Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How Blogs Die

This is creepily familiar:
There are two general signs that a blog is heading toward extinction. The first is a declining frequency of posting, and the second is a proportional rise in the number of posts about the blog itself. These two don’t always go hand-in-hand; sometimes it’s just one or the other, sometimes you don’t get either warning sign. But when either of the two is spotted it’s reasonable to begin wondering how long that curious internet publication will continue to be updated.
Hog terminal? We should all be so lucky. Nah, I'm just busy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Teflon Now Unnecessary

If true, this is fascinating. Apparently the scurrilous attack dogs are going to sit out this election.
[L]ess than five months before Election Day, there are no serious anti-Obama 527s in existence nor are there any immediate plans to create such a group.

Conversations with more than a dozen Republican strategists find near unanimity in the belief that, at some point, there will be a real third-party effort aimed at Obama.

But not one knows who will run it, who will pay for it, what shape it will eventually take or when such a group may form.

More worrisome for Republicans who believe such an outside attack apparatus is essential to defeating Obama, some key individuals and groups who were being looked to for help say they won’t be involved.

T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman who gave $3 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and who numerous GOP sources said was being looked to as a funding source this year, is sitting the race out.

“He is not giving anything to 527s involved in the presidential race this cycle, and has communicated that…to Republican strategists and operatives,” said Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser.
See Also

Rosser said Pickens “has a much broader public policy initiative in mind that will focus on energy, and is approaching that in a bipartisan manner.” He only “contributed last cycle because they were in play, and were so heavily funded on the other side.”
We'll see what develops, but maybe Republicans have done the math and come to the obvious conclusion. (That is: historic first black candidate + low chance of winning + fighting for more grossly incompetent Republicans = sit this one out and wait for a decent year and candidate.)

Trickle-Down Econ -- With a Bonus Chart!

At BlueOregon, I'm getting taken to task for my dim understanding of econ. Never mind that my brilliant post has purty graphics. Here's a bonus graphic I couldn't work into the piece, partly because it only weakly communicates the central point. But still, a graph's a graph:

Read the post there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Let's Talk Beer

Over at the Washington Monthly, Kevin talks beer. In case you missed it, a Belgian-based megacorp has offered to buy out Anheuser-Busch (the second-biggest buying the biggest--here's a very long post on it at my beer blog). Apparently, the half-wits at the WSJ (who recently wrote an article about my activities--that obviously being the full-witted half) think it would be great politics for the workers to sign onto the merger. You know, because the Wall Street Journal always has the workers' back.

Drum points out the obvious (Am I the only one who thinks workers are going to be less than reassured by the prospect of a "new-and-improved management team" that's "focused on cost-cutting?") and then offers this:
In any case, [the WSJ's] main point is that "it would be politically untenable for Obama to welcome a takeover," so John McCain should take the bait and position himself as a champion of free trade, even if it does mean letting a Belgian company run by a Brazilian dude take control of good 'ol American Budweiser. After all, who better to take a stand on this than a guy who dumped his first wife 30 years ago in order to marry a wealthy heiress who now owns one of the largest Anheuser Busch distributors in the country?
That's a paragraph rich in flavor, and I hope McCain does take the bait. But I don't agree with Kevin that Obama can stay neutral on the deal. It's a great opportunity to for him to bring some nuance to this and argue both for the workers, for St. Lousians (?), and for small businesses in opposing this deal. Obviously, this is a big deal for the locals. They don't want a faceless company owning the local company (InBev has 200+ brands and is worldwide). Whatever else you can say, it won't preserve the local flavor. One of the ways InBev makes these deals work is to streamline ops--which means laying off workers. Brewery work is good, honest, put-your-kids-through-college work. Finally, this is probably bad new for many of the 1400 small craft breweries in the country, who now have to compete against a multinational megacorp for barley and hops--in the middle of shortages on both.

