Tag Archives: presidential election 2008

The Price of Palin

5 Nov

The conventional wisdom on the Presidential election seems to point to the economic meltdown as the point in the season when Obama broke away from McCain in the polls and established himself as the definitive frontrunner.  I couldn’t disagree more.

The point at which things fell apart for John McCain?  September 24th, the first night of the Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric.

The rolling three day averages for McCain went into the shitter shortly after Palin was humiliated by the least serious network anchor in television history.  Getting intellectually pwned by Katie Couric is akin to getting your ass kicked by a drunken dwarf.  Palin killed the McCain camp in traditional conservative circles and did nothing but alienate independent voters and women.  McCain’s favorability ratings dwindled and then Tina Fey happened.  From that point on, the election was a fait accompli in my eyes.

Anyhow, it was obvious from jump street that this woman was woefully unqualified for national office.  Of course, McCain and the right wing media machine defended her and accused the critics of media elitism and cultural snobbery rather than admit she was unqualified.

They didn’t vet her, she was a hail mary selection meant to bump the numbers and she was a completely unserious pick.  As the post-election recriminations begin, we are finding out just how incredibly reckless, cynical and misguided her selection really was.

Her lack of readiness and tremendous negatives forced McCain towards the scorched earth campaign he launched in the final month due to her inability to right his faltering candidacy.

As Carl Cameron of Fox News eagerly reports (he’s so giddy to tell the story he uses the word “knowledgeability”), there were incredibly fundamental problems with Ms. Palin as a candidate.  Shep Smith responds with the requisite dignity.

Whereas Bill O’Reilly acts like a defensive tool when given the story.

Africa is a country?  Misunderstanding of basic civics?  Didn’t know what countries were in NAFTA?  Fucking hell.  The most troubling aspect of all of this is that the McCain looked America in the eye and said she was ready to be a hearbeat away from the Presidency.  Country First?

How McCain Can Win

4 Nov

It would take a massive reversal of fortune and a comeback never before seen in American politics, but a McCain victory IS possible.  Here’s how I see it breaking down.

In this map, you’ll see that McCain has won each tossup state and even taken a state or two that is comfortably in Obama’s column.

Is it possible?  Sure, if you think every single poll taken in the last two months is flawed and believe there will be a massive Republican voter suppression effort underway in seven states.  Is it likely?  Not really.

McCain would have to reverse the trend in every single swing state and steal PA from Obama.

Also, I maintain that Obama is going to take Georgia which would essentially make it game, set and match.

Think McCain can do it?  Tell me why.

For more polling crack, head over to fivethirtyeight.com For a political nerd like me, it’s like porn.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

24 Sep

After watching this:

All I could think of was this:

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon wherein people who have little knowledge (or skill) tend to think they know more (or have more skill) than they do, while others who have much more knowledge tend to think that they know less.

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

McCain 08!

Lawrence Lessig On Sarah Palin

23 Sep

If you don’t know who Lawrence Lessig is, well, you’re no friend of mine.  For the uninitiated, Lessig is among the preeminent thinkers, activists and legal minds in this great country.  In essence, he’s wicked smaaaaaht.

Using the “Lessig Method”, he carefully and exhaustively lays out the case against Palin as VP and hints at the risks associated with her credentials.  It’s even handed, delivered straight and is very much worth the full viewing.

Logic, catch the fever!

Religion and Politics

23 Sep

Working last night, I spent time with one of my favorite customers.  For the sake of this discussion, we’ll call him Johnny McBornAgain.  Now, Johnny is by all accounts, an affable sort.  He’s chummy, witty, knowledgeable about all sorts of technical and geeky issues and dearly loves his wife and five kids.  He also has this image of a bacterial flagellum on the desktop of his computer:

Now, if you are familiar with the ongoing battle between creationists and evolution scientists, you’ll immediately identify that image as the proof used by creationists of what they call “irreducable complexity“.  In other words, something in the natural world that cannot be explained by the gradual natural selection of Darwinist evolutionary theory.  I’m not going to debate its veracity, it’s simply being used as a jumping off point for a discussion of religion and politics.

As we waited for a storage array to update its microcode and without being judgmental or acting like a condescending prig, I asked Johnny to explain to me how he came to believe in this “science” and eventually we came around to how it governs his worldview.  I was given some insight into a part of society into which I rarely gain visibility…fundamentalist evangelical christianity.

You see, Johnny is a “young earth creationist“.

