Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why penalize voters?

Tonight, as the talking heads discuss what's going to happen @ the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee on May 31st, MSNBC's Chuck Todd reports that the two most likely outcomes are that Florida and Michigan will either lose half of all their votes or half of their pledged votes. This 2nd scenario punishes the voters by lessening their impact on the race but allows the superdelegates, many of whom are elected officials in Florida and Michigan, to have their voices heard.

This punishes exactly the wrong people. The primaries in Florida and Michigan were not moved up by citizen referendum, but by the state legislatures, in overwhelming majorities in both states. Moving up the primaries was in direct violation of DNC rules. So what is the DNC, according to Todd, planning to do? Penalize not the people who broke the rules, but the little guy. What a joke!

Strip the votes from the superdelegates, or at least the superdelegates who favored moving up the two states' primaries. Carl Levin (the US Senator from Michigan who spearheaded the effort to move up the primary) deserves to have his voice quieted far more than my Uncle Gary and the millions of other regular Democrats who voted in Florida and Michigan.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush, Obama and Negotiating

President Bush (remember him?) made news today in a speech to the Israeli Knesset. During his speech, he said:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history

Ignoring any sort of argument about the blatant ridiculousness of the statement, or this obvious political attack on Obama (or, even if you take the White House's word for it, "any number of Democrats") being a gross violation of the principle of politics stopping at the nation's border, this is still a laughable argument from Bush. It totally misunderstands the implications of a decision by a President to meet with foreign leaders.

Let's say Bush decided tomorrow to have a face to face meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This would, in the face of 7 years of only meeting with friends, and coming from a President who at least claims to follow traditional rules of American diplomacy, a huge decision. Ahmadinejad could claim that, by being the first leader of a nation not friendly with the US to meet with the President, he had earned some great public relations victory.

A decision by President Obama (man does it feel good to type that!), on the other hand, to meet with Iran would not mean at all the same thing. By publicly stating early in his campaign that he would meet with the leader of any country, this removes any prestige for the leaders he's meeting with. Obama, by choosing to meet with Foreign Leader X, is saying nothing more than "X is the leader of a foreign country, and as a matter of principle I meet with foreign leaders."

In short, a Bush decision to meet with Ahmadinejad says "Ahmadinejad has earned the right to meet with me, a right which not all foreign leaders have", while Obama would only be saying "Ahmadinejad is a foreign leader." Not exactly a big PR coup for Ahmadinejad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Big Endorsement? And Hillary's speech

I know I usually focus on my own opinion of the campaign and such, but just a heads-up,several big-deal blogs are reporting a "big endorsement" for Obama this evening @ 6:30 or 7 pm. Edwards?

In other news, Hillary's speech after her WV win last night, which initially caused me to turn to Libby and say "that was a really good speech", is worth a look for anyone who hates her with a passion that burns deep in your soul, as it might at least soften things a bit. I still think her "he won't do well with white people" argument does nothing but hurt him for the general, but at least she's eased off direct criticisms. Let's see if tonight's endorsement, whoever it is, will help Obama with the honkeys.

btw, I love this t-shirt on CafePress. Not so much the design, but the phrase featured

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Iraq and Gun Control

For most I've my life, I've been extremely in favor of very strict gun control. The self-defense argument has never made much sense, as it seems like a gun would only escalate an already-tense situation and possibly turn a mugging into a homicide. I'm a vegetarian, so hunting holds little appeal. And the idea of militias of drunken rednecks fighting off the United States Army as some kind of insurrection against an oppressive government seemed ridiculous.

That is, it did seem ridiculous, until the aftermath of our invasion of Iraq. A few thousand insurgents, hidden amongst a population of 28 million, and armed with small arms, RPGs and IEDs, have fought the US Army to a standstill. So I'm sure that the government is much more afraid of an armed domestic populace now than they were 5 years ago.

So I'm all for law-abiding, sane people being allowed to own guns (and you can make an IED out of pretty much anything.... that's why they're called improvised). I am, however, for hugely increased sentences for crimes committed with a gun; we can make room in prisons by decriminalizing drugs, which is a post for another day. I'm also in favor of efforts to curb dangerous business practices by gunmakers , such as lawsuits for flooding the market with guns they knew would wind up on black markets.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clinton's race argument

An excerpt from a USA Today article today discussing an interview with Senator Clinton yesterday, after her loss in NC and win in IN:

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

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

This statement followed Paul Begala, a long-time advisor to President Clinton and an advisor to Senator Clinton's campaign, saying during CNN's coverage on Tuesday that the party can't win with just "eggheads and African-Americans."

