Dec 14, 2008

12 years later, I am not surprised

I voted for a Republican for any legislative office, or for any federal or state office, exactly once. And it was because I couldn't pinch my nose with a big enough clothespin to be able to vote for his opponent. The Democrat really looked that sleazy.

It was in 1996, when I lived in Chicago. My district was heavily Democratic, but my US Representative was a Republican, Michael Patrick Flanagan. The only reason he had been elected 2 years earlier was that he had run against Dan Rostenkowski, who was indicted (and soon to be convicted) for mail fraud. I had no reason to vote for him other than that he seemed a lesser evil than his opponent.

The opponent's name? Rod Blagojevich.

Of course, Blagojevich won, with something like 2/3 of the vote, which is why I should file this under "I-told-you-so".

Dec 2, 2008

There is a God, and He is a pot-smoking Canadian

I was browsing Amazon's MP3 store while my docked iPod was playing in the background, set on Shuffle, as usual. Among Amazon's new MP3 releases, I noticed this Neil Young album and, just as I clicked on it, a new song started on the iPod - Neil Young's "Helpless".

Now, I have almost 7,000 songs on my iPod, and some 30-40 of those are Neil Young's; that makes the probability of a randomly chosen song being his about half a percent. But I am not talking about a song that just happened to be playing at the time; the song started within a second - or maybe two, to be generous - of my clicking on the album link. If an average song is a little over 3 minutes long, a 2 seconds window is just 1% of that time, making the odds of this event about 20,000 to 1.

In the tradition as old as mankind, that can only be explained as a supernatural intervention.

Nov 10, 2008

Deep penetrating thought

If khram didn't mean "church" or "temple" in Russian, I'd wonder if Borat's faux Kazakh word for penis was inspired by Rahm Emanuel.

Nov 9, 2008

The Left vs. Larry Summers

It's another of those rare occasions when I have to disagree with Digby. I am puzzled with the Left's allergy to Larry Summers; one of its symptoms is obsessively scratching and digging up the 1991 World Bank memo about the possibility of selling toxic waste to Third-World countries. Says Digby:
Jonathan goes on to point out the unpleasant truth about such allegedly "out of the box" thinking --- that the people who reap the "benefit" of such things usually don't have to live in the putrid, polluted hellhole that's created by our toxic waste.
All I have to say in response is what I already wrote in a comment to a similarly-themed diary on Daily Kos, and an important part of it was the exact mirror image of Digby's thought - the people who scream that it is horrible and evil even to consider such ideas also don't have to share the fate of the poor people in the Third World:
In third world countries there are cities where children spend all day scavenging landfills. Perhaps there is unpolluted nature 20 miles away, but that does not help to make the lives of those children any safer, healthier, or more hopeful. Some more wealth in the country might, though - provided we can make sure it is actually spent on developing the country's economy and not on the leaders' luxury.
My current opinion (which is reality-based, so it may change with new information) is that toxic waste trade would be a bad idea, primarily because we could not effectively ensure that the money would be well spent. My educated but fallible guess is that Summers holds a similar view; my million-dollar bet is that he would similarly try to base his conclusions on reality and facts.

Look, some ideas seem yucky. But dissecting frogs is also yucky, and if you can't get over it, you can miss out on learning science. Part of maturity is that we should not let the yuck factor dictate our thought process and evaluation of ideas.

C'mon, people. All Larry is guilty of is bad taste.

I've been hoisted

There is no individual blog I read more faithfully than Brad DeLong's, so I was honored that he elevated my recent comment to a post. Prof. DeLong adds:
What would I have to pay to get another, alternative, decent opposition party to the Democrats?
I agree. A functioning democratic society needs a vigorous opposition - but that's different from a vicious opposition.

Nov 7, 2008

BREAKING: President-elect Obama arrested by the Grammar Police

Obama in today's press conference:
Well, President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to -- to meet with him and First Lady Laura Bush. We are gratified by the invitation. I'm sure that, in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there's going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president.
This is the kind of grammar up with which I will not put. (Yes, I know the irony of this paraphrase. It's intentional. Snarky responses are preempted.) I expect my president to speak English better than I, an immigrant from a country most Americans can't find on a map.

Besides the felony of using "I" as a direct object, the president-elect has also been charged with stylistic misdemeanors of using unnecessary and awkward passive voice where "We are grateful for the invitation" would sound better and have a clearer meaning, and saying "between myself and the president" where "between the president and me" would be the minimally acceptable improvement, but we should expect no less than a complete rephrasing, such as "...I'm going to have a substantive conversation with the president."

The "tour of the White House" jab has been noted as evidence of good character, possibly mitigating the charges.

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Hey, if there are no Blue States and Red States, then they are all a Purple Haze and I am allowed to misquote Jimi Hendrix lyrics. Anyway, how could you not love this guy:
The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."
Yes, Virginia, there are stupid questions! What makes that conversation dear to my heart is that I became 100% sold on Obama when I saw him challenge debate moderators with responses like "I reject the premise of this question..." (I had preferred him from the beginning, but that assured me he was the no-BS leader we needed.)

Turns out I was also right about Hillary back in June. Newsweek:
On the night she officially lost the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a long and friendly phone conversation with McCain. Clinton was actually on better terms with McCain than she was with Obama. Clinton and McCain had downed shots together on Senate junkets; they regarded each other as grizzled veterans of the political wars and shared a certain disdain for Obama as flashy and callow.
I would have voted for her had she been the nominee, but I am so glad she is not our new president-elect!

P.S. I don't know how I feel about these embargoed-until-after-election reports. It's nice to find out some inside information, but it is against the spirit of reporting. Shouldn't the people who recorded this stuff be called historians rather than journalists? (That's not irrelevant. I am pretty sure Newsweek's reporters earn more than most historians.)

Does Obama oppose same-sex marriage?

A commenter to this post keeps insisting on false equivalences based on Obama's stated lack of support for gay marriage. Bullshit. First, the obvious: Obama spoke clearly against California's Proposition 8, which proves that he is even less supportive of opposition to gay marriage. But let's think about this issue a bit deeper. Obama could support gay marriage all he wanted, but there is nothing he could do as president to institute it. Marriage is not a matter of federal policy. At least, it is not supposed to be; however, conservatives (who are for "states' rights" when the states are bigoted, but apparently not otherwise) have tried to change the Constitution to define marriage as heterosexual only. And back in 1996, when the public opinion was much less enlightened, they passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) with significant bipartisan support. So what is Obama's position on DOMA?

Here's Glenn Greenwald:
Some appear not to know that a candidate (named "Barack Obama") who has repeatedly and emphatically vowed to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act -- and who called it an "abhorrent law" -- just won a national election in a landslide. And, in the very widely watched Vice-Presidential debate, this is what his Vice Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said:
Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple. . . .

It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do. . . . there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple.
That's what repeal of Section 3 of DOMA would enable -- treating opposite-sex and same-sex couples exactly equally. That's all it would do; it would not re-define "marriage."
So in every way that matters, the Obama-Biden administration is committed (in the sense of clearly stated campaign promises) to equal rights for same-sex couples. True, they will not force the individual states to allow same-sex couples to marry (And how could they? The President has no such constitutional authority.) but they have clearly promised not to stand in the way of same-sex marriage when states choose to allow it.

Nov 5, 2008

Dodo alert

What is happening to the moderate Republicans? How did those from the top of the Republican part of the 110th House rankings do in this election?
  1. Wayne Gilchrest (MD-1) lost in the primary to the conservative Andy Harris. Harris is currently trailing Democrat Frank Kratovil by 915 votes.
  2. Jim Ramstad (MN-3) did not run for reelection. In his district, Republican Erik Paulsen defeated Democrat Ashwin Madia. Paulsen's campaign involved some dirty advertising, not a good sign for moderation.
  3. Frank Lobiondo (NJ-2) was reelected.
  4. Chris Smith (NJ-4) was reelected.
  5. 38-year-old Mike Ferguson (NJ-7) did not run for reelection. State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance kept the seat for the Republicans. Lance appears to be a moderate.
  6. Jim Saxton (NJ-3) retired. John Adler won the seat for the Democrats.
  7. John McHugh (NY-23) was reelected.
  8. Jim Walsh (NY-25) did not seek reelection. Daniel Maffei picked up the seat for the Democrats.
  9. Mark Kirk (IL-10) was reelected in a replay of the 2006 tight race against Dan Seals.
  10. Tim Johnson (IL-15) was easily reelected.
  11. Chris Shays (CT-4), the Last of the New England Republicans, lost to Democrat Jim Himes.
  12. Dave Reichert (WA-8) is leading Darcy Burner by less than 2000 votes with less than half of the precincts reporting. This is looking like a replay of their 2006 race, which Reichert won by 2%, but it may be even closer this time.
So, of the dozen most moderate House Republicans, 4 did not run, 1 was defeated in the Republican primary, 1 lost in the general election, 1 is involved in a very tight election, 1 was reelected in a slightly less tight race, and 4 were reelected with ease. As for the seats of the 4 who didn't run, 2 switched to Democrats, 1 to a more conservative Republican, and 1 to another moderate Republican. All in all, half of the dozen most moderate Republican seats in the House have switched out of that category.

For comparison, of the 12 most conservative House members, 11 were easily reelected; only Bill Sali from Idaho lost (to Democrat Walt Minnick).

