Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rampant sexism on the Left?

Well okay, "rampant" is hyperbole. Still, it's worth pointing out hypocrisy whenever it occurs. And when it comes to jokes that involve stereotyping, that hypocrisy is usually found among liberals and progressives, who are always quick to jump on the "dehumanizing" nature of such things, when they're being employed by their ideological adversaries. I noted some of this after Clint Eastwood's much-mocked--by the Left--appearance at the GOP National Convention. Then, I noted how ageism had apparently become acceptable, though still not racism and sexism:
The upshot of all of this is a particular self-congratulatory mindset that exists on the left, wherein they are the only ones--ideologically--who care about human dignity, who worry about minorities and protected groups, their feelings and the way they are treated by the hate-mongers on the right. Romney's joke about his birth certificate was no joke at all in their minds. It was implied racism. Really, there are no jokes in their minds, when it comes to who people are, where they are from, what religion they practice, what sex they are, who they sleep with, what color their skin is, how they dress, or...how old they are? 
All stop. 
Apparently, age-related jokes are now allowed, don't cross any lines, don't dehumanize their targets, don't deprive the elderly of their human dignity, or anything of the sort. Well, I should qualify that: they are allowed when the target is a conservative or a republican. But wait, you say? Not all of the comments about Eastwood mention his age, explicitly refer to him as "an old man" or the like. Well, if "angry" is racial coding, what exactly is "incoherent, mumbling, and creaky"?
Fast forward to yesterday morning's "Morning Joe" (at 6:00 am) with Joe Scarborough and guest John Heilemann. The discussion was about Susan Rice and her meeting with Senate detractors McCain, Graham, and Ayotte. Scarborough suggested that Ayotte had been added to the group because Lieberman was unwilling to go along with McCain on this issue (McCain's criticism of Rice), that the Republicans needed to have three people for some unknown reason. Heilemann agreed and offered more (my boldface):
They need a third amigo at all times. So now they have — now two of the three are women — now at least one of the three are women.
The middle comment sent Scarborough into a fit of laughter. The meaning is clear: Heilemann is making fun of Senator Graham's first name--Lindsay--by suggesting it's a girl's name. A rather pathetic and unfunny joke, in my opinion, but an attempt at humor to be sure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No Mulligans on issues of national security!

It's a simple thing to understand. Yet as we close in on the two-month anniversary of the attack of Benghazi that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens, it's a thing that seems beyond the ken of this Administration.

After meeting today with Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, UN Ambassador Susan Rice released the following statement (my boldface):
Today, Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and I met with Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte to discuss my September 16th public comments regarding the attack against the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and the intelligence assessments that formed the basis for those comments. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues directly and constructively with them.

In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.

The Administration remains committed to working closely with Congress as we thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the tragic deaths of our colleagues, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. We also look forward to the findings of the Accountability Review Board and the FBI investigation.
Note the portion in bold: "neither I [Susan Rice] nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead..." That's an admission that Rice's statements did mislead people. Faced with the facts in the behind-closed-doors meeting with the Senators, Rice and the Administration have been forced to concede what everyone with a clue has known for some time now: the attacks in Benghazi had nothing to do with any protests about a nothing video and this fact was known to people in the Administration prior to Rice being sent forth with doctored talking points.

Did Rice know the reality? Doesn't matter anymore. She was a part of the deception or a simple dupe; either way, the intent to deceive existed somewhere in the White House and Rice's latest statement indicates that no one is going to man-up and take the fall for this.

Instead, Rice and the Administration seem to be asking for a Mulligan, a do-over as it were, on the whole thing. Note how Rice is now referring very clearly to a "terrorist attack" and to the "terrorists" responsible for it. It's a transparent attempt to wipe the slate clean and chalk up all of the misleading statements--i.e., the lies--of the past to some sort of judgement error.

Sorry, no. That kind of judgement--even if we take Rice at her word--has no place in positions of critical import when it comes to national security. U.S. Ambassadors to foreign nations don't get killed, executed, or assassinated while on the job. And if they do, there should be hell to pay, both with regard to those responsible and to those in charge who were ultimately responsible for the safety of the Ambassador.

The Election may be over, we may be dangling over a "fiscal cliff," the holiday season may be upon us, but none of that matters here. This kind of major league screw-up demands substantial action. And those who allowed it to happen, who tried to soft-sell reality, should be out on their asses. At the very least, they should not be promoted to a position with even more authority over national security. That's just stupid.

Cheers, all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Return to Fantasy Island: Democrats are the ones holding on

Shortly after Election Day, I commented on a piece from The Nation that supposed Obama's victory represented a rising tide, as it were, of progressivism. As I noted then, the facts don't really support this fantasy version of reality:
It's an interesting thesis, but hardly supported by post-election data. As I've already detailed, turnout is down as compared to 2008. In fact, as a percentage of VAP, turnout is down compared to 2004 and quite possible 2000, as well. In the most progressive State in the Union--California--Obama tallied 5,871,106 votes in the 2012 Election. In the 2008 Election, he received 7,441,458 votes, over 1.5 million more than this year, the year of the "progressive surge."
The numbers are now in. Turnout sits at 126,985,809 total votes for all candidates, higher than my projection but lower than the pre-election ones and the the post-election 129 million votes many were supposing. Obama garnered 64,497,901 votes (50.8%), while Romney's total was 60,298,327 (47.5%). Thus Obama got fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, while Romney got just about what McCain did in 2008 (Romney got a few hundred thousand more). How many fewer votes did Obama get this time around? Just over five million. That's right, at least five million people--who had voted for Obama in 2008--did not vote for him in 2012.

It's a point being steadily ignored by those promoting the idea that Obama's victory was a very significant thing, with regard to the future of both the Left and the Right. Witness the always-entertaining Bob Shrum's latest piece at the Daily Beast. Entitled "The GOP Faces Years in the Wilderness After 2012 Election Losses," it's more or less a parroting of the piece from the editors at  The Nation. Shrum offers the same basic encapsulation of the election results:
All this leaves Republicans out there on a demographic cliff with women, Hispanics, and young people. And for the most part, their own primary voters won’t let them retreat... 
The president has laid a predicate for a generation of Democratic campaigns and left Republicans in what could be a permanently vulnerable position.
Shrum also points to the far-superior capabilities of Democrats when it comes to actual campaigning as a major issue that will continue to undercut Republicans:
What they did was a quantum leap beyond their own success in 2008. This year, their combat with Romney, from micro-targeting to monitoring turnout, was like the Starship Enterprise battling a B1 bomber.
This supposition I find fascinating: 2012 was a "quantum leap" beyond 2008. And yet, Obama received 5 million fewer votes this time around. His margin of victory over Romney was smaller in every way--percentage of votes, total votes, electoral votes--than it was over McCain. Sounds like a quantum leap backwards. Yet maybe that's the real point: the Obama Campaign's ability to "micro-target" sealed the deal in an election he could have very easily lost.

