Monday, November 03, 2008

Checking In

Hey everybody, I didn't update this weekend, but I'm still around and plan to continue this blog regularly, though I may not post much until after the results come in tomorrow. I'll likely be going to polling places in Northern Virginia tomorrow, armed with umbrellas and/or bottled water (who knows, maybe some magic tricks), to make sure people stay in their long lines. Virginia seems pretty safe for Obama, but I continue to believe that Pennsylvania will be the key battleground of the night, and I also believe that there is a very serious chance for McCain to take it. We need to ratchet up the margins in Philly and its suburbs, making sure that most of the disgruntled white Clinton supporters have come around. There simply aren't enough votes in the western part of the state.

Final thought: Today, one day before the historic election of her grandson to be the first non-white leader of the free world, Madelyn Dunham ("Toot") has died. Life may not be immortal (who knows?), but surely her love and grace will stay with him forever.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dobson on Obama's America

James Dobson has released a "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America." The section on homosexuality is the first, and by far the longest. My personal favorite part:
Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.

Many Christian teachers objected to teaching first-graders that homosexual behavior was morally neutral and equal to heterosexuality. They said it violated their consciences to have to teach something the Bible viewed as morally wrong. But state after state ruled that their refusal to teach positively about homosexuality was the equivalent of hate speech, and they had to teach it or be fired. Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired, and there are hardly any evangelical teachers in public schools any more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

We Are All Joe the Plumber Now

I find this extraordinarily funny and revealing:

Joe's off on his book tour, or maybe planning his first country album. No point in jumping aboard a sinking ship.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


There was an important segment tonight on Newshour about the voting problems and irregularities across the country.

It's an issue I care a lot about--- if you happen to care also, check out Why Tuesday?, an organization devoted to election reform, including raising the obvious (and eponymous) question: why in God's name do we vote on a Tuesday?

I have more revolutionary questions to ask, but I'll save them for a later post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Extended Hours for Florida

Genuine kudos to Charlie Crist. Via the Miami Herald:

Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday extended early voting hours across Florida to 12 hours a day.

The executive order comes after record early voting turnout has contributed to long lines at polling sites.

Current Florida law allows for early voting to be conducted eight hours a day each weekday and for a total of eight hours during the weekends.

With Crist's order, early voting sites will be open the rest of this week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will be open a total of 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the last day of early voting.

''It's not a political decision,'' Crist said moments after signing the order, which declares a state of emergency in Florida. "It's a people decision.''

Republicans, who get very nervous when they hear that Americans are voting in large numbers, are less enthused. From Politico's Ben Smith:
He just blew Florida for John McCain," one plugged in Florida Republican just told me.
Nice work.

A Blow for Syria

This whole thing is very troubling:
The Syrian government ordered an American school and a U.S. cultural center in Damascus closed on Tuesday in response to a deadly U.S. attack on a village near the Iraq border, the state-run news agency said.

U.S. officials said the raid killed a top operative of al-Qaida in Iraq who intelligence suggested was about to conduct an attack in Iraq, but Syria and the Iraqi government criticized the raid.

That "criticism," of course, is based on the fact that U.S. troops in four helicopters attacked a building near the Iraq border and killed eight people. It has been described, rightfully, as a "barbaric" act, and as an extreme violation of international law. All for the purpose of taking out a group allegedly planning an attack in Iraq.

How long will we continue doing dirty work for Iraq and the thugs who run their country?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pennsylvania: By the Numbers

I believe this election will come down to Pennsylvania, and though Barack Obama is very unlikely to lose it, I still think there's reason to put more time and money into it. If he somehow comes up short in the Keystone state, I can envision an Election Night scenario where McCain also squeaks by in Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina--- in which case he'd win, if just barely.

So it's the one thing that's keeping me up at night: is Obama really so far up in Pennsylvania? According to this must-read article by Michael Barone, yes. And it'll probably stay that way:
High-income, high-education voters in the suburbs of big metro areas, my hypothesis goes, are preoccupied with long-term wealth accumulation—and react sharply against the Republican Party when their wealth is suddenly sharply diminished when there is a Republican president. Modest-income, modest-education voters in less affluent surroundings, it seems judging from McCain's relatively good showing in Pennsylvania outside the heavily populated southeast, react much less sharply, because they have never expected to accumulate all that much in the way of wealth anyhow, consider themselves reasonably well protected by the existing safety net and feel free to vote (as more affluent Philly suburbanites have done in better times) on the basis of their opinions (conservative in their case) on cultural issues. The affluent are less afraid of the tax increases that Obama promises them than they are shocked by the negative effect on their wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble and the sharp decline in stock prices.
That just sounds really true. So I'm gonna go with it, and find something else to lose sleep over.