Moderate republicans are going the way of the dodo.

TAKS and KKK effects

The TAKS effect: Every state that starts with "T", "A", "K" or "S" voted for McCain. There are 10 such states and they comprise 98 electoral votes. McCain won those states' popular vote by a margin of 14%.

Eliminate TAKS, and the rest of the country voted for Obama by a 10% margin (compared to the 6% for the whole country). The electoral vote count is 349-64 (with 27 yet to be determined).

The KKK effect: Every state with a "K" in its name voted for McCain. There are 8 such states and they have 41 electoral votes; McCain has won 40, while one from Nebraska is still uncertain. McCain won those states by 19%.

Eliminate KKK, and the rest of the country voted for Obama by an 8% margin, with the electoral vote count is 349-122 (with 26 yet to be determined).

Eliminate both TAKS and KKK, and Obama wins by 11% and 349-50 electoral votes (with 26 pending). Additionally, the 55-40 advantage in the Senate becomes 49-21, and the 245-157 advantage in the House becomes 219-121. (Pending seats not counted.)

Well, Mr. President, you may say there are no red states and blue states, but there sure are TAKS states and KKK states, and they don't like you very much. The rest of the country looks pretty normal.

UPDATE (many months later): Oops, not every state with a "K" voted for McCain. Thanks to Samer for correcting me.

Some trivia about the 2008 Presidential Election

As of early afternoon of The Day After Election, Obama has 63.4 million votes (52.4%) to McCain's 56 million (46.3%). As expected, Obama has exceeded Bush's 2004 record of 62 million votes. McCain got more votes than Reagan in 1984, but needs 3 million more to surpass John Kerry's 2004 count.

I am not sure what is going on with the turnout. AP is reporting estimates ranging from 134 to 137 million, but so far only 121 million votes have been counted. Is it possible that 10% of the votes haven't been counted yet? All states except Washington, Oregon and Maine have reported more than 90% of precincts, and the only others below 98% are California, Colorado, Arkansas, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. If the final vote tally increases by 10% in proportion to the votes already counted, Obama could end up with close to 70 million, and McCain could equal Bush's 2004 numbers. Alternatively, there could be a lot of invalid ballots and the estimates could fail to take that into account.

If the current popular vote percentages hold, it will mean that the pollsters were very accurate. The average was 52.0-44.4; RealClearPolitics average was 52.1-44.5; and projections were within 0.2% of the actual results. The best individual pollster was Rasmussen, whose latest poll was 52-46 for Obama, which means no error other than rounding.

Most state polls were excellent, too, at least for us who relied on FiveThirtyEight's aggregation methods. The three states that were supposed to be extremely close - MO, IN, NC - are still uncertain. Polls also did very well in most states that were expected to be close (OH, FL, VA, CO, MT, GA) or that McCain hoped would be close (NH). Obama outperformed the polls in Pennsylvania (by 4%), Nevada (by 5%) and New Mexico (by 6%), while McCain did better in Iowa (by 4%), Arizona (by 4%) and North Dakota (by 7%). It also seems that, in the states won by large margins, the winner typically outperformed the polls, but of course there were fewer polls in those states and they may not have been done as carefully.

As many have pointed out, Obama's share of the popular vote is greater than any Democrat's since 1964 and greater than any non-incumbent's since 1952 (if we count the sitting Vice President, i.e., Bush in 1988, as an incumbent). More impressive fact, in my opinion, is that, since Andrew Jackson, only two Democrats - FDR and LBJ - have won a greater share of the popular vote.

(Total nerds will also find noteworthy that in the last 10 presidential elections (since 1968), only Reagan in 1984 and Bush in 1988 got a higher percentage of the vote. Obama's popular vote margin is greater than Clinton's in 1992 and, if he ends up winning all three uncertain state, his electoral vote advantage will be greater as well.)

Obama outperformed Kerry in 44 states and DC. The only states where he did worse were Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, and (probably) Alaska - and all but the first two were within 1 percentage point of Kerry's result. By contrast, he outperformed Kerry by 39 percentage points in Hawaii, by 22 in Indiana, 19 in North Dakota, 18 in Montana, 17 in Nebraska, 16 in New Mexico, Utah and Vermont, and 15 in Delaware and Nevada.

Obama won the majority of states, only the third Democrat since Truman to do so. (The other two were LBJ and Clinton.)

Obama did better in Delaware, DC, Illinois and Vermont than any Democrat since 1856 (when Democrats and Republicans emerged as the two major parties). His margin of victory in Delaware was second-highest for either party since 1856. (Hoover in 1928 won by 30%.)

It was the best Democratic result in California since 1936 and the second best ever (unless the final results lower the margin from the current 24% to below 21%, which was FDR's 1932 margin).

No Democrat has done better since 1964 in CO, CT, HI, IN, MD, MI, NE, NV, NH, NM, PA, VA, WI, and probably OR (where Obama seems almost certain to exceed Clinton's 10% margin from 1992). That is 14 states, in addition to the 4 (+DC) already mentioned.

It was also the second-best Democratic result "ever" (meaning since the later of statehood or 1856) in CT, HI and NH, third-best "ever" in ME, MI and NY, fourth-best "ever" in NM, PA and WI, and fifth-best "ever" in MD, NJ and OH.

It was the second-best result for a Democrat since FDR's time in CO, IN, MD, MI, NV, NM, PA, WA and WI.

In Nebraska, it was the second-best Democratic result since 1948 and third-best since 1940.

In Florida, it was the third-best Democratic result since 1948 (and better than in 1964).

In Utah, although Clinton lost by smaller margins, the Democratic share of the vote was the highest since 1968; in Texas, it just about equals Clinton's in 1996 (43.83%), which was the highest since 1976. And the result in North Carolina is the best for a Democrat since 1976.

On the other hand, Arkansas is the third-worst ever for a Democrat, Oklahoma is looking about the same as 2004, which was the third-worst ever (in both cases, only 1972 and 1984 were worse), Louisiana is the fourth-worst ever (after 1968, 1972 and 1984), Tennessee is the second-worst since 1868 (only 1972 was worse), and Kentucky and Wyoming were the worst of any year in which the Democrat won.

As the Republican streaks ended for Virginia and (probably) Indiana, the most reliable Republican states remain AK, ID, KS, NE, ND, OK, SD, UT and WY. The nine (the Nazgul?) have voted Republican in every election since 1968, 11 times in a row. By contrast, the most reliably Democratic state has been Minnesota (9 elections, since 1976) and the most reliable jurisdiction DC, which has voted Democratic in every election since the 23rd Amendment (12 elections, since 1964).

Nov 4, 2008

Deep thought

Does Bill Clinton still count as the first black president?

Nov 3, 2008

Presidential election trivia III: odds and ends

From 1992 to 2000, in 3 straight elections, no candidate got 50% of the vote. The only other time that happened was in the 4 straight elections 1880-1892.

Major party candidates who lost their home state:
  • Pinckney (1804 and 1808)
  • Rufus King (1816)
  • Van Buren (1840)
  • Clay (1844)
  • Scott (1852)
  • Fillmore (1856) - but he wasn't a major party candidate then
  • Fremont (1856)
  • Breckinridge (1860)
  • Douglas (1860)
  • McClellan (1864)
  • Greeley (1868)
  • Hancock (1880)
  • Cleveland (1888)
  • Benjamin Harrison (1892)
  • Weaver (1892) - not a major party candidate, but won EVs elsewhere
  • Bryan (1900)
  • Parker (1904) - both candidates were from NY
  • T. Roosevelt (1912) - not a major party candidate in that year
  • Taft (1912)
  • Wilson (1916) - the only one to win the election despite losing his home state
  • Cox (1920) - both candidates were from OH
  • Davis (1924)
  • Smith (1928)
  • Hoover (1932)
  • Landon (1936)
  • Wilkie (1940)
  • Dewey (1944)
  • Stevenson (1952 and 1956)
  • McGovern (1972)
  • Gore (2000)

Republicans have dominated the West since the 1920s, except for the Roosevelt-Truman years. ND-SD-NE-KS formed the "axis" that Republicans won even in 1940-48. Those 4 states went Republican in every election since 1920 except 1932, 1936, and 1964. In 1948, Oregon was the only other Republican state west of the Mississippi, but since then the West has been strongly Republican. Here is the list of Democratic states west of the Mississippi since 1952:
  • 1952: AR, LA
  • 1956: AR, MO
  • 1960: AR, LA, MO, MN, TX, NV, HI
  • 1964 (Exceptional year - D landslide): all except AZ, LA
  • 1968: TX, MN, WA, HI (and Wallace won LA, AR)
  • 1972: none
  • 1976: TX, HI, MN, MO, AR, LA
  • 1980: MN, HI
  • 1984: MN
  • 1988: HI, WA, OR, MN, IA
  • 1992: HI, WA, OR, CA (the Pacific states have become safe D territory), NV, MT, CO, NM, and "The Man" (MN, IA, MO, AR, LA)
  • 1996: Pacific + "The Man" + NV, AZ, NM
  • 2000: Pacific + NM, MN, IA
  • 2004: Pacific + MN

Presidential election trivia II: states and electoral votes

Only 3 states have held the distinction of being the state with the most electoral votes: Virginia until 1808, New York 1812-1968, and California since 1972.

