Saturday, November 29, 2008

The India Bombings

For most Americans, India is a grindingly poor, overpopulated nation of brown people who live in slums--except for the stratum who steal US jobs. No country can come into focus when viewed from such a great remove. In the last few days, the country has been been bleeding through an entry wound in Bombay, as terrorists have been holding hostages in the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels downtown. I have no great confidence that most Americans perceive anything in these acts that subvert their dim impressions of the country. To poor and brown add chaotic and violent. What else is new?

(Not to say that Americans should know. The world's big, and India's far. We can only know so many things. I know nothing of Uzbekistan or Romania and don't feel particularly boorish as a consequence.)

But I know India better than I know any country except the US. I have spent something like two years of my life in India over six visits. I've visited most of the country, and have been to Bombay three times. The place the terrorists hit was the center of the touristed downtown; although I've never had the money to stay at the Oberoi or Taj, I have spent several afternoons sipping mint tea in the Leopold:
In an interview recounting his experience, Nisar Suttar, who works as a part-time guide for tourists in the Colaba section of Mumbai, said that he was standing just outside Leopold’s Cafe at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, when two young men entered the cafe, one carrying a heavy bag. They approached the counter and seemed to order food, Mr. Suttar said. Then, five minutes later, they pulled out automatic rifles and began shooting at the diners before running out of the cafe.
When I read this news, my heart sank. India is not just a chaotic nation sinking amid its own corruption. Quite the opposite; it's one of the only nations on the planet with a multicultural population and a robust democracy. It is a fragile experiment into which I have invested a great deal of emotional energy. If this country, with its ancient culture, massive difficulties, and many languages and peoples, can come together and forge a stable democracy, there is hope for any country. But if chaos and fear overwhelm it ....

I had thought to write about the complicated relations between Muslims and Hindus, and why their cohabitation is so critical if India is to manage. Muslim heads were lopped in 1947. Mosques have been bombed. Recently, train stations have been bombed. The Hindu Nationalist movment has risen to combat the presence of Muslims and has waxed and then waned. (Even the name "Mumbai" is political. Reacting to the Anglicized name, Hindu Nationalists turned this modern city, founded by Portugese and Brits, into a Hindu city--a "screw you" to the millions of Muslims who live there. Thus the use of the original name in this post.)

Fortunately, the post has already been written. Robert Kaplan, who often gets things wrong about other countries, totally nails India's situation:
With this background – and I have provided only the most rudimentary chronicle – the immediate result of the Mumbai terror attacks will be a further hardening of inter-communal relations within India. The latest attacks will also increase the likelihood that in national elections slated for early 2009, the result will be a BJP-led government, as Hindus, who comprise the overwhelming majority of Indian voters, take on another layer of insecurity.
Go read it if you care to understand this country. It's a great post, and may help illuminate the country for people who haven't had ocassion to learn more.

Hog is Dead; Long Live Hog

Hog died months ago. To be a living blog, posts must flow like blood through the veins of time, and the posts must have coherence to bring readers back. For two--three?--years, Hog has struggled to meet these low standards of self-sufficiency, and is by all reasonable measures comatose. It won't die, though, because I'll be unable to stop posting altogether. Sorry.

Monday, November 10, 2008


There are 23 coastal states in America. Sixteen voted Obama. (Include only the lower 48 and you get 15/22.) Include only states with a Pacific or Atlantic Ocean coast (excluding Gulf of Mexico), and you get 15 of 17. It's striking when you look at a map of the electoral vote.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Told You So, Part 2

As I was grading myself on the quiz (I scored it first to reduce the chance that I'd cheat and bend the answers to my own, knowing that there wasn't a McCain's chance in Pennsylvania that I would recall answers given 18 months ago), I discovered this answer to the last question.
17. The unexpected development(s) in the next 18 months will be? (open ended)

17-Despite my prediction that Hillary will win it all, I counterintuitively also predict that Barack Obama excites heretofore abandoned constituencies of the youth, religiously liberal, and nonpartisan progressive to create a JFK-style, feel-good campaign that sweeps him into office and precipitates a wholesale realignment of traditional political coalitions (dooming the GOP to a generation in the wilderness).
It is authenticate in the comments on the original post. Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can!