Okay. But that's hardly evidence of a "demographic cliff" of any sort, it's evidence that the Democrats had to reach deep to win an election against a flawed Republican candidate, that they had to change the parameters of the debate in order to achieve the necessary success among targeted groups like women--by making the race all about abortion--and Hispanics--by making the race all about immigration.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jesse Jr.'s fall is no tragedy

Son of a man whose career was built largely on the grave of Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson Jr. was born and bred to be a politician. Many believed he would one day even sit in the Oval Office, potentially as the first African-American President, that is before Barack Obama--who is four years Jackson's senior--came along. That dream is completely over now, it's in the dust. Jackson has little hope of achieving anything more than he already has in the political arena.

Jackson stepped down from his Congressional seat two days ago, having already been on a supposed medical leave of absence since June. He's currently under investigation for misusing campaign funds (basically spending them on himself), he was caught up in the Blagojevich scandal (lobbying hard for Obama's then-open Senate seat), and has apparently had a number of extra-marital affairs. He is--in many ways--the poster child for entitled politicians who assume they can do no wrong, who believe their transgressions will never cost them, politically or personally.

And it's not an unsurprising mindset, this teflon-coated personal perception, given how clueless constituents often seem to be. Because going into the primaries for the 2012 election for Illinois' 2nd Congressional District, Jackson's problems were already known; due to the leave he was taking, he hadn't even cast a vote in the House since early June. His Democratic opponent in the primaries was a former Representative, Debbie Halvorson, who had lost her seat in the 2010 elections. Yet, Jackson still crushed Halverson, by a margin of 71% to 29%. Clearly, the Democratic voters in the district were unaware of or unconcerned with Jackson's growing litany of problems. In the 2012 general election, Jackson won by a similar margin, 63% to 23%, over Republican challenger Brian Woodworth.

The numbers beg the question: what were voters thinking about, because it sure wasn't the reality of the situation. Of course, the answer is also all too obvious: Jackson won because of his name, first and foremost, because of who his father is and because of the political capital the name delivers.

Now that he is leaving politics--hopefully for good--one might assume there would be some recognition of all of this, of how the warning signs were ignored by voters and the media, alike. Alas, such is not the case. Jackson's departure has launched a series of lamentations over his "tragic" tale.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Columnists lose their liberal credentials

Dane Milbank and Maureen Dowd: where are their sympathies, which way do they lean? Is this even a question worth asking? Both were all in for Obama throughout the election season, both operate from a demonstrably liberal mindset, both even accept the label (more or less). But at times, both have been willing to be honest, to some degree. Milbank, for instance, actually accepted the idea that the Obama campaign was "going negative," though he still insisted it was a new thing for Democrats. But as I pointed out in the above piece, the hardcore (dishonest) Obama shills in the media wouldn't even admit to the first. Dowd, for her part, is more than capable of criticizing people on her "side" when she honestly thinks they deserve it. I rarely agree with her, but I'm hard pressed to find evidence of intentional dishonesty in her articles.

Both columnists are still staunch defenders of the liberal cause, regardless. Dowd is just a little more honest and a little more knowledgeable than Milbank. I can't imagine either one being shunned by their fellow liberals and progressives, though. That is, until today. Because apparently, the refusal of both to accept Susan Rice as the greatest thing since sliced bread is some sort of total betrayal to the cause and it will not be allowed, at least according to Joan Walsh at Salon.

Dowd's crime was her rather tame analysis of Rice's reasons for hitting the news shows with talking points about Benghazi. Dowd argues that Rice took the job to up her own political capital, to pave the way for her becoming Secretary of State, to improve her visibility. And that goal fell to the wayside because the talking points Rice used turned out to be garbage. Dowd concludes by noting the silliness of Obama's angry (oops, was that racist of me?) defense of Rice:
[Obama's] argument that Rice “had nothing to do with Benghazi,” raises the question: Then why was she the point person?  
The president’s protecting a diplomatic damsel in distress made Rice look more vulnerable, when her reason for doing those shows in the first place was to look more venerable.
Walsh calls Dowd's piece "nasty," then focuses in on the most minor of points: a source who told Dowd that Rice saw an opportunity with the assignment. Somehow--in Walsh's mind--a confirmation of what would seem to be an obvious reality undoes all of what Dowd says.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What ISN'T a "code word"?

A group of Republican lawmakers in the House signed off on a letter--penned by Representative Jeff Duncan--that takes issue with the potential nomination of Susan Rice as Secretary of State. From the letter:
Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter. Her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed. Thus, we believe that making her the face of U.S. foreign policy in your second term would greatly undermine your desire to improve U.S. relations with the world and continue to build trust with the American people... 
In light of this troubling situation and the continued unanswered questions, we strongly oppose any efforts to nominate Ambassador Susan Rice for the position of Secretary of State.
So far, there are 97 signatures from Representatives who agree with the gist of the letter. And needless to say, the letter has provoked a response from Democrats in Congress who have already been busy actively defending Susan Rice from other criticisms offered by other Republicans--like John McCain--and conservative pundits. A few days ago, Representative Marsha Fudge--at a press conference held specifically to defend Susan Rice--very clearly suggests racism and sexism are behind the criticisms:
How do you say a person like Susan Rice is not qualified? You may not like her, you may not like the administration, but don’t say she’s not qualified. She is the most qualified person I’m sure that any of you know, that these senators know. . . . It is a shame that any time anything goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities. I have a real issue with that.
Fudge actually allows--no doubt accidentally--that something went wrong here, that there were problems, failings in relation to Benghazi. She then suggests that Rice was singled out for scapegoating because she is black and is a woman. But it's an odd argument to make, because Republicans are really holding the entire administration to blame; Rice is getting singled out because the Administration decided to use her and she allowed herself to be used. So if Fudge has an issue with Rice being "picked on," she should probably be telling it to Obama, since he's the one responsible for setting up Rice for this fall (which no doubt explains Obama's childish bravado in defending Rice: he has a guilty conscience).