1812 was the first election in which some electoral votes came from west of the Mississippi - from Louisiana.

The second state west of the Mississippi was Missouri (first voted in the 1820 election), the third was Arkansas (1836), followed by Iowa and Texas in 1848 and California in 1852.

States that voted for the first Republican presidential candidate (John Frémont) in 1856: all of New England, plus Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. All except OH look reliably Democratic for 2008. All except OH and IA voted Democratic in 2004. All except OH and NH voted Democratic in 2000. All voted Democratic in 1992 and 1996.

Free states that voted for James Buchanan in 1856: Pennsylvania (his home state), Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and California (Frémont's home state). In 1860, Lincoln won all of them (NJ split its electoral votes 4-3 in Lincoln's favor).

States Lincoln lost in 1864: Kentucky (where he was born), Delaware, New Jersey. He won Missouri and Maryland although they were slave states. He won West Virginia which was still a slave state, although it was formally committed to abolishing slavery. He also won Kansas, where the status of slavery was violently contested before the Civil War.

1872 was the first time New Jersey went completely Republican and the last time until 1928 that Virginia voted Republican.

Southern states that never voted Republican during the Civil War or the Reconstruction: Georgia and Kentucky.

In 1876, Connecticut voted Democratic, the first New England state to do that since the emergence of the Republican Party.

In 1880, the South solidified Democratic. It was also the first time Nevada voted Democratic, and the first time California did so since 1856. The only time CA went D between 1880 and 1916 was in 1892, when it split its electoral votes 8D, 1R.

In 1900, the two Dakotas voted for the same candidate for the first time (in 1892, ND split its votes 3-way and SD voted R; in 1896, ND voted R and SD voted D; in 1900, they both went R.) They voted together in every subsequent election except 1912 (when ND voted Democratic and SD Progressive) and 1916 (ND-D, SD-R). Almost all those votes were for the Republican, except in 1932, 1936, and 1964.

In 1904, Missouri voted Republican for the first time since 1864. Teddy Roosevelt solidified the West - he won all states west of the Mississippi except Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Roosevelt was the first candidate to win more than 300 electoral votes.

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first candidate to win over 400 electoral votes (435 out of 531) and to carry 40 states (out of 48), despite winning only 41.8% of popular vote (which was the lowest percentage for the winner since Lincoln in 1860).

All New England states except Vermont went Democratic in 1912. Other than Connecticut, they had not done so since 1852. Massachusetts had not voted Democratic since 1820 (and in a contested election not since 1804). Ohio also went D for the first time since 1852.

Only Vermont and Utah voted Republican in 1904 1912. (Six other states - PA, MI, MN, CA, WA, SD - voted Progressive.)

From 1856 to 1908, these were the only instances of states that border Canada voting Democratic:
  • New York in 1868, 1876, 1884, and 1892; each time, the Democratic candidate was from NY.
  • Washington, Idaho and Montana in 1896 (and ID and MT again in 1900).
  • Also, in 1892, Michigan split its votes R9, D5, North Dakota split 3-way (D-R-P), and Idaho went Populist.
Pacific Coast states voting Democratic during the same period:
  • California in 1856 and 1880; also splitting its votes in 1892 (D8, R1) and 1896 (D1, R8);
  • Oregon in 1868;
  • Washington in 1896.
After the 1912-16 hiatus, all Canadian-border and Pacific-coast states again voted Republican throughout the 1920s.

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first candidate to win over 400 electoral votes (435, out of 531) and to carry 40 states (out of 48) despite winning only 41.8% of the popular vote.

In 1916, the only Republican states west of the Mississippi were OR, SD, MN and IA; the West almost solidified D in a near-reversal of 1904. However, all of Northeast (except NH) was back in the Republican column.

Wilson won in 1916 despite losing his home state (NJ); he was the only presidential candidate ever to do that. Charles Hughes became the first candidate to lose despite winning more than 200 electoral votes (254). Only Al Gore won more EV while losing the election (267); had Florida been counted properly, the 2000 election would not have been as close as the 1916 one.

In 1920, Tennessee went Republican for the first time since 1868, and Oklahoma for the fist time since it became a state. The West was again solidly Republican as in 1904. Harding became the first Republican to win more than 400 EV.

In the three elections of the 1920s, the only Democratic electoral votes outside the Confederacy came from Kentucky in 1920, Oklahoma in 1924, and Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1928.

1928 was the first election in which Texas and Kentucky voted Republican; Texas didn't go Republican again until 1952 and Kentucky not until 1956. Also, FL went R the first time since the controversial 1876 and NC and VA the first time since 1872. Hoover won more EV (444) than any Republican before him, and was the first Republican to carry 40 states.

In 1932, Minnesota voted Democratic for the first time ever, Michigan the first time since 1852, Ohio the second time since 1852 (the only exception was 1912), South Dakota the second time since statehood (first was in 1896), and Wisconsin the third time since 1852 (the first two were 1892 and 1912).

In 1936, FDR won 523 electoral votes out of 531. Ronald Reagan won 525 EV in 1984, but out of a greater total (538), so that FDR still holds the record for the highest percentage of electoral votes won.

States that voted against FDR:
  • ME, VT - all 4 times;
  • IN, ND, SD, NE, KS, IA, CO - twice (1940, 1944);
  • PA, DE, CT, NH in 1932;
  • MI in 1940;
  • WY, OH in 1944.
FDR won a cumulative total of 1876 electoral votes in his 4 elections. None of his opponents won 100 EVs (Dewey did the best with 99). The cumulative total of EVs his opponents won in the 4 elections (248) would not have been enough to win a single election.

Harry Truman in 1948 was the first Democratic nominee to lose SC and LA since 1876 and MS and AL since 1872. (Of course, Thurmond, who won them, was also a Democrat at the time, so it wasn't a party realignment.)

In 1952, Texas went Republican for the second time ever, Virginia for the second time since 1872, and Florida the second time since 1876. (In each case, the first time was in 1928.) In a dramatic switch of allegiance, Virginia has only voted Democratic once since - in 1964.

In 1956, Eisenhower carried more states (41) and won more electoral votes (457) than any Republican before him. Eisenhower's cumulative total of 899 EVs was second only to FDR's. (It has since been exceeded by Nixon and Reagan.) Louisiana went Republican the first time since 1876.

Eisenhower won Massachusetts twice, the only Republican to do so since McKinley between McKinley and Reagan.

In 1960, Nixon won more states than JFK (26-22), but lost the Electoral College 303-219. It was the first election in which the loser carried more states than the winner since the anomalous 1824 election, which was decided by the House of Representatives. (Garfield and Hancock carried 19 states each in 1880; Taylor and Cass carried 15 each in 1848.) It happened again in 1976, when Ford won more states than Carter, and it would have happened in 2000 if Gore had won Florida.

Pennsylvania and Michigan voted for JFK in 1960. The only Democrat they had voted for since 1856 (1852 in Michigan's case) was FDR (and each state even voted against him once).

1964 landslide LBJ victory was the only time Alaska voted Democratic, the first time Vermont voted D since 1852, and the second time ME voted D since 1852 (first was in 1912). However, it was also the first time ever that Georgia voted Republican (it didn't do so even during the Reconstruction) and the best Republican showing in the Deep South (all 5 states, 47 EVs) ever, and the only time R had done better in the Confederacy since 1872 was in 1928, when Hoover won 5 states and 62 EVs. Interestingly, there is no Southern state that both Hoover and Goldwater carried. (They did both carry Arizona, however.) 1964 was the last time Virginia voted Democratic.

1968 was the last time a third-party candidate won electoral votes. George Wallace carried 5 states (AR, LA, MS, AL, GA) worth 46 electoral votes. 4 of the 5 states were Goldwater states in 1964; the difference is that Wallace carried AR, but lost SC.

Before Wallace, the last third-party candidate to win electoral votes was Harry Byrd, who won 15 EVs in 1960, carrying Mississippi, the majority of Alabama's EV, and 1 EV from Oklahoma. His running mate, Strom Thurmond, had won 4 states (LA, MS, AL, SC) and 39 EVs in 1948.

The last non-Dixiecrat who won EVs as a third-party candidate was Robert M. La Follette, Sr., Progressive who won Wisconsin's 13 EV in 1924. Teddy Roosevelt, running as a Progressive in 1912, made the best showing of any third-party candidate, winning 6 states and 88 EV. He won more popular and more electoral votes than the Republican candidate William Howard Taft. In 1888, Populist Weaver won 4 states (KS, CO, NV, ID) and partial EV from another two (OR, ND), for a total of 22 EV.

In 1872, 6 candidates won EVs, but all of them were Republicans and Democrats (and the election was complicated by Greeley's death). In 1860, 4 candidates won EVs: Lincoln (Republican) 180, Breckinridge (Southern Democrat) 72, Douglas (Northern Democrat) 12, and Bell (Constitutional Union) 39. Bell won KY, TN, and VA. Douglas only won MO, despite winning almost as many popular votes as Breckinridge and Bell together.

Millard Fillmore carried Maryland's 8 EV as the Know-Nothing candidate in 1856.

5 people won EVs in 1836, but they were all Democrats or Whigs. In 1832, Nullifier John Floyd won South Carolina and Anti-Masonic William Wirt won Vermont. And, of course, in 1824, four Democratic-Republicans split the EV and the House had to decide the election.

