Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This looks like a job for...Master Legend?

This story makes me smile:

Like other real life super-heroes, Master Legend is not an orphan from a distant dying sun or the mutated product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. He is not an eccentric billionaire moonlighting as a crime fighter. He is, as he puts it, "just a man hellbent on battling evil." Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona. True to comic-book tradition, each superhero has his own aesthetic. Green Scorpion's name is derived from his desert home, from which he recently issued a proclamation to "the criminals of Arizona and beyond," warning that to continue illegal activities is to risk the "Sting of the Green Scorpion!" The Eye takes his cue from the primordial era of Detective Comics, prowling Mountain View, California, in a trench coat, goggles and a black fedora featuring a self-designed logo: the "all-seeing" Eye of Horus. Superhero — his full name — is a former wrestler from Clearwater, Florida, who wears red and blue spandex and a burgundy helicopter helmet, and drives a 1975 Corvette Stingray customized with license plates that read SUPRHRO.

Most Real Life Superheroes are listed on the World Superhero Registry, a recently assembled online roster. ("I can't say if I will ever fight an army of giant robots or a criminal mastermind," an Indianapolis superhero called Mr. Silent notes in his entry. "I just don't know.") Some superheroes have joined forces in local crime-fighting syndicates: the Black Monday Society in Salt Lake City, the Artemis National Consortium in San Diego and the tautologically titled Justice Society of Justice in Indianapolis. Attempting to unite all the superheroes under one banner are groups like the World Heroes Organization and Heroes Network, which hosts an online forum where more than 200 crime fighters trade tactics (should I wear a mask?), patrolling tips (how do I identify a street gang?) and advice/feedback (can you get bulletproof vests on eBay?).

I dunno, if I were a real superhero, I'd want a cooler name. And Batarangs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday blues update

I haven't really been motivated to blog lately. Between work, family matters, and the general stress of the Christmas splurging season, I'm not left with much energy or time to rant on the internet.

During my time away from the keyboard, the Democratic governor of Illinois went down in flames, and turns out to have been a complete asshole and egomaniac. Or, as Dickipedia so aptly summarizes:

The subject of no fewer than a dozen separate federal investigations, Blagojevich is a disgrace to all Serbian-American governors everywhere—that means you, George Voinovich of Ohio. He is also just the kind of a-hole who threatens to screw the whole thing up for Barack Obama before he even takes office.

Rod Blagojevich was the first Democrat to be elected governor of Illinois in 30 years, a distinction he proceeded to totally crap all over by continually failing to pass legislation and budgets, making many political enemies (even in his own party), committing federal and state crimes, wearing a ridiculous side-part in some seriously bouffant hair, and, in October 2008, earning the title “America’s Least Popular Governor.” All that before he got arrested.

On December 9, 2008, adding dick insult to dick injury, Blagojevich was detained by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud as well as solicitation of bribery for allegedly trying to sell president-elect Barack Obama’s vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. This happened the day before Blagojevich’s 52nd birthday. One imagines they canceled the stripper.

Heh. Hee hee.

What else?

Oh, I should mention that the BSG spinoff Caprica has been picked up by Scifi as a series! Details here. The only downside is that we won't be seeing any of it until 2010.

Webisodes bridging seasons 4.0 and 4.5 are currently airing as well, but I refuse to link to them in protest of their unavailability for Canadian web surfers (can't see the logic in shutting out fans who happen to be outside of the US; if Space is too cheap to get the rights to them, that's their problem). Catch them on Youtube instead.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WTF, Dubai?

World's tallest skyscraper, under construction in Dubai:

Something about that building indicates low self-esteem on the part of the architects...

(click the picture for more detail)

Not Iggy!

Okay, so Dion wasn't the very best party leader. But Ignatieff? Seriously? He's the best guy they've got?

Look, I don't usually get worked up at the thought of elitist inteleckshuals sipping their lattes and scoffing at the common folk, but this guy pretty much embodies that stereotype. He's spent more of his life at Oxford and Harvard than in Canada.

More to the point, he has only three years of actual political experience. The former director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy was a prominent and early supporter of the war in Iraq (using dumbass reasoning), and equivocated on torture (using even more dumbass reasoning). This unappealing intellectual midgetry is fine for the Republican Party, but the Liberal Party of Canada? Seriously? What exactly gives this guy the credibility to become a potential Prime Minister of Canada, other than his admittedly unimpeachable Ivory Tower credentials?

Ah, whatever. For some levity, here's Jon Stewart attempting to make sense of our wacky political adventures.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I agree with the Governor General

She made the right move in proroguing Parliament. I know a lot of liberals and progressives out there will be disappointed that Harper has lived to fight another day (and really, that fight might come immediately after January 26), but in the long run, it's for the best.

Harper overreached. He knows that, and he and his party are chastened. They are still a minority government, and they need to act like one. They will now get to work on a budget that the opposition will support, meaning real concessions on the economy and no more poison pills like the removal of campaign financing dollars or crackdowns on public employees' rights to strike.

This unexpected vacation will give all the parties time to step back from the brink and think about what is best for Canada and their own political futures (there should be some overlap). We'll also have a better idea of what the US is planning to do on their end before we march ahead with a massive stimulus.

Meanwhile, despite all the fireworks, the rest of the world has barely noticed our Grave Political Crisis. How typical.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So anyway, maybe you guys were right after all...

