Posted by Brad @ 11:18 pm on April 22nd 2008

Letter To Sully

Posting these = cheap blog content!

Hey,

One thing to add to your bit on the results of tonight’s race: Obama has actually improved himself markedly from his Ohio results with nearly all demographics—whites, females, etc—EXCEPT along age lines. Indeed, it’s not just that he won the young, it is literally the case that the older the Democrat, the more likely they are to vote Clinton; look at the breakdowns of all age cohors: the middle line is 45 years old, and nearly every standard deviation from that skews the results proportionally. 45 year olds are about split. 45-50s break Clinton, 40-45s break Obama, and the trend gets even more explicit the further you get from the median (to the point where a whopping 64% over 65 support Clinton, and an equally whopping 66% under 25 support Obama).

But I’d also add that I think you’re being a bit pessimistic regarding what this means for the race. Obama was, yet again, not able to put Clinton away (to describe the task as “an uphill battle” is an understatement; it would be like Clinton coming back and winning Mississippi). However, tomorrow morning, everybody gets slapped with the next question: What now? And for Clinton, PA is behind her and things basically stand where they did yesterday. Now that it’s no hypothetically, where is she going to even pretend to gain ground? Is she going to reach parity in the popular vote in Indiana and North Carolina? Is Puerto Rico going to save her with pledged delegates? How do you even report on the race at this point without implicitly noting that it, in fact, there is no real race anymore, and the last and only open question at this point is how much of a temper tantrum Clinton can throw about it.

The longer this goes, the more the veneer that Clinton can win fades. Tonight was a dud, but every time one of these comes and then passes, the narrative gets worse for Clinton. When everybody wakes up tomorrow, the question that faces them is “What now?” And that’s not a pretty question for the Clintons to have to face at this point.

Posted by Brad @ 8:14 pm on April 22nd 2008

PA Results Thread

Chat away. I’ll be editing this post periodically with results. Poll closed 11 minutes ago here.

Not sure if CNN will be updating their usual spot, but there it is.

Final CBS exit polls here.

If you’re looking for our thoughts on the PA primary—and you know you are—you can read them here (my analysis of what it all means or, most likely, doesn’t mean), here (final polling and whatnot), here (Adam’s thoughts—boooo Adam), and here (right below you, a few final thoughts).

Edit: Those of us hoping for the longshot of maybe Obama putting Clinton away here, too bad. Networks call it for Clinton.

With 95% reporting:

Obama: 55
Clinton: 45

Ron Paul at 17% in the GOP race.

Posted by Brad @ 7:53 pm on April 22nd 2008

Voting Day

So, with no regrets from not re-registering, I voted today. My polling place is at Chatham College (girl’s school in walking distance) so after getting a ride from campus and stepping in my house to change, I trucked it on over.

As if to further tempt me, the polling lady gave me a Democratic ballot on their little electronic machines and walked off. I voted for Obama and then started looking downticket, and then realized I had a Democratic ballot. Thought about it some, went back to the lady and made her give me the right one. “Oh,” she said. “We’ve had like 500 Democrats and you’re only our 15th Republican, so I guess I’ve gotten into the habit”.

Glad I did. I got to vote for Ron Paul, plus I got to vote for the national delegates to the convention, a list that I recognized a number of names from our local Meetup group on. So, I got to give an electoral shout-out to my boys in addition to voting for McCain (incidentally, only three names on the ballot: McCain, Paul, and Huckabee). Given that turnout is going to be so light for the Republicans, be interesting to see if Paul manages a strong showing just on the fact that nobody’s voting.

Absolutely beautiful day here today all across the state. Turnout will be high—I think the question there is how much over 2 million voters it gets. My mom just voted, and the lady at the same polling station said that turnout for our district is higher than it was for the 2004 Presidential election day. No clue, from my very limited sample, of the Obama-Clinton breakdown will go. I saw a lot of both. Though on my college campus, Obama’s people were literally busing students to their polling places, and the only poll-watcher I saw was an Obama guy (who was sent from the campaign because some students had problems, and were given provisional ballots, so he was there to check up on that).

Here are some exit polls, which are probably worthless. But they’re showing that new Dems break huge for Obama, late deciders break significantly for Clinton, none of which is particularly shocking. I will add though that I think the “Operation Chaos” factor is nonexistent, or will be so drowned out by Independents who re-registered Dem to be just statistical noise. I’d guess Obama wins the “non-Democrat” vote by 3 to 1. The Chaos thing might come into play in North Carolina, but really, unless it’s very very close, it’s not going to show up much here I don’t think.

A little uncertain who will be reporting first, the rural areas or the urban centers. In 2004 it was primarily urban first. In 2006 it was rural. Either way, one will report much later than the other, so the margins when they call it will probably be a lot different than the final count, no matter what the result. I wouldn’t even bother to look at results until 11 or so (though I’ll be getting a thread up shortly after polls close here at 8).

Posted by Brad @ 5:37 pm on April 21st 2008

The Presidential Race, Raw

Tonight, all three candidates taped bits for WWE Raw.

Barack wins for Best Line (and dopey mugging), McCain wins for Street Cred, and, as usual, Clinton gets Most Painful.

Though really: come on. NONE of you have a pro wrestler voice you’ve been waiting all your life to bust out?

Man. That’s the FIRST thing I’m looking for an excuse to unveil were I ever to run for President.

