Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pastor Rick Warren a Good Choice by Obama

Although I should not have to I want to preface this post by saying I don't agree with Rick Warren on many things and unlike Warren (and unlike Obama) I am in favor gay marriage and an expansion of gay rights. But it's precisely for this reason that I think Rick Warren is an excellent choice by President Elect Obama to give the Presidential inaugural invocation which will certainly be one of the most watched religious statements in history. He does not reflect *my* opinions but he reflects those of many fellow Americans. Obama's assuming leadership of all of us, not just the folks with whom he agrees.

Critics of this choice seem to forget that for the most part their worldview won this election. Although it may be tempting to rub that win in the face of the opposition by ignoring their opinions and beliefs, Obama has risen to the occaision yet again to choose somebody who reflects the views of millions of Americans who are in what most would call the "religious center" of American religious opinion.

I certainly appreciate the right of gay folks to be disappointed in this choice - wanting your views to prevail, and wanting broader and deserved recognition of gay rights is something I want to happen as well. However I think that even more important than that - and arguably the path to that - is bringing everybody to the table who is willing to talk in a respectful way. Rick Warren has done that in many venues - most notably with the excellent Presidential candidate interviews and with the tolerance he preaches to his very large evangelical following.

This is another excellent choice by Obama. Not because it matches *my views*, but because it is a important reflection on and upon the diversity of opinion in our huge and complex nation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Likely to Take Clinton's NY Senate Seat

Reports are suggesting that Caroline Kennedy is likely to take over the NY Senate Seat vacated by Hillary Clinton in January when she assumes the role of US Secretary of State. Kennedy was on the "short list" for this position and now she has indicated interest in the job. As a key figure in politics for many years and an early and prominent Obama supporter, Kennedy appears likely to get the nod soon for the Senate.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama announces his security / foreign policy team

President Elect Obama announced his national security and foreign policy team this morning which includes Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Acting Defense Secretary Gates who will stay in his current position at Defense, Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, Eric Holder as US Attorney General, Susan Rice as UN Representative. and General James Jones as National Security Advisor.

Clinton is one of the most intriguing choices for a major player in decades, and promises at the very least to be one of the most prominent international representatives of the USA in some time. Although it's unlike we'll see Bill Clinton at her side during international trips, his Presidential status and extraordinary number of prominent contacts throughout the world is likely to give Hillary Clinton unprecedented levels of access and potential acceptance on the international stage.

Obama inherits some of the nation's greatest challenges both on the economic and foreign policy fronts and it will be interesting to see how well his approach can work by essentially placing a Clinton style cabinet at his side.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Napolitano to become Secretary of Homeland Security in Obama Administration

Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of Homeland Security

President Elect Obama will name Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as the new secretary of Homeland Security, a key cabinet post that determines - in conjunction with other posts - how the USA allocates and strategizes for defenses against global terrorism.

Obama's cabinet nominees appear to signal a moderate Presidential approach where very seasoned and experienced former players in the Clinton administration will work with several new faces and a small number of transitional figures from the GW Bush administration to align US policy with Obama's stated objectives in the election - restoring international respect for the USA while sending a clear signal to potential adversaries that the US will not continue to attack those who seek to undermine the international status quo in violent ways.

Unfortunately it appears that attacks like those in India this week may escalate as terrorists and their supporters realign their own strategies - feeling out how the new administration will deal with the ongoing violence.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Google's Norvig on the 2008 Election

Google's Peter Norvig is one of the top researchers in search and artificial intelligence but also something of a political junkie. His take on many points that swirled around the 2008 election is very insightful:

Norvig is here at the Converge08 conference in Mountain View and just answered the question of how to advise President-elect Obama with regard to moving forward in technology.

Barney Pell of Powerset/ Microsoft fame is suggesting that Nanotech innovations and health innovations should be top priorities.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Speech Transcript - Presidential Victory Speech of November 4th 2008

Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Congratulations to President Elect Obama and to … America!

Congratulations to President Elect Obama and to … America!

John McCain is now conceding the election with an eloquence that would have benefited his campaign, noting how historic this election has been for America.

CNN has projected what has been clear for several days now - Barack Obama will win the US Presidency,

With this decision we leave behind a two year campaign - the longest transition of leadership in the history of *any* democracy, and we enter a new and potentially transformative time for America. We face some of the greatest challenges in the history of our proud Democracy, but working together we can overcome them all.

Election Day 2008

Voting is still underway but the outcome is already clear - Obama will win by either a modest or large number of electoral votes and probably about 54% or more of the popular vote.

Election and electoral irregularities, negative campaign strategies, and the flaws of Democracy aside, all Americans should be very proud that our nation will once again make our qauadrennial peaceful transition of executive leadership from one administration to another after a national vote.

The Obama victory will likely be viewed for centuries as one of the most significant transformative events in American history both as one of the largest swings from "conservative Republican" to liberal Democrat leadership. Obama's rise to the presidency also is something of a nail in the coffin for the pervasive but wrong race-based mythology that has suggested for a generation that America could never transcend our history of predjudice and elect an African American to the highest office.

Yet Americans can trancend the challenges of our past.

We just did.

For more about the US History check out "History and Travel" blog and website.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Obama to win in electoral landslide

It's now very clear that Barack Obama will win the US Presidency, probably in an electoral landslide of approximately 353 electoral votes for Obama & Biden to 185 electoral votes for McCain & Palin. Thankfully we won't have the close outcome that means vote counting problems, purging strategies, and lawsuits determine the outcome rather than the intention of voters.

Obama's election is very likely even in the event of a disaster of unprecedented proportions because most now feel that Obama's leadership and intelligence make him the right choice to guide the country forward, because many people have already voted, and because Obama has by far the better "get out the vote" effort. Early voting and better polling makes in increasingly unlikely that we will see any big surprises on Tuesday, as we already have a very good idea about how close to 20% of the electorate has voted and those votes are lining up with the broad polling. All these signs point to Obama as the next president.

President Picker Predicts:
353 electoral votes for Obama & Biden
185 electoral votes for McCain & Palin

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Khalidi Smear Campaign: Schlussel appears to be lying again, so why is this story spreading?

The McCain smear campaign has really challenged me to examine a lot of my ideas about how people process information. I've usually assumed people may focus too much on a negative or a positive item, but after reading dozens of prominent right wing blog stories it is clear that almost every single Obama smear is simply a parroting of a fabrication where blog authors lie and distort things which are often picked up by reputable outlets.

The latest smear places Obama at an event where dancers from Sanebel Al Quds dance troup are said to have done a mock beheading. The story is based on the work of a right wing discredited blogger named Schlussel. Although many reports don't note this she admits she was NOT at the same event as Obama.

Her “real” but irrelevant connection is the Sanibel (aka Sanabel) Al Quds dance troupe. She claims - I’m confident she is lying - that the dance troup did some sort of beheading skit at the one she “secretly” attended in Milwaukee.

Hey, but she has pictures! Problem - they are not from Milwaukee and I doubt that is the Sanibel folk dancers anyway. Oh, and that does NOT appear to be a beheading skit - just a sword dance which is common in many folk forms and non threatening.

Even if there is some sort of skit somewhere by these folks the idea that Obama would have participated in a celebration like that is simply foolish nonsense. So are the folks spreading this garbage really this gullible? I actually think the answer is yes. Like their counterparts on the far left, their hatred of opposing people and ideas simply clouds their reason to the extent they no longer think clearly.

The standard applied to Obama’s credibility is high as it should be. He passes easily - a very honest guy. Yet the standard applied to his detractors is zero. Liars like Schlussel simply make stuff up to fuel hatred and political agenda.

No responsible national figures (e.g. McCain) believes any of this crap. Why? Because it’s all crap.

