Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short: The warmth of the DC snipers

This is the strange story of how the DC sniper, John Mohammed, joined a DC-area YMCA. How do you feel when the friendly new guy at the gym is also a cold-blooded killer? I hope I never find out.


Surprising money advantage for Obama

During the summer, the money race seemed to favor Romney, who outraised Obama in June and July. There are also the rich conservative superPACs, like Karl Rove's Crossroads. It looked like Romney would have a big advantage in money for TV ads, just as he had in the primaries. Would Romney be able to glide on all that cash straight into the White House? It was never a sure thing, but it was certainly a concern.

Now, however, Obama has opened up advantages in raising money at the same time as he's pulling ahead slightly in the polls. How did he accomplish this? This ABC article may have the best explanation: the Obama campaign spent a lot of money on TV ads in swing states during both conventions, making sure that his message was heard during those news-saturated weeks. The Romney campaign lagged in TV ad placement.

I wonder whether Romney was keeping his powder dry for a blitz in October. By that time, it may be too late. The Romney campaign and his allied superPAC can dedicate a lot of cash to ads, but the Republican National Committee, which is flush this year, and other rich superPACs may shun Romney and instead devote their resources to more promising races, like Senate seats and control of the Senate.

Perhaps TV saturation wouldn't help anyway. Repetition of the same talking points grates on undecided voters. A more empathetic narrative might work, but Romney hasn't shown that he knows how to frame one. With six weeks left, Romney's hopes depend on increasingly unlikely events--a major Obama fumble, a foreign or domestic crisis that demonstrates an unknown blindness in the Obama administration, a compelling debate performance by Romney that leaves Obama speechless.

I doubt that any of these black swan events will occur. Romney may not be toast yet, but he's in the toaster and really close to those glowing filaments.

Getting toastier

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Romney as a terrible candidate

Lots of writers have covered this ground, but I'm compelled to trod on it too.

On the one hand it's amazing how terrible Romney is doing. After all, he successfully managed to sell himself to a reluctant Republican party. The job of selling himself to a more moderate electorate should be easier, shouldn't it? Besides, Romney is supposed to be good at this kind of salesmanship due to his background in business.

Somehow it turns out that selling yourself as a candidate is maybe harder when the audience is more diverse. Some of the positions that are taken for granted in the GOP (lower taxes are just plain good) require more explanation for the broader audience not steeped in GOP orthodoxy. Romney (unlike Perry, Palin, Bachmann, or Cain) is smart enough to know that some of those GOP orthodoxies aren't very solid, and he can't manage to enthusiastically lie about them the way other candidates might have. So he is bland, avoids specifics, and postpones the date of reckoning until after the election.

Luckily, all that hedging and feinting isn't going unnoticed. Of course Obama points Romney's dodges, but also Romney is just not that good at it. He gives himself away when he's eluding a question--I'm not sure quite what the tells are, but a lot people can see them as clearly as I do. I think perhaps his speech patterns change--the sentences are shorter and more disjoint. They just don't flow in the same way that the longer diatribes against what Obama do.

Gingrich was a speaker who could flawlessly pull off this kind of thing. He could deliver reams of analysis of Obama, or the merits of GOP policy, and they all sounded great. Unfortunately, he could do the same when he talked about space colonies, so we knew that he could make anything sound good, thereby demonstrating that he was a silver-tongued charlatan who couldn't be trusted.

In comparison, Romney is more like us--nervous when he lies or prevaricates. And that's exactly what he has to do now until Election Day. May God have mercy on his soul, but Americans shouldn't.

Grit your teeth, Mitt. Just X more days of this.

Extras. Nate Silver says the Romney is trying to be the generic Republican candidate. Jon Stewart says the same thing, but with much better jokes. It turns out a generic Republican can win over Obama, but actually flesh, blood, and flawed Republicans can't. What is a real person to do? Bleach out those personal bits.

Herman Cain proclaims he'd be doing better. Many at conservative site HotAir disagree. Lots are resigned, few have buyer's remorse. Not many analyzing why the choices for GOP presidential nominee were so poor this time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Political Lie Machine: Obama switchers 2

I called bullshit on the idea that there are a lot of Obama switchers earlier. Here's a great example of how rare they are.

Fox News wanted a young Obama supporter who is also a college graduate having trouble finding a job and therefore is now an ardent Romney supporter. Watch what happens when Fox gets punked by a supposed average representative of this demographic. Hat tip - Atlantic Wire.

Update 7/8/13. To all the French and Italians who started viewing this in the past month, please tell me--where did you hear about this post, why is it popular there, and what do you think? [Friendly comment policy, you can be anonymous, and no word puzzle at the end.]

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Short: The Dilemma of Black Conservative Christians

This article was a glimpse into a different world from mine.

I don't make decisions based on religious tenets or trying to understand which moral choice God would want me to make. But that is what conservative black pastors are trying to do: determine which US presidential candidate is the better choice for a strict Christian. Hint: It's not a slam-dunk for Obama and it never was. This year the choice is especially hard--a anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage Mormon, or a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage unorthodox nominal Christian.