Posted by Brad @ 5:25 pm on April 21st 2008

Freedom of the Press in Russia

Step 1: Run story about Vladimir Putin leaving his wife for a 24-year-old rhythmic gymnast.

Step 2. Paper suspends all operations two days later.

Publisher: “There is no question about any political background for the decision to suspend the newspaper’s publication. We will decide on a new direction for the newspaper and a business plan for its development in the near future.” Putin: “I have always reacted negatively to those who, with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies, prowl into others’ lives.”

Step 3. What a country!

P.S. My second favorite phrase this month is “rhythmic gymnast”.

P.P.S. The name of my next album is “Snotty Noses and Erotic Fantasies”.

Posted by Brad @ 5:15 pm on April 21st 2008

The Popular Vote

By the way, what result does Hillary Clinton need to even have a chance at catching up with Obama in the popular vote, the only remaining metric she has a remote shot at?

Counting Florida but not Michigan, and then assuming she clocks in at her best polling (i.e. the single biggest poll in her favor) in every remaining state, she needs to win by at least 15 tomorrow with higher-then-expected turnout to get even.

Her team is already floating that popular vote doesn’t matter.

Last ditch: it’s about who wins the half dozen biggest states by any margin.

Posted by Brad @ 4:57 pm on April 21st 2008

Thought of the Day

Via Kip Esquire—who has his own take—comes this interesting metaphor that I think is worth passing on.

So maybe the moral question isn’t, what use can libertarians be to liberals, but what use can libertarians be to anybody? We are not going to bring about either a minarchist or anarcho-capitalist society anytime soon, where “soon” can be translated as ever. Truth be told, I’m not convinced that a purely minarchist society would be all that great to live in. As for anarcho-capitalism, I think even a lot of an-caps agree that it requires a long-term project of learning how to live that way as society. I think libertarians are, rather, the court jesters of politics. I mean that in a good way. We whisper to Caesar that that he is mortal. We caper about, turning ourselves blue if necessary, reminding everyone that government power is inescapably violent and inescapably self-interested. You’re probably not going to care, but we’re going to make you actively decide not to care. And sometimes, maybe you’ll care after all. As a class, we can be stupendously silly people, believing and saying the most absurd things. But our rulers are silly people too, in different and more malignant ways. And as fools, we have the freedom to say so.

It’s an interesting conceptualization, and, I would say, true enough, in its limited extent.

But I would argue that, despite the fact that we tend to think of politics like a football game—where the teams do battle for awhile but ultimately one walks off the field a winner and the other hangs their head and hits the showers—it is in fact much more about tensions than victories. Nobody “wins”, and even when one team runs the board for a spell, what that actually means for American life will look RADICALLY different depending on the mind-bogglingly complex soup of polarizations, coalitions, give-and-takes, and all the other relationships not just between parties and demographics, but between ideas and tastes and understandings.

The fact of the matter is the “libertarian” strain of American thought, far from a marginalized jokey whisper, is a dominant current of political ideology from our very inception. Every generation’s relationship with that—strident individualism, self-determination, embracement of negative liberty, decentralization, inherent mistrust of authority (and, philosophically, of external forces to shape internal truths), etc. etc. etc.—is markedly different, as is its very expression, but it certainly isn’t a sideshow, even now. Everybody is, to some extent and in certain ways, libertarian—I don’t think there’s any American for whom the concept is foreign, even if just vaguely instinctive—it’s just that the purists have been marginalized largely through much much larger forces than kooky dogmatists. Not that the kooky dogmatists help.

My point is, even when it is not winning, in the “Booyah!” sense, it is always there, it is always in tension with the other strains of political ideology, and it is always holding vigil, though the forms that takes shift hugely from decade to decade and century to century. And that’s important, dammit.

But maybe I’m being too abstract about it.

Posted by Adam @ 4:40 pm on April 21st 2008

PA outcomes

Brad, safely entrenched in Pennsylvania’s other city, has already written about possible outcomes in Pennsylvania, but I just know you’re all desperate to hear mine, from the perspective of a British national living outside of Pennsylvania whose favoured outcome is that they both lose.

I agree with Brad that team Obama have managed expectations better this time, after getting a little bitten in the New Hampshire primary and also the Texas and Ohio primaries, all of which team Clinton were able to announce as the bastard combination of the Second Coming and the Alamo (without the Mexicans killing all the plucky defenders this time around). So, in fact, I think that the default ‘no one really wins big’ scenario is a Clinton win by 5-7 percent. If Clinton wins by less than 5 percent, unless they have a really good excuse (bad weather that only affected older white women!), team Clinton come out of it as losers. If they actually lose, then I genuinely think that they’ll come under significant increased pressure to pull out of the race altogether and this is a result of how much they have stressed Pennsylvania’s importance; granted, they had good reason, because it inoculated her against over a month’s worth of “why are you still in this?” questions, but the price of that is higher expectations.

So, a victory by 8 or 9 percent would be tantalising; above expectations, but not by much and not describable as a ‘double-digit victory’. However, I think that a double-digit victory would genuinely help her campaign and give legitimacy to her decision to stay in, even though she’ll then have to do something outstanding in Indiana and/or North Carolina (in both of which, I think I heard, she trails) to keep it going.