Indiana Walks Out on John McCain

Good for them:
Nina Williams, a stay-at-home mom in Lake County, Indiana, tells us that her daughter recently called her from her job at the center, upset that she had been asked to read a script attacking Obama for being "dangerously weak on crime," "coddling criminals," and for voting against "protecting children from danger."

Williams' daughter told her that up to 40 of her co-workers had refused to read the script, and had left the call center after supervisors told them that they would have to either read the call or leave, Williams says. The call center is called Americall, and it's located in Hobart, IN.
These people have a lot of courage. And Americans are abandoning John McCain in exactly the same way--- tuning out, walking out, hitting the mute button. Thank God we only have 8 more days of this.

McCain : Bailout Package :: Kerry : War

It seems like John McCain is trying to have it both ways on the bailout bill. He's been attacking it for several days.

It reminds me a lot of John Kerry's late revelation in 2004 that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Kerry could have had the courage of his convictions if he'd opposed it from the beginning, or somehow made a strong pivot in really opposing it in all its tragic awfulness. But he never could make the case, because he'd been hedging all along.

I think that if McCain had taken a principled stand against the bailout, he could have gained (some) traction in the polls as a "free-market populist," or whatever the House Republicans are now calling themselves. But he didn't. In fact, as we all know, his handling of that situation has provoked nothing but embarrassment and scorn even among his party mates.

But it didn't have to be that way.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things get John Grishamy

Sounds like jury deliberations are heating up over at the Stevens trial:
The trial, which began Sept. 22, has been beset by problems since the case went to the eight women and four men on Wednesday afternoon. Within hours, jurors asked to go home, sending a note to the judge saying that things had become "stressful." On Thursday afternoon, in a more explicit note, jurors asked the judge to dismiss one of their own.

"She has had violent outbursts with other jurors, and that's not helping anyone," the note read.

Sullivan did not send home the juror in question. Instead, he called jurors into the courtroom and told them to "encourage civility and mutual respect among yourselves."
Judge Sullivan then added: "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."


If you're an Office fan--- or a fine, hard-working boy from Scranton--- this quiz from Radar brings the ultimate challenge: a face-off between Joe Biden and Michael Scott.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Broadway feeling the pinch?

By any measure, Broadway's Spring Awakening has been an enormous success. And yet I have to say that I would have expected a far longer run:
They don’t do sadness, not even a little bit. But it’s hard not to feel sad for the members of the cast of the Broadway show “Spring Awakening,” who learned on Thursday that it is scheduled to close Jan. 18. Adapted from the 1891 Frank Wedekind play of the same name, “Spring Awakening” combined a youthful cast with a pop score written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater and choreography by Bill T. Jones to yield a 21st-century hit. The show won eight Tony awards in 2007, including best musical, original score, choreography and direction of a musical (won by Michael Mayer); the cast recording also won a Grammy Award. “Spring Awakening” (the cast members Alexandra Socha and Hunter Parrish are above) will have played 29 previews and 859 performances at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, preceded by an Off Broadway run at the Atlantic Theater. The closing of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” has also been scheduled for Jan. 18.
Hairspray is also scheduled to close, on Jan. 4. All shows go down eventually, but I have to wonder what kind of effect the economic downturn has had on these announcements. And will a long-term recession--- with the resultant decline in people's discretionary spending--- have a major impact, not just on shows getting produced, but on the types of shows that get produced? 

Third Party Watch: Nader's Blitz

In an attempt to break the Guinness record of "most campaign events in one day," Ralph Nader will be making 21 distinct appearances across the commonwealth of Massachusetts today:
The independent presidential candidate is scheduled to make 21 campaign stops in Massachusetts on Saturday, beginning in Westfield at 8:10 a.m. and ending with a stop in Stockbridge at 10:10 p.m. and then Sheffield at 10:50 p.m. His campaign claims the tour will give him the record for most campaign stops in a single day.
Nader, by the way, is appearing on the ballot in 45 states this year, though he's not expected to make a significant dent in the popular vote of either major candidate. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Ground Game

David Plouffe held a conference call with reporters today, arguing that the map is looking solid for Obama. The best part:
He added that the campaign is "surprised" by McCain's campaign performance in the Granite State, "We'd thought there might be a chance he'd over-perform in New Hampshire, given his history with the voters there." Instead, the Palin pick has driven away McCain’s traditional independent base in New Hampshire, Plouffe added.
The most surprising story of this whole campaign is the total collapse of McCain's brand as a maverick or a moderate. But it's a self-inflicted wound.