Following "the letter" being put out there, however, Representative James Clyburn has upped the outrage ante considerably. He argues that the very language used in the letter is racist as a matter of course because it uses racist "code words." Remember back during the Campaign when MSNBC personality Touré claimed that "angry" was "racial coding"? In his narrow, racially-conceived world view--accepted by much of the left--it was and is racist to use "anger" or "angry" in reference to a person of color, though the spectre of ageism doesn't faze such people in the least. Indeed, the latter is knee-slapping funny stuff! But back to Clyburn, who has now added a new term into the lexicon of racial code words: incompetent. Here he is with Soledad O'Brien:


His comments:
You know, these are code words. These kinds of terms that those of us--especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South--we've been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them. 
Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find. And just to paste that word on her causes problems with people like Marcia Fudge, and certainly causes a big problem with me. I don't like those words. Say she was wrong for doing it, but don't call her incompetent. That is something totally different. A lot of very competent people sometimes make errors. And to say that she erroneously did it, I don't have a problem with it. 
And Sen. McCain called her incompetent, as well, but he told us that Sarah Palin was very competent to be vice president of the United States -- that should tell you a little about his judgment.
So according to Clyburn, calling a black person "incompetent" is evidence of racism. There are two issues with this: first the actual words used in the letter, and second the actual history of calling people "incompetent."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Government Twinkies?

By now, everyone should be aware of the impending demise of Hostess Brands. The iconic U.S.-based bakery company is prepared to permanently shut down operations, thus bringing to an end its over eighty-year history. If it happens--the issue is still before a bankruptcy court--over 18,000 employees will lose their jobs...just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Why is this happening? For a number of reasons, really. Hostess Brands has gone through several iterations since its inception in 1930 as Interstate Baking Corporation. It has moved from being a privately held company to a public one back to a private company then back to a public one and finally back to its current state as a private one. The company has also gone through Chapter 11 twice, in 2004 and again in the beginning of 2012.

This is not a strong company, is not a well-managed company. It's heyday was in the 1970's, the golden age of junk food and 7-11s, when individually wrapped treats became commonplace, when America was less health-conscious, and when food products in the States had little competition from exports. In those years, Twinkies and Ho-Hos became household terms; everyone knew what they were, everyone had enjoyed their creamy goodness at least once. Wonder Bread was perhaps even more well known. Not so anymore.

Competition in the snacks and treats market has increased exponentially since those days. Hostess has been losing market share--and profits--steadily since then. Wonder Bread in particular has gone from major player on the bread aisle of supermarkets to distant afterthought. Yet despite all of this, Hostess has made remarkably few changes to its product lines. It's made a few attempts at healthier snacks, to be sure, but only as added offerings, never as replacements to it's original line-up, a line-up that it kept convincing itself was tried and true.

At the same time, Hostess--like many other firms that have been around since before the sixties--is heavily unionized and had, for many years, a pension plan for its employees. Hostess Brands--the current company--is still funding these plans, many of which extend back decades. These factors drive up costs for the company, making Hostess products among the most expensive in the marketplace. Wonder Bread, for instance, is as costly as most high-end breads that are of far superior quality.

So all in all, what we have here is a poorly run company making less-than popular products, trying to sell them at higher-than-average prices,while trying to deal with unmanageable labor, pension, and healthcare costs. Sound familiar? So where is the U.S. Government? It stepped in to save General Motors which was in a very similar situation. Or is Hostess unlucky enough to not be "too big to fail"?

The real lesson here, however, is that of the marketplace and a simple reality: nothing lasts forever. We have become far too accustomed with believing the opposite, that some companies can last forever and even should last forever. And that's because the modern world is simply not that old; we haven't yet come to terms with how to handle the lack of continuity that must occur within a free market capitalist system because we've only just begun to truly face it.

Hostess Brands should fail; it's time for it to fail. Why? Because that's what the market is dictating. And GM probably should have failed, as well. So should a host of other companies that are currently on life-support. Such failures create opportunity, spur growth and initiative, for that's what capitalism is all about.

Mourn not the death of the Twinkie, applaud it. For it heralds the dawning of a new age is snack foods.

Cheers, all.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NYT's Rosenthal on Benghazi: dumbest piece ever?

Okay, that's not fair. There's no way that Andrew Rosenthal's latest column--The Benghazi Circus--is the dumbest thing ever written. Hell, it's not even the dumbest thing Rosenthal has ever written. But it's certainly right up there. Rosenthal opens the piece with this gem of a line:
It’s not surprising that, directly after the incident, there was some confusion as to what, exactly, had taken place. Just as it’s not surprising that questions remain two months later. At least it’s not surprising to serious people with a background in military and intelligence matters.  
Which, apparently, does not include Republican members of Congress.
But apparently, it does include Andrew Rosenthal? Because he has an extensive background in military and intelligence matters, I guess. What's that? He doesn't? He's never served in the military, never worked for the  CIA, the FBI or any other branch on the intelligence community? Oh.

Rosenthal's breadth of knowledge on these matters is circumscribed by his lack of such a background and his patently obvious ideological and political beliefs: he's a left-wing partisan hack. And in that role, he is--like so many other apologists for the current Administration--desperately attempting to spin away the Benghazi situation.

Up until Election Day, these apologists were arguing that Benghazi was a manufactured issue being used to tear down the President in hopes of helping the Romney Campaign. But the Election is over. Obama won, Romney lost. That excuse won't fly anymore. Rosenthal--and his comrades on the left--wants us to believe nothing nefarious took place in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. And the big problem there--for the Administration--is still Susan Rice and her ill-advised statements about the attack. Once again, what she actually said on Face the Nation:
We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
It's now no longer even in question that her statement was inaccurate. There was information to draw that conclusion, there was even information--intelligence--linking the attacks to al Qaeda. But that information was quite clearly purposely ignored in favor of a narrative constructed to make the Administration look stronger. And Rosenthal--drawing on his vast background in "military and intelligence matters"--clings to the spin (my boldface):

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why we're screwed: stupidity wears Harvard ties

Matthew Yglesias--writing at Slate Magazine--argues for the extension and even the expansion of the payroll tax holiday, established by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Yglesias says (my boldface):
The most important element of the “fiscal cliff” is the one politicians seem least interested in doing anything about: the expiration of a payroll tax holiday that’s given a nice lift to the economy at no cost to anyone. A sensible Congress would be coming together on extending and even expanding the payroll tax holiday, even while continuing to argue about the other unrelated elements of the cliff.
Over at The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn leaps onto the bandwagon, saying:
The future of other tax breaks, such as the temporary payroll tax break, hasn't gotten much attention. And as Matthew Yglesias very properly points out, renewing the payroll tax holiday—or finding some suitable substitute—is critical for sustaining the recovery.
The erstwhile Larry Summers is on the same page:
Lawrence Summers, the former Clinton Treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser, recently called for extending the tax break. "This is not the right moment to repeal the payroll-tax cut," Mr. Summers said in a speech in Washington. "$120 billion put in the hands of middle-income families is $120 billion injected into the economy."
Yglesias actually believes that cutting payroll taxes has no consequences to speak of, apparently completely unaware of what payroll taxes are and what happens when they are arbitrarily cut. As I noted previously--all the way back in December of last year, cutting payroll taxes increased the debt, period:
Simply put, payroll taxes fund Social Security. They don't do it directly, but they are used to establish how much money is supposed to be in the Social Security Trust Fund. So over the past year, the monies going into Social Security would have to be decreased because of the cut in payroll taxes. To prevent that from happening--because Social Security is already running at a deficit--the Federal Government had to borrow money to make up the difference, which went directly to the National Debt.
The AARP notes the financial reality--the actual, identifiable costs--of the payroll tax holiday for the past two years:
The AARP had originally approved the payroll tax holiday under the condition that any loss to the Social Security Trust Funds be fully repaid, which Congress did at a cost of $103 billion in 2011 and $112 billion in 2012. The 2012 Social Security Trustees report earlier in 2012 confirmed general fund transfers from the U.S. Treasury to the Social Security Trust Funds, repaying the loss of revenue due to the temporary payroll tax holiday. The cost was never offset by Congress however, and the final tab is included as part of the federal deficit.
All three of these men have deluded themselves into believing that the payroll tax holiday is a real and measurable "stimulus" for the economy. The holiday has given the economy a "nice lift," it's "injected" billions into the economy, it's "critical for sustaining the recovery."