I'm so glad I believe in individual conscience. That is my prescription. Search your heart, analyze your values and the values, policies, and likely outcomes. Know your reasons, then vote your conscience.

... or you can do as your pastor says.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Short: The sequester quantified

I'm not a complete nerd, but I long ago decided not to be scared of numbers, so I looked at the 394-page sequester report. The report is actually pretty simple-- it lists federal agencies and how much their budgets are going to be cut, like this:

The cut levels are 2% for some special favored programs (like Medicare), 7.6%, 8.2%, and 9.4% (mostly for defense programs). Some lucky programs have no cuts, like Social Security and Medicaid. The overall savings from these cuts are just $1.2 trillion over 10 years, that is only $120 billion a year or one-tenth of our current deficit.

The cuts and the which functions would be affected were determined by the debt ceiling deal that passed over a year ago. The Congress people who passed this legislation probably know what they voted for, and could probably put together this report, but they hoped to embarrass Obama and pin the cuts on him. That's a pretty weak ploy. Personally, I'm glad the debt ceiling deal had teeth. Finally a bit of fiscal sanity.

Anyone complaining about this had better make a damned good argument against these cuts and offer a better alternative.

One additional reflection: It takes 220 pages to list all the federal agencies and bureaus, though I fear that maybe even this listing isn't all the federal bureaus. This makes me wonder if the federal government is trying to do too much. However, I didn't see obviously ludicrous agencies. Maybe ending non-ludicrous agencies is part of budget sanity too.

Last outpost of crazy: Feuding Amish

This could also be filed under Absurd Religious Follies. The horrible crime of beard-shearing occurred due to a years-old dispute about a bishop's right to order shunning.

For me, this story is pretty much from another planet because I don't believe in:
  • Pronouncements from bishops.
  • Shunning.
  • Beard-cutting as a grievous retribution on the unholy.
  • The God of all things would worry about ordering us to grow just our chin hairs to ridiculous lengths.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Top gaffes of the Democratic convention

For Democrats, it was a pretty well organized convention without too many socialistic promises made. So it was an improvement on the last big platform event, the State of the Union speech. The Dems embarrassed themselves in small ways, but not in big ways. (Much better than Obama's last big speech, the SOTU.)
  • The "Government is the only thing we all belong too" video. This isn't a good sentiment when trust in government is low, as it is now. Obama campaign is distancing itself. See good critiques at HotAir and Reason.
  • Nixing the stadium. This looks like over-reach, trying to fill a stadium again, and then canceling it for weather concerns. This is a problem with its roots in his 2008 acceptance speech. Just as well to bite the bullet this time and go back to a normal venue. No campaign should repeat the stadium thing.
  • Floor vote for putting God and Jerusalem back in the platform. Poor optics on the part of the platform committee, poorly handled on the convention floor. They didn't send out enough memos or email, obviously, so the voice vote didn't go as it should. Many pundits/blogs thought this was the worst gaffe of the convention, but I don't think there will be much mileage out of a perfunctory mention of God and Jerusalem. They're just not the major issues in the campaign or important wedge issues. (By the way, what are the wedge issues?)
  • Bill Clinton gave a great speech, but did you know he's a serial rapist? I'm seeing this charge frequently just in time for the DNC. (However, Ann Coulter was years ahead of the meme.) I'm following this rule for political decisions -- no disqualifications due to sexual misdeeds. The moral outrage is never applied consistently. People excuse and forgive on their side, but try to run those on other side out of government and out of town. I'm tired of the hypocrisy, and I don't want to narrow the choice of candidates to only those who are strictly faithful in their marriage vows. This pass doesn't extend to harassing or fooling around with minors. That's still verboten.
  • I guess Biden disappointed those counting on him to gaffe.
  • The Blaze found a delegate who said "Romney will destroy this country completely." If she were to meet him, she wants to kill him. Substitute 'Obama' for 'Romney' and you have a typical Tea Party interview or right-wing comment on a news blog. Yawn. Does this register on anyone's outrage meter anymore?
  •'s pick for best and worst.
The Dems didn't even come close to crippling themselves, so this counts as a good convention. The Dems still have plenty of time to screw up, and the GOP often counts on this happening. By staying on message, the Dems are making the GOP work for a win this time instead of just handing it to them.

 Dem equivalent of Tea Party crazy

Monday, September 3, 2012

Short: Latinos' message to the Dems

The GOP tried to make an appeal to Latino voters at their convention, but it was definitively too little to make up for the years of immigrant-bashing and the months of one-upmanship on how to protect the border (the electrified fence, moat, and alligators).

That doesn't mean that the Democrats have Latino votes sewn up. Latinos vote at lower rates than other groups, and they are more socially conservative than other Dem-leaning groups. However, the Democrats have a lot of positions that Latinos strongly support, like allowing children who came into the country illegally to stay legally, work, and get educated. There's also support for college education such as scholarship aid. After reading a list of Democratic positions and programs that benefit Latinos, it's hard to think that many will vote Republican. Maybe not, but Jorge Ramos doesn't want Dems to take Latinos for granted. That should be a no-brainer for any politician--you don't want to ignore demographics.