There's no upside for anyone not employed by InBev that I can see. I say make McCain go for the defense, and then roll out the above talking points. Beer drinkers are the guys you want on your team.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Lead for Obama

Okay, it's probably just the post-nomination bump, but still, Obama's lead in the current NBC/WSJ poll is impressive: 47 - 41%, with leads in a bunch of key demographics. Remember how Obama can't win women and the working-class? Not so much:
Obama is ahead with key demographics where his electability had previously been questioned. Obama leads among women 52%-33%, with Catholics 47%-40%, among independents 41%-36%, and even 47%-42% with blue-collar workers.

And contrary to the idea that his poor primary performances among Hispanics reflected an electability problem, he now leads 62%-28% with that group -- well ahead of John Kerry's 53%-44% advantage in 2004.

He does lose among some demos, but you always lose among some demos:
Yet among white men — who made up 36 percent of the electorate in the 2004 presidential election — Obama trails McCain by 20 points, 55-35 percent. “That is the reason why this election is close,” Hart notes.

In addition, McCain leads Obama among white suburban women (44-38), group which makes up about 10 percent of all voters that Hart calls “absolutely critical” for both candidates in the fall.
But this is rather remarkable:
However, Obama has a seven-point advantage (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? Newhouse explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it is white women that usually decide the race. “If a Republican wins among white women, we usually win that election,” he says, noting that George W. Bush carried that group in 2000 and 2004.
You might expect this group--lots of Hillary supporters there--to be less receptive to Obama right now. If he wins white women, he's going to easily win the popular vote.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


On the way to work today at 8:30, the bank said it was 50. Spitting rain. On the way home, 55, spitting rain. Snow in the Cascades down to 2500 feet. Been like this for weeks. When the sun breaks and the mercury tips 60 (whoo hoo, 62!), we race out to trim the grass before the next squall blows in. I'm as delighted to live in this wet wonderland as the next guy, but man, even I have my limits.

[Update: high of 56 in Portland today; a record low.]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Primary Post-Mortem

With Hillary's wonderfully gracious concession on Saturday, we can finally write the obits to this primary election. I have a tag called 2008 Dem Primaries, and this will be the last post I use it on. Whew. But there are some final words left to be said.

(I come to bury Hillary, not to praise her...)

Truth and Myth
It is an odd thing that the supporters of the woman who threw mud are the disgruntled ones, but so it is. What began as a political two-step (stomp John, stomp Barack, move to your left) turned into a great tragedy of mysogyny. Even in that gracious adieu, Hillary tried to move the hands of history writers by invoking the glass ceiling that, once again, kept another woman in her place.

No thanks. Throughout this election, Hillary did rhetorical flip-flops; she started out as the inevitable candidate and ended up as the underdog; she ran against Obama's change and then said she was its agent; she said whomever had the most pledged delegates deserved the win--right up until that person wasn't her; and most egregiously, she went from acknowledging the illegitimacy of Florida and Michigan to championing their cause as nothing less than a civil rights issue.

So it's no surprise that she wishes to retrospectively cast herself as Joan of Arc, now burning on the pyre of ignorance and sexism. It is true that she was the first serious female candidate for president, and it's true that this was ground-breaking. But it's also true that the reason she was the first was because her husband had already been the president. Would Hillary Rodham Clinton be running if she'd instead been, say Hillary Rodham Reich, wife of a former Secretary of Labor? Nobody believes this. That the first woman who made it this far was the wife of a former, recent president puts things in a different context, yes? The feminist note is muffled.

In any campaign, there's a lot of ugliness, and toward the end of this one, Hillary encouraged her supporters to feel slighted. She picked a fight with the media, with "Obama supporters," and others to galvanize support among her base. But no candidate for president escapes this, and for every sexist slight directed at Hillary, there were racist slights directed at Obama. (And Nancy Pelosi gets the sexism in orders of magnitude compared to Hillary, so even there she's not the first female politician to have the right-wing smear machine target her.) But in his case, he diverted attention in every case. Both faced the hurdles any first-timer does, but as with other things in the campaign, Obama was more gracious about it.