Lost amidst everything else that has been going on, the US and Iraqi governments have quietly agreed to a withdrawal timetable, a timetable that includes the withdrawal of most combat troops by mid-2009. Bush is still in office, mind you. The same Bush who repeatedly warned us that such a thing would amount to surrendering to terror, a warning that was endlessly regurgitated by all the usual suspects in the Right Wing Noise Machine.

Never mind that the Iraqis have been requesting this for quite some time, withdrawal was a crazy moonbat Left Wing socialist Islamofascocommunist idea! Only the Defeatocrats and their terrorist allies would ever consider such a thing! USA! USA! USA!

Just thought I'd throw that out there...

Here we go

Things are moving quite quickly. The opposition parties have come to an agreement on power-sharing, and are going ahead with plans to topple the Harper government. The NDP will have claim to 6 cabinet seats out of 25, while Dion would be PM temporarily until May, when the Liberals choose a new leader. For their part, the Bloc have pledged to support this government for 2 1/2 years (not unexpectedly, the Tories are attempting to paint the coalition as anti-Canada on account of Bloc support). Practically the only option open to Harper at this point for preserving his government is pro-roguing, which sets a dangerous precedent, and is no less drastic a move as what the opposition is currently doing.

Despite the sheer craziness of all this, the media seems to be placing the blame mostly on Mr. Harper. Here's Jeffrey Simpson, in today's Globe and Mail:

Mr. Harper, who bulldozed his way toward this cliff and who will be judged harshly and perhaps fatally by his party if the government goes over the cliff, has tried unsuccessfully to show belated flexibility by backing down (temporarily) from plans to eliminate party subsidies and ending the right to strike. But he had nothing new yesterday – not that any fresh concession would have derailed the coalition's drive for power.

His options now would seem to be a) persuade the Governor-General to prorogue Parliament only three weeks after a Speech from the Throne, hoping to gain time to manoeuvre; b) lose the confidence of the House but persuade the G-G to dissolve Parliament and call an election.
He could always offer a mea culpa and alter his economic statement. It would not likely impress the coalition partners.

Mr. Harper has either to get to another Speech from the Throne in January that might be a better platform than the rickety one of Thursday's economic statement, or get to the people and argue, as he and his MPs did yesterday, that the opposition parties are trying to take power through parliamentary intrigue, having been defeated in the election.

His fate depends, it would appear, on the Governor-General's decision to grant prorogation or an election. Otherwise, he will have done a Joe Clark, miscalculating his way out of office.

And the editorial board editor, John Geiger, is calling for Harper's resignation:

"Mr. Harper is ultimately responsible for this unhappy state of affairs. It is the byproduct of his machinations, and the product of a failure of his leadership.

"The opposition parties, especially with the Liberals busy licking their election wounds, were not out to pick a fight in the new Parliament.

"Mr. Harper gave them one anyway, turning his government's economic update into a partisan document aimed less at strengthening Canada's economic position than at undermining their ability to compete in the next election.

"In so doing, he sent the message that even if he backs down in this instance, he has no interest in making the current Parliament work.

"His conduct since then — epitomized by his blustery and provocative statement last Friday, and his party's disturbing act in eavesdropping on a private NDP conference call this past weekend — has only reinforced for the opposition the necessity of defeating him while it has the opportunity.

Regardless of where the blame lies, I have deep reservations about a coalition government.

First, it will be seen as illegitimate by many Canadians. The Conservatives may have only secured the support of 37% of Canadian voters, but they hold more seats in the House of Commons than the Liberals and NDP combined. And Liberal/NDP voters were voting for their preferred party, not a coalition. I'll be interested to see some polling, because I wonder how much support this action really has.

Second, it will grant the NDP legitimacy and a real role in government (though hopefully not any direct role in economic policy). Jack Layton will attempt to undercut Stephane Dion at every opportunity, and given their relative political talents, he'll probably succeed at promoting himself and his party at the expense of his coalition partner, causing a further deterioration of Liberal support.

Finally, this government would be coming in riding a wave of fear and uncertainty over the economy, and will be expected to take strong action to minimize the effects of a recession. Would this coalition be up to the task? Is $30 billion a realistic number for a stimulus package? One positive sign is that the NDP seem to have dropped their opposition to corporate tax cuts, showing that they will likely defer to the Liberals in most economic matters. Since I think the Liberals are generally better stewards of the economy than the Conservatives and definitely better than the NDP, that sits well with me.

To sum up, there are a lot of potential pitfalls. This could easily be a disaster for the Left that will ensure a Conservative majority in the next election. But given the way things have gone, I also don't see any other option for the opposition at this point, other than forcing some further concession out of Harper on economic stimulus. Given his current weakness, that might be possible. It would at least spare the country the trauma of leadership change so soon after an election, and it might also spare the Liberals the embarrassment of partnering with the NDP and Bloc, and governing with an unpopular leader in Stephane Dion.

(Photo: Chris Wattie, Reuters)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The "Bush boom"

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), today:

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. has been in a
recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already
believed about the state of the economy .

The NBER is a private group of
leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns.
It typically takes a long time after the start of a recession to declare its
start because of the need to look at final readings of various economic
Larry Kudlow, in December 2007 :

There is no recession. Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic
pessimistas, the resilient U.S economy continues moving ahead—quarter after
quarter, year after year—defying dire forecasts and delivering positive growth.
In fact, we are about to enter the seventh consecutive year of the Bush boom.

The pessimistas are a persistent bunch. In 2006, they were certain a
recession was just around the corner. They were wrong. Instead, the economy
posted two consecutive quarters of near or above four-percent growth.