Young Earth creationism (YEC) is the religious belief that Heaven, Earth, and life on Earth were created by a direct act of God dating between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Its adherents are those Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, taking the Hebrew text of Genesis as a literal account. Some adherents believe that existing evidence in the natural world today supports a strict interpretation of scriptural creation as historical fact. Those adherents believe that the scientific evidence supporting evolution, geological uniformitarianism, or other theories which are at odds with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account, is either flawed or misinterpreted.

As Johnny explains it, men and dinosaurs simultaneously occupied the earth and the rejection of this “science” or evidence to the contrary ofit being the actual record of what happened is due to the “elite” of this country being biased against religion.  I nodded along as I listened and I didn’t attempt to argue or counter his statements, he is a customer after all.  In essence, he has invested in what what is called the inerrancy of biblical text.  That is, the bible is without error as it is the word of God and attempts to disprove it are to be seen as attempts to disprove the existence of God.  Now, biblical inerrancy is much different from the theories of biblical infallibility which are core tenets of Roman Catholic and many Protestant faiths.

What goes along with such a belief system that promulgates a strict adherence to biblical text comes a certainty on all issues that is troubling to those of us invested in scientific theory, logic, reason, and critical thought.  It is what informs the worldview of members of Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Churches, and many other evangelical faith based organizations.  Biblical inerrancy leads to a belief that we are living in “end times” and that the end of the world is nigh and the end times will originate in the middle east.

The conflict between these two schools of thought is at the core of this Presidential election.

On one side of the campaign, we have the Republicans, John McCain and Sarah Palin.  Now, McCain has worn religion like a hairshirt for the better part of a decade as his party has moved farther to the right to capitalize on the growing fundamentalist movement.  When he won the party’s nomination, the fundamentalist wing of the party was nonplussed.  They liked Huckabee and to a much lesser extent, Mitt Romney.  McCain was seen as an old school Goldwater Republican who never invested much time into pandering to the fundamentalists and in fact, had never stated his adherence to biblical inerrancy.  He wasn’t one of them.  So, he brought Ms. Palin onto the ticket and all of a sudden, James Dobson and the other denizens of the far right hopped onboard with enthusiasm.  Why?  Was it Ms. Palin’s record as a small town Mayor and two years as Governor which amped them up?  No.  Perhaps it was her membership in the Assemblies of God church and her belief in all the things they hold as central to their world.  Ms. Palin, of course, has made no public statements since her nomination about her faith and her adherence to biblical inerrancy.  However, the right knows that in her, they have a friend in the White House.  Someone who will work to implement their vision and plan as national policy.  That is why JohnnyMcBornAgain in Buffalo, NY will proudly cast a vote for McCain and Palin in 2008.

On the other side of the campaign, we have the Democrats, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ and Joe Biden is an old school Roman Catholic.  UCC is widely panned in the evangelical community as a centrist/moderate church which is an offshoot of the reformist protestant movement which many see as a sullied version of Christianity.   To make matters worse for evangelicals, the UCC was the first major Christian deliberative body in the U.S. to make a statement of support for equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of gender.  That’s not small town values!  There are a hundred other reasons why those on the right do not support an Obama candidacy, but the primary reason is that he is not religious enough for their taste.

The core belief in biblical inerrancy and support for candidates who ascribe to that ideology is what has permeated the political discourse at a visceral level.  The inerrancy doctrine implies that those who believe in it are also inerrant.  Thus, when the media or those opposed to the candidate question them, they are seen as attack dogs, not those interested in debate or reason.

You see, there is no such thing as debate.  There is right and wrong, and not much ground in the middle.

It is what has fostered the right wing media machine to attack the establishment media and now informs the discussion amongst us on blogs, talk radio, and elsewhere.  It is why there seems to be a greater separation and anger in our politics that we haven’t seen before in America.  We have all bought into this argument on some level, whether we know it or not.

When I watch Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or read the Huffington Post, listen to left wing radio, or read columnists with whom I generally agree, I am struck by their lack of understanding as to what is happening around them.  They are shocked and dismayed at the lack of intelligence in the American voter as they lap up plates of lies and disinformation.  They simply can’t believe that people would cast a vote based on personal narrative, personal identity and ideology over what is right for the collective of the country.  That “not blinking”, gut decisions, and adherence to core ideology which is completely incommensurate with knowledge or experience of an issue is something valued by the fundamental right.  Their shock about all of this demonstrates a disconnect from the wave of fundamentalism in this country.

They still believe in a world where religion is something private, something to keep to oneself, not something which governs every aspect of life.  They fondly remember John Kennedy standing before a group of ministers in 1960 and giving one of the most important speeches about religion and government in this nation’s history.  How politics and government is a fact based business and one’s faith should be left out of the equation.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it — its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

If only we still lived in that America.