Yglesias is the resident economic expert at Slate (the "business and economics correspondent"), Cohn is a senior editor at TNR, and Summers of course is the former economic adviser to the President. And if that's not enough, all three men attended Harvard; they're all supposedly smart guys. One of them has had an actual say in the nation's economic policy, while the other two are esteemed journalists. Yet all three of them are talking nonsense, with regard to the payroll tax holiday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apportionment, 1900 to 2010

Every ten years--following the Census--the 435 seats in the House of Representatives (there have been 435 seats since 1910) are apportioned to the 50 States on the basis of population, though each State is guaranteed a minimum of one seat. To determine how the seats are allocated, Congress has used the Method of Equal Proportions since 1941. It is explained here on the U.S. Census website:
This method assigns seats in the House of Representatives according to a "priority" value. The priority value is determined by multiplying the population of a state by a "multiplier."  
For example, following Census 2000, each of the 50 states was given one seat out of the current total of 435. The next, or 51st seat, went to the state with the highest priority value and thus became that state's second seat. This continued until all 435 seats had been assigned to a state.
Essentially, there is a formula to compute the "multiplier values" for each each State's potential seats. These values are then multiplied by each State's total population, thus creating a "priority value" for each potential seat per State. These values are then tabulated from largest to smallest and seats are then assigned by going in order, from highest priority value to lowest, until all remaining slots are filled. Here is a table of the priority values from the 2010 Apportionment. As can be seen, the first seat on the list--the 51st, after every State gets its initial one--goes to California, the 52nd goes to Texas, the 53rd to California again, and so on. Obviously, the States with the largest populations begin to pile up seats early.

We can think of the process in this way: each assignment theoretically lowers the population of each State by the averages population per seat (which happens to be 710,767 persons per seat for 2010). Thus, priority values for all States move towards the same point as the largest States fill out their delegate count. States with very low populations will have the lowest priority values as a matter of course. It's an effective system and, in my opinion, quite fair. Here are the results of the 2010 Apportionment. The far right column shows the change in number of seats, losses or gains. For since the total number of Representatives remains fixed at 435, any gain by one State--due to population growth--must be offset by a loss to another State.

In 2010, the biggest gains were for Texas (+4 seats) and Florida (+2 seats). Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington all gained one seat as well, for a total of 12 seats picked up. So, there had to be a loss of 12 seats among the remaining States. The biggest losses were for New York and Ohio, each of which lost two seats. Eight other States lost one seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Apportionment is not given a great deal of attention, even though it is a very important thing. Looking at the changes in 2010, one can't help but see them in relation to the Tea Party-induced Republican wave of victories in the 2010 Mid-Term Elections. Most of the States that gained seats were either consistently "red" States, or were States with strong Tea Party movements. Losses were mostly for Northeastern States and States with large metropolises hard hit by a weak economy.

But apportionment also affects Presidential Elections, since it is also the basis for allotting Electoral Votes. The impact on the 2012 Elections was as follows:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Presidential Puffery

President Obama is puffing out his chest and accepting challenges from all comers. Why? Because he's a big man. Not a person, not a woman, but a man. And the cause of this puffery? Criticism of Susan Rice over her statements about Benghazi, statements that were founded on nonsense, on a fantasy about a YouTube video. And apparently, Obama is just not going to stand for any criticism of Rice. His comments from earlier today:
As I said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and besmirch her reputation is outrageous... 
When they go after the UN ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.

Is Susan Rice not an adult? Is she not responsible for her own words? Is Obama actually stepping in front of her and saying "bring that shit to me!" because she is a woman? Is this chivalry on the part of the President?

Or maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe Obama is simply saying that his ambassador to the UN is--for some reason--off limits, that such an Administration spokesperson should never be subjected to criticism. Because as we all know, Democrats have never criticized previous UN ambassadors; as a group, they never had a harsh word for, say, John Bolton. Right? Oh, wait. They went after him relentlessly, from the moment he took office until the day he left. But I'm sure that was different, I mean aside from the fact that Bolton is a man. Because there's no sexism in the Democratic Party...well except when sexism is convenient and can be spun into something supposedly admirable. Like here.

Susan Rice is an adult. She served in various high-level positions during the Clinton Administration, prior to becoming Ambassador to the United Nations. She knows the score. She knows how the game is played, how Washington works. On September 16, five days after the attack in Benghazi that killed Chris Stevens, Rice went on CBS' Face the Nation and said:
We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
When Rice said "we," she was speaking for the U.S. Government at large, or the Administration at the very least. Obama is crystal clear about this: her appearances were made "at the request of the White House." And we--meaning everyday American citizens who keep up with current events--now know that information indicating the Benghazi attack was preplanned did exist and was available, was known, to the White House within 48 hours of the attack, if not much, much sooner.

So there are two possibilities here: Rice lied when she said what she said, or Rice was given incomplete information by her boss--i.e. the President of the United States--and passed that information along. Thus, Rice lied to the American People under orders from the President, or Obama (or his surrogates) lied to Rice. Either way, Obama intended to deceive. Obama intended for the public to believe something that he knew full well wasn't true.

And either way, Obama made Rice a party to his deception. She can take her medicine like everyone else. And Obama can pack up the playground bravado and stop acting like a thirteen year old. Because it's embarrassing.

Cheers, all.

