Posted by Brad @ 11:11 pm on May 31st 2008

The Gold States

Bob Barr’s team have produced the following:

The Barr strategists describe that map as “purely hypothetical. What a three-party system might look like on Election Day.” But their point in floating it was both as a rough sketch of their strategy, and a bit of sign-posting that yes, they plan to make a real race of it if they can.

This article has some nice analysis of what Barr’s strategy will likely be.

“There are certain states that are a one-party state,” said Verney, a veteran of independent Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign, when the Texas billionaire got more than 19 percent of the vote. “Republicans write off certain states, Democrats write off certain states. We will devote more resources to certain states.”[…]

“The best opportunities would be New Hampshire, which is arguably the most libertarian state in the country and where, in 2006, the Republicans just got wiped out,” Boaz said.

From there, Barr should look west.

“Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona,” Boaz said, adding Alaska and Colorado.

New Mexico could be a possibility, also, he said.

In Montana, for example, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate received 10,000 votes, while the Democratic challenger beat incumbent Republican Conrad Burns by 3,000 votes.

In Missouri, too, the Libertarian candidate helped unseat an incumbent Republican by taking 47,000 votes, greater than the 41,000-vote margin by which Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill won.

It’s a good strategy, I think. Actually, although many of us Ron Paul supporters gave the campaign a lot of crap for their sometimes not always great tactical thinking, one of the best things they did was not just pump money into Nevada, Montana, and New Hampshire, but also to target states like Utah, Washington, Louisiana, etc (which provided Ron with some of his best showings)—states that weren’t necessarily libertarian-friendly, but were just so roundly ignored by everybody else that he was able to have the only game in town. What other Republican was massively organizing for the byzantine caucuses in Louisiana, for instance? Well, Ron was, and he had an open field. It sounds like the Barr strategists have picked up on this strategy, and I think it could serve them well. Hit places like Alaska and Idaho, why not?

It’ll be interesting to see, if they start pulling actual money, how the organization goes. But if I were McCain, I would be at least a little worried. It only takes 3-5% at the margins to cause some real trouble in states that look red now, but could be looking dicely borderline in October. It’s also tough to see that breaking any way but against McCain.

As far as the second big aspect of his strategy, breaking through the media’s Third Party Fourth Wall (we shall not speak of them…), Barr will be on the Colbert Report next week (June 4th). As Nick Bradley points out, “Does anybody think that Mary [Ruwart] would be going on Colbert if she won?” I don’t think he says that to rub anybody’s faces in Barr’s nomination, but rather to make the point that the Libertarians have something to be thankful for. Already, Barr is starting to knock on the right doors. I also wouldn’t be too worried, were I a Libertarian, about Barr diluting the message too much. In fact, the opposite might be the case; he’s not going to get noticed or get free media by playing the “Republican-lite” game, and reading what the Barr strategy wonks are saying, I think they know that.

Finally, gotta give them a little credit for picking gold as their chosen electoral map victory color. :)

Posted by Brad @ 7:44 pm on May 31st 2008

Question of the Day

How does one “resign” from a church?

Posted by Brad @ 4:57 pm on May 31st 2008

Music Video of the Weekend

Ricky Nelson – Garden Party

‘Ole Ricky never did get taken very seriously as a musician. Too good-looking. But when the weather starts getting a tad humid and the days start getting long, this song’ll come to me sometimes.

Posted by Brad @ 1:59 pm on May 31st 2008

The RBC Meeting

Is the news today, the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting to come to a decision (we think) over Michigan and Florida. It sounds like it’s playing out as a weird friction between very dry discussions of “shalls” and the “delegate vs. delegate vote” distinctions on the one hand, and very bombastic campaign rallying on the other. Publius notes:

In the days ahead, the Clintons have the power either to unite the party going into the fall, or to leave a lasting, poisonous, and potentially-fatal schism. At this point, it’s not clear what path they’ll choose.

I think that’s overstating it.

Marc Ambinder is liveblogging it (click through to his regular site for more updates and liveblog threads).

12:02 p.m: Wexler is yelling. “We must find a way…to resolve this situation so that Florida may participate in this historic nominating process that will soon come to a close.” … Says the rules provide for a reduction in the NUMBER of pledged delegates… Wexler announces Obama campaign’s support for Ausman petition… — says it would award Clinton a net 19 delegates… “Sen. Obama should be commended for his willingness to offer this extraordinary concession…. “

DHinMI at Dailykos saw that exchange thusly:

Robert Wexler did something really crazy when compared to the Clinton supporters. He addressed the rules. He also advocated for the most sensible solution that both recognizes the problems from the past but also looks forward to November: seat the Florida delegation at half voting strength.