Earlier today, a doom and gloom economic forecast from Macro Economic
Advisors was released predicting zero percent growth in the fourth quarter. This
report is off by at least two percentage points. These guys are going to wind up
with egg on their faces.

I've picked on Larry before, but why anyone pays this idiot to spread his idiocy is beyond me. The only thing he's good at is being consistently hilariously wrong. Kind of like Bill Kristol.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The need for stimulus

I may have been a bit premature in announcing the end of our political quagmire, as the Tory capitulation on public funding subsidies will not appease the opposition. Obviously, that cannot be seen as the fundamental issue here, otherwise Harper will use it as a bludgeon later on, and be the stronger for it. Instead, the Liberals and NDP will press forward with coalition talks and keep focusing on the economy, as this is probably their best chance yet to take Harper down.

And what about the economy? Is the government really guilty of negligence in the face of crisis?

Before the election, I defended Harper on the economy, pointing out that much of Canada's troubles are completely beyond our control. We cannot help but be affected by a total meltdown south of the border; Trudeau knew what he was talking about when he made his famous comment about sleeping with the elephant.

But this "economic update" from Jim Flaherty was downright bizarre.

At a time when countries around the world are working to fight a global recession by stimulating economic activity through increased government spending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tory government actually plans to put the squeeze on Canada's economy.

In its all-out effort to avoid running a deficit, Flaherty has promised that federal spending will be slashed by $5 billion in the fiscal year that begins next April, when economic conditions probably will be at their worst. Another $1 billion in windfall income will be banked, not recycled into economic stimulus, for a total squeeze of $6 billion.

"That's precisely the thing not to do," said Carlos Leitao, chief economist at Laurentian Bank Securities. Rather than a balanced budget, he believes, what we need right now is new spending of $15 billion or more to do things like bail out provincial budgets and boost benefits to the unemployed. This would translate into a deficit of about the same size, but it would prevent economic damage worth far more.

As a (possibly severe) recession looms, the government's focus appears to be on cutting spending and keeping the budget balanced. I'm as big a deficit hawk as anyone, but even I recognize the need for stimulus. Now is not the time to worry about balanced budgets. Now is the time to boost aggregate demand by injecting money into the economy. Canada is lucky to be in a position to do this with very little negative fallout, due to our debt reduction policies of the last decade.

I'm frankly a little puzzled by Harper's strategy here. I understand the caution on economic stimulus packages, but I don't understand why Flaherty would choose to focus on balanced budgets at a time of uncertainty and near panic over the economy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I wish the grown-ups were in charge

The Liberals and NDP are threatening to bring down the Harper government and form a coalition, ostensibly due to inaction on an economic stimulus package, but it might also have something to do with a Tory plan to end a government subsidy paid to the parties for every vote they earn (with the Liberals with in debt, and the Conservatives possessing a formidable fundraising machine, this is a serious threat).


It looks like Harper intentionally provoked the opposition just to see what they would do, and that they've fallen into the trap, so to speak (though his delaying of the confidence vote for a week may indicate some apprehension). If they backtrack now without any concessions from Harper, they'll just look ridiculous. But the way things are looking right now, it's very possible that Stephane Dion will be PM in a couple weeks time. The key question is whether the Liberals and NDP are serious about this or are just stamping their feet over losing their badly needed public funding. And also what the Bloc will do and what incentives the other parties will need to offer them for their support.

The opposition has undertaken an extremely risky strategy here. On the face of it, there is nothing inherently wrong with forming a coalition government. It is commonplace in other parliamentary democracies. Nor is it somehow "undemocratic", as that jerkoff Ezra Levant was arguing yesterday on Newsnet, as 63% of Canadians did not vote for Harper and the Tories, yet they form our government nevertheless.

But it all depends how this is framed. The Liberals and NDP desperately want this to be about the economy and inaction on the part of Harper and Flaherty towards a stimulus package. This argument is not entirely without merit, but it's more than a little suspect that this coincided with the move to remove the public funding subsidy. The Tories have a huge advantage in fundraising, while the Liberals and NDP are in debt. If the public sees this as nothing more than a naked attempt by the opposition to keep their public funding (meaning millions of taxpayer dollars), this could backfire in a big way.

On the other hand, this may be the best way to look at it:

If you're just tunning in now...

...here's what you've missed:

Tories want to destroy the opposition! Bring it on! Another election?Another election! Coalition government! Prime Minister Dion? A Liberal coup? Prime Minister Layton? Prime Minister Goodale? Harper blinks - election averted! Election on? Coalition on? Prime Minister Chretien? And Ed Broadbent? Je ne comprends pas anglais. Liberal non-confidence motion! WHAT THE @#&! IS GOING ON HERE??!!?!?!?

UPDATE: Harper delays the confidence vote until December 8th! What does it all mean? WHO THE HELL KNOWS! Let's just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Our politics are getting pretty crazy.

UPDATE: Looks like Harper wants to keep his job after all.

After 24 hours of peering into a yawning political abyss, the Harper
government stepped back from the brink Saturday, dropping a plan to kill public
subsidies for political parties.

"When it comes to the funding and subsidies that political parties get,
we just don't think it's worth getting into an election on that issue,"
Transport Minister John Baird said in an interview.

"We won't be proceeding."

I guess Italy gets to keep its dubious honour of being the most disfunctional Western democracy. For now.

Battlestar's coming!

New promo:

I can't wait! :)

This is very cool as well. Scifi's posting clues right up until Jan. 16, when Season 4.5 premieres.