Obama Announces Specific Ethical and Economic Reforms

23 Sep

Are you wondering what specific ethical and economic reforms the candidates for President will implement if they win the election?  One candidate gave a 22 minute speech in Green Bay, WI yesterday outlining his detailed plans.  The other candidate?  < crickets >

What do you think?

How Barack Obama Wins

15 Sep

There is much hand wringing going on about whether or not Obama is going to fumble what should be a gimme election.  Let’s review.

The sitting two term President has the lowest approval rating in history.  The candidate of that President’s party is inexorably tied to his policies and positions.  That candidate has displayed a massive lack of judgment in picking a not-ready-for-prime-time governor to be his running mate.  That candidate has embarked upon one of the nastiest and most blatantly deceptive political campaigns in history.  That candidate appears to be the Iraqi Information Minister of US Economic Policy as the financial and housing markets crumble at his feet.  Inexplicably, the national polling numbers seem to be swaying in the direction of that candidate.

What is Barack Obama to do?


That’s right, hope is the answer.  Not a hope for a change in trends, but a return to his message of hope.  Remember this speech?

That is the speech that defined his primary campaign.  It spoke to a higher calling for Americans and talked about all the things that can be accomplished in this country when we define ourselves by our commonalities rather than our petty differences.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

That we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America’s story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can.

In this nation, people like to imagine a future that is better than the realities of today.  They like to harken to times when our nation set big goals and achieved them.  That was the core of the Obama message in the primaries and like the two previous Democratic nominees before him, he has forfeited that message to a litany of policy positions.

There is a simple truism in modern American politics, you win with a narrative and a story to which people can relate.  At a base level, people know what the parties stand for and they understand that the candidates chosen to run for those parties will generally adhere to the policies of those parties.  So, save the policy discussions for the debates and your website.  On a day to day basis, Obama needs to hit the trail and talk about big ideas, not small policies or whether or not Sarah Palin shoots moose or John McCain wears $600 loafers.

So, here’s my plan for Obama:

1.)  Rehash that New Hampshire speech, sprinkle in more rhetoric about big goals and the American drive to achieve and give it at various historic sites across the country.  Sites which represent the best of American innovation, ingenuity, and achievement.

2.)  In battleground states, run ads about the unlikely American success story that is Barack Obama.  Talk about your Momma, growing up on food stamps, struggling to get to college, working in communities.  Get regular people from your past to recommend you in ads.  Re-introduce yourself to the American people and don’t let McCain and Rove’s foot soldiers define you.

3.)  As you get closer to election day, run a series of ads which crib the style of The Daily Show.  I’m serious.  You don’t have to use Stewart and his team, but follow his style.  Snarky, dismissive, and comparing McCain’s words about reform from 2000-2008 and juxtapose them with his comments in this election season.  Kinda like this ad, but cooler.

4.)  Pretend Sarah Palin doesn’t exist.  Who cares?  She’s not worth the time and distraction to discuss her.  However, let Biden know that the gloves come off at the debate and make sure he is prepared to rebut her statement that will sound something like this:  “Well, I dunno about that issue Charlie, I haven’t spent 30 years working on a fat Washington resume, but I do know about the problems real Americans face in small towns like mine”.  When she launches that, and she will because that’s all she’s got…Biden better have a Lloyd Bentsen line at his disposal to smack her with.

5.)  Finally, stay on message, don’t improv, no ad libs, and for the love of Christ…remind people what a great country this can be if we just stop the nonsense.  Don’t use words like change…that’s already been used by both sides.  Hit McCain where it counts by challenging Americans to serve and talk about profiles in courage.  Call McCain on his lies and be direct with people about how your message is about America’s greatness, not its smallness and divisions.

See you on November 4th.

Palin and Gibson

11 Sep

When it was announced that Sarah Palin would give her first interview to media toady Charlie Gibson, I had two thoughts.  First, Charlie Gibson can come across as a condescending doofus as he looks down his nose at his interview subject and secondly, he had to tiptoe through the tulips to not offend the soft sensibilities of guys like Rus Thompson who are so incredibly hyperdefensive about Palin, and not look like a bully.

Well, I think he came across as a bit condescending and the initial questions were softballs.  Here is the interview in it’s entirety:

Now, I’m aware that I don’t think much of Palin or her fitness for the second most powerful office on Earth.  Not specifically due to her lack of experience, but because she’s a representative of the fundamentalist evangelical right that, I believe, is a threat to the very foundation of our Democracy.  So, I’m aware of my confirmation bias in watching this interview.

Knowing all of that, I watched this with an open mind and tried to listen to her responses for some glimmer of hope that she was ready for this job.  I thought she failed miserably.  If you need a firm example that Tracy Flick, errr, Sarah Palin is totally out of her depth, watch how she handles a question about the Bush Doctrine.  She demonstrates that she has no idea what it is.  Incredible.