What a ridiculous argument by Clinton and Begala! Just as it's impossible to win an election without working white voters, it is similarly impossible for a Democrat to win an election without "eggheads and African-Americans." More than that, it's ridiculous to assume that Obama would be unable, with Hillary's pledged enthusiastic support of the eventual nominee, to pick up those white primary voters voting for Hillary in the general election, just as it's ridiculous to assume that nominee Clinton, with Obama's support, wouldn't win a huge majority of black voters. Of course, if she continues with her ridiculous arguments, such as this and the gas tax holiday, and counting Michigan when Obama wasn't even on the ballot, she might have problems convincing eggheads to vote for her, even with Obama's help.

Also, her support among white voters has slipped over the past few contests, going from 64% in Ohio to 63% in PA, and to 61% in NC and 60% in IN. This decline in her share of the white vote happened in the midst of the whole Rev. Wright saga. So the basis of her argument, in addition to the conclusions she draws from it, are unproven at best.

But the main problem with her argument is that it is a huge slap in the face to everyone who has supported Obama, and a signal to her supporters that she does not expect them to vote for Obama in November. This is precisely the kind of campaign that does little more than weaken Obama for the general. If anything, she is making it harder for superdelegates to come over to her side, as the superdelegate would be saying, in effect, "sorry, blacks, but we can't piss off the white people."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Softball and the Democratic Race

A week before last night's primaries in Indiana and NC, the Central Washington softball team met the team from Western Oregon, with both having a chance to qualify for the NCAA Division II Playoffs. In the top of last inning of a tie game and with two runners on base, a senior bench player from Western Oregon who hadn't hit a home run in her entire college career, Sara Tucholsky, all 5'2" of her, hit a home run to center field to give her team a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, in her excitement, Sara missed touching first base on her trip around the bases. Realizing her mistake, she stopped between first and second to turn around, and she tore her right ACL. The rules of the game state that no one from her team is allowed to help her in any way to run the bases, so if anyone from Western Oregon tried to help her, she would have been called out. Rather than force her to crawl around the bases to have her home run officially count, players from Central Washington picked Sara up and carried her around the bases, setting her left foot on each one as they passed. Sara's team went on to win the game.

ESPN story

Over the course of the last 4 months, Barack Obama has hit a home run. He has jumped out to what is, in the Democratic system of proportional delegate allocation, a huge lead (play around with the New York Times Delegate Calculator, though it hasn't yet been updated with yesterday's results). It seems that the only way he could lose at this point is if he were to have some failure as catastrophic as a "torn ACL while rounding the bases". What would be the political equivalent? Some thought it might be the Rev. Wright issue, in which, to review, Obama's pastor of 20 years, the man who brought him to the Christian faith, performed his wedding, and baptised his children was shown on tape and on several occasions saying "God Damn America", "America's chickens are coming home to roost" days after 9/11 and so on. And this, to stick with the baseball analogies, amounted to perhaps a thigh bruise from being hit by a pitch; it hurts, but it by no means damaged his ability to win the game. So just what exactly would a "torn ACL" look like?

The Bill Ayers thing is not nearly as bad for Obama as Wright, as sitting on a charity board is not nearly the level of connection as convert-pastor, and there's no video, so that's out. The guy who said he did coke and crack with Obama and then performed oral sex on him in 1999 failed a polygraph. Witness testimony in the Rezko trial ended yesterday with nothing about Obama coming out. The way I figure it, news would have to come out that Obama cheated on his wife (though such a history hasn't hurt McCain, nor should it), accepted a bribe, or committed a crime in order for enough superdelegates to give Clinton the nomination.

While it's terribly unlikely that such news will come out between now and August (if Hillary or the press had it, it'd be out already, and if the Republicans have it, it won't come out til after the convention), I suppose it is possible. And, to use another sports analogy, she has to be on the field to pick pick up a fumble, so I can't say that she has to get out of the race. But it's definitely time to knock off the attacks on Obama such as "I believe that I've done that [passed the commander-in-chief threshold]. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you'll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy."

By all means, Senator, stay on the field, and no one's saying that you have to carry Obama around the bases if he fails. But it's time to stop chasing him around with a bat trying to hit him in the knee.

p.s., looks like my first official prediction didn't turn out so well. I did predict that she'd do 17 points better in IN than NC, and she did 16 points better in the actual counts, so there's at least that...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fearless Predictions

On Super Tuesday, as results began pouring in, Senator Obama began winning more than his share of races. In order for Clinton to be able to prevent Obama from declaring victory, they said, she would have to win California. Sure enough, she pulled it off, and Super Tuesday was chalked up as more or less of a draw.

After a string of big losses, the next do-or-die moment for the Clinton campaign was declared (by the Clinton campaign) to be Ohio and Texas. A loss in either would be catastrophic, and a win in both might give her campaign new life. She won both primaries, though she lost the overall delegate count in Texas, muddying the waters even more.