I hate it that the show's ending, but at least it will have a proper ending. And there is still more Battlestar to come:

The Plan


Sunday, November 23, 2008

That's more like it; Pats beat Fins 48-28

New England looked very good today. Cassel just did something that even Brady has yet to achieve: two consecutive 400+ yard games. Miami looked utterly outclassed, especially towards the end when their discipline seemed to break down (though Matt Light will likely be suspended for his part in that fracas).

If Cassel keeps this up, and keeps finding Moss in the end zone, this team suddenly looks very scary. The only question marks are their beat-up defense and running game.

Liberal disappointment with Obama

Most of Obama's cabinet appointments announced thus far have been centrist Democrats, some of whom have endorsed things like the Iraq war, "harsh interrogation methods" (if not necessarily waterboarding), and other excesses of the Bush administration. One very important post, Secretary of Defense, may even stay unchanged, if Obama decides to keep Robert Gates, albeit temporarily.

Predictably, this has resulted in some consternation from the Left. Here's Chris Bowers:

I know everyone is obsessed with the "team of rivals" idea right now, but I feel incredibly frustrated. Even after two landslide elections in a row, are our only governing options as a nation either all right-wing Republicans, or a centrist mixture of Democrats and Republicans? Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration? Also, why isn't there a single member of Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left? It seems to me as though there is a team of rivals, except for the left, which is left off the team entirely.

Of course, we don't know his entire cabinet just yet. And many of the people being discussed have not been officially confirmed. The Left may be going nuts over Robert Gates, but we only have speculation over who Obama's SecDef will actually be.

And some appointments are very encouraging. As Glenn Greenwald explains in this post, Eric Holder for Attorney General would be a huge improvement, and offers a real possibility of reversing much of Bush's assault on the Constitution (but his rape of the Justice Department may not be as easily corrected).

Finally, while Obama may be wary of starting witch hunts over torture, and prosecuting everyone involved (a process that would be satisfying, but inevitably polarizing), he has sent signals through his advisors that he may institute a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the matter and make its findings public. Not my ideal solution (I think war crimes can and should be prosecuted, no matter how important and powerful the perpetrators are), but it's in keeping with his philosophy.

The simple truth is that Obama is not a politician that will rock the boat. Despite all his talk about "change", he is, in fact, an extremely cautious and pragmatic man. He is also not a liberal ideologue. His decisions on the transition thus far are entirely in keeping with that. To this Canadian, Democrats are almost always disappointingly center-right, but I knew that about Obama from the start. Nevertheless, he was worth supporting. And he remains so. And any progressives who harbored unrealistic expectations of Obama have no one but themselves to blame. I pretty much agree with this e-mail Digby sent to Greenwald:

The villagers and the right made it very clear what they required of Obama --- bipartisanship, technocratic competence and center-right orthodoxy. Liberals took cultural signifiers as a sign of solidarity and didn't ask for anything. So, we have the great symbolic victory of the first black president (and that's not nothing, by the way) who is also a bipartisan, centrist technocrat. Surprise.

There are things to applaud about the cabinet picks -- Clinton is a global superstar who, along with Barack himself, signals to the world that the US is no longer being run by incompetent, extremist, political fringe dwellers. Holder seems to be genuinely against torture and hostile to the concept of the imperial presidency. Gaithner is a smart guy who has the trust of the Big Money Boyz, which may end up being useful considering the enormous and risky economic challenges ahead. Emmanuel is someone who is not afraid to wield a knife and if we're lucky he might just wield it from time to time against a Republican or a right wing Democrat. Napolitano seems to have a deft political touch with difficult issues like immigration which is going to be a battleground at DHS. And on and on.

None of them are liberals, but then Obama said repeatedly that he wasn't ideological, that he cared about "what works." I don't know why people didn't believe that. He's a technocrat who wants to "solve problems" and "change politics." The first may actually end up producing the kind of ideological shift liberals desire simply because of the dire set of circumstances greeting the new administration. (Hooray for the new depression!) The second was always an empty fantasy --- politics is just another word for human nature, and that hasn't changed since we were dancing around the fire outside our caves.

If you want to press for a cabinet appointment at this late date who might bring some ideological ballast, I would guess that labor and energy are where the action is. It would be really helpful to have somebody from the left in the room when the wonks start dryly parceling out the compromises on the economy and climate change. But basically, we are going to be dealing with an administration whose raison d'etre is to make government "work." That's essentially a progressive goal and one that nobody can really argue with. But he never said he would make government "work" for a liberal agenda. Liberals just assumed that.

On a related note, don't all these center-right appointments make the Right's pre-election spittle-flecked rants and nervous breakdowns over socialist left-wing firebrand Black Power Obama even more absurd? They unceasingly pushed this nonsense about him being the "most liberal senator" and a dangerous radical absent any evidence whatsoever, only the thinnest of guilt by association justifications. Does anyone think these idiots will be the least bit chastened by their pre-election rhetoric's utter disassociation from the truth? If you do, you haven't been paying attention the past 8 years.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We get a blizzard, they get plummeting space debris

Check out this video of a meteor impact in Alberta:

Awesome. Meanwhile, all we get in Nova Scotia is 30cm of snow. In fucking November. Not that I'm asking for us to get hit with meteors. But it would be more fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No good options for Detroit

I am of the opinion that while the executives at GM, Ford and Chrysler are total jackasses and short-sighted morons, it's quite necessary that some type of bailout take place.