Looking ahead, as has been pointed out (for example, by Brad), Hillary could win all the remaining competitions and still come in behind in pledged delegate count; if she did do that, or won, say, 7, though, that would give superdelegates some cover if they did want to vote for her. For them to want to do that, however, something bad has to happen to the Obama campaign as well, I think, something that bothers the voting population and the Democrats in particular enough that the hypothetical superdelegate swing on her behalf actually makes sense to at least some of the people that voted for Obama already, ie, they fear that Obama was the wrong candidate after all. Unless the Clinton campaign have that, or a collection of things that will contribute to that, up their sleeve they’re just hoping for a gift. I don’t entirely blame them — these things can happen and this is pretty much her last chance unless Obama beats her and then loses to McCain in November (an end result which, as I’ve mulled before, continuing her campaign will probably make more likely).

From the point of view of the Obama camp, they just have to ensure that they don’t lose, or look likely to lose, Pennsylvania and Ohio in November. It’s all well and good to point out that Obama has strength in some unusual states but if superdelegates get the idea that McCain could beat Obama in those two (not the same as Obama losing them to Clinton, of course) then they’ll get nervous and they’d be right to do so, I think; in fact, at this stage, the risk of losing Ohio and Pennsylvania if Obama is the candidate is pretty much the only thing they should really worry about; everything else looks set pretty damn sweet.

Posted by Brad @ 4:35 pm on April 21st 2008

Phrase of the Day

Linked by Sully, this had me in awe.

Driscoll put this bluntly in his sermon “Death by Love” at the 2006 Resurgence theology conference (available at TheResurgence.com). According to Driscoll, “real men” avoid the church because it projects a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ” that “is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for.” Driscoll explains, “Jesus was not a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude”; rather, he had “callused hands and big biceps.” This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls “Ultimate Fighting Jesus.”

“Ultimate Fighting Jesus”.

.

MAN I wish I had thought of that first.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:08 pm on April 21st 2008

Tonight would be a good time for Hillary Clinton to stage a fake assassination attempt.

I’m just saying, is all.

Posted by Brad @ 12:29 pm on April 21st 2008

Final PA Polls

My extended analysis (such as it is) of tomorrow’s vote is here, but worth updating as the pollsters make a final dump.

Survey USA shows a 10-point swing to Obama in the last week. The race, as they have it, is now 50-46 Clinton. Interestingly, their analysis jibes with my own impressions on the ground here (sort of). Centrally, in the last month, Obama has sealed the deal with “liberal” voters and has made up substantial ground with white males, but Clinton has not been budged off her support among women and over-50s.

A large shift of support occurred in the Philadelphia area and other parts of Southeast Pennsylvania, which includes most of the state’s African-American population. The poll found that Obama finished strongly, ahead of Clinton by 14 points within that demographic. Among liberals, Obama began 18 points behind Clinton but finished 11 points ahead of Clinton. Among those who have not graduated from college, Clinton led by 28 points last week, but by 15 points Monday.

Among voters under age 50, Clinton had led by 8 points last week and trailed by 8 Monday.
Here’s what has not changed: Among women, Clinton has led by 30, 28, 28, 22, and 23 points in five polls. Among voters 50 and older, Clinton has led by 26, 22, 24, 20, and 20 points in the polls.

SUSA—which has been one of the top pollsters this cycle—had a baseline of +20 Clinton after Super Tueday.

Rasmussen’s tracking poll shows similarly, though less dramatically swinging for Obama (and, indeed, a small uptick for Clinton). Their daily pegs it 49-44 Clinton.

PPP, which has been showing Obama actually ahead in the race, put in their final numbers (PDF), showing Obama up 49-46. Though you’ve never heard of them, PPP has been in the hunt for most accurate pollster this cycle (and in this poll, their sample size is about three and a half times as large as anybody else’s).

Some argue (myself included) that the swelling of the Democratic voters rolls—and thus a chunk of people who might not be showing up as Democratic likely voters (which often includes only people who voted in the Dem primary last time)—will almost certainly break for Obama.

My own sense remains that Clinton is probably going to over-perform among old white women, who vote like locusts. Some are also reputably predicting a big undecided break for Clinton.

Most ridiculous polling of the season goes to Mason Dixon, for polling “bowlers” and “beer drinkers” (Clinton trounces on the former, 56-31, but Obama drinks her to a draw with the latter, 44-44).

Posted by Brad @ 12:02 pm on April 21st 2008

An Obama Minute

Taking the Money Bomb concept to an absurd server-busting extreme, today is the day for the Obama Minute. At 1 PM Eastern time today (so in one hour), Obama supporters hope to raise $1 million dollars in one (1) minute online.

Donate here, if that’s your thing.

Posted by Brad @ 9:53 am on April 21st 2008

Movies: 38 Remakes and 28 Sequels You Didn’t (Want to) Know About

Den of Geek has the goods on both (remakes and sequels).

I, for one, welcome our new Fast and the Furious overlords.

Posted by Brad @ 8:23 am on April 21st 2008

Speaking of Nepal…

And I am

They’ve authorized the use of lethal force. Against Olympic Torch protesters.

Nepalese soldiers and police guarding the slopes of Mount Everest are authorized to shoot to stop any protests during China’s Olympic torch run to the summit, an official said Sunday.

Chinese climbers plan to take the torch to the summit of Everest — the world’s highest peak on the border between Nepal and Tibet — in the first few days of May. During that time, other climbers will be banned from the mountain’s higher elevations.

Police and soldiers “have been given orders to stop any protest on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including use of weapons,” Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesman Modraj Dotel said, adding that the use of deadly force was authorized only as a last resort.