Next up was Pennsylavania. In the days before the primary, a consensus emerged that a double-digit win for Clinton would keep her campaign strong, while a single-digit win in a state so demographically hospitable to Senator Clinton would indicate the beginning of the end. So what happened? Of course, it's a 9.2% win, 54.6 to 45.4, which, thanks to the rounding of each candidates' total, looks like a 10% win. The result fit into an impossibly narrow window where, depending on your persuasion, you could call it a single- or a double-digit win!

Which brings us to the latest win or go home day, North Carolina and Indiana. A win in both for Hillary would raise serious questions about Barack's campaign and ability to beat McCain in the general. A double win for Obama would go a long way toward bringing in the "Party Elders" to push Clinton out of the race. So how can there be any doubt of the outcome?

My predictions? Hillary wins Indiana 53%-46%, Obama wins North Carolina 55%-45%, and this whole thing carries on through Puerto Rico in early June.

A Plea to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Mr. Limbaugh,
Voting is a sacred act in the secular religion of American politics. Hundreds of thousands of America's men and women died in service of their country to protect this act. Women and minorities fought for decades for the right to stand up and have their say in who would represent them in our government.

Unfortunately, Mr. Limbaugh, this sacred act is under attack, and it is under attack by you and your listeners. Instead of encouraging your listeners to go to their polling place and vote for the man or woman they feel is best to lead our country, you are "ordering" them, as the "commander of Operation Chaos", to lie not only about their political affiliation, but to vote for a candidate they do not think is best for this country. You don't even believe she is the better candidate between the two Democrats!

That you're playing these childish games with people's votes demonstrates all that talk from you about honoring the sacrifices of our veterans is, like most of what comes out of your formerly nicotine stained lips, utter hogwash. I beg you to stop this un-American assault of the voting process.

thank you,
Jeff Archinal
The Political Doctor

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gas Tax Lunacy

Hillary Clinton has been aggressively pushing a gas tax holiday in the days leading up to Tuesday's primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Currently, the government collects an 18.4 cent tax on every gallon of gasoline and uses the funds to pay for building and maintaining roads. Senator Clinton would counter the lost income from the gas tax by imposing a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. Ignoring that she already had pledged to spend proceeds from such a tax to fund green energy research and the like, and the fact that removing the tax will of course result in more foreign oil being purchased and burned, let's do a little thought experiment to figure out the effects of such a plan:

The market has established that people are willing to pay $3.60 for a gallon of gas. Now you would expect that, after lifting the 18 cent tax, the price might go down to $3.42, the net effect of which would be savings of $25-$70 per family, depending on whose math you believe. And of course, the decreased cost would be passed on to the consumers, right? The oil companies would take no action to offset the losses to their "windfall profits". It's not like the oil companies have a long record of keeping prices high to ensure they all profit, do they?

Here's a list of profits for various oil companies in the 1st quarter of 2008:

ExxonMobil: $10.89 billion
Shell: $9.08 billion
BP: $7.6 billion
Chevron: $5.17 billion
ConocoPhillips: $4.14 billion

Clearly, any short-term action to take money out of the oil companies' pockets is a futile gesture. With nothing to stop them from increasing prices to offset the windfall tax, Hillary's plan is a political pander designed to buy votes.

Also of note, in a press release dated 4/29/2008, Senator Clinton proposes, as she also did on Bill O'Reilly's show last week, that we use WTO to force OPEC to increase production and therefore lower prices. Unfortunately, oil is largely exempt from WTO jurisdiction

Opening Statements

Greetings, and welcome to my blog! I chose to start this project after spending more time than I'd care to admit following the 2008 election, particularly the Democratic side. For the record, I voted for Barack Obama in the Ohio primary and canvassed for his campaign on Cleveland's east side. Also for the record, I am among other things pro-universal health care, anti-Iraq war (from the beginning, thank you very much), pro-international aid both public and private, recently pro-gun, ambivalently pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-open border but pro-drastically increased legal immigration, pro-private prayer in school (or anywhere else for that matter), pro-drug decriminalization, and anti-PATRIOT Act. Don't worry! There will be posts about most if not all of these topics.

I first was eligible to vote in 2000, voting for McCain in the Ohio primary (back when "Straight Talk Express" was not a misnomer) and Gore in the general. I was a supporter of Dr. Dean prior to his dropping out of the race in '04, then voted for John Edwards in the 2004 Ohio primary. I voted for and canvassed for John Kerry in the general.

I'm sharing all of these facts so you, the reader, know where I'm coming from. While it is important to know where people stand, I think there is this detrimental tendency in our politics to completely ignore ideas proposed by opponents and to accept as gospel anything from people on "our side". So I hope that, even if you disagree with me on a particular issue, you'll give my posts some thought.

With that, on to the issues! I'll hopefully be posting daily for the next 2-3 weeks, then I'll be taking a couple weeks off for my graduation from medical school and my wedding