More on Obama and Prop 8

We know our friends down at Red Yellow Blue pretty well, so we're not awfully surprised that they have a different take on what Obama's role should be on Prop 8:
Obama's quietness on Prop 8 does not mean he is not against it; it is merely political common sense. It is in keeping with his campaign: consider that on, under the Issues flyout menu, there are 25 choices of general themes, from Civil Rights to Women, with a miscellaneous "Additional Issues" tab. Hate crimes and employment discrimation are two sub-issues under "Civil Rights" where sexual orientation is mentioned, but GLBT does not merit its own tab.
To clear up a (relatively minor) technical point, I would note that the Obama website certainly deals with LGBT issues by name, just not in the "issues" section. You have to click "LGBT" under the "people" tab, which brings you to a page with video, issue statements, and a side-by-side comparison with John McCain. The same is true for "Republicans," "People of Faith," and "Small Business" owners. Surely Red Yellow Blue does not believe that Obama is strategically marginalizing any of those groups.

Obama has come out publicly against Prop 8, and has dispatched Michelle as a quasi-ambassador on this and other LGBT concerns. But he hasn't spoken much about it.

More from Red Yellow Blue:
The myopic view I'm referring is one in which GLBT rights trump all other issues, period. This view requires a Democratic candidate to campaign out-and-out for gay rights, even if it means losing conservative voters in critical states. Sullivan's outrage against Obama on Prop 8 is equivalent to feminists' protests against the Augusta National Golf Club. By which I mean it focuses on what is technically a civil rights issue in the absence of urgency or global context. Feminists should concede that women's admission to golf is not the most pressing issue facing women in the U.S., let alone facing their sisters in Africa and Asia.
This is, to put it delicately, nonsense. First of all, neither Sullivan nor we have expressed anything close to "outrage" on the issue. We've simply requested that Obama record a 30 second spot to play in a few targeted markets close to election day in a state he has absolutely no chance of losing. The reason is simple math: likely black voters in California currently favor Prop 8 by a margin of 58-38. If he has any sway with this community (and it's not far-fetched to believe he does), an Obama ad could very well hold down this margin significantly, and thus defeat Prop 8.

Imagine an Obama spot that went something like this:
Hi, I'm Barack Obama. I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about Proposition 8. It's a divisive constitutional amendment here in California designed to distract from the vital issues we face in this election. I know there are disagreements on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that all people have the right to live lives free of discrimination, and not to have their rights taken away from them by right-wing extremists. I hope you'll vote for me this November 4th, and when you do, please, vote against Prop 8.
This is the ad that is somehow going to make Ohio factory workers concerned about layoffs, Colorado moms concerned about McCain's their kids' health care, and Virginia coal miners concerned about gas prices, suddenly switch gears and vote for the guy who believes "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" and has a new economic plan every twenty-four hours?

In order for that to happen, a hearty combination of the following things would have to be in place: (1) persuadable voters in OH, VA, FL, etc. with televisions tuned into California media markets; (2) a Republican candidate willing to demagogue the issue, or even discuss it; (3) a loathing of gays among those persuadable voters that's so intense, they would readily ignore every other issue and vote against a candidate who took any position mildly favorable to gay rights on a consitutional scheme in another state.

Needless to say, none of the above is even remotely true. If this is the lesson Red Yellow Blue took from 2004, they are drastically over-reading the stats. Karl Rove's strategy of ensuring constitutional refurenda in 11 states was moderately successful at increasing turnout among evangelicals, but none of this had anything to do with where John Kerry stood on the issue. (And, of course, he strongly opposed gay marriage, at least publicly.) These people voted for the bans en route to voting for Bush, not the other way around. There is no evidence that any undecided or originally pro-Kerry voter switched over the marriage issue. If this had occurred, Bush would have taken Michigan and Oregon, where gay marriage bans bulldozed to victory and Kerry had healthy victories.

Finally, I detect a pervasive disdain for the whole Prop 8 fight in Red Yellow Blue's post. I don't believe they quite grasp the import of this fight. Thousands of couples in California are already married. The Supreme Court of California has bestowed what most legal scholars agree is a fundamental constitutional right on a long-persecuted minority. This amendment, for the first time in all of American history, would be an affirmation of that right by the populace of the largest state in the union. That affirmation now stands a 50-50 chance. (By the way, if the "myopia" Red Yellow Blue posits really existed, and if the LGBT community was truly politically tone-deaf, we'd be wasting a lot more time and energy on the likely-to-pass bans in Arizona and Florida.) A small nod from a man with a lot of political capital (especially in California, and especially among blacks) is not at all too much to ask.

Cowering in fear whenever Republicans bring up a controversial issue is what led directly to Democratic defeats in 2000, 2002, and 2004. I have no doubt that Bob Shrum and Mark Penn would advise Obama against making my ad--- but that's about as good a reason I can think of to do it.