The troops will first try to persuade protesters to leave and will arrest those who don’t. If demonstrators defy all nonviolent means of restraint, troops have the option of using their weapons, such as in cases where a large group cannot be corralled. It was unclear if the protesters would have to attack or become violent before force was authorized.

Posted by Brad @ 3:37 am on April 21st 2008

The Pennsylvania Primary

While the last month in the Democratic primary has been among its most eventful, it has also, we ought to remember, subsisted entirely in the vacuum of campaign trail speech-making and televised pundit pontificating. Tuesday, here in Pennsylvania, marks the first time Democratic voters have actually hit the polls and let their opinions be known in about six weeks.

I have to admit it hasn’t been as bad here as I feared. Perhaps because I don’t watch much T.V. and have been subsumed in my own life’s stuff, the campaign dropping down in PA hasn’t been nearly as distracting as I feared, after my experience in New Hampshire at Ground Zero. To be sure, about every third house has a campaign sign, bumper stickers are a-plenty, and all the candidates have blown through Steeltown at least once so far (most annoying: the Straight Talk Express taking my parking space). But, blessedly, I’ve managed to avoid most all of it, and Pennsylvania is just so damn big that the effect has been pretty dispersed.

Nevertheless, there has definitely been a sense among local voters that this is “an important one”. So, I expect turnout on Tuesday to be huge. And for the Democratic race at large, this is yet another critical fork in the road.

There are essentially three possible outcomes on Tuesday. The first is that Hillary Clinton wins so huge that it looks like Barack Obama—after six weeks that have been almost exclusively dedicated to challenges to his campaign—is falling apart, that his campaign has been mortally wounded. That still won’t change the math, of course—it is nearly impossible for him to lose the pledged delegate count, states won, or even the popular vote (depending on how that’s counted). But if he manages to deflate spectacularly enough, it could provide for a brokered convention with superdelegates essentially staging a coup against the Democratic rabble (aka “voters”) and pulling the trigger “for the good of the party”.

I think most everyone views this as a very, very slim possibility.

But a big Hillary Clinton win could at least take this thing to the finish line with gusto, and continue to cow the superdelegates into getting off the fence and putting a stop to it.

The second possibility is Obama either wins or basically ties, which I think even the Hillary people concede would be a huge and probably mortal blow to their campaign (if Obama wins it, of course, it’s over). This is also a very, very slim possibility, given both how far he would have to claw up for that to happen (the baseline in PA, as most observers note, is +20 for Clinton), how much he’s had to weather to even not backslide that baseline, and also given how, thus far, he hasn’t managed to strike a killing blow at any point where it would have been possible.

The third, and by far the most likely outcome, is nothing much happens at all. Oh, there’ll be a lot of light, but it seems at least even odds that there won’t be much heat, that Andrew Sullivan’s “nightmare scenario” of a 9 point Clinton win comes to pass (Sullivan’s more extended take can be found in the Times of London). Indeed, RCP’s poll average (excepting the last minute poll dump to come tomorrow) has it Clinton +5.3, with some polls over the last weeks registering Obama ahead (Gallup’s daily tracking has that result as of today) and virtually none registering Clinton breaking away into double digits. Actually, the polls, in aggregate, look suspiciously like Ohio’s did, where a huge season-long Clinton lead got progressively whittled down as the spotlight focused, and some last-minute movement made it look like Obama might actually tie it, though it finally came to Clinton +10 (admittedly, the polling in Ohio even was more skewed in Clinton’s favor—numerous double digit leads showing and an average of 7+—than currently showing in PA, but the Ohio weekend was looking giddyingly like it could turn on Clinton). Thankfully for Obama, also unlike Ohio, the expectations game has been mostly muted as it comes to PA. I haven’t heard anybody seriously suggesting Obama could win it, and most people—pundits both professional and amateur—have been burned enough this season by over-zealous expectations that they’re working very hard at playing this one cool.

My own guess is about where Sullivan fears it’ll land, with Clinton winning by 7-10 points. Which, essentially, makes the whole thing a big fat wash from the perspective of the race moving somewhere new. Another punt down the road of what is now looking like an inevitable outcome—a final largely institutional clash where the voters are mostly split (though worth noting that Obama has now taken a double digit national lead among Democrats) and the Powers that Be have to finally step in and deal with Clinton as one would a petulant child, taking the toy you’re not going to buy for them out of their grubby fingers in the checkout line, even though you know it’ll spur an embarrassing temper tantrum all the way to the car.

Obama’s team, for their part, are exhausted but seem strangely serene. Clinton’s camp, on the other hand, are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Ambinder’s blog is a good one-stop for the final fast-and-furious insider positionings we’re seeing, which basically consist of Clinton’s more detached supporters (like our characteristically-lacking-in-message-discipline governor saying “she’s really got to win big”) noting that there’s not much Clinton can do with any likely PA result, and her supporters already throwing a wet blanket on the upcoming outcome (pushing hard that Obama has outspent them here, for instance, including that tidbit in virtually every campaign communique to have come out in the last week).