In more normal times, the answer may be different. Chapter 11 bankruptcy would be a credible option. Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Chapter 11 is simply not a realistic option right now. GM is literally on its last legs. Who would run the company while things were being settled in court, and how would they keep it running with no cash, no credit, and absolutely no one willing to lend them the billions of dollars necessary to keep making and selling cars? Here's Jonathan Cohn , making this precise point:

One reason for the casual support for letting GM fail is the assumption that bankruptcy would be no big deal: As USA Today editorialized recently, "Bankruptcy need not mean that the company disappears." But, while it's worked out that way for the airlines, among others, it's unlikely a GM business failure would play out in the same fashion. In order to seek so-called Chapter 11 status, a distressed company must find some way to operate while the bankruptcy court keeps creditors at bay. But GM can't build cars without parts, and it can't get parts without credit. Chapter 11 companies typically get that sort of credit from something called Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) loans. But the same Wall Street meltdown that has dragged down the economy and GM sales has also dried up the DIP money GM would need to operate.
And for that matter, who would buy a car from a bankrupt manufacturer? What about warranty/service coverage? It's not like buying an airline ticket, which is a one-time thing; you use it to get from one place to another, and that's it. But a car is a long term investment. You don't want the maker of your new Cadillac to go out of business next week.

What would happen to the Big 3 instead is Chapter 7: total liquidation, and millions of people suddenly without jobs, health insurance, or pensions. Millions of people newly dependent on social assistance from the government, which would itself cost billions and billions of dollars. The repercussions for an already sinking economy would be devastating. Stock markets went into another tailspin today, partly because of uncertainty on this very issue. If these companies actually went under, it just might be what turns this nasty recession into a longer-term depression.

As unpalatable as it is, I think a bailout is the only option, provided that it has serious strings attached, as President-elect Obama seems to be in favor of. If American taxpayers are going to bail out these failing companies, Detroit must be given some real shock treatment, forcing them to start making cars for the 21st century. Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What is wrong with Senate Democrats?

Today, Senate Democrats voted to give Lieberman a slap on the wrist, stripping him of his positions on a couple environmental subcommittees, but letting him keep his far more important chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee, which has important oversight responsibilities.

And it was a pretty decisive vote, 43-12.

It's times like these that you really have to wonder what is up with the Senate. This is hardly the first time they've let their constituents down. Whether it was voting to grant the Bush administration all the new eavesdropping powers they wanted (along with telecom immunity to cover their asses), or renewing the Patriot Act, or declaring branches of the Iranian government "terrorists", or authorizing torture, Senate Democrats have been willing participants all along. There has been no shortage of "bipartisanship".

Now, confronted with an individual who voluntarily turned against his party and became a total neo-con, lost a Democratic primary, campaigned with Republicans, spoke at the Republican convention, and happily spread fear-mongering smears against the new President elect (a President elect who actually supported Lieberman in his primary battle; big mistake, in retrospect), what do the Democrats do? They let him keep his chairmanship through an overwhelmingly one sided vote, a position that he has done an exceedingly poor job at by any objective measure, failing to exercise any oversight at all over the Bush administration's failures.

All this so he can do what? Start witch hunts against the Obama administration?

This is all quite ridiculous, and makes the Democrats look weak once again, at a time of Democratic ascendancy, with the party making gains in all branches of government and with a significant progressive mandate for change.

The Democratic leadership should have called Lieberman's bluff, and stripped him of this chairmanship. Of course they want him to stay in the caucus, and he likely would have done so. As much as Lieberman wanted this committee, he still is a Democrat on most issues, and undergoing an even more extreme ideological conversion would simply ensure his defeat in 2012. It's looking very likely that the Dems will have at least 58 seats in the Senate without Holy Joe; he's not nearly as important as he thinks he is.

More broadly, this is a symptom of this overwhelming desire for "bipartisan harmony". Apparently the desire for "harmony" even overrides the rule of law. Don't hold anyone accountable, because that would be "partisan", and "vindictive".

It is important to note that Obama is not much better in this regard. He was not present for some of the aforementioned votes, but he did eventually support the disgraceful FISA bill and seemed to wash his hands of any decision on Lieberman. His aides have also signalled that his Justice Department will not be pursuing any prosecutions of those government officials involved in the Bush-Cheney torture regime.

I understand the need for healing, but justice and accountability are integral parts of that healing process.

Quantum of Solace

I'm not dead! Just been uninterested in blogging. Post election depression or something...

Anyway, the new Bond movie.

First, let me say that I thought Casino Royale was awesome. It was a great reboot for the series, and gave it a much-needed dose of gritty realism. On top of that, Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery.

So it was with great anticipation that I went to see Quantum of Solace. The trailers looked cool, and I was eager to see where the filmmakers would go from CR.

In a word, I was disappointed. The story, while thin, was interesting and well-written. Craig is as good as ever, and his murderous tendencies in this film are darkly humorous. Mathieu Amalric was good as the elusive villain (his eyes totally creep me out), and Olga Kurylenko was a great Bond girl; not only is she gorgeous, but also more than capable of taking care of herself.

But where the film really falls flat is in its action sequences. Yes, this is yet another movie afflicted with the "shaky cam" disease. The opening car chase is pretty much incomprehensible, with its split-second editing and shaky camera. As is much of what follows. And there's too much of it. The pace slows down a bit in the second half, but the first hour is nothing but chases, gunfights, and fistfights.

I honestly don't know why they didn't stick with Martin Campbell as the director. Marc Forster simply doesn't have a clue how to shoot or edit action. He seems to be trying to imitate Paul Greengrass and the Bourne movies, but he fails. Not only is that style inappropriate for Bond, but this is a poor imitation. The Bournes are frantic, but not a blur.