Tinker, Tailor, Idiot, Tramp

September 10th, 2007. That's the date MoveOn.org released a full page ad in the New York Times entitled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" The motivation for the ad was a report on Iraq given to Congress by General Petraeus, who had taken over as the commander of the multi-national force in Iraq in the beginning of 2007. Essentially, MoveOn.org was claiming that the report Petraeus gave was a pack of lies, that the situation in Iraq had gotten much worse, and that the General was "cooking the books" for Bush and the Republicans who supported the war in Iraq. Predictably, the ad sparked a great deal of outrage from Republicans, the Bush Administration, and their supporters. Petraeus was--to the left--a Republican crony. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton basically agreed with MoveOn.org's ad, saying to Petraeus during hearings that:
The reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief...If you look at all the evidence that's been presented, overall civilian deaths have risen.
As the WaPo piece notes, by December it was clear that Petraeus' report was substantially correct, that there had been a reduction of violence in Iraq following the so-called "surge" championed by Petraeus. Hillary Clinton was clueless.

Fast forward to late 2008. Petraeus completed his command of forces in Iraq was given command of USCENTCOM (United States Central Command), headquartered in Tampa, thus overseeing military operations throughout the Middle East. He continued to hold this position even after Obama was elected President, until mid-2010 when President Obama asked him to take over control of forces in Afghanistan, to replace General McChrystal who had fallen into disfavor following the latter's critical comments about the Obama Administration in a Rolling Stone interview. Petraeus accepted, even though the move was technically a step down.

He completed his duties in Afghanistan just over a year later, to much fanfare and the appreciation of the Administration, prompted by Obama's desire to have Petraeus take over at the CIA. And that he did, retiring from the military in late 2011 and becoming CIA director a week later.

And now our tale must return to the beginning, to the MoveOn.org ad. Following the controversy created by the ad, MoveOn.org had maintained the ad on its website, along with a lengthy piece defending the ad from the criticisms it had received. But as soon as President Obama nominated Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan the ad disappeared, as did the piece supporting it. In fact, MoveOn.org scrubbed every mention of the ad and the phrase--"General Betray Us"--from its site.

All of this appears to be the story of a career military/intelligence man who did what he was asked to do, who was an effective and trustworthy leader, who cared little for politics and refused to let concerns over such impact his decisions, who would not be intimidated by partisan attacks. Bush and Obama--bitter ideological foes--had no problem placing their trust in Petraeus, time and time again. If the story ended here, it would be the story of a hero, of a patriot, who always answered the call of his country. In fact, the story might even make a fine book.

It also appears to be the story of a deeply untrustworthy organization--MoveOn.org--that makes a point of putting politics ahead of everything else, of truth, of security, of safety for our troops and out citizens. And I guess, as the above book played out, MoveOn.org would play the the role of villain, along with people like Hillary Clinton, the perfect foils for our hero.

But none of this will be the story of General David Petraeus. Instead, his story will be one of scandal, adultery, and bad judgment. His affair with his would-be biographer--Paula Broadwell--is what he will be remembered for, particularly since the affair was discovered by the FBI, while it was investigating borderline-psychotic e-mails sent from Broadwell to another woman, Jill Kelley, who appears to have been nothing more than a family friend of the Petraeus'.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Reagans

Michael Tomasky's latest piece at the Daily Beast argues that Mitt Romney's loss is a Big Deal, in a way most people fail to realize. In essence, Tomasky believes it represents the death of Reaganomics:
But economics played a strong and even pivotal role in this election too, and Reaganomics came out a huge loser, while the Democrats have started to wrap their arms around a simple, winning alternative: the idea that government must invest in the middle class and not the rich. It’s middle-out economics instead of trickle-down, and it won last week and will keep on winning... 
Supply side was rejected. And in its place, voters went for an economic vision that says: don’t invest in the wealthy in the hope that they’ll decide to spread the wealth around; invest in the middle class, because it’s demand from a prosperous middle class that ultimately creates more jobs, and because doing that makes for a healthier society all the way around.
It's a fantastical re-imagining of the election, to say the least, supposing that the votes pivoted on this narrow comparison of economic policy. In Tomasky's world, voters in places like Ohio and Wisconsin supported the President not because of his pro-union stance, not because of government largess in these States, not because of the GOP's war on women, and not because of the Obama campaign's attacks on Bain Capital. No, Obama won because voters believe in his economic vision. Which of course begs the question: why is the House still under GOP control?

Obama's victory is easy to explain and it has little to do with competing economic visions. It has everything to do with a still-popular President, his deeply flawed opponent, and a successful localized campaign in swing States by team Obama.

That said, what of Tomasky's caricature of Reaganomics? Could his assessment still be right? The problem for Tomasky is that he doesn't actually know how to identify economic consequences of specific policies. His economic analysis is like that of a first year undergraduate...who is majoring in art history. Policy consistent with Reaganomics--according to Tomasky--existed only under Reagan and George W. Bush, following the creation of the Laffer Curve in 1974:
Up sprang the nonprofits devoted to getting the little people to buy in to the idea that taxes on the wealthy should be lowered, and soon enough supply-side economics was born. Along came Ronald Reagan to assure everyone that the rising tide would lift all boats. It’s never happened quite the way conservatives said it would. Even during the general prosperity of the second Reagan term, income inequality began to expand dramatically, wage stagnation became a permanent feature of American life, and the immiseration of the poor worsened. So supply side’s first shot at governance was at best half a success.  
Then came the second go-round under George W. Bush, and this of course was an unmitigated disaster. You know the details on that.
There's no depth to Tomasky, no recognition that Bush the second was no Reagan Conservative, no acknowledgement that the capital freed by Reagan's policies is what led to the economic growth under Clinton. And certainly no clue that the economic policies of Clinton were far closer to those of Reagan than to those of Carter. Or Obama. Worse still, Tomasky seems tragically unaware that the biggest jump in income inequality occurred during the Clinton years and that Obama's policies have not led to wage stagnation, but to actual wage reduction.

Rome is still burning

Cornel West, speaking to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, calls President Obama a "Republican in blackface":
I mean, I'm glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.
Goodman wonders if West is being too harsh, but he refuses to back down:
Oh, that’s what we have. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on health care. Richard Nixon’s to the left of him on guaranteed income.
I think West's comparison is a little over-the-top; Obama is not really to the right of Nixon in the least. And Nixon is hardly a titan in the annals of great Republican leaders, regardless. But prior to the bit on "blackface," West does say something worth repeating. To whit:

I think that it's morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion -- poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse...
It really is an awful lot of money, as I've noted previously, money that apparently failed to induce people to go to the polls, aside from in a few specific States. And in those specific States, the money spent on ads--by the Obama Campaign--was focused on single issue politics, like abortion and the mythical "war on women." West is wholly right in this regard, there was a real lack of serious discussion on big picture issues, on actual economic conditions. Instead, there was just lip service being paid to Party talking points.