From my perspective here in Pittsburgh, I have to say that enthusiasm for Obama hasn’t appeared to dampen at all. I live in an affluent Democratic neighborhood (Squirrel Hill) and spend most of my time on a college campus (Carnegie Mellon), so my perspective isn’t exactly a good cross-section of the state, but the Obama signs went up early (literally 9 of the 15 hours on my block), and have only multiplied across town. For my part, I think I’ve seen maybe a half a dozen Clinton signs in the entire city of Pittsburgh. But, I know her supporters are out there. I tend to see them most often when I take my weekly sabbatical to Eat N Park, which is populated mostly by crotchety old widow ladies, who almost without fail have big obnoxious photo-pins of Clinton on their flower-patterned scrubs.

My own suspicion is that the real dividing line in this state is not going to be working class white men—I think the “bittergate” thing won’t much play, and Obama will probably gain some ground relative to where he’s performed in rust belt states in the past. My own guess is the big dividing line is generational. I literally don’t think I’ve ever met anybody under 40—here or elsewhere—who supports Hillary Clinton, and one can’t peg me as a hermit who just hasn’t gotten out there this campaign (though, again blessedly, that’s the case lately). However, I have seen the swaths of Clinton supporters—older ladies, baby boomer “feminist” men, professional Democrats, etc—descending into neighborhoods, polling places, and wherever else like some kind of wheezy Mongolian hordes. Like I said in New Hampshire, you know those people who volunteer at your polling locations every election? Those are the Hillary Clinton voters. And for whatever reason, they’ve picked this as their moment.

That’s a big thing in this state, which is something ridiculous like 15% over 65 (compared to, say, 10% black, 4% Latino, 22% college educated (slightly less than the national average), etc). The elderly—the scourge of electoral politics since time immemorial—are where Clinton, I think, draws her biggest strength.

But while we’re lost in the gnashing-of-teeth that results in the wet pop of the PA primary firework, I think the most interesting thing to look at while be the opinions of voters who decided late. I don’t think either Clinton or Obama have carved into the other’s base of support much, but—though it’s hard for me to believe—there are still voters who haven’t yet polarized themselves, and how they view the events of the last six weeks (particularly those who make their minds up in the last week) will be instructive. Will it be a backlash against Obamamania, or a backlash against the artificial drumming-up-of-a-backlash by Clinton and the media? I don’t know that it’ll make much of a difference one way or the other in terms of the final Democratic nomination outcome—which I think is pretty well set and just a matter of how easy or hard the ultimate coronation of Obama and putting down of Clinton will be—but it could perhaps provide the kind of lesson that people like, say, Sullivan are trying to divine, that being whether the type of politics that have been deployed against Obama still have the potency that we’ve seen from them not just in the Rovian conception of electoral politics, but in the intra-party “crashing the gates” struggle that the Democrats have, underreportedly, been twitching with since 2004.

Unless the margin is less than three or more than ten (for Clinton), the ultimate PA result won’t be that significant, I don’t think, but what we find reading between the lines might be.

Posted by Brad @ 2:46 am on April 21st 2008

Music Video of the Week

Also sort of an rejoinder to the previous post and the following.

Apocalyptica is a Finnish band—who bear a striking resemblance to Dethklok—who are metal cellists. Yes, heavy metal cellists.

They’re damn good too, if you can take their overabundance of cliche metal attitude. Their Metallica covers are of particular note, but most anything they do is good, if you’re in the mood.

Apocalyptica – Path

Posted by Rojas @ 1:05 am on April 21st 2008

They won’t let me form War Club

The Catholic High School at which I teach has a Peace Club.

Me, frankly, I think peace is overrated. Peace is easy. Peace is what you do when you can’t be bothered to do anything else. And, naturally, sometimes, doing nothing is the best course of action.

But what about WAR, I ask you? What of blood-red tooth-gnashing balls-to-the-wall WAR? (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 12:23 am on April 21st 2008

Quote of the Day

“Doesn’t elite mean ‘good?’ Is that not something we’re looking for in a president anymore? … I know elite is a bad word in politics. You want to go bowling and throw back a few beers. But the job you’re applying for—if you get it and it goes well—they might carve your head into a mountain. If you don’t actually think you’re better than us, then what the fuck are you doing? … [N]ot only do I want an elite president, I want someone who is embarrassingly superior to me.”
—Jon Stewart

Posted by Brad @ 12:19 am on April 21st 2008

The Strange National Story of Nepal

If you want a weird progression from monarchy to republic, Kathmandu is a good place to start. Looks the Maoists will succeed in driving the king out of town.

You think we’ve had it rough, the last ten years in governance in Nepal have been about as weird as any period in any nation’s history, from the crown-prince’s slaughtering of the royal family (and himself) to the rise to parliamentary power of the Marxist rebels and now, the monarchy being dismantled in favor of a communist republic as the result of fair elections. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Posted by Brad @ 12:14 am on April 21st 2008

The Dumbest Black Preacher in America

Everybody got all excised about Jeremiah Wright, which is something that I still can’t seem to muster any outrage over (his sermon made sense to me, and I still haven’t found much of anything to take offense over in his speeches, besides a few lines included to shock the audience awake), but this guy here is something else entirely. Even Sean Hannity can’t help himself.

Of course, this public access preacher did manage to get exactly what he wanted out of it: airtime.

Posted by Brad @ 10:15 pm on April 19th 2008

More McCain-Feingold Fun

I reported below about McCain’s weird campaign structure, merging much if his campaign into the RNC.

Turns out there are some legal side-benefits to doing it this way as well. Namely, it allows McCain to effectively dodge…McCain-Feingold.

To help ease their fund-raising woes, John McCain’s campaign has devised a new system to increase the maximum amount an individual can donate to the unofficial Republican nominee’s election efforts.