James Bond will definitely return, but here's hoping that it will be with a director who actually understands how to shoot action scenes (and a better title song!).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So what's going on with that bailout?

Turns out that Paulson is essentially making it up as he goes:

The Treasury Department on Wednesday officially abandoned the original strategy behind its $700 billion effort to rescue the financial system, as administration officials acknowledged that banks and financial institutions were as unwilling as ever to lend to consumers.

But with a little more than two months left before President Bush leaves office, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. is hoping to put in place a major new lending program that would be run by the Federal Reserve and aimed at unlocking the frozen consumer credit market.

The program, still in the planning stages, would for the first time use bailout funds specifically to help consumers instead of banks, savings and loans and Wall Street firms.

Treasury officials said they hoped to invest about $50 billion from the bailout fund into the new loan facility, with the aim of helping companies that issue credit cards, make student loans and finance car purchases. [...]

“Illiquid assets looked like the way to go,” Mr. Paulson told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. But as economic and financial conditions declined so rapidly, he said, that he had to change gears. “I will never apologize for changing the approach and the strategy when the facts change,” he said.

The change in strategy has had only limited impact on the frozen credit markets. The biggest improvement has been in the willingness of banks to lend to each other, a change that largely caused by the willingness of both the United States and European governments to guarantee bank deposits and interbank loans.

But the market for commercial debt backed by consumer and business loans has remained at a near standstill since Lehman Brothers, one of Wall Street’s leading investment banks, collapsed in September.

So far, the banks are using the bailout money to basically cover their own losses, not make new loans. Which is good for the banks, but not so good for keeping the economy going. There's really not much anyone can do about it, since there are fewer creditworthy borrowers in November than there were in August, and most of those that can borrow are already deep in the hole, and shouldn't be taking on more debt. Here's Tim Luy:

With consumers already overextended, the room for rapid credit growth is simply limited. Moreover, with economic activity deteriorating and unemployment rising, the number of creditworthy borrowers is falling. This comes on top of the deleveraging already underway in the financial sector. The Fed and Treasury are able to do little but prevent the banking system from outright collapse.

Simply put, policies focused on housing and consumer spending are a black hole for spending – this summer’s short-lived stimulus package is a case in point. Policymakers need to come clean with the American public: Future patterns of growth will simply be less dependent on consumer spending. We are entering a period of structural adjustment, and it will be painful. We spent decades pretending that the relentless focus on producing nontradable goods and relying on a ballooning current account deficit to hide our lack of productive capacity was an appropriate policy approach. But ultimately, those policies have failed us, with stagnant income growth for median income families and the deepest recession since the 1980’s (or even worse).

As far as the changes to the Paulson plan go, it's something of a vindication to those who argued against the bailout in the first place, preferring instead that the money go to consumers instead, or have the Treasury buy up equity and inject capital directly into the system rather than buying up these toxic securities and assets backed by bad mortgages and hoping for the best.

After the stock market crash of 1929, the Hoover administration tried a variety of different responses as well, most of which just made the situation worse, ranging from inaction early on to a misguided attempt to boost domestic production by raising tarrifs on imported goods (other countries retaliated by imposing tariffs as well, drastically depressing international trade).

One would hope that the people in charge have learned a few things since then, but it's hard to say whether that's true at this point.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday night rambling

This clip is interesting for two reasons.

First, the part 1:15 in, where Lauer is talking to one of Palin's daughters, and she says that yes, she missed a lot of school, and that "it's really hard". Gotta feel bad for the little ones, even if their mother is a power-hungry narcissist who doesn't realize that her 15 minutes are up.

Second, Bush's awkward silence starting around 1:39 where he jokes about looking forward to the lame duck session.

Bush sounded like a defeated man, not just yesterday, but today as well, with him actually admitting to various mistakes he has made during his presidency, something he was previously loathe to do.

Fox news' Shep Smith definitely has his moments. As does Chris Matthews.

And it looks like Alaskan GOP Senator convicted felon Ted Stevens is in trouble. The latest count, including thousands of absentee ballots, has him down by precisely three votes. Still more votes to count, but Alaska might not have let everyone down after all.

Finally, as the stock markets keep crashing on the heels of more bad economic news, and modifications to the Bailout plan, the fact that anyone even needs to ask why rich Americans voted Democratic this year is pretty depressing.

Here's a newsflash, Daniel Gross, taxes aren't everything. Sure, they are for the perennial tax-whiners. But smart rich people know better. A marginal tax rate of 36% is marginally better than a marginal tax rate of 39%. But what good is that if your stock portfolio has lost 50% of its value? For all the gnashing of teeth over Bush's tax cuts for the rich, the stock markets are lower now than they were eight years ago.

And this isn't just some historical aberration. Over the last few decades, rates of return on the stock market have been consistently higher during Democratic presidencies. If you invested $10,000 dollars in the S&P index in 1929, this is the difference:

(image from here)

Rather than obsessing over marginal differences in marginal tax rates, pundits and journalists need only to look at the above picture to understand why the rich voted for Obama despite his desire to raise their taxes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Huge turnout? Not so much...

For all the hooplah over Obama's massive voter registration drive and GOTV operation, it is surprising to discover that turnout was up only slightly over 2004. In that year, turnout was 60.6%. This year it was between 60.7% and 61.7%, an increase of only 0.1 - 1.1 percentage points.

So is this the same old story of perennially lazy young voters not showing up at the polls? Not entirely. Youth turnout was actually up by a few points, not too impressive, but that isn't the full story.