Wexler pointed out the obvious: In supporting the Ausman petition, Obama is making a major concession in the interests of party unity and looking toward November.

That elicited boos from the Clinton partisans.

Unlike the Clinton folks, however, Wexler doesn’t advocate giving the superdelegates from Florida full voting strength, but giving them the same half-vote as he advocates for the pledged delegates.

Of course that also elicited boos from the Clinton partisans in the room.

Drudge reporting that even Bill is basically conceding there’s only one fair way for the rules to be upheld: seating the delegates with half votes. Most people seem to understand that to be the fairest solution; only question is how much political theater the Hillary campaign tries to make out of it.

Posted by Brad @ 10:58 pm on May 30th 2008

Depressing Link of the Day

Swift boating Obama’s great uncle.

Posted by Brad @ 10:50 pm on May 30th 2008

Quote of the Day

“You can’t tell how far a frog will jump until you punch him.”

Hillary Clinton

Posted by Brad @ 10:35 pm on May 30th 2008

Ferraro: Hillary Clinton is a Victim of Racism

Here we are at the end of the primary season, and the effects of racism and sexism on the campaign have resulted in a split within the Democratic Party that will not be easy to heal before election day. Perhaps it’s because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn’t an issue, but reverse racism is…

If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed

Man, that horrible black overclass that keeps rich white people running for office down. Poor things. If only our Presidential contests were properly representative of our country’s whiteness.

You have to read the whole thing to quite grasp the purity of its derangement.

Posted by Adam @ 3:44 pm on May 30th 2008

Purple money

Mark Krikkorian has a somewhat bizarre opinion on the new colouration being applied to US $5 banknotes. Prefacing a picture of it with the line “If I wanted to use purple money, I’d move to a banana republic”, he goes on to add:

Paper money has no intrinsic value, it can’t be redeemed for gold or silver, you can’t even make jewelry out of it. There’s nothing behind it but the people’s confidence in it, and when the government keeps changing its appearance, as it has with the successive redesigns over the past several years, that confidence is undermined. Anti-counterfeiting measures are also vital to that goal, of course, but the more obvious those measures are (as opposed to, say , micro-printing and the like), the more they actually undermine the ostensible goal of buttressing faith in the currency. And it’s not just confidence in the money itself that suffers, but the public’s broader confidence in the stability of our institutions — how many people have said to themselves since the permanent, rolling process of changing our paper money started in the mid-1990s, “Jeez, even our dollars are starting to look like Monopoly money.”

If this argument wasn’t laughable enough, the nations whose currency has been spanking the dollar (particularly the ones in that group with which I am most familiar, the UK Pound and the Euro) are highly coloured (and the UK notes, at least, are regularly changed in colour and design, although not particularly frequently). The reason that people have less faith in the dollar is not, I am afraid, anything to do with the relatively subtle colouring of the US $5 bill.

Posted by Brad @ 2:13 am on May 29th 2008

He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day He Died

For eighteen years, beginning in college, and ending in a hospital bed on his 41st birthday, dead from cancer. Here’s the story.

Here’s his website.

Posted by Brad @ 9:37 pm on May 28th 2008

Dodd Watch (With Biden Bonus)

Ambinder reports that he may be subtly positioning himself for consideration in the Obama Veepstakes.

Dodd, as I wrote before, brings essentially nothing to the table that couldn’t be gotten better with somebody else, and I say that as a big Dodd fan (hell, I even endorsed him for President). I still hold out hope that he makes a play for Senate Majority leader (and that Clinton does not).

In related news (as in, news about another early dropout Democratic also-ran), a lot of people are openly speculating that the case for Joseph Biden as Secretary of State is pretty persuasive. I still think Biden is a great dark horse option for VP, himself.

Posted by Brad @ 7:34 pm on May 28th 2008

Passed On Without Comment, Deux

How many levels of stupid.

Posted by Brad @ 6:52 pm on May 28th 2008

Passed On Without Comment

From Missouri:

The wife of a founder of the Ozarks Minutemen has pleaded guilty to lying about being raped and shot by three Hispanic men.