It is perfectly fine to vote against Obama for several reasons, but if you vote against Obama for the smear reasons you’ve simply become a pawn in a second-rate campaign smear campaign preying on gullibility, fear, and ignorance. America is better than that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Voting Obama? Fine! Believing the right wing talking points? You are just being a sucker and a fool.

I've now spent many, many hours paying attention to the anti-Obama crowd in the interest of objectivity. I'm not impressed.

What is frustrating about tracking down the anti-Obama smears they foolishly keep believing is that they are a simply formula of guilt by fake or exaggerated associations. Just ask John McCain, who correctly profiles Obama as a decent, patriotic guy.

I tracked down a lot of right wing tips but found nothing of greater concern than what you'd have with McCain or most other politicians. In fact Obama's one of the clearest folks out there in terms of stating his ideas and acting consistently with them.

Sure, Obama has some questionable stuff in his past that is of minor concern and he's certainly more left wing than I am but this is America. You want people with a broad, bright, global vision, and nobody has better fit that mold than Obama.

Now, there are obviously issues that should incline you to vote McCain. Pro-life as your key issue? You absolutely should vote for McCain. is you income measured in the millions per year like Cindy McCain's? You should vote McCain. Obama is hammering the rich with taxes. I think probably at rates unreasonably high, but probably better them than....the other 95% of us.

Right wing nonsense spewing has reached new heights as the campaign enters the final days, but it appears to me most of the clowns are simply *extremely* crappy profilers. They parrot the obviously inane points no political insider would ever believe. It is campaign theater but many of these bloggers and McCain advocates seem to think it's some form of a real truth.

As a business guy and fiscal conservative I need to profile folks all the time, and Obama is *obviously* very much what he says he is: A liberal democrat. He's got support of brilliant capitalists like Warren Buffet and Robert Rubin. From brilliant foreign policy military folks like Wesley Clarke and Colin Powell. Why? Because he's *exactly* who he says he is and who he appears to be.

It's hard to hold back the contempt and scorn I have for the inanely stupid notion that Obama is a racist, socialist, communist, or Kenyan citizen. This is unpatriotic nonsense - lies and fabrications of a spin machine out of control and outside of McCain's own belief system - squarely in the hands of nonsensical kooks who wouldn't know a socialist from a capitalisit from a halloween clown.

There are many reasons you should NOT vote for Obama - Democratic liberalism has a history of mistakes, especially in the realm of spending foolishly and failing to assign individual accountability properly.

But if you don't vote for Obama because you think he's a closet communist you are just .... a complete fool, suckered by spinmeisters and hoodwinked by hardball politics you don't even understand.

McCain Campaign Formula Yields Nonsense

The pattern was clear to many - even some McCain supporters - early on but I guess I expected them to vary this a bit when it became clear that that smear attacks were failing to sway any intelligent voters and only seemed to appeal to a crowd that had no interest in the truth about the candidates - only in an outcome.

Every single major criticism of Obama now takes the following form. It’s a formula and it’s BS in every single case:

1) Review Obama records.

2) Find where he crossed paths with objectionable people, esp. if there can be a connection to the buzzword “terror supporter”.

3) Lie or wildly exaggerate the degree of connection to the people.

4) Lie to suggest Obama *shares* the controversial or outrageous views of the people to whom he has little or no connection.

5) Run high profile stories on right wing blogs until FOX picks up the distortions and then more reputable news outlets report the "accusations", thereby bringing a legitimacy to the issue it should not have.

What I can’t believe is that there are some bright people who *actually believe* the nonsense as if they don't even understand this is a game, and McCain and his campaign know much better than any of us that Obama's exactly what he claims to be. As much as I can appreciate hardball politics I'm concerned that trying to brand Obama as sympathetic to terrorism or unAmerican activities will hurt his likely upcoming presidency in the profoundly unAmerican ways, even perhaps leading to violence by unstable elements in the far right.

Although I think most of the current rhetoric falls a bit short of "hate speech", it's still beneath *any* patriotic American to support the many lies and distortions that - successful or not as hardball politics - will compromise our ability to deal with many of the threats facing the USA.

Lies and distortions are a challenge to our great system- they are unPatriotic and unAmerican, and a shameful way for the McCain campaign to wind up an otherwise honorable career.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Truth vs Lies

American campaigns are no stranger to falsehood, lies, and character attacks. That has been going on since the days of Washington and the rocky birth of our remarkable Democratic experiment.

However that does not make the practice appealing, and clearly in the current campaign it has been the McCain campaign that has gone the farthest to bring up irrelevant nonsense and distort the truth.

Following up on many of the right wing claims about Obama has been an exercise in frustration and shoddy thinking by Obama detractors. This has taken the form of crazy nonsense like the notion Obama was born in Kenya to juxtaposing Obama quotes to make a very reasonable statement seem unreasonable.

Just today I reviewed a bogus claim that Obama, writing at Daily KOS
two years ago, had called for removing moderates from the Senate. Incredibly the writer had simply taken something Obama said should NOT be done in the interest of moderate approaches and then lifted the words in such as way to make it appear to state opposite. These cases of blog fraud or incomprehensibly stupid lack of reading comprehension would not be so bad if they were not immediately picked up by other sites and presented as "fact" along with the misquotes or lies.

Even mainstream media "fact checking" is often very questionable. The latest "guilt by association" play suggests Obama is pals with a Palestinian activist named Khalidi, now a professor and consultant. One of the challenges in this case is that a John McCain board gave a Khalidi consultancy over $450,000 for projects polling in the middle east. Most of McCain's campaign has tried to rely on painfully weak connections to figures that mainstream Americans find objectionable in one way or another. Thankfully that strategy appears to have failed - and perhaps we can hope this is because we as voters have become more reasonable rather than simply because the McCain campaign failed to make the smears stick.

All the smears have happened within a context of an arguably very unqualified Republican VP nominee hit with abuse of power charges *during the campaign* and McCain's very challenged personal history. The Obama campaign has chose not to focus on the personalities and character of the opposition, and stayed squarely on message in a near-flawless and mostly positive campaign. Will this approach succeed? If so, can we expect future campaigns to take a higher road than in the past?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Obamercial

Pundits are wondering if Obama pulled in a few more voters with tonight's 30 minute five million dollar multi-network commercial extravaganza.

I think that was only a small part of their objective as they probably only gained a point or so across the board and gaining votes is near-meaningless in California, New York, and most of the heavily populated states (and expensive media markets) that are already lined up for Obama in terms of electoral votes - the only votes that matter in the big show.

However this was yet another master stroke of the nearly flawless Obama campaign. Why? It runs out the clock for two full days with only 6 days until the main election day, and with many people voting over the next few days in early voting areas. Obama does not need votes now - he needs to simply maintain his sizable lead. The status quo is Obama's friend and this piece helps to maintain that for him in addition to address, in a very stylish fashion, key concerns of key groups he needs.

As with most of the Axlerod innovations this was brilliant and another reason the Obama campaign is likely to go down as *the best run big campaign* in American political history.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Early voting polls

MSNBC is reporting a Diagio poll that shows Obama 48% and McCain 47% of early votes. This is more like an exit poll that a predictive poll and would appear to suggest a close race, though normally since early voting probably skews Republican this is not necessarily contradicting poll results.

Gallup on the other hand reports early voting polls are showing the same Obama lead that the normal polls show - a substantial margin and a huge positive sign for Obama.

Campaign 2008 - we ain't seen nothing yet?

As the Obama and McCain campaigns make their final 7 day push to election day we'll see more ads and get out the vote effort than at any other time in history, especially for Obama (who has far more money), and especially in the key states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Obama's get out the vote system is likely to go down in history as the most sophisticated ever. In Florida over 100,000 volunteers have been mobilized to help with the Obama campaign, and CNN reports that poll workers will scan names of those who voted into a system that will then make decisions about where to run targeted pre-recorded TV appeals by Obama to get out and vote. This is a brilliant tactic as failing to mobilize enough voters was a key reason for the Gore loss in 2000 and Kerry loss in 2004.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Counting Ohio

A flurry of stories and accusations have raised a lot of suspicion about vote counts, especially in Ohio and Florida in the 2004 presidential election.