Something else is instructive about this whole primary season. Going back to December, look at how the campaigns were positioned and where they were ranked in the national polls. Hillary was running on a platform of experience, of a return to what was good about the 1990s, and trying to bolster a sense of inevitability. She was polling nationally in the mid-forties. John Edwards was running on an economic populist platform and was in the high teens. Obama ran on a platform of changing the way politics are run and looking hopefully toward the future about what kind of changes we could make. He was in the mid-20s, trailing Hillary by 20 points in most polls.

At the end of the campaign, Hillary's message had completely changed. She was now the candidate of the workin' man, a cultural conservative who played well in Appalachia. She was the fightin' underdog who never gave up, the pug-nosed scrapper you couldn't keep down. And she was polling in the low 40s. It's remarkable to look through the list of polls and see how consistent Clinton's numbers were. They almost never veered from the mid-40s, having settled there in about August of 2007. They only really dropped perceptibly in the week before North Carolina. Through the end of the campaign, she slid about three or four points. What's equally as remarkable is that she almost never topped 50% in any poll--and certainly never got near 50% in the aggregate. Forget the primary-by-primary variability; it didn't matter how Clinton ran, her ceiling was 45%.

Obama's message never changed, of course. He started out as the change candidate and hung on, through Ohio and Texas, through Jeremiah Wright, through Goolsbeegate, through West Virginia and everything else. And his numbers continued to rise, sharply after Iowa, but consistently, even when he lost nine of the last 16 contests. By the time he suffered a split decision on June 3 and the indignity of Hillary's non-concession, his Pollster aggregate was over 50%.

Hillary's last final gambit was to make the argument that she was the most electable (the final in a series of latest arguments), but her failure to take Obama out was just further evidence of a fairly obvious fact: even among Dems, she never had a majority of the vote. She couldn't get elected by Dems because she was a minority candidate; the argument that she could have won in November is especially convoluted. Dems did the right thing--the voted for the popular guy.

(Something else for the Obama campaign to consider when selecting the veep.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Not Substantiated by Available Intelligence

Way back when--even before I knew what a blog was--I started keeping a journal of the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush White House. It evolved into Notes on the Atrocities, the blog, which was really my way to document what I could about unspun reality of Washington. So it is no news to me that Bush lied about Iraq. But now it's official. This, from a memo by Jay Rockefeller, who just released two Senate reports (with long, bureaucratic titles): "Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information" and "Report on Intelligence Activities Relating to Iraq Conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans Within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy."
  • Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
  • Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
  • Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
  • Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
  • The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
  • The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

Even in the gentle bureaucratese of Washington, "not substantiated by available intelligence" is well understood to mean "lies."

Let history be the judge.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Time of death, 3:32 pm Pacific Time. Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Saturday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.

Howard Wolfson, one of Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategists, and other aides said she would express support for Mr. Obama and party unity at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory in November.

Her decision came after a day of conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about her future now that Mr. Obama had clinched the nomination. Mrs. Clinton had, in a speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, suggested she wanted to wait before deciding about her future, but in conversations Wednesday, her aides said, she was urged to step aside.

“We pledged to support her to the end,” Representative Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who has been a patron of Mrs. Clinton since she first ran for the Senate, said in an interview. “Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is....”

One of Mrs. Clinton’s aides said they were told that except for her senior advisers, there was no reason to report to work after Friday, and that they were invited to Mrs. Clinton’s house for a farewell celebration. The announcement from Mrs. Clinton was moved to Saturday to accommodate more supporters who wanted to attend, aides said.

Mrs. Clinton’s decision to suspend her campaign, which was first reported by ABC News, was a bow to the emerging political reality. No one in her campaign — including by all reports Mrs. Clinton herself — saw a viable road to the nomination. A suspension of the campaign allows her to continue raising money and pay off millions of dollars in debt.