In 1972, Nixon set the record, carrying 49 states. He failed to top FDR's 523 EV, but his 520 brought his cumulative total to 1040, surpassing Eisenhower and remaining to this day second only to FDR. It was also the first time the Republican candidate swept the Confederacy, and the first time Hawaii voted Republican

1976 was the closest EV race between 1916 and 2000. Ford won more states than Carter (27 vs. 23+DC), but Carter won 297 EV to Ford's 240 (plus 1 that a rogue elector cast for Reagan). It was also the last time a Democrat won MS, AL, SC, or NC.

In 1980 and 1984 Reagan won Massachusetts. The only other Republican to win MA since 1924 was Eisenhower (who won it twice).

Reagan's 525 EV in 1984 was the most ever (but FDR won a higher percentage of EV in 1936) and his 49 states tied Nixon's record from 1972. It was the second and last time Hawaii went Republican. Reagan's 1014 cumulative EV total (1015 if 1976 is counted) is the third-highest ever (after FDR and Nixon), but the highest ever from two elections. (FDR's 2-election best is 995 in 1932-36.) The last candidate to lose fewer electoral votes in two elections was James Monroe, who was barely opposed in 1816 and essentially unopposed in 1820. Monroe lost a total of 37 EV, but he only won 411, so percentage-wise Reagan did better. Only Washington did clearly better than Reagan in this respect, but he was unopposed both times.

1988 was the last time CA, CT, DE, IL, MD, ME, MI, NJ, PA and VT voted Republican.

1992 was the last time CO, GA and MT voted Democratic.

1996 was the last time "the man" (column of 5 states comprising MN, IA, MO, AR and LA) voted for the same candidate. (It also happened in 1932, 1936, 1972, and 1992, so FDR, Nixon and Clinton were the only candidates to carry all those 5 states.) It was also the last time AR, AZ, FL, KY, LA, MO, NV, OH, TN, and WV voted Democratic; in Arizona's case, it was the only time since 1948.

In 2000, Al Gore got the most EV ever for a losing candidate (267, but officially 266 because one elector cast a protest vote). It was also the last election in which the 2 largest states went for the same candidate (and the last election in which NY was the 2nd-largest state).

Presidential election trivia I: national popular vote

First to get more than 1 million votes: William Henry Harrison and Martin Van Buren in 1840.

First to get more than 2 million votes: Abraham Lincoln in 1864. He won 55% of the total vote in this wartime election. (In his first election, before the South seceded, he won less than 40%, although it was still more than 10% more than the nearest opponent.)

First to get more than 3 million votes: Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. Grant won 55.6% of the popular vote, more than any candidate since Andrew Jackson in 1828.

First to get more than 4 million votes: Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tlden in 1876. Famously (or infamously), Tilden got more votes, the election hinged on Florida and was decided by a commission along partisan lines.

First to get more than 5 million votes: Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland in 1888. Cleveland got more votes, but Harrison prevailed in the Electoral College. That didn't happen again until 2000.

First to get more than 7 million votes: William McKinley in 1896. McKinley was the first candidate to get more than 50% of the vote since Tilden in 1976 and first to win with more than 50% since Grant in 1872. William Jennings Bryan won over 6 million votes, more than any candidate before that year.

First to win by a margin of more than 1 million votes: Teddy Roosevelt in 1904. His margin was actually over 2 million votes, and his percentage (56.4%) was more than anyone's since Monroe ran unopposed in 1820. (Interestingly, his Electoral College victory was not particularly lopsided: he won 32 out of 45 states and 70% of the electoral vote. He was, however, the first candidate to win over 300 electoral votes.)

First to get more than 10 million votes: Warren G. Harding in 1920. Harding was also the first to get more than 15 million (actually more than 16 million), the first to win by a margin exceeding 5 million (actually over 7 million) and the first to win more than 60% of the popular vote in 100 years, since Monroe in 1820 (and first to do that in a competitive race since 1808). It is interesting how little relation there was between his electoral success and his record as President. He must not have been unpopular in his time, though: when his successor Calvin Coolidge ran for reelection, he won by a popular-vote margin of 25.2%.

First to get more than 20 million votes: Herbert Hoover in 1928. Hoover also set the new record with 444 electoral votes. His opponent, Alfred E. Smith, became the first losing candidate with more than 10 million votes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt set the new popular-vote record in 1932, although without crossing any trivia-worthy milestone. However, his popular-vote percentage (57.4%) was the highest for a Democrat since Andrew Jackson. Moreover, he was the first Democrat to get more than 50% of the vote since Tilden in 1876 (neither Cleveland nor Wilson ever accomplished that) and the first Democrat to win with more than 50% of popular votes since Pierce in 1852.

First to get more than 25 million votes, and first to win by a margin of more than 10 million votes: FDR in 1936. (Only LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984 have won by more than 10 million votes since.) His 27.7 million votes was not surpassed until 1952. FDR also bested Harding's modern-era record in popular-vote percentage (60.8% vs. 60.3%). His 523 electoral votes remained the record until 1984 and is still the record percentage-wise (2 states have been added to the Union and DC has become represented in the Electoral College since then).

FDR was also the first candidate to win a cumulative total of over 100 million votes. In his 4 presidential elections, he won a total of 103 million votes.

First to lose despite getting more than 20 million votes: Wendell Wilkie in 1940.

First to get more than 30 million votes: Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. In his 1956 reelection, Eisenhower got over 35 million votes, and won more states (41) and electoral votes (457) than any Republican before him.

First to lose despite getting more than 30 million votes: Richard Nixon in 1960. Nixon was also the first loser to get more votes than FDR got in any single election.

Popular-vote records set by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964: first to get over 40 million (43.1 million), highest modern-time percentage (61.1%), first to win by a margin of more than 15 million. It was also the first time Vermont voted for a Democrat since 1852 and the only time ever Alaska did so, but also the first time ever that Georgia voted for a Republican (which it didn't do even during Reconstruction).

First to get more than 45 million votes: Richard Nixon in 1972. In his 3 presidential elections, Nixon won a cumulative total of 113 million votes, breaking FDR's record. Nixon's cumulative vote record still stands.

First to get more than 50 million votes: Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Reagan is the most recent president who won more than 50% of the vote twice. That is a surprisingly rare feat; the only presidents who accomplished that before Reagan were Eisenhower, FDR, McKinley, Grant, Jackson, Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, and Washington. Note that the list includes 3 Founding Fathers, one who essentially ran unopposed (Monroe), three generals famous for critical victories in major wars (Jackson, Grant, Eisenhower) and only 3 "normal" politicians (McKinley, FDR, Reagan). Of the 5 candidates on the list whose popular vote counts are reasonably meaningful (that would be starting with Grant), FDR had the highest average vote percentage (56.6%), followed by Eisenhower (56.3%), Reagan (54.8%), Grant (54.2%), and McKinley (51.3%).

First to lose despite getting more than 40 million votes: Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Bill Clinton was the first president since Wilson to win twice with less than 50% of the popular vote. That is an even rarer feat than winning twice with over 50%; only 3 candidates ever did it. (The third, or chronologically the first, was Grover Cleveland.)

First to lose despite getting more than 50 million votes: Al Gore in 2000. Of course, Al Gore lost only because the votes in Florida were not properly counted.

First to get more than 60 million votes: George W. Bush in 2004. Bush thus joined FDR and Nixon as only the third person to get more than 100 million cumulative votes. He failed to best Nixon's record, but he did win the most votes in 2 elections. (Nixon's cumulative votes are a 3-election total, and FDR's are over 4 elections.)

Will Obama exceed 70 million? With a good turnout, that is possible.

Honorable mention list: John Kerry (2004), James M. Cox (1920), Charles Hughes (1916), William Jennings Bryan (1896), Grover Cleveland (1888), James Blaine (1884), Winfield Scott Hancock (1880), Samuel J. Tilden (1876), Horatio Seymour (1868), Winfield Scott (1852), Henry Clay (1844), Martin Van Buren (1840), John Q. Adams (1828), Andrew Jackson (1824), DeWitt Clinton (1812), and Thomas Jefferson (1796) lost, but got more votes that anyone before them. Cleveland, Tilden and Jackson also got more votes than the winner of their election. (Note that John Adams in 1800, Charles Pinckney in 1804, Horace Greeley in 1872, Benjamin Harrison in 1892, William Jennings Bryan in 1900, Herbert Hoover in 1932, Wendell Wilkie in 1940, and Thomas Dewey in 1948 also got more votes than anyone other than themselves or the winner of their election.)

Nov 2, 2008

Why didn't he steal this?

Why didn't McCain steal Randy Newman's "Rednecks" as his campaign song?