However the total Ohio recount conducted in December of 2004 that effectively shifted the results by only a few hundred results based on allowing previously rejecte ballots suggests to me that the claims of counting conspiracies are probably misguided:

However I remain concerned by reports of defects in Diebold voting machines and optical scanner voting results that appeared to favor George Bush in 2004 by margins that are very hard to explain without invoking fraud.

Without a doubt our elections process is flawed so seriously that outcomes were certainly affected in the 2000 election where Gore would have won Florida without ballot errors, though I do not think this was due to conspiratorial activity unless you count the aggressive vote purging efforts of Katherine Harris and other Secretaries of state as a conspiracy. These suppression activities are probably legal in the narrow sense, though I think vote suppression efforts appear to have become a strategic part of many campaigns and this probably should be considered a somewhat nuanced violation of voting rights laws. Suppression efforts generally seem to hide behind the notion of preventing votes by felons and vote fraud, but I think that in general the true purpose is to alter outcomes in a partisan way.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama's lead steady, McCain looking for a miracle

Unless modern polling is pretty much a garbage science (it's not), the election appears to be wrapping up with Obama in a commanding lead and McCain poised for a defeat that will pull many states out of the proverbial "red" column.

Here in Oregon Jeff Merkley is poised to wrestle away the seat of our excellent moderate Senator Gordon Smith. The campaign has been nasty and expensive and although Smith is well funded Merkley now has the help of national funding that will - in my opinion - give him the election, probably more on the basis of negative ads about Smith than platform issues.

Perhaps as importantly, the financial troubles of the country and perceived foreign policy failures of the Bush administration appear to be taking the country towards a House and Senate that are so strongly controlled by the Democrats many policies will face low levels of opposition.

This is likely to prove a mixed blessing unless the Democrats use this power with greater wisdom than either party has in the past. As the country and the world teeters on the brink of a potential depression the likes of which the world has not seen since the great Depression of the 1930s we can only hope that the new administration and congress will prove to be the most innovative and successful American political experiment of modern times. Anything short of that .... could be trouble.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ashley Todd - McCain Campaign Worker "Attack" is a Hoax

The Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Ashley Todd attack was a hoax designed by a low level McCain campaign worker to fuel the ongoing smear campaign against Obama:

Although the right leaning Drudge Report and FOX News deserve some of credit for putting the “hoax” coverage on their internet home pages, enough damage has been done that any objective observer would question the motives of news agencies reporting as fact such a suspicious story.

This was initially reported by Fox news in a totally questionable fashion that simply accepted Todd’s dramatic story that was designed to play on many of the irrational fears and stereotypes that have been used to smear Obama supporters. Drudge and FOX were (outrageously) running the lies last night even as it became crystal clear she was lying about all or some of this. That abuse of the news cycle is simply unconscionable.

Also outrageous is that Todd was an official McCain *campaign worker*. Given the smears against Obama based on people and groups who have little or no connection to his campaign I think it’s clear we have a disturbing double standard.

McCain to miss his election night party

You know your campaign is in big trouble when the candidate says he may not even attend his election night party.

Some reports suggest John McCain will be bowing out of the small party scheduled in an Arizona Hotel due to "space limitations". AP Reports

Meanwhile Obama's team is preparing a huge stadium for what polls suggest will be a huge election night acceptance speech by Obama.

McCain is now outspent by over 3 to 1, losing in every poll, and appears to be on the verge of a campaign meltdown as they concede state after state to Obama. Pennsylvania may be McCain's sort of "hail mary pass" where they hope to turn the state red and shift the 21 electoral votes to McCain. Even this won't work unless McCain also picks up other states in which he currently trails such as Ohio and Indiana.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Voter Suppression vs Registration Fraud vs Voter Fraud

The ACORN scandal is serious, but conservative talk shows and radio are absurdly trying to connect this effort to the Obama campaign in irrational and unethical ways. Vote fraud is not much of a problem in the USA where sophisticated voter suppression ... is a problem.

Forget Acorn, I'd hire Ken Blackwell if I was in the vote manipulation biz:

In 2004 in Ohio Blackwell tried to preferentially and illegally enforce a rule that said the *weight* of the paper would disqualify registrations. Even his own offices forms did not qualify as well as standard forms around the state. His ruling was overturned eventually, but had some suppressive effect. It's hard to measure suppression and I don't think it turned the 2004 election but I now think it's clear that without the very strategic suppression efforts against Florida voters in 2000 Gore would have *easily* won the state even with the butterfly ballots disallowed as they were.

As everybody should know but does not, there is *no rational dispute whatsoever* that the butterfly ballot spoilage lost the election for Gore. It's not clear you could have done anything about that legally (eg allocate votes proportionally rather than destroy them), but it is clear that in terms of voter intent Gore won Florida. Also not well known, but shown by a Miami Herald recount of every ballot (a great read!), is that even if the Supreme Court recounts had gone through Bush would have won using most of the prevailing counting standards of 2 or more chads disconnected. (Gore did not challenge the factors that lost the election - Palm Beach spoilage and/or voter suppression). Bush was "necessarily" installed as President after losing the Florida election, although there was a precedent for keeping those ballots and proportional votes.

I think if one is truly interested in Democracy working more than partisan concerns, they should be a lot more worried about the suppression efforts, especially in Ohio and Florida. These are simply appalling. The system is very good at finding fraud and very bad at avoiding suppression and ballot spoilage.

The reason suppression is a lot more worrisome is that it appears they keep a lot of legitimate voters from voting where voter fraud is likely to be very uncommon (convicted felons, for example, even if registered by ACORN, are hardly gung ho to go in and vote illegally).

I started looking at the situation after the Florida fiasco of 2000 and was really appalled because until then I'd bought the line that fraud was the big deal. I do think fraud helped Kennedy win Illinois thanks to Daley and possibly the mob, but suppression is more relevant now.

Electoral Counts Give Obama the Win

With a large and stable lead in the polls, an even more favorable lead in the electoral analysis, and a huge amount of money in the bank the Obama campaign juggernaut looks very hard to beat:

"The Bradley Effect", where polled people tend to vote differently than they tell the pollsters due to race, seems unlikely to play a role although some think this may work against Obama in the final tallies.

Clearly the most important factor at this late time is the mother's milk of American Obama's campaign raised a jaw-dropping 150 million in September and will be able to outspend McCain by something like 3 to 1. This is a huge advantage and makes it much harder for McCain to "raise his voice" and profile in the public eye at this critical time.

Vote Fraud vs Vote Suppression

There's a massive campaign in the conservative media to connect the Obama campaign to the ACORN vote registration scandals. There does not appear to be a significant connection - certainly no suggestion that the Obama campaign has done anything to encourage ACORN to cheat on their behalf. Here's my summary of the situation:

ACORN registration fraud is at the individual level, where workers are padding their registration piles with fake registrations to make more money.

No signs that the fake registrants would actually be voting in the election. FOX is very conspicuously failing to talk about this, though I'd guess somebody will find a small number of ACORN people who had plans to go and try to vote based on the fake registrations.

It is possible, but I think unlikely, that there is a conspiracy on the part of ACORN to conduct a large scale vote fraud campaign based on the fake registrations. The evidence does not support this at all. For example "Mickey Mouse" mass duplicated names, and pro football name registrants are going to get scrutinized at the polling places and likely rejected.