West also unloads on a number of hosts at MSNBC, like Sharpton and Dyson, for essentially carrying Obama's water even as significant issues like those above go undiscussed by these hosts and unaddressed by the Obama administration. And on this, he is quite right as well, regardless of how one feels about these issues. Which perhaps justifies West's use of the race card via "blackface," given that MSNBC hosts--and other progressives in the media--are so quick to play that same card in defense of the President.

But getting back to the "narrow, truncated political discourse" that West takes issue with, it is--in my view--a huge problem. The one-up-manship currently in vogue among political leaders and media pundits is out of control (and note that West, even in criticizing it, does it as well). Serious, thoughtful analysis devoid of zingers and sound bites is a rare find these days. It's not to be had among the pundits, nor among the leaders of either major party. A Veterans' Day debate between former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright had moments of heavy debate on heavy issues but ultimately became another zinger contest.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Progressive fantasy

It's days after the Election. President Obama is still President Obama and Citizen Romney is still Citizen Romney. But the analysis of the results, the whining and the smug trumpeting continues. Witness this piece by the editors of The Nation, a news site unabashedly progressive in orientation. Entitled A Progressive Surge, the article advances the idea that Obama's victory represents a rising tide of pro-progressive sentiment (i.e. more people ready to hand over more power to the government in exchange for less personal responsibility and the promise of a few treats):
This right-wing coalition was defeated at the polls by a “rising American electorate,” a coalition of women, African-Americans, Latinos, the young and unionized blue-collar workers in Midwestern battleground states. These voters not only provided Obama with his margin of victory but carried several stalwart progressives in high-profile Senate races to exhilarating wins...
It's an interesting thesis, but hardly supported by post-election data. As I've already detailed, turnout is down as compared to 2008. In fact, as a percentage of VAP, turnout is down compared to 2004 and quite possible 2000, as well. In the most progressive State in the Union--California--Obama tallied 5,871,106 votes in the 2012 Election. In the 2008 Election, he received 7,441,458 votes, over 1.5 million more than this year, the year of the "progressive surge."

The editors of The Nation also cite some specific races as evidence for this non-existent surge, like that in Florida between Alan Grayson and Todd Long:
Democrats would do well to take a cue from Grayson, who lost his seat by eighteen points in 2010 but stormed back in 2012 with a promise to serve as “a congressman who’s going to fight for full employment, a congressman who’s going to fight for universal healthcare, a congressman who will protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, a congressman who will fight for health benefits and paid sick leave and paid vacations and the things that we need to be decent human beings in our lives, a congressman who will fight for progressive taxation and make sure that even the filthy rich have to pay their fair share, a congressman who will fight for clean money and clean elections…. a congressman who will fight for justice, equality and peace.”
True enough, Grayson was creamed in 2010. And true enough, he easily won his race against Long in 2012. But here's the thing: it's not the same district as the one Grayson previously represented. In 2010, Grayson lost his seat--for Florida's 8th District--to Daniel Webster. After that election, there was the usual redistricting in Florida, which resulted in an open 9th District and a renumbered 10th District with Webster as the incumbent. Webster ran against Val Demings and defeated her by a margin of less than four points. A somewhat tight race, to be sure, but that was because Demings is a popular figure in the area--far more popular that Grayson--and cooler heads in the DNC realized she had a better chance of unseating Webster.

Thus, Grayson ran for the open 9th District against relatively unknown political newcomer Todd Long. And that was because Grayson went after Long's opponent in the Republican Primary, to insure he (Grayson) would face the weaker man. The RNC provided little support to Long; it knew he had little hope of success.  And given that the 9th District was purposefully drawn to be a primarily Democratic district, this is unsurprising.

So, Grayson didn't "storm back" on the strength of his positions, his platform, he did so via his--and the DNC's--Machiavellian approach to politics, nothing more. Yet the editors of The Nation ignorantly highlight this victory as proof of a progressive surge. And here I thought progressives were opposed to such political manipulations and dirty tricks. Or maybe it's somehow different when their side does it...

Cheers, all.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Spending way up, voter turnout way down

In the 2008 Presidential Election, voter turnout was at record levels. 131,393,990 people cast ballots for the Presidential election. Of these, 69,498215 went to Obama (53%) and 59,948,240 went to McCain (46%). And the 2008 Election was--at the time--also the costliest in history, with a total of $1.6 billion spent by all candidates. Obama spent $740.6 million, while McCain spent significantly less--because he opted for public financing--only $358.0 million.

So let's do a little math. How much was spent by each candidate per vote?
Obama: 760.4 million/69.5 million = $10.94 per vote 
McCain: 358.0 million/59.9 million = $5.98 per vote
These numbers don't include spending by the respective parties of each candidate, nor do they include spending by outside groups. Before looking at the numbers for 2012--which is were I am ultimately going--let's take a look at the 2004 Presidential Election, just to see how large the jump in spending was. In that year, George W. Bush--the eventual winner--spent a total of $367.3 million, while John Kerry spent slightly less, only $328.5 million. Bush won the election with 62,040,610 votes (51%), while Kerry received 59,028,444 votes (48%). Thus, the cost per vote for each:
Bush: 367.3 million/62.0 million = $5.92 per vote 
Kerry: 328.5 million/59.0 million = $5.57 per vote
Both numbers--5.92 and 5.57--are in the same neighborhood as McCain's in 2008, reflecting the fact that all three opted for public financing.

So on to the Presidential Election of 2012, where neither candidate opted for public financing. We don't yet know the final numbers with regard to spending, but we do know that Obama raised more than $1.1 billion dollars during the election cycle, while Mitt Romney raised more than $931 million dollars. The total popular vote--as of right now--sits at 60,841,020 for Obama (51%) and 57,941,135 for Romney (48%). There are still some votes not yet included in this total, notably from Washington and Oregon, which could mean another four million votes or so. Allowing a 60/40 split for Obama, that would give Obama another 2.4 million votes and Romney another 1.6 million (remaining votes look to be in largely pro-Obama regions). With that assumption in place and assuming money raised is money spent, we have:
Obama: 1,100.0 million/63.2 = $17.41 per vote 
Romney: 931.0 million/59.5 = $15.64 per vote
In 2008, Obama almost doubled the spending per vote, as compared to 2004. And in 2012 he almost tripled it. And Romney wasn't far behind. Still, what is obvious here is that the candidate who spent the most ultimately won. But what about actual turnout?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There's got to be a morning after

Let's dispense with the tin foil claptrap first and foremost: there were no conspiracies, no covert operations to steal the election, no fraud on a massive scale. Today is a good day to swear off listening to unhinged screeds from know-nothings like Donald Trump. President Obama defeated Governor Romney in the election, more or less soundly, though it was not a landslide victory in the least. It was, however, an easy victory, as the networks had no trouble calling the race for Obama well before midnight and Romney himself honorably conceded shorty after that.