Angela D. Wilburn, 44, appeared in Greene County Associate Circuit Court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to making a false report, a class B misdemeanor. Wilburn is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 3. She could face up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.

Wilburn is the wife of Brian Wilburn, who helped form the Ozarks Minutemen. She was charged with the crime in December, after calling 911 reporting someone had shot her.

Angela Wilburn told investigators that three Hispanic men broke into her mobile home and that one of the men sexually assaulted her in the hallway, then shot her in the knee with a handgun.

She soon retracted her story and said she heard a noise, and grabbed her husband’s gun. She told police the gun went off as she reached for a flashlight.

Posted by Brad @ 6:35 pm on May 28th 2008

Electoral Projections Done Right

This blogger provides an updated list of how the various pollsters fared this season. I’m not entirely sure what his model is, but in any event, if you’re curious, SurveyUSA has really distinguished itself this season: they’ve been pumping out so much data that one is almost inclined to believe much of it has to be bunk, but they’ve been superhuman in their predictions. Zogby’s Interactive model continues to look bad (though his traditional polling is average). Rasmussen has blown some big calls but it averages out in the long haul for a #2 ranking among major outfits. The MSM pollsters (CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, Gallup) are all subpar. PPP, Field, Strategic Vision, Insider Advantage, and Quinnipac remain reliable dedicated pollsters that you ought to pay attention to instead.

Particularly of note: the only two pollsters who use “robo” polling—automated recordings versus human interviewers—are, quite literally, the first and second most accurate pollsters (SUSA and Rasmussen). Their automated methods allow them to get much, much more data than traditional pollsters, and it makes their data much more accurate. Much as it chagrins us “human touch”ists in the field, it sure is hard to see a downside to their methods right now (save, of course, that it employs less pollsters).

Posted by Brad @ 5:51 pm on May 28th 2008

Mike Huckabee on the Greatest Threat to Republicanism: Libertarianism

LewRockwell.com flags this fascinating quote from Mike Huckabee:

“The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says ‘look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it.’ Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it’s not an American message. It doesn’t fly. People aren’t going to buy that, because that’s not the way we are as a people. That’s not historic Republicanism. Historic Republicanism does not hate government; it’s just there to be as little of it as there can be. But they also recognize that government has to be paid for.

“If you have a breakdown in the social structure of a community, it’s going to result in a more costly government … police on the streets, prison beds, court costs, alcohol abuse centers, domestic violence shelters, all are very expensive. What’s the answer to that? Cut them out? Well, the libertarians say ‘yes, we shouldn’t be funding that stuff.’ But what you’ve done then is exacerbate a serious problem in your community. You can take the cops off the streets and just quit funding prison beds. Are your neighborhoods safer? Is it a better place to live? The net result is you have now a bigger problem than you had before.”

Now, one can hash out the actual argument he’s making if you like; it’s pretty much the standard reply / straw man argument that libertarians have been hearing for decades…from liberals. I think I’ve met maybe two libertarians ever who advocate dispensing with police and prisons, and they would more accurately be called anarchists. But nevertheless, that’s the straw man; whatever.

What’s interesting to me is that it’s Huckabee who’s putting that notion forward. I talk a lot about how the main legacy of the Republican party in the last 15 years is how it has altogether ceded the central argument in the Republican-Democrat debate to the liberals. It simply became uninterested in advancing the argument that, in any given situation, perhaps the first mechanism to look to for solutions ought not be a federal government bureaucracy. That, to me, is the central tenet of conservatism, a general skepticism that government is the appropriate or most effective agency for righting all wrongs that human beings run across. What Mike Huckabee is effectively saying here is: that is no longer a relevant conversation for Republicans to have. The only relevant conversation to have is how much or what type of government intervention there ought to be in any given situation. There is no longer any significant drive in the Republican party to advocate that maybe ceding authority in any given sphere to the federal government perhaps ought not to be our go-to response for everything.

That’s a pretty stark re-imagining of things from a pretty mainstream “future of the party” figure in the GOP. I mean, I’ve been suspecting for awhile now that the center of gravity in the American landscape has long ago shifted left; I think Huckabee is right in that sense of where Republicanism is now. But it’s still startling to hear him say it (and then, of course, to reimagine that that’s how it’s always been) and emphatically endorse it. What he’s saying, essentially, is that Ron Paul is a greater threat (yes, he used the word threat) to Republicanism then, say, Dennis Kucinich. The latter is closer to mainstream Republicanism then the former.