Far more significant in terms of affect are the voter suppression campaigns where secretaries of state are removing huge numbers of names from the registration rolls. Often this appears to be a legitimate attempt to clean ineligible voters from the rolls but in some cases such as Ohio 2004 it appeared to be a very calculated approach to change outcomes. This year Ohio's voting process is under the control of the Democrats and it appears they are working too hard in the opposite direction - effectively having too few checks on the registration process.

The system failed in 2000, and Democracy is still reeling from our inability to qualify voters and count votes properly. Partisans who are more interested in outcomes that the Democratic process should bow their heads in deep shame (warning: do not hold your breath on this).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Of Plumbers and Presidents

The inane stupidity of the "Joe the Plumber" discussion tells us a lot about how out of touch the media is with America. As a "Joe" myself, I'm in a better position to understand Joe the Plumber than, say, Lou Dobbs.

My take is that neither left nor right wing media understands why Joe the Plumber is relevant to the current debate, which is simply because he is representative of many middle income Americans who make about 40-80k per year, would actually benefit in the short term from Obama's tax plans, but don't share Obama's sensibilities about how to run country or the idea that deficit spending is a good idea.

First, Joe does not even come close to making 250k. No plumbers make 250k. Some plumbing *businesses* with several workers might make that in, although many are mom and pops making far less. Lou Dobbs and some McCain folks have *idiotically* asserted that the issue is about Plumbers when it's about small businesses, most of which do not make 250k.

Joe is not a small business - in fact he's not even a plumber. He was (probably wrongly) thinking that if he bought the plumbing place he worked for he'd have trouble paying Obama's taxes, and Obama foolishly just assumed that was true. Unless this is a pretty good sized plumbing business and Joe is a heck of a good businessman it is very unlikely he'll pull in 250k taxable income. Do the math! There are 2000 working hours in a year. Factoring in travel time and such, most plumbers are not going to work that many hours but even assuming they do they'd need to make on average $125 per hour to bring their annual take up to 250k. $125 per hour? Maybe in New York CIty but most places charge far less. But wait there's more.... that's just revenues. You get to deduct expenses, so even if Joe is the best paying guy AND the best business guy AND has several plumbers all pulling in 250k annually for him after he pays them and deducts expenses he'll likely fall where most small businesses fall - under the Obama threshold for tax benefits.

But wait.... that does NOT suggest he should vote for Obama. If he's strongly anti-abortion, or really big on gun rights, or wants military spending to be a huge priority he should probably go with McCain. If he hates Democratic control of politics he should vote Republican.

So, there are plenty of reasons Joe the Plumber might want to vote for McCain.

Taxes, however, are quite ironically not one of those reasons.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Colin Powell to Endorse Obama (probably)

Colin Powell appears ready to endorse a candidate and it's likely he'll pick Barack Obama in what may be a bit of a coup de grace to McCain's flailing campaign.

Although it's possible Powell will endorse John McCain this is unlikely since Powell remains a key player in global affairs and he'd be throwing that away for at least the next 4 years with a McCain endorsement.

As a moderate Republican Powell's credibility remains high and he's likely to sway at least some of the type of moderate middle class voters Obama would benefit from.

Obama Birth Certificate

Yes, Obama was born in the USA. Here's the birth certificate issued by Hawaii. Note at the bottom that this is considered "primae facie" evidence in any court of law.

Here is even more detail (including the Certificate number which was blacked out in this copy)* for those of you gullible enough to believe Jerome Corsi is not manipulating the evidence to smear Obama unfairly, which seems to be his main objective with the book "ObamaNation".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 Endorses Obama for President

When I started this blog I'd hoped to provide objectivity in a race I knew would be clouded with the usual nonsense of our American democratic experience where marketing and the politics of personal destruction trump the issues. I had not planned to endorse any candidates. But time and politics have changed and so...

President Picker endorses Barack Obama for President.

Like Christopher Buckley I'm a small government low tax fiscal conservative, but also like Buckley I think the country right now needs - desparately - a "first class mind" in the oval office. The world faces the greatest fiscal crisis since the great depression, and global terrorism remains a critical threat around the world. Obama, unlike any other prominent American leader, will send a signal to the world that the USA remains both the shining beacon of prosperity we have always been but also is asserting an entirely new approach to internal affairs - an approach characterized by flexibility, compassion, and intelligent reflection rather than the knee jerk ideological responses that have compromised our reputation and standing in the global community for the past 6 years.

Obama appears to be the right man for these challenging times. I hope that the economic challenges will force Obama into more realistic ideas about how the economy and personal responsibility need to be part of the big equation, while the country will benefit from Obama's ability to galvanize support and bring people together.

The future is uncertain and potentially very perilous. Major changes are in order, and Barack Obama is the person America needs right now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain challenges nonsense about Obama

John McCain deserves praise for his statements making it very clear that Obama is an honorable man and candidate. "He's a decent family man citizen...he's a person you do not have to be scared...." said McCain to a crowd that clearly wanted a speech with more red baiting and red meat.

Although the McCain campaign has crossed the line many times using guilt-by-association to try to to paint Obama as a supporter of terror and other nonsense, but it's great to see John McCain taking the microphone away from a lady as she said "Obama is an Arab" and pointing out to his supporters that Obama poses no threat to the stability of the country.

Spirited politics has a long history in the USA, but as the Obama lead grows and frustration mounts all Americans should be very concerned about the tone of the anti-Obama rhetoric, which at it's extreme is supporting violence.

A sure way to betray the proud ideals of American freedom is to threaten to silence opposing ideas with violence. I'm very glad to see John McCain backing away from supporters who don't seem to understand that.

Palin Troopergate verdict is in: Abuse of Power.

The "TrooperGate" scandal that has plagued Sarah Palin for the past months now has an official judgement and that is that Palin abused her power but did not break any laws.

Here's the report from Alaska's website

I haven't read it yet but CNN quotes the investigation committee which unanimously approved the report, saying Palin abused power but did not break laws.

Although Palin partisans will suggest this was a political move, it now appears very clear that Palin engaged in seriously questionable activities in this case.
This is especially ironic as Palin has led the charge to suggest that Obama's associations with others bring his character into question. Palin more than any candidate in recent history has tried to make character rather than issues the focus of her campaign. It will be interesting to see if she keeps tossing stones from within a glass house.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ed Rollins, Republican Guru: It's over, It's Obama

On CNN tonight Ed Rollins said it's over and Obama has won. He suggested that the tidal wave of bad economic news means McCain no longer has much if any chance at winning, and the issue is whether the Republicans will lose so many seats their influence in congress is demolished.

Rollins is one of the master modern political strategists and a key architect of the Reagan rise to power. He's also much less of a spinner when he'd being a pundit on the many political shows that talk to him.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Debate 2: No Winner is Big Win for Obama

Tonight's debate reviewed much of the same ground in the same way, with little new information from either candidate. The town hall format didn't seem to change the talking points all that much from campaign speeches.

Without anything like a knockout, let alone a likely "win", McCain remains in serious trouble because he's losing in many of the close states and needs to make major campaign progress within weeks to have even a shot at winning the big prize.

I'd predict most undecided debate viewers will give the debate, narrowly, to Obama. CNN results will be in soon.

If tonight's performance is any indication of the final month of the campaign we are looking at an Obama win.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Smears and Swiftboats

Frankly I've been amazed at how little dirty smear campaigning there has been in the campaign so far, but it looks like that may be about to change as new ads and FOX news are really harping on a fairly insignificant connection between Obama and Chicago radical William Ayers. Ayers is now a professor but in the 1960s he and his current wife were founding member of the violent "Weather Underground". They served prison time for terror activities.

The New York Times has an excellent summary of the situation.

The challenge to a clear thinker in cases like this is fairly simple and involves a few key questions, none of which have to do with whether somebody met somebody, had coffee with them, talked with them, etc.