Campaign manager Rick Davis released the details of the “McCain Victory 08” fund on Friday. He said the entity is a joint committee, combining the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and four key states under a “hybrid legal structure.”

The idea is to tap donors for more than the $2,300 limit set by campaign finance laws. Under legislation pushed by McCain in his role as a senator from Arizona, an individual can donate a maximum of $2,300 to a presidential primary campaign and the same amount to the general election campaign. Although McCain received the number of delegates necessary to secure the nomination in March, he will not be the party’s official nominee until the convention in September—so he is still running a primary campaign.

The new structure allows up to $70,000 in individual contributions by channeling the money into different McCain-centric funds.

How convenient.

So, as I understand it, McCain-Feingold disallows candidates from receiving over 2300 from an individual…unless that candidate has the institutional support necessary to merge his campaign with the national party.

How nice for the “little guy”.

If you support the candidate/party hybrid choice, you get 30 times the say then if you support just a regular ‘ole candidate. So, I was unable to contribute to Ron Paul more than $2300 for his primary campaign (still am). But if I support John McCain, as he becomes some kind of McCain-GOP cyborg, that limit goes up to a cool 70 grand.

How principled.

Posted by Brad @ 6:06 pm on April 19th 2008

The What Vs. the How Of Politics

James Fallows wrote an article in 1996 called “Why Americans Hate the Media” that is really, really fascinating.

When ordinary citizens have a chance to pose questions to political leaders, they rarely ask about the game of politics. They want to know how the reality of politics will affect them–through taxes, programs, scholarship funds, wars. Journalists justify their intrusiveness and excesses by claiming that they are the public’s representatives, asking the questions their fellow citizens would ask if they had the privilege of meeting with Presidents and senators. In fact they ask questions that only their fellow political professionals care about. And they often do so–as at the typical White House news conference–with a discourtesy and rancor that represent the public’s views much less than they reflect the modern journalist’s belief that being independent boils down to acting hostile.

Great article though. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Adam @ 11:01 pm on April 18th 2008

It was the activists wot done it, guvnor

Clinton is sort of right in her complaints that activists dominate caucuses (I think that caucuses are pretty crappy, myself, too) and that this has hurt her a lot, but for God’s sake, it’s not like this is news. She’s only complaining because his activists are better than her activists, anyhow.

At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the “activist base” of the Democratic Party — and MoveOn.org in particular — for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had “flooded” state caucuses and “intimidated” her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post.

After that she’s sounding like a Republican in her whining about moveon.org:

Moveon.org endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] — which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down,” Clinton said to a meeting of donors. “We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn’t even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that’s what we’re dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.”

Wait, this is, it turns out, a Democratic primary, fancy that. Which makes it all the more shocking that the caucuses have turned out to be something of a beauty contest as judged by loons (completely different to the Republican caucuses, oh yes, which are beauty contests judged by loons)*. How could the Clintons, newcomers to Democrat politics, have been expected to know that stuff?

I can feel the slow but certain progress of the world’s smallest tear down my cheek. I am predicting it will reach the corner of my mouth sometime before the Puerto Rico primary, although I fear that it might evaporate first.

*Apologies for those reading that in plain text. The joke’s utter hilarity depends on the cunning use of italicisation.

Posted by Brad @ 8:57 pm on April 18th 2008

The EdWord

It’s not just Mitt Romney cracking wise. John Edwards made an appearance on the Colbert Report last night that, if you missed it, you really ought to catch. A lot funnier than the standard “politician being a good sport” fare.

Posted by Brad @ 3:46 pm on April 18th 2008

McCain Strategy

Two interesting bits this week coming from McCain’s camp, by way of signaling and quietly aligning their strategy for the general election.

The first is how his camp plans to handle the massive money disadvantage they’ll face. As noted before, part of that plan entails crying uncle from the get-go, and opting into public financing. But, news to me, it also involves integrating their campaign into the RNC itself. The RNC, it’s worth noting, is the cash cow of the Republican party (when donors want to give generically to “The Republican Party”, that’s where that money goes), and is the only Republican organization still doing fine on the money front. But, of course, a lot of that money is traditionally channeled down-ticket, identifying races that are suddenly competitive or suddenly under threat and riding in to the rescue. So, leaning on it heavily to finance McCain’s general election campaign is not unproblematic, for two reasons. One, it will come at the direct cost of the Republican party (literally) and soak up resources that might otherwise go to the party itself or down-ticket races, but also, it puts McCain in a very weird situation for him, where his campaign will, in very significant ways, literally in hoc to the Republican party establishment. I suspect how that tension works in practice depends almost entirely on how well McCain is perceived as doing. If he’s doing well, he’ll have an opportunity to make the party come along. If he’s not, they have a leash they can tug anytime they want.

But also weird is the third, and what the campaign admits is a key part, of it’s money-disadvantage-insulating attempt.

McCain will lean heavily on the well-funded Republican National Committee. He will merge key functions of his campaign hierarchy with the RNC while also relying on an unconventional structure of 10 regional campaign mangers.

And finally — and perhaps most importantly — McCain will rely on free media to an unprecedented degree to get out his message in a fashion that aims to not only minimize his financial disadvantage but also drive a triangulated contrast among himself, the Democratic nominee and President Bush.