Good satire and lame satire

I disagree with Crooks and Liars' assessment of the SNL spoof of Keith Olberman. If the "Special Comment" had been the entire skit, it would have been great. Affleck got the angry Olbermann's voice and mannerism perfectly, and the absurd topic of the comment works well because it caricatures the fact that KO's Special Comments all look and sound very similar regardless of what he is talking about. But the rest of the skit didn't work, for two reasons. First, Affleck is not at all convincing as Olbermann in a "normal" mood. Second, and more important, the writing is poor. Reader RayC explains it perfectly in the comments:
In order for a good satire to be the most effective to me you need to take a bit of truth and stretch it to the breaking point. That "truth" is false so the bit fails. I think they missed on this one. The "truth" they seem to be lampooning is that Keith is outraged over trivial matters and cuts guests off before they can disagree. I have never seen him do either one of these things.
Now lame jokes are nothing unusual, so in itself it is not a big deal. But the ending proves that the writers know how to write a funny skit, so why did they fail in the first half? The most likely reason - pointed out in lilybelle's comment - is also the most worrisome:
It felt scripted so that some NBC exec could say "See, we criticize liberals too." If such false equivalence is the only motivation for a skit, bad comedy ensues.
If your goal is to make a lot of friends, perhaps satire is the wrong line of work for you.

There still are some honorable Republicans

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders:

Now that is honor and patriotism. And a real American. That's the kind of Republicans who inspire hope that there can be a viable, civilized, mature opposition to the Democratic Party.

Oct 31, 2008

McCain campaign is now officially communist

See about 1:00 into the first video.

WTF?! The entire student population of a school district bused to a McCain rally!? That's Soviet-style forced attendance for propaganda purposes. That is how communist leaders boosted their cheering crowds. It also seems like a blatant First Amendment violation by the school district; parents ought to sue the school board over this.

Why is this not being decried as un-American?

Oct 30, 2008

First they came..., 2008 version

First they came for the Muslims,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for Palestinian-Americans,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Palestinian-American.

Then they came for the atheists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a atheist.*

Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up I wasn't worth speaking up for.

*Well, of course I am. And therefore:

Elizabeth Dole is a stinking turd, but I really do not appreciate Kay Hagan for suing her. The premise behind the suit - that being called an atheist can be defamatory - is extremely offensive. Could I sue somebody for calling me a Presbyterian? If not, Hagan's suit ought to be summarily dismissed.

Let's make a clear distinction here. While Hagan's rebuttal ad is, in principle, also offensive to non-Christians, I understand a politician's need to address voters' concerns. It would be crazy to throw the election away to make a point. I want Hagan to win the election, and I won't object to her doing what she needs to win. The ad fits that role. But a lawsuit doesn't help to win the election. By suing Liddy Dole, she is in fact joining her in insulting all godless Americans.

Different-looking people out!

McCain's campaign is now officially fascist.

Of course, that's all Obama's fault. If he had agreed to joint town hall meetings, McCain would not be forced to call the police whenever a slightly darker-skinned person shows up.

My question to everyone who still intends to vote for McCain: Why in the world didn't you vote for Tancredo or Hunter in the primaries?

Oct 28, 2008

Mankiw bequeaths $7M to middle-aged kids for down payment on first home

I have several economists' blogs on my blogroll. I have a couple of conservative economists' blogs on my blogroll. Greg Mankiw's blog is not one of them, and for a good reason. Although Mankiw is undeniably a first-class economist in terms of his contributions to academic research, his public-policy positions could be charitably described as naive and simplistic, and most of the stuff he writes in his blog is just crap. (His position on Pigouvian fuel taxes may be a notable exception, but I take it more as a confirmation the issue is so non-controversial among economists that even right-wingers agree with the normal people.)

Did I say crap? Mankiw's recent post on his work incentives under McCain's and Obama's tax proposals makes crap look appetizing in comparison. He computes:
even under the low-tax McCain plan, my incentive to work is cut by 83 percent compared to the situation without taxes. (...) Obama's proposed tax hikes reduce my incentive to work by 62 percent compared to the McCain plan and by 93 percent compared to the no-tax scenario. In a sense, putting the various pieces of the tax system together, I would be facing a marginal tax rate of 93 percent.
and concludes:
The bottom line: If you are one of those people out there trying to induce me to do some work for you, there is a good chance I will turn you down. And the likelihood will go up after President Obama puts his tax plan in place.

Jonah the Economist does some pretty good debunking of Mankiw's fallacies, showing that Mankiw uses wrong formulas and wrong parameters, as well as a misleading source for his numbers. But the problems with Mankiw's post don't end there; his underlying logic is fatally flawed. Even if the numbers were correct (they are not), his argument would not hold water.

Mankiw's main premise is that any extra dollar he might earn would be set aside, invested, and bequeathed to his children. That is the only way he gets to apply all taxes to it. And here is how he describes the goals he has for those bequests:
To a large extent, the beneficiaries of that extra effort are my kids. My lifestyle is, as a first approximation, invariant to my income. But if I make an extra few dollars today, I will leave more to my kids when I move on. I won't leave them enough so they can lead lives of leisure, but perhaps I will leave them enough so they won't have to struggle too much to afford a downpayment on their houses or to send their own kids to college.
However, to apply a 45% estate tax under Obama's plan, he must be assuming that the amount of his bequest will exceed $7 million (in today's dollars). His stated modest goals are totally inconsistent with bequeathing that amount. Moreover, as an economist, Mankiw ought to realize that inheriting millions would greatly reduce his children's incentives to work.

Mankiw's narrative is not convincing to any reader seeking more than to validate his own prejudice that Obama will raise taxes and destroy the economy. It is unlikely that, as a star professor who obviously loves what he does, he works primarily for money. Even if he does, he states explicitly that he doesn't want any more money for himself, but only for his children. I like how he describes the purpose of the bequests, but it doesn't add up chronologically. I don't know how old Mankiw's children are, but he is 50, and his calculations assume that he will live to 85. By then, I would think his children would be at least in their 40s. If one of the most successful economists in America believes that his children will need help with down payment on their first homes when they are almost his present age, he is either extremely pessimistic or full of shit.

The very end of Mankiw's post is perhaps its best part:
And the likelihood will go up after President Obama puts his tax plan in place. I expect to spend more time playing with my kids. They will be poorer when they grow up, but perhaps they will have a few more happy memories.
Whether he arrived at this conclusion by flawed logic or not, the outcome seems the best for all parties involved (especially if "poorer" means having only $7,000,000.00 instead of $7,000,001.85). He is actually implying that he and his kids will be better off under Obama's plan (and we will too, as Jonah the Economist concludes). Could anybody refute Mankiw's main point more effectively than Mankiw himself?

I am Joe the Dictator

Having grown up under Communism, I appreciate this saying, made famous by Slavoj Zizek:
One cannot but recall here a witty formula of life under a hard Communist regime: Of the three features—personal honesty, sincere support of the regime and intelligence—it was possible to combine only two, never all three. If one was honest and supportive, one was not very bright; if one was bright and supportive, one was not honest; if one was honest and bright, one was not supportive.
Lately, it has come to my mind every time somebody has mentioned the Republican Party.

Nothing left to risk

Yglesias is quite late in discovering Doug Holtz-Eakin's strange descent into hackery. Holtz-Eakin shed his technocratic reputation back in early June when he defended the constitutionality of wiretaps, something entirely outside his area of expertise. And after some more transgressions, I blogged about his reduction to a campaign hack in July. The widely publicized Blackberry stunt sealed the case, even if he intended it as a joke. It is sad, because he used to be a respectable and honorable professional, but I don't think he has any reputation left to worry about.

Oct 23, 2008

Obsession, but whose?

Like millions of Americans, especially those in swing states, I got the infamous Obsession DVD in the mail. I had heard a lot of negative opinions about it, but I wasn't going to form my own opinion based on somebody else's, so I decided to watch the film and find out what it was like.

After an hour, I emerged from my rec room with two conclusions: (1) the film is a vile bucket of vomit, and (2) its makers are very skilled in propaganda and probably have solid professional experience in similar projects.

The film starts innocently enough, with a warning that it is not about Muslims in general and that most Muslims are peaceful and have nothing to do with radical Islamist terrorism. Then it lists some well-known attacks by al-Qaida and related groups, and thus far the exposition is mostly accurate. (The only problem is throwing Chechen terrorism in Russia into the mix. As far as I know, the only thing it has in common with al-Qaida attacks is the religion of the perpetrators.) The early parts of the film are quite reasonable and balanced; the impression is consistent with the initial warning - terrorists are exceptions, aberrations, not representative of Muslim people.

But as the movie progresses, there are more extremist Muslims shown, and their extremism gets more severe. By the end, you can easily forget that there were any reasonable Muslims. Also, about the middle of the film, comparisons with Nazism and Nazi Germany begin, and soon they become the theme of the film. The explicit message, repeated several times, is that Western democracies are as cavalier about the Islamist threat as they were about the Nazi threat in the 1930s. This point is supported almost entirely by images and suggestions; there is no critical reasoning involved - and it couldn't be, because there are hardly any similarities between radical Islamism and Nazism beside hatred for Jews and widespread fanaticism, both common features of violent, hateful movements.

Perhaps most sinister tactic employed in the film is the thesis - again mainly developed near the end - that radical Islamists are everywhere around us, infiltrating the mainstream society, indistinguishable from normal, peaceful Muslims. This is the antithesis of the initial disclaimer: although it maintains that only a small fraction of Muslims are dangerous, it implies that every Muslim is suspect because we can't tell the bad ones from the rest. That message is very dangerous, and I am not surprised that attacks on innocent Muslims were reported soon after the distribution of the film began.

To make matters worse, there is no discussion in the film about what could be done to protect the Western civilization from the Jihadist threat, except that comparisons with Nazi Germany can easily lead the viewer to conclude that nothing short of obliterating the enemy lands will do. Even without such monstrous conclusion, at best the credulous viewer is left fearful and frustrated - a perfect recipe for brewing hate.