(I did not correctly identify Sarah Palin.)

Answers to the 18-Month Quiz

On April 26, I asked readers (okay, friends mostly) to try out their prognosticative ability on the 18-Month Quiz. We finally have the answers. Answers in bold. Appeals available in comments.

Foreign Policy

1. Iran.
A) Iranians comply with international pressure, submit to inspections and dismantle their enrichment program; US stands pat.

B) Iranians continue to play coy about enrichment, bringing some international support against the US and manage to hold off inspections through the election; Bush rattles his tin sabre but the US stands pat.

C) Tensions escalate, the US pushes a UN sanction, and Iran refuses to comply. Embargoes ensue and the international community slowly progresses toward a confrontation, led by Bush. Congressional hearings conclude before any declarations and the US stands ready to invade.

D) Scenario C progresses more rapidly, without UN support, and Bush begins selective bombing of suspected enrichment sites. Congress neither approves nor opposes the action.

E) Bush is opposed by the international community, Congress (including key GOP leaders), and the joint chiefs, and launches a covert nuclear attack.

F) Other _____________________
2. Iraq
A) The surge improves things marginally in Baghdad; Bush and McCain declare victory, begin withdrawing troops while ignoring the continued violence.

B) The status quo continues; violence and unrest and the steady decline to a hot civil war. The Dems can't convince Bush to withdraw and the death toll mounts.

C) After the surge fails and the elections approach, the GOP breaks rank with the White House and joins the Dems in a call for troop withdrawal. Nothing is binding, but Bush, without admitting defeat, begins a slow withdrawal.

D) The GOP join Dems to cut off funding, forcing Bush to pull out the troops in advance of the election.

E) Other ______________________
Editor's note: technically, "E" is the correct answer. A number of measures along with the troop surge have improved the security situation, but the political situation is unstable. Although Bush has set out a timeline for withdrawal, it hasn't begun. I'd accept "A" as well.

3. War on Terror

A) There are no attacks against Americans and the half-assed policies of the President lumber forward.

B) Dems force substantial changes in security issues (ports, funds for cities, etc.) and win favor for "engagement" diplomacy; no attack on US soil.

C) An attack hits the US, strengthens Bush's hand for first-term-style politics.

D) An attack hits the US; Bush's approval plummets and precipitates Congressional intervention (including, possibly, impeachment).

E. Other _____________________
4. Foreign Policy Surprise (Open ended)

Answer: I'd accept worsening trouble in Afghanistan, Russian invasion of a neighbor, or destabilization of Pakistan.

5. Identify the unlikely doomsday scenario that might emerge before the election.

: None.


6. The Democratic Nominee
A. Hillary Clinton
B. John Edwards
C. Al Gore
D. Barack Obama
E. Other ________________
7. The Republican Nominee
A. John McCain
B. Newt Gingrich
C. Rudy Guiliani
D. Mitt Romney
E. Fred Thompson
F. Other ________________
8. Dem Vice Presidential Nominee (open-ended)

Answer: Joe Biden

9. GOP Vice Presidential Nominee (open-ended)

Answer: Sarah Palin [Ed note: anyone claiming a Palin pick must provide authenticated evidence.]

10. The Next President
A. John McCain
B. Newt Gingrich
C. Rudy Guiliani
D. Mitt Romney
E. Fred Thompson
F. Hillary Clinton
G. John Edwards
H. Al Gore
I. Barack Obama
J. Other __________________
11. Prescient piece of information you see about the electorate that people are overlooking. (open ended)

: I would accept a number of answers here, but anything to do with overlooking race would be an obvious winner. Appeal in comments.

12. The House

A) Dems gain seats
B) Dems lose seats, hold the House
C) Dems lose seats, lose the House
D) Very little or no change.
13. Senate
A) Dems gain enough seats to have a fillibuster-proof majority
B) Dems gain some seats
C) Dems lose seats (and therefore the majority)
D) Senate stands pat at 50-49-1.
13a. (Oregonian subquestion) Who will be the next Senator from Oregon?
A) Steve Novick
B) Earl Blumenauer
C) Ben Westlund
D) Gordon Smith
E) Other _______________
Answer: "E," Jeff Merkley


14. The Bush Presidency
A) Scandals continue to plague the President, who slides further into isolation and disapproval. Congressional hearings and investigations reveal gross malfeasance and the suggestion of crime.