Guilt by association is often an effective tactic but it's not a legitimate reason to be concerned, and it appears that's all there is to this story.

Relevant questions and answers:

Did Obama support Ayers' activities? No, Obama was 8 years old.

Does he support Ayers' past activities now? No, nothing in Obama's record or statements or activites suggests he does, and he has stated he does not.

Has Ayers had anything that could be a significant influence on Obama's thinking? Clearly not in terms of Ayers past activities. Probably somewhat influential in terms of Ayers educational reform activities, which appear to be of a strictly non-violent nature.

The idea that a virtuous person must immediately disassociate himself from any objectionable people and ignore everything they do or say is preposterous. On the contrary, virtue and wisdom *require* these types of interactions.

Obama's very liberal voting record is legitimate territory for intelligent debate. Obama's minor association with not.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nielsen: 70,000,000 Watched Palin - Biden Debate

70 million people watched the VP Debate last night between Biden and Palin, I think making that debate the most watched event of the current election. Only about 50 million watched Obama and McCain in their first matchup and I have a hunch the next two will be about the same.

Nielsen Story at Yahoo

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin v. Biden Debate won't change minds

The Palin Biden debate ends pretty much as a tie, with Sarah Palin surprisingly holding her own against a far more experienced politician. Palin's answers seemed well rehearsed, and it appeared her strategy was to have several good rehearsed answers and several good bridges to those topics. When Palin was spontaneous she seemed "off", but when rehearsed she'll be seen as spot on by her supporters.

CNN's trend meter indicated good marks for both, though it seemed to me Biden was pulling better with the Ohio undecided women who they measured moment to moment.

Overall affect on polls? I'm guessing not much. Palin will appeal to those who like her but this won't change many votes.

Palin v. Biden: The Debate

Tonight's Vice Presidential Debate promises to be one of the most if not the most interesting event of the entire Presidential Campaign. Even with expectations for a Palin "knockout" near zero, Palin may sink the Republican ship without a solid performance tonight. The media is clearly angry at the McCain campaign's unprecedented protection and management of Palin media interactions but much of that media concern will prove justified in the eyes of many Americans if Palin can't hold her own in this format.

I almost - but not quite - feel bad for suggesting Gwen Ifill should have offered to step aside because conservatives are making so much foolishness out of what will almost certainly be an objective and unbiased approach by Ifill. That said it's absurd to suggest that she has no stake in the outcome. She does and the Jan 20 publication date proves this. As usual the criticisms by each side are in part correct and the defenses are generally weak.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gwen Ifill's Debate Dilemma

PBS's VP Debate moderator Gwen Ifill's upcoming book about the rise of African American politics in the "Age of Obama" is raising some eyebrows as she'll be moderating the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden tommorrow night.

As Brit Hume correctly noted today there is little reason to think she won't be objective but it is of some concern that the book, set to release on *inauguration day* means that Ifill has a significant financial stake in the outcome of the election (ie her perspective if Obama wins is far, far more valuable than if he loses).

With journalistic objectivity pretty much in a death spiral already, I think PBS should be getting *out* of the game of partisan journalism rather than finding themselves squarely in the eye of that storm.

Given that Gwen just broke her ankle she's got a great excuse to pass her debate duties along to another and she probably should do that. Unless the McCain campaign had been briefed about her book when they agreed to have Ifill moderate the debate it's not reasonable for her to claim this should be of no concern at this time, especially given the publication date which clearly presages the outcome of the election. Ifill is involved in predicting and profiting from the outcome of this election and therefore should offer to excuse herself from the debate.

FYI Ms. Ifill - McCain will tell you to go ahead anyway, so why not take the high road here?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama's lead increasing.

When even Fox election pundit Dick Morris is predicting an Obama win McCain shoud know he's got trouble, and McCain has .... big trouble both in the polls and strategically.

First, the polls from RealClearPolitics:

RCP Average09/21 - 09/29--48.143.0Obama +5.1
Gallup Tracking09/27 - 09/292729 RV4943Obama +6
Rasmussen Tracking09/27 - 09/293000 LV5145Obama +6
Hotline/FD Tracking09/27 - 09/29901 RV4741Obama +6
GW/Battleground Tracking09/24 - 09/29800 LV4846Obama +2
CBS News/NY Times09/21 - 09/24LV4843Obama +5
FOX News09/22 - 09/23900 RV4539Obama +6
Marist09/22 - 09/23689 LV4944Obama +5

Perhaps as importantly, Obama's lead it protected by several factors as we move into the final month of the campaign for the White House:

* Economy problems will help Obama. Even if these are resolved it'll be hard for McCain to take much credit for the solutions and dodge blame for the problems which most are pinning mostly on GW Bush and the Republicans.

* Sarah Palin will wind up hurting McCain. Even many conservatives are alarmed by Palin's challenges facing media scrutiny and what appears to be a clear history of not concerning herself with global issues. Expectations are very low for Thursday's debate with Joe Biden which may work to Palin's advantage, but unless the Palin perceptions change dramatically she appears to be a liability on McCain right now with the very voters she needed to secure - moderate women.

* Ohio's registration rules were just changed to allow same day registration which is likely to help Obama because first time and young voters are more likely to be Obama supporters.

* Obama dodged the potential bullets of the first debate and came out as the clear winner among undecided voters even in that mostly foreign policy forum. The next debates feature stronger Obama territory so McCain needs a knockout punch to shift opinion dramatically.

Palin, Pakistan, and Philly Cheesesteaks

Sara Palin deserves a lot of the media criticism she's getting, both for being largely inaccessible to the media and also for her apparent lifetime lack of interest in the complexity and nuance of international politics - a skill that is important for anybody in top office who will be negotiating with world leaders.


The media "analysis" of Sara Palin's recent comments to a young Democratic party hack while in a Philly Cheesesteak line are nonsensical, bordering on the drooling stupidity we've come to know as .. TV Journalism.

Palin suggested that the US should pursue terrorists across the Pakistan border if necessary, a policy embraced by Obama but rejected by McCain. It's not clear to me how this is even a gaffe, let alone something indicating she's not qualified to be President. Clearly a President and VP can disagree on some policy issues, and more importantly this "gotcha" approach to journalism leaves key issues undiscussed in favor of mostly irrelevant sound bites. CNN today interviewed the fellow who asked the question - a Democratic party activist - who appeared to seize this Cheesesteak opportunity to make Palin look inconsistent with McCain and then I think lied that he had that agenda.

What is wrong with the media? Bias is not the key problem here, rather *superficiality*.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Do Polls Matter?

Contrary to common belief, polls actually offer a reasonable window into outcomes and generally are the best way to understand election trends. For example a national CNN poll in October of 2000 showed Bush with a slight lead over Gore and he wound up winning. This is not a great example because Gore did narrowly win the popular vote, but the point is that the CNN poll showed Gore and Bush about equal in October and they were about equal in the final vote.

Almost all the latest national polls show Obama with a lead of about 4-5%, though I don't think the debate's effect on things - if any - is reflected in any of them. I'm in the camp that believes this is now Obama's election to lose. Obama is ahead by enough and the debate seemed even enough that it will be difficult for McCain to gain more than few points barring the kind of events that now appear unlikely. Although the Palin / Biden VP debate is very anxiously anticipated I doubt that Palin is going to score any points for McCain, and the final two debates with Obama are likely to go the same way as the first - where the candidates appeal mostly to their own constituencies with McCain appearing to lose some points for his "angry" attitude, which I think helps explain why most non committed voters thought Obama won last night.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Electoral College Adventures - what if 269 to 269?