That’s pretty amazing.

Posted by Brad @ 2:42 pm on May 28th 2008

Idaho Results

Oh yeah, Idaho voted yesterday in the presidential primary.

Only notable result: Ron Paul got 25%, and more votes then Obama (the winner on the Democratic side).

Idaho has a proportional delegate-allocation system, so Paul will likely net 6 or so delegates from the result, bringing his count to the low 40s, and keeping his total percent of the national Republican vote well over 10%

That’s pretty hard to do in the Republican primaries, for any candidate. It’ll be interesting to hear the party’s justification for shutting him and his supporters out at the convention for not being “Republican enough”, given that he’s one of just a handful of Republican politicians in the last 20 years to wind up with double digit delegates and a million votes in the GOP primaries.

Posted by Brad @ 2:24 pm on May 28th 2008

Who Will Give the Republican Keynote: Zell Miller or Barack Obama?

This year’s Democratic convention is going to be a blockbuster, we hear. Depending on how things play out, it’s either going to be contentious and dramatic, or it’s going to be unifying and noble (at least theatrically so). Every media figure in America is salivating at the prospect of massive floor fights between the Clinton and Obama camps, being there to cover barely-contained civil war, watching (and rolling) as tensions flare and hostilities boil over. The notion, even the faintest hint, of an actual old-style convention—in which integral and heated questions linger and have to be resolved at the event itself, hashed out between rival delegations and caucuses—is something that pol watchers have hoped and hoped for pretty much ever since they went out of style in the first place. They’ll know, in their heads, that it’s not going to happen, again, but they’ll still be there, twitchy and hyperactive, hoping to find even the slightest whiff of controversy or contentiousness.

I’ll break the news to you now. The conventions—both of them—won’t be that exciting. They’ll be the same carefully scripted self-aggrandizing dog-and-pony shows that they always are, and though the media will try valiantly to find something, anything, exciting and unexpected to report on, they’ll just be going through the motions, as always. The truth is most of the fundamental questions will have been ironed out long before anyone hits any stage, and the events themselves will still be nothing more than self-indulgent exercises in giving away talking points and memes through a focus grouped confetti of balloons, vertical state signs, and shallow cheerleading, with maybe a few scant surprises and moments of actual insight thrown in.

But just because conventions in this day and age are all about pre-scripted speeches and theater, that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t much to be gleaned by them. You just have to look in different places. Not in smoky backrooms and on the floor, but in the speeches and televised theatrics themselves.

And in that sense I think the more intriguing convention this year will belong to the Republicans. The Clinton-Obama thing will make the headlines, but that’s a tension of personalities and egos, not a battle of ideology and philosophy or any kind of fundamental questions of direction.

No, the question I’m most interested in seeing the conventions answer is one that we’ll likely have an answer for well in advance of the event itself. Namely: who’s going to give the Republican keynote?

The answer to that question is going to say a helluva lot more about politics in America in 2008 and beyond than will whatever grousing from Clinton supporters Obama and the Democratic party are going to have to grind their teeth about for a month.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 1:00 pm on May 28th 2008

The Dumbest Political Controversy of the Month

Michelle Malkin takes it.

See, Rachel Ray recently filmed a Dunkin Donuts commercial in which she was wearing a scarf, and…

Aw hell. I don’t even have the heart or patience to type it beyond that. It’s just too dumb to put to words.

Needless to say, the anti-islamofascist brigades continue to go a long way towards marginalizing themselves by essentially doing nothing but whipping each other into a useless frenzy on a near daily basis.

Posted by Brad @ 2:02 am on May 28th 2008

The Stories Behind the 12 Words of Indian Origin in the OED

Since we’re talking about the vagaries of language in another thread, I found this article fascinating. Etymology is kewl.

Posted by Brad @ 1:49 am on May 28th 2008

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Anthony Gregory:

I just flew back from the Libertarian National Convention, and boy are my left and right wings tired.