Looking at the pattern of votes as they rolled in, it was clear to me by around 9:30 or 10:00 that Obama would prevail. And I think most people watching realized this at about the same time, even if some didn't care to admit it.

Meanwhile, Republican hopes for Senate gains were similarly quashed, as Democrats picked up two more seats. The failure of George Allen to win in Virginia was a particularly bitter pill for the RNC to swallow in this regard. Yet, Republicans easily retained control of the House. With a handful of races still to be decided, the Republican margin of control looks to be more or less unchanged. The number of Governorships similarly continues to favor the GOP, as it appears there will be at least one more Republican Governor, thanks to Pat McCrory's victory in North Carolina, a State that has not had a Republican Governor since 1988.

Still, the night as a whole belongs to Obama and the Democrats, as victors include Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, independent Senator-elect Angus King in Maine (who is likely to caucus with Democrats), and Representative-elect Tammy Duckworth in Illinois (who defeated incumbent Joe Walsh). Then there is Democrat Alan Grayson of Florida who will make a triumphant return to the House after being ousted in 2010. And Floridian Patrick Murphy who appears to have unseated tea party favorite Allen West.

All told, I think the DNC will be thrilled with these results, for Democrats appear to have had some fair gains in State legislatures, as well. Yet given the dispersion of votes, neither party can claim any sort of a mandate to govern. The biggest takeaway of last night is that there remain deep divisions throughout the nation.

Nonetheless, we are likely to see a flurry of stories about the demise of the GOP--like those that appeared in 2008 and 2009--despite it's continued control of the House and clear majority in Governors. How to respond, that is the question.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reply hazy, try again later

There's a new game in town: hold the pundits accountable for their election predictions. Various pundits are now busy compiling lists of predictions of other pundits so, I guess, they can do a "neener, neener, neener" tomorrow morning. Here are a few of them:

Ezra Klein at Wapo.

Flora Zhang at CNN.

Adam Pasick at New York Magazine.

Pasick's list is particularly complete and easy to manage. But the truth of the matter is that no pundits will actually be held "accountable." How could they be? They're just offering their best guess (or prayer). Still, some will look and feel foolish tomorrow, at least for a few days, particularly those who predicted landslides. Dick Morris predicted a Romney win by over 100 Electoral Votes. If Obama wins--by any margin--Morris will be hard-pressed to explain his fantasy. By the same token, Jim Kramer of CNBC has predicted an Obama win by over 300 Electoral Votes, assuming I guess that Obama will win Texas and Alabama (not really). He stands to look foolish even if Obama wins.

But the meat and potatoes guy for these prediction is now Nate Silver at the New York Times FiveThirtyEight blog. He had it at 332 Obama, 206 Romney at the time Klein wrote his piece. And that prediction was echoed by many other pundits on the Left--like Markos Moulitsas at the DailyKos--though Silver has since scaled it back to 313 Obama, 225 Romney, with a 90% chance of an Obama victory. Silver also predicts a 2% margin of victory in the popular vote for Obama.

I like Silver's blog; I read it regularly and think he is quite gifted at statistical analysis, so I think it's quite possible things go exactly as he predicts. That said, neither Silver nor any other pundit has a crystal ball. And the art of polling has become--truly--an art. The objective truth of any finding in any political poll is open to debate, as pollsters have become overly concerned with their own internals in order to justify smaller and smaller sample sizes.

And there are a lot of holes in their methodologies, not the least of which is the existence of people like me who make it a point to never respond to a poll. My existence automatically increases the margin of error of every poll that attempted to solicit my opinion. Not by much, true, but then I'm not alone in this regard. I know that too. How many--what percentage of the population--are there out there who follow the same path? Who knows? Because there are also people who may respond to one or two polls, but then get annoyed and balk at all future polls.

Other problems inherent in their methodologies include multiple assumptions about demographics, assumptions that are necessary but still represent "best guess" situations. But my intention isn't to run down polling, to argue that they are all wrong or that even particular ones are. My point is that predictions based on polling numbers--like Silver's--may be perfectly accurate with regard to the data in those polls, but the margins of error in the polls may not be anywhere close to what they are assumed to be, meaning such predictions are not actually based in reality. If the margins of error are just a tad larger than what is assumed, the polls are practically useless, since the numbers are as close as they are. There's nothing dishonest or underhanded about it; it's one of those things many--on both sides of the aisle--just don't want to accept.

What does all of this mean for the Election? It means that a Magic Eight Ball may be as good a predictor as anything else:

Who will win today's Presidential Election?

Cheers, all. And don't forget to vote.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Goldman Sachs Presidential Election bets

When a financial institution and/or its particulars buy a certain stock, makes an investment or follow a definitive strategy with regard to both, we are apt to call such moves "bets." Jon Corzine, for instance, made a big bet--a huge one, in fact--on European sovereign debt. And he lost, thus precipitating the collapse of MF Global. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was caused in part by big bets on mortgage-backed securities.

These moves are bets because the future is still unknown, thus the moves are made hoping for a future that will result in financial gain. But what about political contributions? It's not much of a leap to assume that people involved in this kind of financial activity approach such donations in a similar way, both because of the actual consequences of a candidate's choices in office and because of the reality of patronage: meaningful financial support of a candidate creates access. The last is a simple reality, regardless of how distasteful some  (most) might find it.

With that in mind, let's look at Goldman Sachs--emperor of the financial world--and its past donations to Presidential candidates (all data from OpenSecrets.org), starting in 1992 and going forward to the present with Dems in blue and Repubs in red:

1992 Presidential Election:
Candidate: Bill Clinton
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $102, 275 
Candidate: George Bush
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $68,250
1996 Presidential Election:
Candidate: Bill Clinton
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $44,384 
Candidate: Bob Dole
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $0
2000 Presidential Election:
Candidate: Al Gore
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $98,250 
Candidate: George W. Bush
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $138,499
2004 Presidential Election:
Candidate: John Kerry
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $311,250 
Candidate: George W. Bush
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $394,600
2008 Presidential Election:
Candidate: Barack Obama
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $1,013,091 
Candidate: John McCain
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $240,295
2012 Presidential Election:
Candidate: Barack Obama
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $184,925 
Candidate: Mitt Romney
Goldman Sachs total contributions: $994,139
The first thing that jumps out from this list is a simple fact: in every Presidential Election from 1992 through 2008, total Goldman Sachs monies (GSM) ended up favoring the eventual winner. And the greater the advantage of a particular candidate in GSM (percentage wise), the more the likelihood of a clear victory. In years of uncertainty--like 1992, 2000, and 2004--GSM flowed to both candidates.