If you've played around with the RealClearPolitics Electoral map you'll know there are several scenarios where Obama and McCain might split the electoral vote right down the middle with 269 votes each. What you might NOT know is how this tie is broken. Yes, it's a congressional vote but not simply one vote per congressman which would almost certainly give an Electoral tie to Obama since the Democrats are unlikely to lose control of Congress. But wait... in this electoral tie scenario my understanding is that each *state* gets ONE vote per state congressional delegation and each Senator gets one vote. Making this even more unpredictable is the fact that it's not entirely clear if the old or incoming congress would vote though I think I read it would be the new congress as it's first act in office.

I haven't found a source yet that looks at all the current state congressional delegations to see if how they'd likely split in an electoral tie. Let's hope that piece of trivia remains ... largely irrelevant.

Debate polls

CNN's phone poll of about 500 showed Obama as the strong debate winner among those who watched, but John King at CNN noted that since more Democrats tend to watch debates this poll does not give us a good enough picture of things. We'll want to know how each candidate fared within their own parties and more importantly how noncommitted voters viewed this debate. Ultimately the candidates need to change minds, not reinforce existing votes from already supportive constituencies.

Fox's text poll, now underway on TV, is a shamelessly foolish excercise in biased polling that will offer little insight into anything. Fox viewers are not representative of national averages, and since only Fox viewers can participate in that poll (other folks won't see the contact number) it's probably going to show a huge McCain bias. The text aspect is also a distortion which will pull in FOX's younger viewers. Unlike CNN's phone poll which reasonably is a measure of *all* those who viewed the debate, FOX is a measure of how FOX viewers viewed the debate.

82 percent McCain in the FOX poll. Fair? balanced?. More like extremely biased. I can't believe people think this is journalism.

Debate 1: A Tie?

It's going to be very interesting to see the reactions to the first Presidential debate though based on CNN's fascinating and somewhat distracting "Audience Reaction" trend lines it looks like this debate won't change many minds.

Most Republicans will be comforted by McCain's responses and most Democrats by Obamas. Independents - potentially a very significant group of undecided voters - did not seem to show a strong preference unless I missed something, though at the end of the debate it really appeared that Obama scored well and McCain poorly - perhaps because Obama seemed more positive and less distracted as things wound up and the audience seemed to react most positively to positive messages.

Fannie Mae Reform Bill Fact Check - McCain was NOT an original sponsor...

Reports that John McCain was at the forefront of legislation that would have prevented the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac appear to be greatly exaggerated, though it took more than a little sleuthing to figure this out.

McCain shows as one of three cosponsors of the legislation spearheaded by Chuck Hagel. A quick read of it does not suggest to me that the authors saw a pending catastrophe, but even if they did it was very odd to find that John McCain's name did NOT appear on the legislation when it was introduced. In fact he cosponsored this a full 16 months *after* it was introduced for reasons I don't have time to figure out, but given the time frame it would appear this was done more for political affect than anything else.

Here's the official record:

Title: A bill to address the regulation of secondary mortgage market enterprises, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] (introduced 1/26/2005) Cosponsors (3)
Latest Major Action: 7/28/2005 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably.
COSPONSORS(3), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]: (Sort: by date)

More from the news:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama to McCain: See You Friday Dude!

It's too early to say but it looks to me like the McCain campaign suspension play is backfiring in part due to Obama's response to McCain which is clear and is "see ya Friday, dude"...

This was a bold play by McCain but since he waited until the last minute he's on *very* thin ice arguing that he's got no place attending the most anticipated presidential debate in history. His proposal to delay the Palin Biden debate - a duel that is almost as interesting to the public as the McCain Obama debate - will only add to the speculation that this is a political rather than bipartisan presidential play.

Suggesting that McCain will debate Obama if congress enacts a plan by Friday seems unlikely to do more than complicate and confuse the many issues at hand and offer the Democrats a type of dysfunctional control over McCain's plans.

If Obama is sitting on the stage Friday without McCain it is unlikely to bode well for McCain unless Obama makes the mistake of saying something outrageous which is unlikely. In fact the imagery of John McCain wandering around D.C. trying to broker a deal with a congress that is mostly hostile to his candidacy would not appear to paint a pretty campaign picture.

McCain to Obama: Suspend Campaign - Let's Work Together

John McCain has temporarily suspended his campaign and will return to Washington to campaign for the fiscal reform package aka "The Bailout", which he feels is of critical importance.

This is a remarkable move that is very consistent with the kind of bipartisan political cooperation both McCain and Obama talk so much about. However it's also something of a curve ball thrown to Obama, who must either look like a "follower" by joining McCain or look opportunistic if he refuses.

Clearly politics played something of a role here because McCain could have called Obama and had them issue a joint announcement *update: McCain said he called Obama before his announcement to inform him of the decision*.

So what should Obama do? Both strategically and realistically he should counter-propose to McCain a high level meeting with the Bush folks and the economic advisors of both campaigns (one of which will take over this mess) . Together a bipartisan bill should be crafted that addresses the crisis immediately.

Google "In Quotes" project lets you track down the truth

Google Labs has a great new project that searches the internet for quotes by Obama and McCain on any topic you enter, allowing you to compare what the candidates *reportedly* said about any topic.

The tool will need to be used with some caution as it is not clear if this will screen out misquotes, though presumably In Quotes won't search through highly partisan websites and will stick to responsible journalistic outlets to decide what the candidates said.

Eventually this will extend to all political races, giving reporters and voters a great resource in the fight for ... truth in politics...

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's the Economy, and we are ALL stupid.

On the one hand, it is mistaken to suggest that the pending economic disasters are the fault of people or parties more than the collective fault of our hopelessly inefficient and politicized, lobbied, and manipulated regulatory systems combined with serious flaws in our capitalist infrastructure.

That said, it's very hard to escape the fact that the Bush administration will be seen - probably with justification - as the party most asleep at the wheel as the American economy was teetering on the brink of collapse. This is likely to play far better for Obama the McCain, and unless the McCain party line can find a way to distance itself from the huge failures of current US economic policy Obama's lead is likely to become insurmountable. McCain will have to find a way to acknowledge that the current economic situation is totally unsustainable but not the fault of the Bush administration. This will be a tough row to hoe.

I'm by no means suggesting that Obama and fellow Democrats should not shoulder some of the blame for the current crisis. Although they have been ranting against the current economic approaches of the Bush administration it appears pretty clear that the Democrats - like the Republicans - failed to see looming catastrophe until it was too late. More importantly Democrats failed to intervene years ago when the seeds of the current catastrophe were planted. In fact a key Obama advisor was the CEO of Fannie Mae until 2004. If Obama keeps him on board (or lets him go as he shoud) I'd say both of them have some explainin' to do.

I'm very unclear about why this crisis was not at least the subject of a lot more speculation, because it has been obvious for at least two years that the real estate bubble would burst, dropping trillions in equity from balance sheets.

The polls are starting to show a shift to Obama based on the dire economic news, and it seems likely this shift will continue. The importance of the debates on Friday is likely looming large for many undecided voters desparate to know who can return prosperity to a flagging US economy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wall Street Connections for Obama and McCain

This excellent article has details about both McCain and Obama's campaign contribution connections to Wall Street, including some of the firms now getting bailed out by ... you and me and other taxpayers.

Twisted campaign commercial banter notwithstanding, it's clear to anybody that their is a very questionable relationship between campaign contributions and legislation. It's not that Obama or McCain have some sort of quid pro quo with contributors - they do NOT have that. However, it's clear that contributions help keep supporters in power and keep those to whom they contribute within earshot, key reasons companies spend so much on politics.

Like pigs with lipstick, the campaigns and foolish journalistic lackeys failing are failing to discuss or report about the key issues in the race: A Challenged Economy and looming home equity disaster, war and global hegemony and dangerous adversaries, and massive Government Spending. Unfortunately clear thinkers won't find a candidate with good ideas about all these things. Where are the founders when you need them?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let the real race begin!