Posted by Brad @ 9:53 pm on May 27th 2008

The Boogeyman of Vote Fraud

As long time readers know, we’re more than a little skeptical of vote fraud conspiracy theorists. Our ire was mostly directed at people that wanted to hijack political movements to instead become the Diebold machine equivalent of 9-11 For Truth, but it’s not necessarily limited to that. What also irritates me to no end are conservatives who argue about the rampant vote fraud that mean urban liberals supposedly engage in en masse—lining up illegal immigrants, dead people, out-of-state activists, etc. Despite the fact that this specter is very regularly raised, despite some isolated (very isolated) incidents of overzealous signature gatherers or crazy boondocks city councilmen padding their own petitions with a few dozen dead relatives, given the amount of resources and, more than that, psychological weight, we allocate to these mostly red herring issues continues to perplex me.

It is not, as I said all along in regards to the Vote Fraud groups flocking to early primary states to protest about electronic voting (an objection I am enormously sympathetic to), a matter of disagreeing with the essence of it. Where vote fraud is found, it ought to be prosecuted, of course. And, frankly, paperless electronic voting, while it may not be currently in service to program in fake election results on behalf of our neocon corporate overlords, is problematic on its own merits. Just because you can’t prove a negative doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to have the most transparent and trusted system possible. I think what bothers me is the devaluation that these groups encourage on the part of our election results.

On the margins, for the real true-believers, no vote count that they ideologically disagree will ever be considered valid. It’s an instant way to skirt having to face the fact that most of your fellow community members do not share your views. Nobody likes having to accept election results that they dislike; what bothers me is constructing elaborate bugaboos as an easy out instead. The guys I went after in the early days of the Ron Paul campaign were not the people who just thought voting transparency should be an issue and electronic voting machines that nobody understands and that leave no trails are a bad thing. Sign me up on that. The people I went after were the ones who extended that to the point where they argued that Pat Buchanan was the favored Republican candidate in 2000, say. (Of course, even then, believe what you want to believe; my objections were primarily tactical in nature, as most of that latter category was actively trying to co-opt and harvest from other political movements).

Point being, I tend to be very incredulous and not very generous with constructs that people make (and then try to foist on everyone else) to not have to face reality. That would just be a nitpick in most cases, but where it’s also tied in to an attempt to delegitimize the voice of the voters (in trying to shout at them that their opinions are not actually their opinions), I get a bit testy.

In any case, that’s a very long-winded introduction to a very good article by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate right now.

Opens with:

Just as some sizable fraction of American children firmly believe in the boogeyman in the closet, many adult Americans cling to a paranoid fear of the election-fraud monster. Too many of us believe in the epidemic of pervasive Democratic vote fraud, and others believe in the specter of systematic Republican vote suppression. The notion that present-day Democrats regularly steal elections by engaging in concerted efforts to vote multiple times in funny mustaches is a myth, unsupported by data or fact. Historically, it’s true that conservatives have used voter intimidation, poll taxes, and other skeezy tactics to disenfranchise minority voters. It’s also true that some of Karl Rove’s flying monkeys have attempted to revive that proud tradition with schemes such as “vote caging” (getting transient students and folks in the military bounced off the voter rolls) and pressuring U.S. attorneys to prosecute vote fraud where none exists. But for the most part, modern polling-place election-stealing has just not been pervasive or systemic.

The more we believe the other side steals elections, the easier it becomes to devalue their votes. And I’m not sure that’s a road anyone wants to travel.

Skepticism is always a good thing. Cynicism sometimes can be too. And where it concerns voting, I think the higher the expectation for fairness and transparency, the better.

But, my advice to people working in the trenches on this issue, be very careful to stay on the right side of the line of not using this (very important) issue as a mechanism for your own cognitive dissonance (or attempting to rewrite the reality that you, as a member of the American voting community, have to accept and deal with on some level). And working on this issue should be (indeed, has to be) entirely separate from ideological/partisan concerns of any other stripe.

Posted by Brad @ 8:33 pm on May 27th 2008

Ironic News Brief Of the Day

The sky-rocketing cost of wheat is breaking food budgets around the world. Families are paying more for bagels in Brooklyn and for flatbread in Afghanistan. The difference is that many Afghans are now spending half their earnings on bread alone. International aid is keeping the country — one of the world’s poorest — from food riots and starvation. But the crisis may encourage some farmers to move out of the drug trade and into wheat.

Yes, Cameron, this one’s from Fark too.