The party’s desire for Mrs. Clinton to leave the race was signaled, politely, as four top Democratic leaders issued an early morning statement asking all uncommitted delegates to make their decisions by Friday. The statement from the Democratic chairman, Howard Dean, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Harry Reid and Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, stopped short of endorsing Mr. Obama, but aides said they were likely to move in that direction if Mrs. Clinton lingered in the race.
As to that other matter, Mondale addressed it, too:

At the same time, Mr. Mondale — who in his career has served as a vice president, and picked one — suggested that Mrs. Clinton and her supporters pull back from even appearance of campaigning for the No. 2 spot, suggesting it could complicate a critical decision by Mr. Obama.

“I think it’s best he just be left alone,” Mr. Mondale said.

Hope so.

Final Thoughts on the Final Primaries

Everything starts anew. All the conventional wisdom must be set aside now that the two candidates come from opposite sides of the political and party spectrum. Obama no longer competes against a woman with whom he almost uniformly agrees; Obama no longer has to elide frontal responses to cheap shots from his opponent. And most importantly, we now have an entire population as the electorate, not just the split electorates of Democratic and Republican voters.

One storyline which the GOP is fighting with every tool in its box is the emergence of the "Obamacan"--Republicans who are crossing the line for Obama, many of whom were erstwhile Reagan Dems. Whether these creatures exist in any substantial numbers isn't clear, but the meme is itself deadly for McCain. And last night, a caller to NPR brought the point home in a way that could be devastating for the Republicans this year.

It was during a post-election call-in show, host Neal Conan had a Republican strategist as a guest. The strategist began by spinning the web of McCain's sure victory and then they went to the phones. The caller was a long-time Republican, who first and last voted for a Democrat in 1976, his first election. In 1980, he became a Republican with so many others. He is pro-life, and anti-gay marriage. And he's an Obama supporter. At the end of explaining all this, he said that despite this, he supported Obama because "he makes me proud to be an American." Both Conan and the strategist were a little rocked by it, and there was no comeback. The strategist tried to explain why this guy would ultimately come back to the reservation, but neither he nor anyone listening bought it for a second.

If Obama starts winning people over for this reason, look out. He could win in a landslide.

Apropos of that, a bit of mostly unpolished, uncorrected verse. I don't really have a good title, so we'll just go into it.
In our discriminating minds:
the tendency to sift among details.
Even in the theater, some of us are
balancing mental checkbooks while
Bogart rattles on about gin joints.
But let not the particularity--
(Another Maine super for Obama!)
(But what about working-class Ohio whites?)
(Webb on the ticket?)
--blind us to the grandeur

Looking back through the events of
time, we imagine and say
if only I had been there! What an
amazing time.
But you are. Right now
is the grand moment. Your
great, great, great grandchildren
will look back and wonder--
what was it like in that long year?

In that time when America forgot
her dark history, her strange fruit?
At that moment when everything changed
again. And a woman, edged by just a nose!
What times! What amazing times.
What it must have been like.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tale of Two Speeches

The thing that really leaped out from Hillary's speech was not the non-concession or the rallying of the troops, but rather how shockingly narcissistic it was. The whole thing, even when she was ostensibly about her voters or the issues, was always about her. I was surprised to go to the transcript and find it did not read:
"Me me me me me me me me me."


"Me me me me me me me me me me me."
However, I did do a little math, and here's some more illuminating facts.
Obama's Speech | transcript
2,436: Length in words
11%: Devoted to Clinton
19: Number of times he used the word "I"
128: Number of words for every use of the word "I"

Clinton's Speech | transcript
2,257: Length in words
5%: Devoted to Obama
48: Number of times she used the word "I"
47: Number of words for every use of the word "I"
A word to the Obama campaign; pick her as veep and it will be all about her. Same as it ever was.