Perhaps she will redeem herself over the next few segments of the interview, but so far, FAIL.  I mean, she’s pretty good at reciting talking points that Liebermann and others have been cramming into her over the past two weeks, but she doesn’t seem to understand the bigger concepts at play.

Aides traveling with Ms. Palin have reported back to associates that she is a fast study — asking few questions of her policy briefers but quickly repeating back their main points

When you can’t substantively address the major doctrinal policy position advanced by the leader of your party and one your running mate supports, I think you might be in over your head.

The fact that the McCain campaign has had to shield her from the media for two weeks is appalling and a violation of the public trust.  A free press is a foundation in our society and to flaunt it so blatantly is disturing, to say the least.  What is even worse is the media seems complicit in accepting the fact that a candidate for such an important position needs to “study up” in order to meet with them is laughable.

I’m hoping that Charlie stumbled upon this site, which lists 20 questions the media should ask of Palin.  After all, the questions listed have been asked of the other candidates or they have voluntarily discussed them in books, policy papers, or speeches.

I’ll choose five:

Which U.S. political thinkers, writers, and politicians would you enlist to advise you on matters of foreign policy and why?

You’ve said that the federal government spends too much money. What, in your view, is the appropriate level of spending as a percentage of GDP?

How would you balance concerns over human rights and freedom in China with the United States’ growing economic interdependence with that country?

What is your preferred plan for peace between Israel and Palestine? A two state solution? What about Jerusalem?

Critique the foreign policy of the last administration. Name its single greatest success, and its most critical failure.

Don’t you think that our President and Vice President should be able to speak to simple, base level issues like this?  Or am I hollering into a canyon here?

My Advice To Obama

8 Sep

Dear Barack,

I watched with interest your “interview” with Keith Olbermann tonight as well as your visit to the set of Bill O’Reilly’s nightly festival of the mildly moronic.

After watching your performance on both shows, let me give you a piece of advice as you plot campaign strategy over the next couple of weeks.

1.)  Remember how you got everyone all excited at the start of your campaign?  How people would line up for hours in the frigid winter to listen to your stump speech?  How people walked from the room starry eyed, thinking that they saw America’s future?  Yeah, I’m sure you do.  Know what the big difference between those speeches and the ones you give today is?

It was a simple word and idea that spoke to people in a very visceral way.   However, the ambivalent and the cynical alike tried to turn it against you.  They made it seem as if you were nothing but a high fallutin’ idealist who believed that as a nation, we could find common ground and achieve big things.  As if this was somehow a bad thing.  That having tens of thousands of people showing up for rallies was somehow antithetical to a populist, idea-centric campaign.  They said you had no policies, it was all big words and no substance.

Here we are in September.  Sixty days from the election and the tables have turned.  The Republican ticket, with the help of a trojan moose, has stolen your message and made you the elitist policy wonk who doesn’t understand the big ideas and values that make America a wonderful place.  They have tens of thousands of people showing up to rallies and chanting the name of some Alaskan frau who doesn’t seem to know the difference between Freddie Mac and a Big Mac.  They fail to see the irony.

So, your message needs to return to those early days…when you spoke in glowing terms of an America that can set goals and accomplish big things.  In other words, the America which people in flyover country still believe exists and the America those of us who follow the issues know it no longer is.

You need to appeal to the better self of Americans.  You need to remind them that to be an American is to be an idealist.  That we are a hopeful and optimistic nation.  In the end, people want to vote for the candidate that makes them believe.  The candidate who can tell them that even though all evidence points to the contrary, we are a nation who believes in unity, freedom, liberty, and principle.  You did it for over a year on the stump and it’s time you started to do it again.

I know it seems silly to recommend that a serious Presidential candidate turn his candidacy into a marketing campaign, but you don’t need to sell the political junkies like me that you have a better plan.  The people who paid attention during the primaries have already made up their minds.

You need to get Joe Twelve Pack, who works two jobs, has three kids and season tickets to his local sports team to turn off “Hole In The Wall” and get off his fat, lazy, American ass to pull a lever for you. Right now, all he knows is that Hillary, errr, someone sent him an email about you not saluting the flag and that you may or may not be a muslim.