Critical minds can experience this film like a bird pooping on their shoulder - it's yucky, but clothes can be washed or, in the worst case, tossed. But people who are less resistant to visceral persuasion may find themselves somewhat diminished as human beings, against their will, and possibly unaware of it. It should definitely not be shown to those young enough that the society chooses to shield them from pornography, but it is also not safe for the majority of adults.

Oct 22, 2008

Who is Maverick?

From Online Etymology Dictionary:
1867, "calf or yearling found without an owner's brand," in allusion to Samuel A. Maverick (1803-70), Texas cattle owner who was negligent in branding his calves. Sense of "individualist, unconventional person" is first recorded 1886, via notion of "masterless."
Negligent in branding his cattle? Not knowing whom he picks and what they do? Has to say "Oops!" and "I screwed up" a lot? It's beginning to make sense now...

Also note that the original Maverick was born 205 years ago.

Oct 20, 2008

We're rednecks, we're rednecks, and we're keepin' the n*****s down

How did Buchanan, Will and Limbaugh not think of this:

Of course! Colin Powell is a secret Muslim. Those Jamaicans, they are all Muslims. Look at the name of the Olympic champion in 100 meters dash: Usain Bolt. That's like Hussein. I bet Colin Powell's middle name is Muhammad!

And those Jamaicans who are not Muslim are pot-smoking Ethiopians. Ergo, Colin Powell is a secret pot-smoking Muslim Ethiopian! Of course he is for Obama!

(Next: Is Christopher Buckley secretly the black child William F. Buckley fathered out of wedlock?)

Dog almost bites man

John McCain had a prepared response to Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama. He told Chris Wallace that four former Secretaries of State had endorsed him - Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, James Baker, and Lawrence Eagleburger. I guess it is breaking news that Republican politicians have endorsed the Republican candidate... But wait! There is something newsworthy in that statement.

Where is George Shultz?

Has he not endorsed McCain? That would be quite interesting. He did sign that "100 Economists for McCain" letter (apparently the most famous document with a number in base 9 in its title). Was he one of the signers who didn't quite read what they were signing?

Or did McCain forget to mention him? That would also be interesting, although for different reasons. If any Republican Secretary of State's endorsement, other than Powell's, would mean anything to independents and moderates, it would be Shultz's.

Oct 15, 2008

Family Feud?

On CNN, after the presidential debate, 14 talking heads are arguing about which candidate did better at winning the votes of the undecided voters. As far as I know, not one of those people is a professional bookmaker and none of them runs a horse race betting establishment, so how can they add value predicting race outcomes?

It would be helpful if some qualified people discussed the issues raised in the debate in some depth, but most of those clowns obviously aren't qualified to say anything substantive, and the two or three who are would be beaten up by the rest if they tried.

Thus we are not allowed to get any more information than what the candidates advertise. Well, not quite... we get to hear thoughts from a group of people who have proven their stupidity by being undecided 20 days before the election and after almost 2 years of campaigning.

I just feel bad for the people who have to clean up the studio after all this bullshit was dropped in it.

I picked the wrong week to quit cutting taxes

The world has changed a lot in the last month, so let me back off my appeal to the candidates to break their tax-cutting promises. This is not the time to think about long-term fiscal responsibility. That must wait until we are out of the recession.

However, I hope there will be many years of Obama presidency after we are out of the recession, and I hope Obama will have the wisdom to break his promise then, and the charisma to convince the American people not to hate him for that broken promise.

Barack Obama stole my puppy

Barack Obama Stole My Puppy is a great new blog dedicated to collecting "personal stories of real Americans (from small towns, not those big city cesspools) of encounters with the Democratic nominee for president". How well do we really know how horrible Barack Obama is?

I thought of leaving my story in a comment, but this is a meme worth spreading, so I'll write here and I hope that at least one of the three people reading this blog will write about their own experience, and this will spread like a chain letter and soon everybody will see what a spammer Barack Obama is.

So please write your own personal stories, just don't forget to credit Barack Obama Stole My Puppy with the monstrous mutation that created this meme.

And here is my horrible, terrible, no good, bad story:

Barack Obama Made a Potty Mouth of Me

One awful day when I was the tender young age of seven and Barack Obama was a mean thirteen, we were traveling on a bus together. How we got to travel together, I don't recall. Either he threw my Mom and Dad under the bus or he ate them; the events I will describe left me so traumatized that I don't know who my parents were. And I think Barack Obama erased my memory, just so I would never remember the time I was better off than I am now.

Anyway, I was a little nervous so I was kicking the seat in front of me, when an old man who was sitting in it turned around and said "Get off my back, you bratty little fucker!" Imagine a seven-year old small town boy being exposed to those words - and Barack Obama didn't cover my ears!

A few minutes later, I was watching the young woman next to the old man playing with the old man's hair. I asked Barack Obama why the mean old man's daughter was petting his head, and he told me he thought she was his wife. I looked at him and asked, "You mean, they have sex and make babies together?" And Barack Obama said "Yeah, I think so." Eeeeygghhh! Yuck! I felt I had been exposed to a pedophile, and Barack Obama didn't even put his hand over my eyes!

Then the woman told the mean old man that his hair was thinning out, and he started yelling. He roared: "At least I don't plaster on makeup like a trollop, cunt!" Everybody in the bus turned and looked at them, which means also at us, as we were sitting right behind them. That made me nervous; I knew I had just heard something I wasn't supposed to hear. So I asked Barack Obama what a "trollop" was, and he said, smirking, "Hey, you should ask about 'cunt' first!" Can you imagine!? "Cunt first!" Until that day I was a good small-town boy who went to church and target practice every Sunday, and now I was suddenly forced to grow up and become a prisoner of sin and blasphemy - and all because of Barack Obama!

I have been a prisoner of Wicked And Revolting language - a prisoner of WAR, for short - all my life, and I am so wretched that I can't get up in the morning or go to sleep without swearing at somebody. It was Barack Obama who traumatized me so, when I was just seven, that I will never get that awful phrase "Cunt first!" out of my head. And now Barack Obama made it worse because he is running for President, and that other guy who is also running for President - see how Barack Obama influences people, they want to immitate him and do the same bad things he does - yeah, that other guy, he keeps saying something that sounds like "Cunt first!" all the time, and he looks like the mean old man on the bus, and I can't escape from the prison of turpitude in which Barack Obama locked me up that awful day when I was the tender young age of seven.

Oct 6, 2008

A tale of two debates

This sounds familiar:
[The Democrat] won the vice-presidential debate 41% to 28% among uncommitted voters according to a CBS poll. An online poll conducted by MSNBC makes the margin of [Democrat's] victory even larger: 67% to 33%. While the MSNBC poll was not a scientific poll, it did have 885,000 responses, so it was a very large poll of Internet users.

The effect of the first presidential debate is starting to kick in. [The Democrat] is surging and [the Republican] is dropping. [The Democrat] has retaken the lead in all-important Ohio by 49% to 48%
That was 4 years ago, so be careful with post-debate optimism. On the other hand, the electoral map looked quite bleak then. Kerry was 53 electoral votes behind, while Obama is 135 EV ahead today, according to the same source. There probably aren't any useful lessons about predictions in this historical snapshot.

What I find more interesting - actually, stunning - is that the poll results about the VP debate winner were so similar in 2004 and 2008. That's completely crazy. I couldn't be more biased than I was for Edwards and against Cheney, but come on, that debate was a tie. Edwards failed in every possible way to show how bad the Bush-Cheney administration was and to distinguish the alternative that he and Kerry offered. He failed to challenge Cheney and call his BS. So both of them came out looking like reasonable people with legitimate policy differences that were a matter of personal preference. An intelligent space alien who saw them for the first time would get a similar impression as in the 1996 Gore-Kemp debate. The problem is, the difference between Jack Kemp and Dick Cheney is... about nine circles of Hell. I think I am charitable to Edwards when I say the 2004 debate was a tie; it was actually the main reason I did not support his candidacy this time.

By contrast, this year we didn't really see a VP debate. We saw a feisty puppy nipping at a gigantic St. Bernard's ankle, half the time not even distracting him, and half the time being shaken away with one twitch. It may have been a pit bull puppy, and she was cute and eager to show off the tricks she learned, but she mainly got praised for not peeing on the floor. The St. Bernard was a bit old, and some say boring, but reassuringly confident and reliable. There is no doubt as to who won; the only question is, can we even call it a contest?

How, then, can we explain the similar viewer verdicts? The only explanation I can think of has to do with the contrast of the deep antipathy for Cheney vs. low expectations and a perverse, respect-less liking for Palin.

And that despite the fact that Palin's most substantive statement in the entire debate was that she agreed with Cheney's views on Vice President's Constitutional powers.

Oct 5, 2008

4 out of 5 economists recommend Obama

The Economist, a conservative publication, says so.

Cokie, you ignorant slut!