I think a large part of what happened was simply depressed Republican turnout. Obama received fewer votes than Kerry in the state of Ohio, but won by a couple hundred thousand votes anyway. Even if there was some movement to the Democrat, that doesn't explain the lower numbers overall. Clearly Republicans just weren't as motivated to vote, "Palinmania" notwithstanding.

In Indiana, we see a much different effect. McCain won only slightly fewer votes than Bush, but Obama's total was up by nearly 50% over Kerry's. Turnout overall was up, and it decisively benefited the Democrat. This was one state where the GOTV advantage was very real. Likewise, the only reason Obama won North Carolina was because of significantly higher African American turnout.

But this wasn't quite the revolution some of us were anticipating.

(h/t Far and Wide)

Remembrance Day

Don't forget.

Our only surving WWI veteran is apparently John Babcock, at 108 years old. He signed up when he was only 15, lying about his age so he could serve his country. But he was repeatedly discovered and sent to different bases away from the combat zone, and the war ended before he saw any action.

But that sure was a different time. Can anyone imagine a 15 year old attempting such a thing nowadays?

Give us some more money please

The Big 3 automakers are at it again, asking for more money from the US government. They've already been promised $25 billion (Obama proposes doubling it to $50 billion), earmarked to help them restructure and retool for the future. But insiders say that a quicker injection of funds is necessary just to help them meet current expenses and payroll.

It's difficult to understate just how dire the automakers' situation is. At a time of prohibitively expensive gasoline, their products are hopelessly obsolete compared to the competition. While Japanese and European manufacturers focused on capturing the compact and sedan markets, Ford, GM, and Chrysler preferred to focus on the gas-guzzling SUV and pickup truck market. And with the Bush administration opposed to any meaningful increase in CAFE fuel mileage standards, they were free to do so, thinking only for the short term, utterly ignorant of the coming crisis (last year the Bush administration finally signed a bill into law that increased standards, but too late to save the automakers from themselves).

If there was ever a business that deserved to fail, this is it. Here's John Cole:

This is not a damned surprise. They had years to re-tool and build vehicles that got better gas mileage, were more efficient, and used new technology, and instead they spent all their time building behemoths and paying lobbyists to fight higher CAFE standards. It was inevitable that once there was a gas crunch, they would get hammered. Why are we bailing out people who engaged in what was obviously bad business practices for years. Their focus on SUV’s was the business equivalent of malpractice, yet they did it anyway because that was where the quick bucks were.

The problem is that if they go under, they'll take millions of jobs with them. And that is certainly not what the US (or Canadian) economy needs right now.

Obama has smartly proposed tying federal aid to increased fuel efficiency standards. Tougher regulation seems to me to be the only way to go, as common sense has apparently been insufficient.

Prediction craziness

Kos has a post up making fun of Bill O'Reilly's ridiculous pre-election projection. O'Reilly classified states like Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan (which McCain gave up on well over a month before the election and where polls showed Obama 15-20 points up), Iowa, and Pennsylvania as tossups, while putting Indiana and North Carolina solidly into the McCain column. As late as October 29, a Republican loyalist could have looked at that map and thought they were winning.

Kos also ridicules Dick Morris's map, not so much for silly Republican optimism, but just for its sheer craziness and inconsistency.

Morris is a little strange, to put it mildly. He was an advisor in the Clinton administration before being caught up in a sex scandal involving a prostitute and a preference for "toe-sucking and dominance". He and Clinton did not part on good terms.

Since then, he has spent his time sniping at Democrats, making stupid electoral predictions, and appearing on Fox news, saying idiotic things like "Sarah Palin is the new Ronald Reagan".

For my part, I'd say my prediction was pretty close to the mark. I came within 2 electoral votes (367 predicted; actual was 365), and the only states I got wrong were North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. Like many others, I thought Missouri would go blue before Indiana. My popular vote prediction was 52-47; it ended up being 52.6-46.1.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What I'm reading, Chapter 4

This time, it's God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215, by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Devering Lewis.

This is, as the title suggests, an early history of post-Classical Europe and the rise of Islam, exploring the trajectory of European civilization as it hurtled into the Dark Ages, and the unlikely triumph of Islamic Arab nomads over the great empires of the east, and eventually, the violent collision of these two cultures.

Lewis begins by reminding us that the clash between East and West had its beginnings with the ancient Greeks and Romans, and their wars against successive Persian Empires, with each side generally holding their own, but unable to make lasting advances against their rival.

In the pages of this book, we feel the full tragic force of the barbarian invasions and their aftermath, of a hapless Roman papacy being forced to beg warlords to spare them from destruction, and of an Eastern Empire that became increasingly distant from the West, first by geography, and eventually by religion. We see the rise of a new religion in the East, that took the eastern Mediterranean and Persia by storm, and conquered empires weakened by ceaseless conflict.

Against this seemingly unstoppable force of divinely inspired Arab warriors, the primitive petty kings and tribal leaders of Europe seemed most vulnerable. And indeed, Muslim armies did sweep across much of Visigothic Hispania (landa-hlauts, as it was called in gutteral Gothic, from which the Arabic name al Andalus was derived), the start of an Islamic presence in that country that would last some seven centuries. But Tariq Ibn Ziyad's smashing of the Visigoths on behalf of the Umayyad Caliphate was a venture undertaken without much official support from the Caliph in Damascus, thinking Hispania was too far away to administer effectively. And his successors were generally more worried about civil wars and internal strife to contemplate the subjugation of all of Europe.