Also, they know McCain gave up use of his arms in Da Nang for the privilege of being a typical American dickbag who would leave his disfigured wife for a beer heiress.   They also know that Sarah Palin looks like the Soccer Mom they would leave their wife for…and she speaks in tongues. heh

You do that by inspiring and talking of a “shining city upon a hill“, not by pointing out how anxious people are about the economy.  They already know the country is in the shitter, they just want to believe it’s not.  Even though they delude themselves into thinking it’s not in the shitter, they want to know that you’re the guy who will lift it out of said shitter.  We’re a nation of procrastinating deniers who aren’t into disambiguation.  We don’t want to think about the hard stuff, sell us on the soft marshmallow stuff.  It’s what wins elections.

Once you win, that’s when you do the heavy lifting and the shit that matters.  Until then, give me hope, some snazzy shit that fits on a bumper sticker, and hit people up with some witty and inspirational one liners.

After all, which has gotten more play over the last two weeks?  Your well crafted speech about what’s wrong with America under Bush or Palin calling herself a pitbull in lipstick?

Keep talking about real issues and you’ll be hanging out with Gore and Kerry at the “Nuanced Real World Policy Pavilion” at Loserville Cafe.

McCain’s Night

4 Sep

I voted for John McCain.  Twice.  I proudly voted for him in the New Hampshire primary in 2000.  I also proudly wrote him in as my vote for President in 2000 after he was chased from the race by scurrilous rumors and Rovian tactics by the Bush campaign.

As a veteran, I understood and appreciated his sacrifices for America and I was humbled by them.  As a person, I connected with his adherence to small government principles, a firm but respectful foreign policy, an understanding of the costs of war and his deep love of country.

The man that stands before us on that stage tonight bares little resemblance to that man for whom I once proudly voted.  He is a man who has cowed to the new fundamentalist fervor which dominates the GOP and he has compromised himself on many of the issues that made him a “maverick”.

During his speech tonight, he needs to talk to the American people and outline his plan for the country.  We know about his service and his sacrifice.  We know what he thinks about Obama.  He needs to tell the American people how he intends to address the challenges facing this nation.  Not just about the war(s) we are currently embroiled in or the war(s) we face.  He needs to talk about the economy, health care, energy and education.

I’ll keep a few notes as the evening progresses, you’ll probably note how conflicted this will come off as the evening rolls:

– I intended to watch Lindsay Graham and Tom Ridge, but baby issues got in the way.  I’ll assume they were mediocre.

– Cindy McCain’s biography video just played.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about her aside from her wealth and problems.  Aside from the fact that her marital story left out the fact that John McCain cheated on his first wife with Cindy, it was well done.  Sometimes, it’s nice to see these propaganda videos and realize that there is a real person behind the pictures and soundbites.  She’s much more interesting and substantive than I assumed.  Her speech was wanting, but not everyone has the gift of oratory, especially in front of 17,000 people and a jiggly teleprompter.

– John McCain’s video just played.  His Mother is a pistol, eh?  She has to be at least 95 years old and she looks younger than her son.  A remarkable woman with great wit and character.  Hey, did you know John McCain was a POW?  Also, he’s a POW.  Fun Fact, which of the candidates was a POW?  If you guessed John McCain, you win a date with his unemployed daughter!

– A green screen?  Why in the world is he in front of a green screen?  It makes him look like an angry leprechaun.  I thought they learned their lesson on this?  They pulled the camera out to a wider angle and it appears he is standing in front of the lawn of one his seven houses.

– Laudatory words for Obama, gentlemanly even.  Response from the crowd?  <crickets>  He struggles in front of crowds this large, he’s better in the town hall setup.  What happened to that plan?  A couple of Code Pink crazies infiltrated the crowd.  Good for them and I thought he handled it well.

–  Hey, he mentioned the fact that Republicans are responsible for the huge government expansion.  That’s a surprise.  I’m with him on everything but drilling when it comes to getting our energy policy straight.

–  He seems trapped between the man he was and the man this crowd wants him to be.  He’s lost between traditional conservative principles and the new conservatism of big government and religion.  In the end, I think I pity him.  His statement on hating war and wanting to avoid it falls a little flat with this crowd, but it’s a reminder of the man I supported eight years ago.

–  Bringing Democrats and Independents into the administration?  Transparency and accountability?  They sit on their hands.  They want the anger and smarm of Palin, not the integrity of this man.

–  The solemnity of his Hanoi story just doesn’t fit with the mood of a convention.  The people dont know when to appalud and when to nod with appreciation.  It’s a beautiful and touching story, one that is intensely personal and moving.

–  This speech seems to be an attempt to reach out to former supporters like me, but the recklessness of the Palin pick prevents that from happening.  I can’t get onboard with the platform he has to adopt and the people he needs to please in order to win the office.

A good speech, with a theme of service before self and unity.  Much different from the nastiness of last night, eh?  Also, was it me or was he asking people to become community organizers there at the end?  Heh.