The Convention dust appears to have settled, leaving us with a close race and a slight Obama lead - probably narrower than before the conventions and the remarkable rise of Sarah Palin as McCain's muse. Palin has effectively consolidated McCain's formerly unenthusiastic conservative support and appears to be drawing votes from some moderates who would like to see a woman in the office regardless of her politics.

A factor of interest that makes the polling even harder to read it the increasing level of media bias in the election. Where CNN maintains a modest, sufficient level of journalistic objectivity, Fox's talk shows and even some Fox anchors have always been unabashedly and unapologetically in support of the Republican agenda. Yet now we find a similar kind of zealotry on MSNBC, especially with Rachel Maddow Kieth Olberman whose partisanship is giving right winger Sean Hannity a run for his ideologically influenced journalistic money.

The challenge for the viewer is that the poll numbers are getting reported differently - so much so that today we have MSNBC reporting Obama in the lead and Fox reporting McCain, each probably overweighting their own problematic sampling methods. As usual RealClearPolitics is a great way to cut through the chatter with a great summary of all major polls and the RCP running average, which I'd suggest is the best way to determine what's going on nationally.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Sarah Palin Interviews

ABC, with the only Sarah Palin interview to date, is slowly releasing clips with a longer edition tonight on ABC's news program 20/20. The interviews are in a fairly informal format with Charles Gibson, one of the most knowledgeable reporters on network TV.

In my opinion Palin has produced no gaffes nor really shined. She appears to be a sincere, conservative ideologue, very dedicated to her party and the McCain campaign. She is clearly not particularly well informed on broad global issues, seeming to prefer tight, ideologically based opinions to those formed from detailed research or a study of history.

It remains to be seen how the critical "swing voters" of key states like Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and Colorado will view Sarah Palin. Polls still seem to reflect the overwhelming media attention of the past few days so it will be a week or so before meaningful information sort of sets the "starting point" for the big race, and as always the race will be won or lost not on the basis of total votes but on electoral voting and state by state strategies.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rove: Watch Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado

Karl Rove penned a very interesting electoral analysis last month where he suggests that the race is likely to hinge on the outcome in four key states: Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado. Since the decision is made on the basis of electoral votes and not popular vote, and since several states award all their votes rather than proportional distribution of electoral votes, certain states will matter where others are pretty much a given for either McCain (e.g. Texas) or Obama (e.g. New York).

I see Ohio as pretty much the key battleground state. Ohio was key in 2004 when GW Bush's narrow victory there gave him the win over John Kerry. Although the 2004 race there was not as close as Florida's (where the butterfly ballot fiasco created a super narrow win for Bush even though the intention of several thousand voters was to to vote for Gore but ballot design meant they voted for both Gore and Buchanon and thus had the ballot spoiled. As I've note before Florida 2000 is usually analyzed strangely and wrongly - either as a Supreme Court "coup" or as a real "win" by Bush. It was neither, rather it was a fluke of our terrible electoral system (which should award electors proportionally) and ballot irregularities (which are hard to fix but won't matter nearly as much if we use a national vote count).

So, Ohio probably holds the key to the election, and if you live there get ready to watch more TV ads than you've ever seen on a single topic in your entire life...

Palin's first major media interview with Charlie Gibson, ABC News

ABC has posted some small clips from tonight's interview with Sarah Palin here:

You may want to wait for the full interview later tonight to avoid watching a 30 second ad to see a one minute clip.

McCain beating Obama in popular vote, electoral still edging towards Obama.

The Republican convention dust and bumps have yet to settle, and perhaps more importantly Sarah Palin remains carefully closeted away from personal media interaction. Yet one thing that is clear is that McCain's choice of Palin has breathed new life into his campaign and that he appears to be leading in the national popular vote, though most electoral counts still seem to favor Obama by a very narrow electoral vote margin. Given the incredible closeness it is again possible that we'll see our very questionable electoral voting system overtun the popular vote as it did in 2000. It is important to note that it's not clear how the popular voting would change if candidates could spend more time campaigning in their strongholds - something that is not done much in the electoral system because the battleground states are the key to the win.

Ohio is again emerging as the probable *key* battleground state, with polls showing McCain and Obama tied right now.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

McCain v. Obama

As the dust and bluster of the two conventions dies down and polls appear to be closing we enter the final and decisive stretch of the Presidential election. If today's speech action is any indication of what is to come, we'll see McCain and Palin as a hard hitting tag-team combining a lot of patriotism talk with sharp criticism of "our opponent".

In what I think is a strategic blunder by the Obama campaign is appears to be failing to understand Palin's appeal to patriotism and positivism. People like to feel good about their country and the coming changes, yet Obama's talking points are moving to negative themes like the economy and the tired "more of the same" talk that McCain's choice of Palin's has effectively demolished.

Reagan's campaign used this strategy successfully against Carter in 1980 when he branded Carter as the "malaise" President and himself as the reformer.

I think that if the campaign themes offer America the choice between moving *away* from problems (Obama) vs moving *towards* solutions (McCain), we'll see McCain breath a whole new life into a campaign that initially appeared crippled by his choice of a very conservative and somewhat inexperienced running mate.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain Obama in the polls

The best place to follow the Presidential polls is where their RCP running average of major polls is arguably the best indication of where things are headed in the Presidential Election this year.

Today's running average shows Obama with a lead in all but the tied CBS News results, an average lead of 4.4% over McCain. These results do NOT reflect the post Palin speech results which promise to be interesting. Voters are now being force fed about as much information about Sara Palin as for any candidate in history, and it appears the McCain campaign will seek to control her interviews in a structured way - at least based on the recent cancelled interview after CNN's Campbell Brown challenged McCain's PR guy to provide examples of Palin's relevant executive experience. When he failed to do so she seemed exasperated and later the campaign "punished" CNN by cancelling a Larry King interview with Palin. I'm guessing the strategy will be to have Palin come out swinging in controlled environments like speeches and FOX news interviews but avoid direct confrontations with what McCain will increasingly brand as "liberal sympathizers" in the media. I continue to think this strategy will backfire as mainstream Americans will come to think that Palin's very strident conservatism is not in line with the average American's more moderate views on government, abortion, gun control, and more.

CNN's Cafferty today showed Iowa polling results with Obama in huge lead, arguing that this indicates how popular Obama is with white voters, though he's foolishly failing to note that Obama spent an *enormous* amount of time in the Iowa Caucus process. That state is not representative of how most Americans will view him, and tells us little about how the battle for middle class rural voters will shake out in the coming election.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin's Speech Enthusiam 40/45

CNN's poll of Palin Speech support appears to reflect party lines, though it would be interesting to see this broken down by party. Presumably Palin will need overwhelming support from Republicans for McCain's Palin strategy to work as she must peel off some Democratic support for the McCain Palin ticket to have much of a chance of success.

Most polls show Obama with a small lead of 3-5 percentage points, though the best measures are likely to come in a few weeks after all the convention excitement subsides.

How do you rate Republican VP choice Sarah Palin's convention speech?
Thumbs up 40% 22657
Thumbs down 45% 25051
Didn't watch 15% 8520

Who is that old guy next to Sarah Palin?

As the third day of the Republican Convention gets underway it's hard to hear much news about anything but McCain's VP pick Sarah Palin, Alaska's conservative reformist Governor who will speak tonight in Minneapolis - a speech that may attract as much attention as Barack Obama's rockstar-like show in Denver last week.

I'm starting to understand the simple and risky strategy behind McCain's very unusual choice of Palin, and I think it will prove to be a blunder of near Presidential proportions, but this remains to be seen.

One part of the strategy that has worked magnificently is how quickly Palin's VP nod has focused attention away from Obama and the Democratic Convention but Palin was also one of the very few (she may be the only) national polical figures who fit the following bill:

* Conservative. (esp. on pro life, pro guns, pro big military, anti social spending) McCain's lackluster support among many conservatives has been a major thorn in his side. Palin is *more* conservative than most of his conservative critics, and they clearly love this choice and will fight harder for this ticket than become disaffected by a McCain / Lieberman ticket which would have much better suited McCain's personal and political sensibilities.