Posted by Brad @ 2:02 pm on May 27th 2008

Emperor Norton’s Greatest Public Work 71 Years Old Today

Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

The idea to span the Golden Gate, the mile-wide strait connecting the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, was originally proposed by a madman. Joshua Norton — a San Francisco merchant who went bankrupt and lost his marbles, declaring himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico — decreed the building of the bridge in 1869.

A few years after Norton’s decree, railroad magnate Charles Crocker, a lot less endearing but a lot more influential than the good emperor, presented the first concrete plan, with cost estimates, for spanning the Golden Gate. Despite his clout, Crocker got about as far with his plans as his dotty predecessor did.

Rojas and I are still going to strike it rich by writing the Emperor Norton screenplay.

Posted by Brad @ 7:00 pm on May 26th 2008

Dear Joyful Cynic

Couth.

Posted by Brad @ 5:40 pm on May 26th 2008

A Tad More on the Barr Win

Last night’s post was just a quick update from the road. A tad more on Barr winning.

For one, it took six ballots. Ruwart actually tied Barr on a few ballots, but ultimately Gravel (who came in fourth, surprisingly (I didn’t think he’d do that well) and Root threw most of their support to Barr in the end. The balloting was no coronation, but rather it appears that Barr got through on the strength of good old-fashioned politicking this week. He took the race seriously, and in the end I think that’s what got him through.

Wayne Allen Root will be on the ticket with Barr. After securing the nomination, Barr asked the delegates to please elect Root for VP nominee. Part of that was a “I’ll scratch yours” payoff for Root throwing his support Barr’s way once Root was eliminated from balloting, but mostly, it seems to me to be genuine. Barr is going for the Republican vote, and he’s interested in exposure, so Root makes sense, given his media ties and rather bombastic personality. Ruwart, I think, would have been a better choice, but she didn’t put herself in contention (the signal being, she refused to be put on a ticket with Barr).

What does it mean for the LP? Three things.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 10:51 pm on May 25th 2008

Barr Wins

He’ll be the Libertarian candidate for President.

I kept trying to prep my friends for the idea that he was not, in fact, anything close to a shoo-in. And indeed, if you read the live-blog, you can see. But nevertheless, he pulled it out, and for once the Libertarian delegates didn’t throw the “celebrity” candidate overboard for the sake of purity, though they came pretty close.

Perhaps that’s not the best choice for the Libertarians. I can’t say, from their perspective (because, in truth, I’m not entirely sure what they value anymore, in terms of ends). But they have immediately vaulted themselves from a total general election non-entity to at least the potential to provide an interesting wrinkle, so for us election-watchers, it gives us one more thing to talk about. I see no reason why Barr’s baseline wouldn’t be in the 2-3% range right off the bat.

We shall see.

Posted by Brad @ 2:54 am on May 24th 2008

Music Video of the Weekend

The Larks – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 9:34 pm on May 23rd 2008

An Unfortunate Comparison

Rojas has previously openly speculated about the possibility of Obama being assassinated. It’s not really a polite question, but I think most people would be lying if they said the thought that such an event could possibly take place hadn’t occurred to them. With the (strong) potential for being America’s first black President, the risk inherent in that has occurred to the Obamas as well (Michelle notably has sounded off on it in the past). The thought is even more on the minds of African-Americans. Every President has to worry about it—though in this day and age, the risk is pretty negligible really—but for anybody not an old white Southern protestant, the risk is undoubtedly more “live”.

Which is why, perhaps, in the context of why she ought to stay in the race, Senator Clinton helpfully noting that Bobby Kennedy wasn’t shot until June might not be the best comparison to draw.

Andrew Sullivan has some priceless reaction shots.

For the record, I think clearly Hillary deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one (though it’s a pretty weird/unsettling example to use in any event). But man oh man, talk about tin ear.

Posted by Brad @ 7:21 pm on May 23rd 2008

Are Sports Subsidies Worth It?

Here in Pittsburgh, last year there was a roiling city-wide debate as the Pittsburgh Penguins threatened to pull up stakes and move (Kansas City being the likeliest destination) unless the city built them a massive new sports complex. The debate was strange for me, not a hockey fan and not a native Pittsburgher, because although there was much discussion, virtually everybody’s response tended to hinge on barely concealed naked fear. How can we appease the team ownership? We must step lightly or they’ll make us all rue the day! You’d think the city was dealing with a rouge nuclear state. This was made all the more perplexing as the city of Pittsburgh is pretty well known for being bankrupt, and is now considering closing up shop and folding municipal operations entirely under county authority (quite literally, closing up “the city of Pittsburgh”, boarding up all the windows, and leaving the keys under the mat).