Actually, she is an ignorant jerk:
During coverage of the October 2 vice-presidential debate on PBS' Charlie Rose, Rose asked, "Did either of them make any mistakes that you noticed?" National Public Radio senior news analyst Cokie Roberts responded that Sen. Joe Biden "talked about the Bosniaks." Roberts later said: "[I]f [Gov. Sarah Palin] had said 'Bosniak,' everybody would be making a big deal of it, you know." In fact, Biden correctly referred to certain residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Bosniaks.
Why does Cokie Roberts have a job as a journalist? She is clearly not qualified to be a "senior news analyst" if she comments on things she knows squat about without doing any research. Actually, why does Cokie Roberts have any job at all? She is clearly not qualified to be a maid or a cashier if she lacks decency and respect for fellow human beings.

Oct 4, 2008

I'm bailing out on the bailout

Because of my professional qualifications, I probably understand the issues involved in the financial crisis better than, let's conservatively estimate, 98% of Americans.

But then again, because of my professional qualifications and because I understand them relatively well, I am keenly aware of just how much I don't understand.

That's why I am avoiding writing about it here. I am almost certain I'd come to regret parts of what I wrote, and, because of my professional qualifications, that regret would be much worse than if I were wrong about something about which I speak as an ordinary citizen.

That said, there are people whose professional opinion I am ready to endorse. Not because they are necessarily right (if I could tell, the preceding 3 paragraphs would make no sense), but because their knowledge and understanding of economic issues, and particularly of political economy - the way economics and social organization interact and influence each other - has consistently proven to be extremely deep and insightful. At the top of that list are Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong.

So here is a Brad DeLong interview that I find very useful for making sense of what's going on:
Q: What's the most important thing an ordinary person needs to know about the bailout plan Congress was considering this week?

A: It is not supposed to be a bailout plan. The idea is to make sure that the shareholders of banks and institutions that made stupid and unwise loans suffer enormously in terms of losses of wealth while still preserving the flow of funds through the financial sector to the real economy so that companies can create jobs.

Q: So they will suffer?

A: The CEO of Bear Stearns lost 95 percent of his personal portfolio in the forced merger of last March.

Q: What do you think of this plan? Is it what needs to be done?

A: I think the Paulson-Dodd-Frank plan as it is emerging is much, much less effective than it could be. But it is still much better than doing nothing, which is kind of like being poked in the eye with a sharp stick.

Q: Are there still things the government could do that would be more effective?

A: Yes, I think something like the Swedish Plan — by which the government invests in the major banks of New York and elsewhere and essentially takes them over and runs them for a few years, and then when they become profitable again sells off its stake to private investors — would be much more effective and a much better use of the public's money. Indeed, that's why the Swedes did it when they faced a similar crisis back in 1992.

Q: Some people are questioning whether there is really a crisis. Is the situation really as dire as it has been painted?

A: In the second quarter of 2007, $300 billion moved through financial markets into businesses. The businesses borrowed that money in order to expand employment. That number was halved by the second quarter of 2008. The third quarter of 2008 is sure to be less and the fourth quarter of 2008 may be zero. If you want to have an economy with a growing number of jobs, if you want to keep the jobs we have, you've got to keep the flow of funds through the financial markets from savers to businesses going. At the moment it isn't.

Q: How bad are things likely to get?

A: (With the Paulson plan the) unemployment rate will top out between 8 and 10 percent this business cycle. And (without it) the unemployment rate will be higher, but we don't know how much higher.

Q: What does that mean in terms of numbers of people who will be without jobs?

A: Each percentage point of unemployment is something like an extra 1.5 million people who have lost their jobs and can't find another one.

Q: What about the housing market? Is this likely to help stem the decline?

A: Housing prices are still a bunch higher than they were in 2000 and are probably coming down another 10 or 15 percent. The decline is likely to be a lot worse if the economy goes into depression than if it just stays in recession.

Q: Are we in a recession already?

A: I would say yes. Jim Hamilton at the University of California at San Diego, who is my guru in such matters, said there is a more than 95 percent chance that we are in a recession. And I think when they decide when the recession was, they will stay in started last December.

Q: There have been various ideas floated about how to stop the decline of the housing market. Why can't the government simply agree to take over the troubled mortgages that are currently in default?

A: This is indeed one of the plans, to revive the Federal Homeowners Loan Corporation that we had during the Great Depression. The problem is, it's very hard to design such a program that doesn't give away a lot of money to mortgage lenders who shouldn't have made the mortgages in the first place, or to home purchasers who didn't save but instead spent their incomes on other things thinking someone would rescue them if they got into trouble.

Q: Why not declare a moratorium on foreclosures?

A: If you do that, can I stop paying my monthly mortgage payment and still stay in my house? I could get an extra $2,000 a month to spend. ... It would create bigger problems than it solves because those mortgage payments ultimately flow back to investors of all kinds, state and local governments, pension funds and so forth.

Q: What steps can be taken to prevent this from happening again?

A: The first step would be to say you can't trade a derivative security without trading it through an organized derivative exchange. That is to centralize the market and make it transparent for finance, to re-regulate it in a bunch of different ways. The second thing is to say if you are a high-end financial professional or you are getting a high income from anybody, that you have to take a great deal of that income in the form of long-term stock in whatever company is paying you. So if you are giving the company bad advice, you shouldn't be away on the beach, happily living the life of Riley.

Q: Are taxes going to go up?

A: Taxes might go up a tiny bit. But our taxes are going to go up a lot more if the unemployment rate goes up to 10, and all the extra workers who now pay taxes don't and we have to shoulder their burden.

Q: So it sounds like it is actually not such a grim scenario. Unemployment goes to 10 percent and home values fall between 10 and 20 percent and then we start recovering.

A: It depends on whether you are one of those unemployed or not, if you are one of those foreclosed or not, how grim it is. Even if you are not unemployed, a labor market where there is 10 percent unemployment, you have to pay a lot more attention to your boss and accept a lot lower rates of real wage increases than you do when the unemployment rate is 5 percent. It is a different economy.

Q: Once the economy starts to grow again, will things get better?

A: Things are likely to get better. They always have.

Sep 30, 2008

Voters deserve better actuaries

Bragg is promoting his actuarial analysis of McCain and Obama again:
McCain would be the oldest president to begin a first term in office. By the end of a second term, Jan. 20, 2017, he would have a 24.44 percent chance of dying, compared with 5.76 percent for Obama, the firm estimates.
As far as I can tell, those numbers seriously understate the difference in the candidates' respective longevity prospects.

Let's start from the average mortality, given only the candidates' age and sex. McCain is 72 years and 32 days old and he will be 80 years and 144 days old on January 20, 2017. Using Social Security's life tables, his probability of dying before the end of his second term is 32.2%. Barack Obama is 47 years and 57 days old; his probability of dying by the same day, which in his case is age 55 years and 169 days, is 4.3%.

(Non-geeks may skip this paragraph: I used the 1940 cohort table for McCain and 1960 cohort table for Obama. Those are the closest to their birth years. Those choices favor McCain by the amount of mortality improvement from his 1936 cohort to the 1940 cohort. The difference is hardly negligible: using the 1930 cohort, we'd get 34.7% for the same ages, and linear interpolation yields approximately 33.2%, so the result I used is biased in McCain's favor by about 1 percentage point. Similarly, using 1960 cohort mortality for Obama introduces a slight - although almost negligible in this case - bias against Obama. One further geek note: I derived all survival probabilities by linear interpolation between nearest integer-year ages. That is more than accurate enough for the purpose of this analysis.)

Of course, there is more information available about the candidates, and Bragg lists some factors used:
He classified the Democrat as a smoker with minor upper respiratory problems, probably linked to his smoking. Obama announced in February that he was trying to quit smoking again, with the aid of nicotine gum.

"We don't consider you a nonsmoker until you stay quit for 12 months," said Brooks.

In the spring, the Obama campaign released a letter from the candidate's doctor declaring him to be in excellent health. He had very good cholesterol levels, his EKG was normal, his pulse was 60 beats per minute, and his blood pressure was an outstanding 90 over 60. Obama also exercises regularly.

But Obama has a family history of cancer. His mother died of ovarian cancer and his maternal grandfather died of prostate cancer. Obama's PSA screening test for prostate cancer showed no sign of abnormalities.

For the Republican, Brooks took into account a history of skin cancer, degenerative arthritis from his Vietnam war injuries, moderately high cholesterol, mild vertigo and that McCain is a former smoker who quit in 1980.

McCain allowed reporters to review eight years of medical records, more than 1,000 pages. They show that he is cancer-free, has a strong heart and is generally in good health. As a three-time melanoma survivor, his biggest health worry is a recurrence of that cancer. But he is closely watched by his dermatologist, and any future melanoma should be caught in time to be treated successfully. McCain maintains a healthy weight and blood pressure, and takes medication for his cholesterol.

That is hardly an unbiased account, and the statement that "McCain allowed reporters to review eight years of medical records" is, at best, barely true. In any case, the factors mentioned in the article should be worse news for McCain than for Obama.

Let's start with smoking. It is true that Obama wouldn't qualify for non-smoker rates if he applied for a life insurance policy today, but life insurance underwriting imposes rather crude discrete categories by necessity. (Verification is costly and the potential for cheating is high; for example, someone who smokes two packs a day could claim to smoke one pack a week.) This individualized analysis can do much better than that. Obama's quitting has not been entirely successful, but he is clearly closer to a former smoker than to a current one. McCain stopped smoking years ago, but he used to smoke two packs a day for 25 years. So they have a similar smoking history and quit at a similar age. By itself, this factor would make each of them more likely to die than an average man of their age. The effect is probably greater for Obama mainly because fewer men of his age are smokers, so average mortality for his cohort is based on a higher percentage of non-smokers. I would be curious to see what factors Bragg applied to account for smoking history.