* Female. McCain felt a woman on the ticket would help keep at least some disaffected Clinton supporters off balance and undecided. Despite the handful of Clinton-turned-Palin women FOX news will parade as an example of this strategy working, it's very unlikely that many of the core Clinton supporters will change party and ideological allegiance so dramatically. How many women will put gender above almost every other key Democratic issue? Very few.

* Young and attractive. McCain, more than anybody, is feeling the pain of going up against a rock star candidate. Palin's personal appeal helps shore up that front.

* Fighter. This last factor may be the single most important in the equation, and it is the one that helps make sense of what many see as a very strange McCain decision. McCain's personal style matches Palin's in several ways, and he sees Palin's unique situation with respect to her own baby Trig and her daughter's teen pregnancy as positive and provocative talking points in their fight for the presidency. Where some would say the Palin children challenges reflect some hypocrisy, McCain Palin will argue that the problems are not caused by teen pregnancy so much as missing dads and unsupportive families, and that right to life issues trump any potential disabilies - even the severe ones faced by Palin's baby son.

My view on this last factor is that it will probably backfire because it will be impossible for Palin to bring these talking points up without sounding like she is exploiting her family challenges for political gain. Only if she is directly challenged can she react dramatically and combatively and retain the sympathy of middle of the road Americans, and you won't see this type of direct attack. Democrats don't need to bring these issues up at all anyway. The media, always hungry for red meat analysis and conflict, will continue to report on them while Palin will struggle to find ways to counter those stories effectively since they won't be coming from a clear enemy.

End game? Palin gives Obama about 5-10 point advantage he would not have had if McCain had continued to focus on the "experience" issue and brought on an experienced VP.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Of Pregnancies and Palins.

It is painful to watch how hungrily the media has latched on to the Palin's pregnancy issue, even though you can argue that there is considerable irony or even hypocrisy when family values candidates appear to fail to even convince their own children to avoid the complex pitfalls of early sexual activity.

I would challenge the many conservatives who love to cast stones to spend a little more time looking in their mirror and at their candidate's kids. In a contest for "most responsible kids" you'd be hard pressed to find better examples than the kids of Kerry, Clinton, Biden who sure appear to believe more in personal accountability than their Republican counterparts who are not "bad kids" but sure do not seem to act as mature or responsible. But this is not all that relevant to the national debate (unless you try to proclaim that family values candidates make better parents).

My take on most of this is that the character assassinations that dominate politics (since the founders!) are pretty much a bunch of crap as far as I'm concerned. People like Palin, Obama, McCain, Biden all have some questionable stuff in the closet but nothing that suggests to me they don't have the best interests of the country at heart.

There are real differences in how we should move ahead, but I'm very confident *any* of those four people could steer our clumsy ship of state USS USA competently. I'm a big fan of Bill Clinton and JFK's intellects, but both made near-catastrophic errors of judgement many times in their presidencies.

The solution? Most decisions are best left to the experience of a good cabinet, and I think we should vote for each of those positions rather than let the president pick them paying too much attention to ideology and not enough the expertise, brilliance, and experience the cabinet deserves.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Republican Convention Plans Change

On the Eve of Hurricane Gustav's landfall near New Orleans the Republicans have changed Convention plans though the details appear to remain fluid. President Bush and VP Cheney will not appear tomorrow in Minneapolis as planned, and other major speakers like the Governor of Louisiana will not be in attendance either.

The latest reports suggest the convention may only last one day, Presumably to nominate John McCain, and then be postponed to another date. Strategically this may actually have the advantage of giving the Republicans a monster event with monster media coverage much closer to the election than is usual.

Gustav is about to bring flooding and high wind to the Mississipi and Louisiana coastlines and the convention would have been both interrupted for Hurricane news and have been a conspicuous "celebration" in the midst of potentially another major storm tragedy for the Gulf Coast.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Biden v. Palin Round ONE

Wow, the buzz over Sarah Palin is sure a lot bigger than the Biden Buzz was! Did I just say Biden Buzz Wuzz? Yes, I did.

McCain may actually have a challenge (or advantage?) being eclipsed by Palin who may emerge at the "rock star" of that team while Obama keeps his star persona intact with his pick of Joe Biden whose demeanor is unlikely to overshadow that of his running mate the way Palin may overshadow McCain's personality and style.

Sarah Palin's Official Website & Blogs

Almost everybody is asking "Who is Sarah Palin" so I thought I'd provide a list of the best links, including some to her official websites that come from the state of Alaska where she is the Governor.

McCain's Palin pick is certainly successful at focusing attention on her and away from the Democratic Convention and Obama which have completly dominated the US news cycle for the past four days. Unlike Obama's VP Joe Biden, Palin has a very "new and interesting" appeal to the media, though I remain skeptical that Hillary Clinton supporters are likely to change their party allegiances to vote for somebody who is even more conservative than McCain.

Alaska Governor - Sarah Palin's official web site

Sarah Palin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alaska Governor Bio - Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Profile by Fred Barnes at Weekly Standard in 2007. Barnes is a conservative pundit who speaks for many Republicans in the conservative wing of the party, and may have been a significant influence in McCain's decision.

Palin at Politico (a critical Palin piece)

Palin at Huffington Post (critical)

Palin from Michelle Malkin (a favorable Palin Piece)

McCain picks Palin as his VP running mate

In a move that seems to have surprised almost everyone, John McCain has picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his Vice Presidential running mate.

The announcement came this morning, strategically undermining a news day that otherwise would have been filled with Democratic Convention imagery making Barack Obama look as much like a rock star as a presidential candidate. The pick also is clearly an attempt to chip away at what appears to be Obama's weakness in appealing to some Hillary Clinton supporters.

Palin is a conservative who is pro-life, favors drilling in Alaska (ironically McCain has opposed this but I think will change his position after the election), and is a strong advocate for gun rights.

The McCain campaign strategy here appears to be an attempt to please the conservative base - many of whom like Palin a lot for her outspoken and conservative ideas about Government - while also appealing to what appears to be a minor backlash among Democrats against Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

It's going to be very interesting watching the Biden - Palin debates, though I can't help but think Palin will struggle to show how she can match Biden's foreign policy and military experience. Biden will be hard to swiftboat given his affable nature and non-confrontatational history in the Senate, where Palin's youth, experience, and good looks may hinder her ability to connect with voters.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

McCain to pick Meg Whitman ?

Update: Sarah Palin is the McCain VP Pick

As the Democratic National Convention wraps up tonight with what promises to be a near "rock star" event featuring Barack Obama, John McCain is preparing to announce his pick for Vice Presendential running mate tomorrow at a large rally in Ohio.

President Picker says that McCain will probably pick former EBAY CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman both thanks to her strong economic background in the private sector and the appeal a woman will bring to the ticket for the millions of older women who have suggested they'll either support McCain or not vote at all after their disappointment with the failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

For McCain, this is a complex strategy but I think it's a viable one. Polls are showing that many Clinton supporters, especially women, are feeling disaffected. There is arguably no better way to encourage them to either switch to McCain or stay away from the polls than to force them to vote *against* a woman on the ticket. In all of US history there has only been a single woman on a presidential campaign ticket - Geraldine Ferarro with Walter Mondale almost three decades ago.

Will women vote for McCain only because he's got a woman on the ticket? A few will, but more importantly from a strategic point of view the choice of Whitman will help keep the disaffection alive on the Democratic side as a constant reminder to women of Obama's decision that he would *not* place Hillary Clinton on his own ticket, leaving women out of the Presidential power game yet again.