to have the majority of pledged delegates. Presumably this split will be supported by Obama and the neutrals on the credentials committee as eminently a fair result. Clinton gets net 10, not net 80. Even if Florida is seated as-is (which is also unlikely), his nomination is assured.

Game over.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Clinton Should Concede

OK, enough is enough. We've seen the math again and again. Hillary needed to win every primary since Pennsylvania with something like 60% to 65% of the vote to have a realistic shot of winning the nomination without counting on the superdelegates overturning the elected delegate plurality for Obama.

In Pennsylvania, Clinton won by a substantial margin but still off the pace she needed. Last night, she lost in North Carolina by something like the margin she needed to win by. And she "won" Indiana by about 1%. Of those two states, North Carolina is more likely to vote for a Democrat in November.

Indiana more detail: Hillary won, but not by huge margins, in the rural counties. Obama dominated in Indianapolis, Gary, Fort Wayne, Bloomington, and Lafayette. Obama even dominated one of the suburban counties outside of Indianapolis and won another one closely. I used to live in Indiana. I can assure you that if there is any chance that Indiana will vote for a Democrat in November it is if someone can mobilize the urban and suburban voters in unprecedented numbers.

Another thing that bothers me is the mantra that Obama is winning because of black voters. Sure he is. He's also winning because of white voters. He's getting 40% of the white vote in a state with 18% of the Democrats being black and a reputation for really rotten race relations.

Clinton needed to win and win big last night. Instead, she lost one state big and essentially tied in the other. She's finished. She needs to concede. This full speed ahead stuff is all about her trying to divide the party in the hopes of setting up her own run again in 2012. It is self serving and damaging to the party. And what's worse, in the context of what our country faces right now, she's working hard for a McCain presidency at a time when that outcome would have disastrous consequences for this country.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

And then there were 280...

Over the last couple weeks, the number of pledged superdelegates has significantly increased. Much of the change comes from "add-on" delegates. The Democratic party allots delegates per state, and most states reserve between 1-5 unpledged superdelegates delegates to be elected specially by the party central committee or state convention. These are called "add-on" delegates, about 80 or so in all. In other words, not all of the 796 superdelegates are actually specific individuals at the beginning of the delegate selection process. As they are appointed by their state parties, they have the option to endorse a candidate or not. Unsurprisingly, most are appointed specifically for that purpose. In CA, for example, party chariman Art Torres has agreed to allot the unpledged add-ons in proportion to the primary results, giving HRC three and Obama two. Those persons remain unappointed (and not part of any delegate count) until the 5/17 convention. Most of the add-on selection process takes place from mid-April through May. Accordingly, the number of available superdelegates is shrinking. There are now only about 280 superdelegates who have not yet committed to a candidate.

There are 400 pledged delegates remaining (more or less). If the remaining 400 delegates are split evenly (this is a favorable assumption for Clinton given the character of the remaining states), and no additioanl superdelegates come to his side, Obama will be about 80 votes shy of the nomination on June 3rd. In addition, other superdelegates will come into the both camps, and a number of superdelegates (Nancy Pelosi, Jimmy Carter, to name two) have pledged to support the winner of the pledged-delegate battle as of June 3 (i.e., Obama). Obama will probably attain a majority of pledged delegates (1625 is the # - he has 1491 now) as of May 20th when Oregon votes. That will also push supers into his camp. What this means is that Obama will probably be no more than 40-50 delegates shy (pledged plus endorsements of supers) of the nomination on June 3rd, with some 150-200 delegates left to claim. If Obama were to win Indiana or do better than expected in PR and KY, it could be much closer.

In such a scenario, I think we can expect a significant shift of superdelegates to Obama after June 3rd, with the magic 2025 being achieved by June 15th or so. Then, with that table set, and Obama declared the presumptive nominee, Michigan and Florida's delegations will be seated in such a manner as not to change that result. Thus, I expect an Edwards endorsement and a Clinton withdrawal around July 4th. And Democrats can begin the process of trying to find a VP nominee who will torpedo their chances in the Fall.

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