B) Either because of White House foreign policy bellicosity or because of scandal, Bush is impeached.

C) Bush, isolated and embattled, provokes an encounter with Iran.

D) Bush, isolated and embattled, declares martial law and suspends the election.

E) Congress loses interest in Bush, gets caught up in the '08 election, and the Bush presidency plays out with few successes and few failures, doomed to be remembered as a cautionary tale of incompetence and corruption.
15. The previously important issue that fails to excite interest in the coming year is:
A) tax cuts
B) abortion
C) terrorism
D) Iraq
E) gay rights/marriage
Answer: According to exit polls, "the economy" blotted the light out for all other issues. However, since "Iraq" and "Terrorism" were the next two most-cited issues, and since several ballot measures excited interest about gay marriage, I will accept A or B (ballot measures about abortion failed).

16. The emergent issue in the coming year is:

A) health care
B) global warming
C) gas prices
D) Iran
E) gun control
Explanation: Since the economy blotted out all thought of other issues (see 17, below), this one's a little hard to judge, but I will accept either A or C.

17. The unexpected development(s) in the next 18 months will be?
(open ended)

Answer: The collapse of housing prices and the subsequent failure of Wall Street get you a gold star on this one.

See you again in 30 months....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Told You So

This is from April. Some of the details are wrong, but the overall point was spot-on. And don't give me that financial crisis crap. McCain just wasn't going to win this thing. Obama's margin would have been something in the 285-315 range instead of the landslide. But he was going to win. As I noted in April, the "fundamentals" of the McCain campaign were just too crappy to overcome. My rationale then:
  • The economy. Key comment (long before the collapse): "Add the 20% who cite health care and gas prices as the paramount issues, and you have 57% of the public worried about pocketbook issues.... McCain has said he doesn't understand or care about the economy. That ignorance will be fatal."
  • Women. Key comment (long before Sarah Palin): "The issues this year are economic, not security, and the evangelical coalition is weakening, leaving women without a compelling reason to cross over from their natural allegiance."
  • Democratic demographic shift. " In Missouri, a whopping 235,000 more turned out to vote Democratic than Republican--and that's in a state that voted for Bush by a 7-point margin."
  • Splintering coalitions (even before the rush of GOP Obama-endorsers). "McCain has never been appealing to evangelicals, and his John Hagee debacle demonstrates how out of touch with this constituency he is. He may still win a majority of these votes, but in a year not animated by social issues, they won't be his free labor source and far fewer will show up to vote."
  • McCain's faults. "In a year of change, a dinosaur is not the horse the GOP should be riding. His tendency toward anger, should it flare up in the debates again, will exacerbate fears about his age."
  • The 45% barrier. McCain enjoyed polls that exceeded this barrier twice: the first, just following his victory in the primaries, when Obama was locked in the death battle with Hillary, and briefly following his selection of Palin and the GOP convention. After an ABC/Post poll put him at 46% at the end of September, he only broke 45% three times (all registering 46%) in the well over 100 polls Pollster logged until the end of the election. I wrote: "These are McCain's salad days, before America hears about the scandals, starts thinking about his age, watches him melt down in debates, and sees constant attacks from the right and left. If he can't break 45% now, when exactly is he going to?"
I concluded that post thusly: "McCain is this year's Bob Dole, a loyal soldier the GOP have honored by nominating as their candidate. And he will surely suffer Dole's fate in November."

You may now congratulate me for me keen foresight.

Pics From Last Night

Nine of us gathered at a friend's last night to watch the returns. Here are some pics. This first one shows that lonnngggg period when Obama hadn't snagged a Bush state. Joe regards it intently.

Later, Shawn takes over as the sentinal next to the TV.

Obama spoke, we listened.

In the end, we celebrated the win in the traditional manner--with a terrorist fist jab. Obama!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is it Really Over?