Extras: Latinos could turn Texas Democratic by 2030, if (big if) current trends hold. My own thought--could Latinos make the Democratic party more centrist? I'm always hoping for that, so of course they can.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oust Nancy Pelosi

I'm no fan of Nancy Pelosi. This is what I've said before:
Her hand in the creation process of the stimulus and reviled health reform bills costs the Democratics a great deal of support ... [H]er egotism keeps her from stepping aside and giving the leadership to someone who could help Democrats rather than further blacken them.
Thinking about her, I realized something ironic. The GOP smears Obama with lies (he's radical, marxist, etc.), but Nancy Pelosi provides them with more than enough completely factual mud that they don't have to invent garbage to throw at her. Look at these headlines:
Republicans are the E. coli club.  (but she has a good point there)
Republican Jews are being exploited.
Todd Akin's views are doggie doo on GOP shoe.
Pelosi: I could have arrested Karl Rove, but we didn't.
Pass Health Reform so you can find out what's in it.
It's a terrible reflection on the House Dems that she is still their leader. Are the House Dems largely hacks? According to this Politico article, Pelosi draws substantial support from: California Dems, the progressive caucus, and women representatives.

She also has two other big advantages: she knows how to work the liberal money machine, and she's merciless to those who cross her. Fear and/or loyalty keep the House Dems in line and keep Pelosi in her leadership role.

So the House Dems won't depose her, nor is she moving on for the good of the party. This is another sign that Democrats can be the party of stupid. The most successful Democrat in the past 20 years, Bill Clinton, isn't the example Dems follow. Instead, it's Nancy Pelosi.

I hope the Dems don't regain the House, in this election or in any other election until they learn what it takes to become the majority and keep it. In other words, until they win on their merits. The last time they won, it was after 6 years of George Bush and his endless, expensive wars. If that's what it takes for Dems to win, I hope they keep losing. By the way, I feel differently about the Senate and the presidency, since there seem to be fewer hackish senators and candidates for president.

Pelosi with pearls and her biggest sponsor

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My solemn vow: Next week, the Dems get it

I've been blasting the GOP pretty hard this week, though I did have a few complimentary words. I also found the worst troll, and he's a Hillary Democrat! Next week I hope to devote to silly Democratic foibles. Please check in.


The myth of Obama switchers

Supposedly there are a lot of Obama voters who are going to vote for Romney this time. I'm dubious, so I researched. I found one piece of evidence supporting this meme, and much more contradicting it. It's actually been a fun search.
  • Gallup did a poll and found 9% are switching from Obama to Romney. If the number is that high, why am I not seeing more signs of it? Maybe it's more of a swing state phenomenon, and I'm far from the swingset.
  • In the Atlantic, people are faking being Obama switchers: Joseph (here), Annabellep and others are pretending to be Obama-switchers. Annabellep: "that's... why this independent will be voting for Mitt Romney, and supporting him with with every ounce of my lily-white being." Sorry, I just don't find that credible. Also this commenter left all of one message on the thread. I think she's a plant, and I'm not the only one with that suspicion.
  • A dating site has the question "How many registered Democrats voted for Obama, but won't this election?" 2 switchers. Lots of snark. "You weren't even 18." "I did it in my mind."
  • This Jewish Democrat won't be voting for Obama again. Supposedly there are more like him, but none of them left comments. Jewish Democratic switchers must be either apathetic or terribly private. The site is linked to Jewish Republican site that plans to contact Jews.
  • Sodahead asks about Obama switchers. 1 out 6 is a switcher, which is a tiny sample, not an outpouring. "i'd rather vote for the devil wait he got elected didn't he." --probably not a switcher.
  • A model asks other models if they intend to make the same mistake. She's sorry she made that mistake. Most say that Romney is worse, so yes, they'll be voting for Obama again. A couple say that they didn't vote for him in the first place. The best quote: "You need to write some new material... You've been saying the same thing now since January, 2009...  Just sayin'."  Maybe that convert didn't actually vote for Obama in 2008.
  • One from the left. "So my fellow Progressives, my fellow Civil Libertarians and fellow Social Liberals, don’t preach to me about how Obama protects labor, women’s rights or isn’t ‘as bad’ as the alternative."
In case you think I cherry-picked my research, let me disclose that all of these references came from page 1 or 2 of a Google search. They were the most promising sites for finding switchers.

I think that a fair amount of the enthusiasm for Obama is gone, so there will be shorter lines at the polls. Some of those voters will stay home, a very few will vote for Romney, and some will say they're switching to cash in and appear in ads for Romney-associated superPACs. Cynical - yes. Scientific - not at all, unless Google searches are more scientific than I give them credit for.

"Currently there are no reviews for this product." 

Update 9/30/12. Check out all seven switchers at this well-funded site. Note the production values and the explanations for the switch. By the way, I found this site through paid advertisement on youtube. All that money, and just seven switchers--not exactly big results.