(Another note for wonks: Insurers generally charge smokers double or even higher rates than nonsmokers, and that is soundly based on experience, but those factors apply to a baseline of the insured population, i.e., to the people who have passed other underwriting hurdles. For example, by the Society of Actuaries' 90-95 Basic Select tables, a male smoker of Obama's age would have about 3.5% chance of dying in the next 8 years, which is better than the average from the Social Security tables. Similarly, a smoker of McCain's age would have 23% chance of dying in the next 8 years, again better than in the SSA tables. Another thing to keep in mind is that, in insurance underwriting, smoking also serves as a proxy to other risky behavior, which means that not all of the excess mortality of smokers is caused by smoking.)

The candidates' fitness balances their smoking history. Both candidates seem to have healthy hearts, and Obama's pulse and blood pressure cited by Bragg are impressive. Obama is thin and McCain's weight is normal. They both seem significantly more fit than average men of their respective ages. Fitness-related mortality patterns are far less well known than smoking-related ones, but my guess would be that both candidates make up in fitness about as much as they lose from smoking history. Additionally, both are married and have (as far as we know) healthy spouses, which also improves their longevity prospects. Not to mention that both have access to best available health care.

So far, very similar adjustments to age/sex baseline apply to both candidates, but the rest is all bad news for McCain. Melanoma is a serious type of cancer, prone to metastasizing that is hard to detect and treat. It is true that McCain has been free of symptoms for 8 years and that it improves his prognosis, but the fact that he's had 4 episodes of melanoma, and that the last one was over 2 mm deep, raise additional concerns. For lesions like his last one, 5-year survival rate is 63-79% and 10-year 51-64%. He has survived for 8 years, so the greatest risk is behind him, but he is not out of the woods:
“With melanoma, a patient is never completely clear,” said Dr. Shapiro, the N.Y.U. expert.

If melanomas do recur, standard treatment options are limited for many to surgery and a difficult form of chemotherapy. The chances of long-term survival diminish.
Precise estimates aren't available, but it is hard to see how McCain's chance of dying from this one cause alone would be less than 10% over the next 8 years.

Another issue for McCain is the long-term effects of maltreatment by the Vietcong. Five and a half years of injuries, torture and malnutrition certainly have health consequences. Quantifying the effect is difficult, but that's not a good reason to ignore it altogether.

In summary, there is little reason to think that Obama's probability of dying in the next 8 years exceeds that of an average man of his age - 4.3 percent. In fact, it is probably less than 3.5 percent, the number based on life insurance policy experience. On the other hand, I don't see how McCain's probability of dying in the same period would be much less than one-third. In other words, McCain is at least 9 times as likely to die in office as Obama. Bragg tells us it is not quite 4.5 times. Unless he publishes more details about the calculation and the assumptions, I can't see how his results could be justified.

UPDATE: It is probably wrong to focus on survival to the end of second term. Incumbency is an advantage in an election, but we don't elect a President for 8 years, and we would (hopefully) have updated health information before the next election. Going back to the baseline (Social Security tables), a man of McCain's age has 15.4% chance of dying before January 20, 2013, and a man of Obama's age has 2.0% chance of dying in the same period. By the way, the shorter the period we look at, the more significant a factor McCain's cancer is, because the probability of recurrence goes down the longer he's already survived.

Sep 29, 2008

All day long I'd biddy biddy bum if I were a wealthy man

Can somebody explain to me how it makes any sense that Congress is receding for Rosh Hashana? All last week, including the weekends, solving the financial crisis was a matter of utmost urgency, but now it can wait till Thursday? We are suspending the crisis so that Barney Frank can eat apples and honey? That's just nuts.

I guess all we can do in the meantime is pray:
Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man...
The economy is as precarious as a fiddler on the roof. May God save the United Shtetl of Anatevka!

Sep 28, 2008

A DHB in the WH!?

Seeing Obama's 5-8 point lead in the most recent tracking polls, I am changing from hopeful to optimistic that, after 28 years, we will have a Decent Human Being in the White House.

The last time a DHB was President:
  • John Lennon's and Yoko Ono's (Just Like) Starting Over topped the Hot 100 chart;
  • Bill Haley, Bob Marley, Hoagie Carmichael, Joe Louis, Albert Speer, Moshe Dayan, Nelson Algren, William Holden, and Natalie Wood were alive;
  • Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Josh Groban, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Alba, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Anna Kournikova, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams were not born yet;
  • The Space Shuttle had not been launched, computer viruses did not exist, and AIDS had not been described;
  • The most advanced personal computer was Apple II Plus, with 48 kB of RAM, expandable to 64 kB;
  • Moonraker was the latest James Bond film;
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark had not been released;
  • Tom Cruise had not appeared in any movie, and Tom Hanks' biggest claim to fame was playing Kip Wilson in the TV series Bosom Buddies;
  • The head anchor of The CBS Evening News was Walter Cronkite;
  • Wheel of Fortune was hosted by Chuck Woolery and Jeopardy! was off the air;
  • Dynasty and Hill Street Blues were brand new shows, and the word "Smurf" meant nothing (unless you read Belgian comics);
  • MTV did not exist; and
  • Prince Charles was a bachelor.

Thoughts on the first BHO-JSM debate

I thought both candidates did well as far as debate performance goes, and they both succeeded in projecting the types of persona that have defined their respective candidacies so far. Obama appeared serious, thoughtful, assertive and "presidential" (whatever that means, but there is nearly a consensus about that characterization). McCain was the same avuncular elder statesman he was in his acceptance speech (which I still think was a success, despite what almost all the pundits say), friendly to the audience but aggressive toward enemies. McCain's problem is that he counts his opponent among those enemies, which works great at the Republican convention, but not so great in front of a diverse audience and face-to-face with the opponent.

My prediction - which now appears too pessimistic - was that the debate would not change the poll numbers. I thought both candidates scored some important points with concerned leaners. Those who already prefer Obama, but worry about his lack of experience and doubt his leadership ability, were certainly reassured by his confidence, poise, and control of issues. And those who already prefer McCain, but worry that he may be losing his mind because of his recent erratic decisions and apparent episodes of confusion, were reassured that he is still able to think quickly on his feet and stay focused for 90 minutes. I thought the two effects would approximately balance and that the free fall of McCain's numbers would end in a cushioned landing (although without a bounce).

In thinking about the effect of the debate on the election, I try to ignore the substantive points because I assume that a vast majority of undecided voters are so uninformed that they are unable to assess those points critically and intelligently. The same holds for McCain's lies and misconceptions - I assume that anybody who has not yet realized that McCain is a pathological liar and that most of his economic and foreign policy ideas are sophomoric is not able to draw any such conclusions from the debate. And I still think those assumptions are correct.

Where I think I was wrong, though, is in discounting the effect of body language. Although early pundits' comments picked up on McCain's avoidance of eye contact, I thought that the significance of body language was hyped up in the media. I based my thinking on the 2000 Gore-Bush debates, when viewers didn't seem to notice Gore's alleged sighs and eye rolling until they were spoonfed those talking points by the media; and I also thought that, as much as McCain has lost the support he once had in "his base", the pundits weren't going to nitpick on his body language as they did on Gore's. What I overlooked was that McCain's physical clues were real, and the kind that people perceive instinctively (as some primate behavior researchers have pointed out).

It was also a rare opportunity to see the candidates standing side-by-side. When you see McCain alone, you can do a mental adjustment for his age and perceive a relatively fit and vigorous man, but that is much more difficult to do when you see him next to his much younger, fitter and - don't underestimate the importance of this - four inches taller opponent.

OK, enough about appearances and the effect on the race; I cannot write a post this long without saying anything about the contents of the debate. But I won't say anything about their disagreements; nobody will be surprised to hear that, whenever the two candidates disagreed, I preferred Obama's position. However, I deplore some of their agreements.

I was disappointed - or rather, I have been disappointed for a while, this is not new - that Obama agreed with McCain on two clearly wrong foreign policy positions: that the surge in Iraq worked, and that Russia bears all the blame for invading Georgia. I am hoping that Obama and Biden are smarter than to adopt those simplistic falsehoods, and that they have only temporarily adopted those talking points because they concluded that now is not the time to try to convince the American people that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Since that would almost certainly be a correct assessment, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope that the Obama-Biden administration would be more thoughtful than they are willing to show now.

Of course, even in the worst case (that they really agree with those statements), they would not be any worse than the alternative, and on a host of other issues the alternative is simply unthinkable.

UPDATE: Yep, I hear "Horseshit!" in this clip.

Sep 27, 2008

May the farce be with you

It's kind of disturbing that the SNL opening skit is funny even though it is more a reenactment than a parody.

Boycott GE!

Pressured by Joseph Goebbles Pravda Bill O'Reilley, MSNBC stopped airing this ad:

MSNBC is owned by GE, and I suspect that this newest chickenshit decision, just like the recent removal of Keith Olberman from the election news coverage, is dictated by the corporate Big Brother. Another step on the road to the fascist-communist Soviet States of America.

It is time to defend freedom of speech. Send the ad to everyone you know and think twice before buying GE products.