In a historical sense, Barack Obama's win probably falls slightly short of Bill Clinton's win in 1992 (370 electoral votes), but well ahead of Jimmy Carter's in '76 (297 EVs). On the other hand, he is currently leading with 52% of the vote--the first Democrat to do that since Carter, who barely--barely--made it into a clear majority. For a Democrat, it's a solid win, but not an especially overwhelming one. (The total will be at least 338; more likely, it will reach 364, and 375 is not inconceivable.) He's leading by roughly six million now, and that will probably rise to seven million by the end of the night (it's just the West Coast, and we're piling it on).

But in a different historical sense, we've just elected a black guy whose middle name is Hussein. This is way, way off the grid. There's nothing that compares. Our previous example was JFK, who was a rich, white guy who happened to be a slightly different flavor of Christian. Obama is an entirely new politician in America. At the nation's founding 232 years ago, Obama would have been considered 3/5s of a man, not eligible to vote, and likely eligible to be enslaved in much of the country. Even 47 years ago--the span of Barack Obama's life--it was inconceivable.

On my local news, they showed the celebrations for Obama in Portland and flashed to black citizens celebrating. Based on the paragraph above, this choice was arguably forgiveable. But it fails to recognize the rest of the supporters in the city and country who, whatever their race, are no less ecstatic at the prospect of a black president. He is OUR president. His race is not someting only others of his race can take overwhelming joy in. This is such a huge, huge deal to so many in the United States.

However, I'd like to think there are reasons to celebrate this election for reasons that have nothing to do with race. I didn't jump on the Obama bandwagon back in the spring of '07 because he was black. He's going to be the right president at the right time--his gracious, generous victory speech is a case in point. The country has been driven into a ditch, and it might be a booby prize to have won the presidency. But for the country, we need a leader who can work with everyone, who considers all possibilities, and who will inspire pride and enthusiasm among Americans. We have demonstrated some collective wisdom tonight, and we will reap the rewards as a result.

I find myself slightly unable to absorb all of this, but I hope to sleep well. Wow.

Voting Activity

Scenes on the ground in Oregon. Taken at noon. First one is from PSU:

Next one is the voting "line" in Oregon--auto drop offs.

Humming smoothly along...

But wait, a voting irregularity! Nope, just a stuck flap. After 31 seconds, the technical glitch was resolved.

Finally, a weird long line that mystified me. What are these people waiting in line to do?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Milestones in Electoral College Totals.

Where will Obama--or, err, John McCain--end up on the electoral college? A few of the totals in the modern era.
271 - George W. Bush (2000)
297 - Jimmy Carter (1976)
286 - George W. Bush (2004)
379 - Bill Clinton (1996)
426 - George HW Bush (1988)
486 - Lyndon Johnson (1964)
520 - Richard Nixon (1972)
523 - Franklin Roosevelt (1936)*
525 - Ronald Reagan (1984)
Roosevelt, asterisked above, actually won a higher percentage of electors in '36 because we were still a 48-state country. What's especially interesting to me is that it's relatively rare for a candidate to get fewer than 300 electoral votes. It happened, of course, in 2000 and 2004. You have to go back to 1976 to find another instance. Even Kennedy pulled off 303 in 1960. Even including the early part of the century, when there were fewer than 48 states, getting fewer than 300 electoral votes only happened five times (!) between 1904 and 2004 (19%).

So getting 300 isn't that big a deal.

Swing Leans

Here's a handy visual of the most recent polls in each of 14 swing states.* It will be interesting to compare these polls with tomorrow's results (click to enlarge).

Oh, it's also worth noting that among these, only Pennsylvania and New Hampshire went for Kerry in 2004.
*I used an average of three polls in each state, none of which was older than 36 hours. In some cases where there were multiple polls, I took the three with the largest sample sizes. The national trend is based on 11 polls released today.


I got some take out Chinese for lunch. This was inside the fortune cookie:
"Tomorrow will be lucky and memorable for you."
I kid you not.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I know I should be blogging more, but all I can do is crouch and wait. It's a defensive posture but also one that contains coiled energy, a leap readying itself in my legs. In 2000 and 2004, the focus was on the other guy and what a threat he was to the country. (Warranted fear, as it turned out.) This year, it's on Obama, and what an opportunity he offers. The flavor of defeat this year would be different--the desperate loss of something rare and good, not the bracing sting of the arrival of something bad. The difference between death and defeat.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have something to say. This weekend it has been just waiting, waiting.