McCain, of course, DOES have a fantastic relationship with the press—in some ways even better than Obama’s (who is just outsider and non-traditional enough that I don’t think he engenders the same kind of comfort with the beltway crowd that McCain does). But relying on free media for a significant portion of your advertising—as an explicit part of your budget (or non budget) and official operations—is also amazingly risky. It’s sort of like being in a race against a 70-foot yacht and dumping your sputtering motor and raising the sails instead. Could work fine, and will at least work passably well, so long as the wind stays in your direction. But it shouldn’t be lost on McCain that, for as much as the media kind of like him, it wasn’t very long ago that, in the face of sexier aspects of the primary race, he was essentially left in the dark for the entirety of last summer, in sailing parlance, bobbing uselessly in the middle of the ocean under a sky of dead air.

However, there is an upside to this, from where I’m sitting. If you read the rest of that article, the way in which McCain plans to run against Bush is as much in type as kind. A lot of that free media, he hopes, will come from essentially just throwing the man himself in front of voters and seeing what happens, giving him, again hopefully, the look of a candidate who is not afraid to mingle and even take heat to his face (in stark contrast to, for instance, Bush). But again, the risks inherent in that—particularly given that the RNC may have different ideas as to how “unscripted” or “open” those things are going to be—are apparent.

The second bit of news is also both positive (from where I’m sitting), but not unproblematic. McCain is launching a “Forgotten Parts of America” tour.

WASHINGTON — John McCain plans to spend next week reaching out to African-Americans, displaced factory workers and people living in poverty — voters not usually associated with the Republican Party.

Starting Monday, the presumptive GOP nominee for president will stop in Alabama’s “Black Belt,” then move on to the struggling steel town of Youngstown, Ohio, and the Appalachian region of Kentucky. The Arizona senator is also trying to make it to New Orleans, which is still recovering from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

“I want to tell people living there that there must not be any forgotten parts of America, any forgotten Americans,” McCain told newspaper editors this week.

What’s weird about that is how explicit they’re being that “forgotten” means “black, poor, unionized”. And, with that, how explicit they’re being that Republicans haven’t given a sh** about those types up until now. But, it’s not like they’re not right on that score.

But it also touches off the age-old debate as to whether it’s better to reach out to new voters, or shore up old ones. This may well just be a marginal trapping meant to give the impression he’s reaching out to new voters (for that free media), or just trying to at least making an attempt at dampening even a little the deficit he’s going to face there, but if it becomes a major thrust of his campaign, that’s an interesting strategy coming off the Rove-Bush years (and style) of doing it.

And, of course, all these things theoretically work in concert (trying new things = free media = less need for institutionalized moneyed expenses), but the tension between them all is such that it could also spin wildly out of control or be effectively grounded before it begins. Reaching out to new voters runs the considerable risk of being smacked down by new voters, which earns negative media, which will get the RNC, co-President of your campaign, the skitters and cause them to reel you in and make you do more anti-abortion fundraisers in Kansas and make more pro-Presidency noises in Washington. Etc. And, what MAKES a lot of that eyebrow-raising to me, is also what would make it seem very risky and even threatening to the institutional Republicans, so if McCain is relying on both bucking conventional Republican ways of doing things, while plopping his campaign on the foundation of the conventional Republican party, that’s a pretty shaky structure.

But there is a positive spin to all this too. McCain will, not being moneyed in the same way, much more able to free-wheel it, which suits him, and perhaps suits us in that he won’t be focus-grouped and Rovianed to death before he gets out of the gate. Focusing on traditionally ignored electorates frees him to both redefine what traditional Republicans can do, as well as gets him past the inherent polarization that only focusing on natural constituencies (and pitting them against the “forgotten” kind) usually entails. By putting himself out there in this way, it also indicates that McCain is not just willing for the tough slog and baptism of fire (rather than just “rah rah” insular rallies and yes-men institutional advice), but he welcomes it.

Of course, if he does all that and fails miserably, or if it goes wildly off the tracks, that could be a redefinition of another kind for the party and future Republicans.

All of this could go a lot of ways—or nowhere—but I’ll give this up; I’m intrigued to see.

Posted by Brad @ 3:12 pm on April 18th 2008

Campaign Hook Ups

As I mentioned in my Ron Paul Roundup, and as Lew originally reported, Ron Paul’s communications director, Jesse Benton, will be marrying Ron’s granddaughter Valori in August. A Wall Street Journal bit on campaign hookups officially breaks the news.

I can’t remember which one is Valori, but having met both of them, I have to admit I was a bit weirded out by this. But good for them.

Jesse Benton, 30, had a serious girlfriend in Washington when he signed up to be communications director for Texas Rep. Ron Paul. That quickly ended when she complained about his being on the road so much, he says.

Several months later Mr. Benton was spotted kissing Mr. Paul’s granddaughter and fellow campaign staffer, Valori Pyeatt, 22, in a hallway of the Des Moines Marriott. “It’s uncentering to have no real routine, but it’s also liberating. It lets your passions out,” says Mr. Benton, who is now engaged to Ms. Pyeatt. The two plan to marry in Texas in August.

Surely, as Ron’s communications director merges with his blood granddaughter, and the two couple and produce, their offspring shall be as like the six-headed beast of Revelations and shall one day take it’s seat on the throne as The Anti-State.

Posted by Brad @ 3:53 am on April 18th 2008

“I’ve Had it With Barack Obama’s Bull****”

A Dailykos diarist vents.