Official Endorsements for Election Day

Aside from the Presidential election, also included below are the recommendations of the Ponds of Happenstance for all races and initiatives on the ballot for the State of Florida, District 27, and State District 115 (including local races specific to Palmetto Bay).
President and Vice President: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (Republican)

U.S. Senator: Connie Mack (Republican)

U.S. Representative, District 27: Manny Yevancey (Democrat)

Florida Supreme Court, Justice Pariente: Do not retain

Florida Supreme Court, Justice Lewis: Do not retain

Florida Supreme Court, Justice Quince: Do not retain

Florida Sate Senator, District 35: John Daniel Couriel (Republican)

Florida State Representative, District 115: Michael Bileca (Republican)

Florida Constitutional Amendments: No to all

Vice Mayor, Palmetto Bay: Karyn Cunningham

Council Seat 2, Palmetto Bay: Jim Arazia

Neighborhood Protection Amendment: No

Non-Partisan Amendment, Defined, Enforced: Yes, Yes

Changing Term Limits Amendment: No

Interaction with Administration Amendment: Yes

Department Head Selection to be Affirmed by Village Council Amendment: Yes

Two Year Prohibition on Village Employment after Leaving Office Amendment: Yes

Requiring Candidates to Run Independently Amendment: No

Filling of Vacancies by Remaining Council with or without a Quorum Amendment: Yes

Annexation Process Amendment: Yes

Composition of Charter Revision Commission Amendment: Yes

Technical and Stylistic Amendments Amendment: Yes


Saturday, November 3, 2012

WaPo insults its readers

The Washington Post's Editorial Board yesterday published a piece entitled Mitt Romney’s campaign insults voters. The piece is largely a rehash of Obama Campaign and DNC talking points, resting on the idea that the WaPo Editorial Board is, itself, capable of discerning fact from fiction. But the Board's analysis of the Benghazi attack demonstrates that it is largely clueless in this regard, more than willing to swallow whatever slop it is fed by the Administration. From it's editorial on September 12th, unsurprisingly entitled Mr. Romney’s rhetoric on embassy attacks is a discredit to his campaign (my boldface):
Mr. Romney did not then know the extent of the Benghazi incident — his statement referred only to “the death of an American consulate worker.” So it was stunning to see the GOP nominee renew his verbal offensive Wednesday morning, when the country was still absorbing the news of the first death in service of a U.S. ambassador since 1988. Though reports were still sketchy, it appeared that a militant jihadist group, Ansar al-Sharia, took advantage of the Benghazi protest to stage an armed assault that overwhelmed the Libyan security force at the consulate.
Of course, we know now what the Administration knew on September 12th: there was no Benghazi protest about a nothing YouTube video. It was a coordinated, pre-planned attack. But the Board keeps at it, intent on comparing Romney and Obama with regard to their initial responses:
The movie that provoked the protests, which mocks the prophet Muhammad and portrays Muslims as immoral and violent, is a despicable piece of bigotry; it was striking that Mr. Romney had nothing to say about such hatred directed at a major religious faith.

Mr. Obama struck the right tone on Wednesday, saying that “we reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” but that “there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence.”
Romney correctly ignored the video, while Obama clung to it as a means of obfuscating the reality of events in Benghazi. And in the weeks after, as the American populace learned more details, Obama's response made him look smaller and weaker. Thus, the WaPo editorial board played the part--like so many in the media--of a witless patsy, complimenting the President on the basis of what were untruths, something that was gleaned at the time by others not so handicapped by ideology.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Early voting: death by a thousand cuts

I realize early voting is all the rage these days. Various States--some 32 of them--have enacted laws allowing citizens to vote well in advance of Election Day. In the past, early voting was basically the same as absentee voting: you did it because you had a reason, a justification, for not being able to vote in person on Election Day. Not so anymore. Now early voting is open to everyone with no justification required in these many States. The National Conference of State Legislatures summarizes the current voting situations here. With regard to early voting, it offers the following summary points:
  • The date on which early voting begins may be as early as 45 days before the election, or as late as the Friday before the election. The average starting time for early voting across all 32 states is 22 days before the election. 
  • Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day: on the Thursday before the election in three states, the Friday before in nine states, the Saturday before in five states, and the Monday before Election Day in 11 states. 
  • Early voting periods range in length from four days to 45 days; the average across all 32 states is 19 days.
These extensive periods of voting are rationalized with arguments about opportunity, access and cost: early voting gives more people the opportunity to vote, it makes voting easier and therefore more accessible, and it reduces--in the aggregate--the cost of voting for individual citizens. Jonathan Bernstein summed up the supposed goal of early voting earlier this month:
So, no, I don’t think the case for single-day voting is particularly strong. I’m far more concerned about finding mechanisms for making voting as inclusive as possible; that’s the democratic value that the United States has traditionally done a poor job with that I’d like to see improved. I’m not sure whether early voting really does that — the big reforms that would help would be universal voter registration and making sure that more citizens are eligible to vote — but to the extent that states believe various forms of early voting help, I think it’s great that they try them.
In a nutshell, that--the part in bold-- is why we have early voting now, to be more inclusive (one of the top buzzwords of the last twenty years), to basically have more people voting. The question is, is that really a good idea? Is the formula that simple: the more people who vote, the better--or more democratic--our system will be?

Bernstein's piece was in response to this piece by Robert Kelner at the Weekly Standard, who details one of the chief problems with early voting:
With early voting, there is no longer a single electorate. There are many electorates. There is the electorate that voted in September just after the conventions, the electorate that voted in October before the debates, and then the more informed electorate that voted on Election Day. The vote count on election eve is no longer a snapshot in time reflecting our collective judgment. It is more like a "moving average"—an aggregation of what different Americans thought at different times based on different information...

But that's not the worst part. A far more troubling scenario would emerge if an event took place late in the campaign that fundamentally changed—or should have changed—the voters' calculus. A war breaks out. A scandal erupts. A grainy video surfaces that reveals a candidate's past act of corruption or depravity, or worse.
Rightly, Kelner's argument against early voting is centered on voter information. One of the assumptions of a free and open society is that the citizenry has the access to the same basic information, particularly as concerns candidates for elected office. Thus when they vote--as whole--they vote in response to this knowledge, albeit not in the same way as each gets to assess the available information on their own.

With early voting, the electorate is truly fractured, as disparate groups vote with different sets of information as a matter of course. The longer the period of early voting--and the more distant it is from Election Day, proper--the greater this fracturing.

That said, the case can be overstated: the effect of a scandal late in an election cycle could be diluted by early voting, but that scandal could just as easily occur in the days immediately following an election, thus making it inconsequential, perhaps tragically so. There is no such thing as perfect knowledge when it comes to voting. So maybe the benefits of early voting outweigh this potentially negative consequences?