But $300 million dollars was needed to keep Lemieux in town, so in the battle of “either the Penguins go or Pittsburgh does”, the city literally sided against itself. (Lucky for the Penguins, they’ve had a great season, so lingering doubts about the viability of the “investment” have pretty much dissipated entirely).

There were two sides to the debate, but both sides were basically arguing the same position and only differing on specifics. Notably absent was anybody putting forward the argument, “So what? Let them go. Screw them. We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

It’s a question that, at least implicitly, comes up for most major cities every dozen years or so. Always part of the assumption is that these sports clubs are a great boon to the city in question. Libertarians, however, are always quick to point out that, at least economically, those boons are more mirage than oasis. I once heard an economist, posed the question, respond a little sadly that there had never been any evidence that a city ever gained a net dollar for even the most healthy and successful sports teams. Instead, he said, it’s better to think of a sports club as “a city’s gift to itself”.

In light of the fresh baseball season, and the fact that the Washington Nationals are now playing in their $611 million dollar taxpayer-bought stadium financed entirely by the municipality of D.C. (between that and the ticket-price of $450 million dollars to buy the club, that makes the Nationals well over a billion dollar franchise), ReasonTV asks the obvious question: is it worth it?

Short answer: No. But people seem to think so.

I think that economist had it right.

Edit/Aside: Since I never have a chance to plug him, I should add that Bram Reichbaum, a friend/acquaintance of mine, has the best Pittsburgh-centric blog bar none, The Pittsburgh Comet. Despite the fact that it’s too wonky for words, Bram’s a very funny guy so it’s surprisingly readable (but it’s much better if you read it in the voices of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bruce Campbell from The Hudsucker Proxy). Incidentally, the Penguins are embroiled in another municipal controversy, which Bram covers here.

Posted by Brad @ 4:47 pm on May 23rd 2008

Tory Wave Cresting

I posted about it last night, but a bit of followup is in order.

The Tories did, indeed, succeed mightily in the by-elections last night, as predicted. It wasn’t just that they won—though the conservatives in England have not managed to pick off a Labour seat in a by-election literally in my lifetime, since 1978—it’s the margin they won by that’s so striking. The Tories needed to gain 8.2% to win the seat—a swing something akin to what the Democrats had to do to pick off those special elections in Louisiana, Illinois, and Mississippi—but at the end of the night they had managed to turn the electorate their way to the tune of of 17.6%. The gross margins may sound small to American ears—let’s face it, Crewe and Nantwich are not exactly bustling metropolitan hotbeds of pivotal political activity—but the Tory ascent has been all about emblematic skirmishes and using those to signal portends—and crises of confidence—for Labour. On the by-elections:

But while describing Edward Timpson’s triumph – on an emphatic swing of 17.6 per cent – as “remarkable”, Mr Cameron added: “I know we still have a long way to go.”

Mr Timpson wiped out the 7,000 majority achieved by the late Gwyneth Dunwoody in the 2005 general election, to win by a margin of almost 8,000 votes over the former MP’s daughter Tamsin.

Mr. Cameron sounds humble in that quote, but in other interviews he sounded decidedly more triumphant, repeating lines like “it’s the end of New Labour”. A boast that’s almost hard to knock at this point, as it appears to be true.

As RCP notes, reporters across the pond are hearing “that Cameron will seek to capitalize on last night’s victory by calling an early byelection in Henley to fill the seat recently vacated by Boris Johnson who was elected Mayor of London. Speculative dates could be June 26 or July 3.”

To celebrate, we’ve sent our resident conservative limey to meet our other resident conservative limey, so they may both get pissed.

Posted by Brad @ 4:33 pm on May 23rd 2008

Quote of the Day

In discussing all the current wrangling about the potential for Obama reaching out and offering Clinton the VP slot, with all that process entails, as well as more general thoughts about how the Democratic race bight be navigated to shore, hilzoy, I think, nails something that a lot of us aren’t taking the time to notice or reflect on, and that applies equally well almost throughout the entire course of this primary.

Note what’s missing here: any sense that Clinton herself is a responsible moral agent. People are writing about her as though she were a bomb that needed to be expertly defused, as opposed to a person who can govern her own life, and is responsible for her own choices.

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