Posted by Brad @ 1:09 am on April 18th 2008

Winning Hearts and Minds…in Korea

This’ll be the first time I link to a Stars and Stripes story, which is a really dodgy publication, but the story roughly matches my own (paltry) experience.

I spent some weeks in South Korea in 2006, and my sister lives there, and I guess from my naive ugly American perspective I was surprised that America was not universally loved there. We arrived on their Independence Day, when protesting is rampant (Koreans love them some protest), and about half of those protests seemed to be against America…which is weird, considering their Independence Day is the day we signed them into being (not being ugly American there, just sayin’). I don’t know WHY it would strike me, because America is of course such an 800-pound-gorilla in the lives of most every industrialized nation on Earth in some way or another, but I suppose I might have figured that if anybody would be keen to come to our defense, it would be the average citizens of South Korea.

In any case, from my own admittedly limited experience, the South Korean perspective of America is complicated, and, at least in the last few years, has much more tended to lean against us (as has, of course, the opinions of virtually everybody in the world, but that’s particularly salient in a country that’s had the largest standing American military presence within its borders for half a century).

So, it was with some interest that I came across this story, in the aforementioned Stars and Stripes.

When the Korea Military Academy asked its incoming cadets in 2004 to name South Korea’s main enemy, they were shocked at the answer: 34 percent said the United States while only 33 percent said North Korea.

The country’s top military leaders asked that question of the 250 cadets — among the smartest university students in the nation — because they wanted to know if a 2-year-old surge of anti-Americanism had influenced the future military officers, Kim Chul-woo said. He is a spokesman for the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, which conducted the survey.

The academy’s then-superintendent, retired Lt. Gen. Kim Choong-bae, was so concerned about the survey results he cut the cadets’ boot camp from six weeks to four.

During the two extra weeks, cadets attended classes on South Korean history to learn how the country got its independence, what happened during the Korean War, and the role the United States played in the war.

Teachers told them about the U.S. Military Academy at West Point class of 1950, whose cadets graduated less than a month before the start of the Korean War. Nearly 50 of those cadets were killed.

“The [KMA] cadets were shocked. They said, ‘We didn’t know that,’” Kim said.

The cadets told academy officials they had leftist teachers in middle and high school who told them the United States was trying to dominate South Korea.

“The young cadets were kind of victims of the wrong education…” Kim said.

We have some 23,000 troops in South Korea now (I think), down quite a bit since the start of the Iraq War (at our peak in the late 80s we had some 45,000). And, of course, we’ve had about that many there since 1950, and in many places like Busan, are pretty well a regular fixture of life.

But my own impression is that if the South Korean citizens ever got an opportunity to hold a referendum on it, they’d almost certainly vote us gone. Part of it is I think a problem of education, or rather that the older South Koreans are giving way to a new generation not as acutely shaped by the Korean war. But I can’t help but think that their having more or less had their fill of our permanent occupation there may have a point to it, at least from the basic perspective of sovereignty. South Korea is certainly not a struggling oppressed nation anymore; from their perspective, having us babysitting them and, yes, dictating much of their foreign policy to them so they can continue to receive the privilege and good graces of our extended visit is, again, perhaps rightly seen as something of an embarrassment/sore spot, or at least something that South Koreans are getting keen on moving beyond as they seek to establish themselves, like the other powerhouses in Asia, as shapers of their own destiny.

Posted by Brad @ 12:42 am on April 18th 2008

Mitt’s Top Ten

At the correspondent’s dinner, Romney gave his Top Ten Reasons for Dropping Out of the Race”.

10. There weren’t as many Osmonds as I thought.
9. I got tired of corkscrew landings under sniper fire.
8. As a lifelong hunter, I didn’t want to miss the start of the varmint season.
7. There wasn’t room for two Christian leaders.
6. I was upset that no one had bothered to search my passport files.
5. I needed an excuse to get fat, grow a beard and win the Nobel prize.
4. I took a bad fall at a campaign rally and broke my hair.
3. I wanted to finally take off that dark suit and tie, and kick back in a light-colored suit and tie.
2. Once my wife Ann realized I couldn’t win, my fundraising dried up.
1. There was a miscalculation in our theory: “As Utah goes, so goes the nation.”

Posted by Brad @ 11:58 pm on April 17th 2008

One More for the “Nobody Reads Retractions” File

There sure are a lot of them coming out of the Middle East lately. Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, the bringing down of the Saddam statute, etc.

Anyway, here’s another one.

Fifteen British sailors and Marines were seized by Iran in internationally disputed waters and not in Iraq’s maritime territory as Parliament was told, according to new official documents released to The Times.

The Britons were seized because the US-led coalition designated a sea boundary for Iran’s territorial waters without telling the Iranians where it was, internal Ministry of Defence briefing papers reveal.

[…]

Newly released Ministry of Defence documents state that:

— The arrests took place in waters that are not internationally agreed as Iraqi;

— The coalition unilaterally designated a dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian waters in the Gulf without telling Iran where it was;

— The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ coastal protection vessels were crossing this invisible line at a rate of three times a week; It was the British who apparently raised their weapons first before the Iranian gunboats came alongside;

— The cornered British, surrounded by heavily armed Iranians, made a hopeless last-minute radio plea for a helicopter to come back and provide air cover.

Iran always claimed that it had arrested the Britons for violating its territorial integrity.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, repeatedly told the Commons that the personnel were seized in Iraqi waters.

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