So while the Pyrenees were always a war-torn border between Muslims and Franks, Umayyad al Andalus was by necessity a pragmatic society, never heavily populated by the Arab/Berber invaders, often administered by Sephardic Jews, and eventually isolated politically by the Eastern Caliphates that succeeded the Umayyads. There was no forced conversion, and little enforcement of repressive Quranic laws regarding unbelievers. In this climate of peaceful co-existence, the Umayyad capital of Cordoba became one of the most dynamic cities in the world, with its thriving economy and beautiful Friday Mosque, an architectural wonder unmatched in the rest of Europe. Scholarship also flourished, and Ancient Greek writings were translated and preserved for future generations.

Meanwhile, Europe floundered in poverty and superstition. The great king of the Franks, Charlemagne, was able to politically unite much of the former Western Empire, and became closely allied with the papacy, defending Catholicism by the sword whenever necessary, setting the stage for the enforced orthodoxy to come in later centuries. He protected Rome from the uncouth and impious Lombards, and brutally suppressed the pagan Saxons.

The contrast between the two societies could not have been more stark. While town life, trade, and academics flourished in al Andalus, the Frankish superstate was overwhelmingly rural with the poor increasingly tied to the land (the building blocks for feudalism were in place), there was little economic activity besides farming (and no tax collection; armies were raised through blackmail, and there was no concept of public works), while the learning of the Classical World was long since forgotten, replaced with an intolerant and superstitious brand of Christianity. To his credit, Charlemagne valued learning (though he himself was illiterate), and established schools throughout his kingdom. This Carolingian Renaissance was not to last, however, as Europe was engulfed by new pagan invasions, this time from Scandinavia.

Lewis allows the reader to wonder whether Europe might not have been better off if Islam had continued its northern march. Certainly, academic progression might have been swifter. The cruel economic system of feudal Europe might have been bypassed entirely. But this optimistic outlook is tempered by the narrative of al Andalus after the Umayyads, replaced by more fanatical and intolerant sects who had less use for the pragmatism of the past.

After absorbing this 700 year whirlwind of history, Lewis clearly intends the reader to develop a new found appreciation of the intertwined fates of European and Islamic civilization as they came into contact with each other. Though often bloody, these contacts also included peaceful co-existence and great advances, and that snapshot from the past is a good template for the future.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wrapping up a crazy election

The post-game euphoria is beginning to wear off, but there is still a lot to say.

1. First, everyone should read this, a secret history of the campaign. These reporters were not allowed to publish their story until after the election, so as you might imagine, there are a lot of juicy tidbits.

2. Speaking of juicy tidbits, over the past few days, we have learned from McCain campaign insiders that Palin apparently didn't know that Africa was a continent and not a country, nor was she aware of which countries were part of NAFTA (hint: there's only three countries in North America). Needless to say, campaign insiders sniping at each other is probably not the very best source of information, but it says something about Palin that such a story seems even the least bit plausible.

And, backed up by the Newsweek article, it seems that Palin was frustrated with all the coaching for the Gibson interview, and refused to be coached in preparation for the Couric interview. Hmmm...that explains a few things. The Gibson interview was bad, but the Couric one was a whole new level of epic fail.

The product of all this foolishness?

Why non-McCain voters doubted McCain:

(CNN's exit poll, via Daily Kos)

McCain would have lost whether he had chosen Palin or not, but Palin didn't help. Despite what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity might want to believe, most Americans actually don't respond well to divisive bullshit about "Real America", or "pallin' around with terrorists", or "small-town hockey mom", or "as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there."

No, most Americans responded thusly: "Jesus Christ! McCain's totally lost his mind!"

Some Republicans might want her to be the future leader of the party, but ALL Democrats hope she will be.

3. Speaking of the future of the Republican party, this is good. As is this. And this. All written by conservatives, BTW, just not the wingnuts that dominate the "conservative" movement.

I honestly think the Republicans are going to just descend further into the backwoods of regionalism, anti-intellectualism, and tinfoil hat wearing. It'll be a repeat of the 1990s, when Republicans went after Clinton with a vengeance, drumming up one bullshit scandal after another. Hell, there's even an Obama death list. The difference this time is that Democrats are ready for it. And Obama is not Clinton.

UPDATE: Via Pharyngula:

The know-nothing party. Man, I never realized Buchanan was such an ignorant blowhard. O'Donnell should have followed up by asking him whether he thought the Earth was 6,000 years old and whether humans co-existed with dinosaurs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Harper truly inspired

Harper says Obama election 'truly inspiring'

Well that's nice to know. Honestly, on a lot of issues, the two aren't that far apart. Obama pledges to withdraw from Iraq in two years. Harper pledges to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years. Obama supports continued private sector involvement in the health insurance industry and limited expansion of government health insurance. Harper supports more private sector involvement in our government health insurance industry. Obama supports a cap and trade system to address climate change. Harper supports cap and trade but doesn't like to talk about it much and has a much lower emissions reduction target.

I really don't forsee much friction in this relationship. Some might put forward Obama's remarks on NAFTA, but those were made during a tough primary battle in Ohio, where sentiment against NAFTA runs strong. And Obama's objections seem mainly to do with what the treaty is lacking, specifically environmental standards, and not what it includes. He is not anti-free trade. And let's not forget the battles over soft-wood lumber that occurred during Bush's presidency; a conservative in the White House is no guarantee against protectionism.

And I see that there is already some talk over a possible bilateral climate change agreement between the US and Canada. If anything, this might push Harper's position more to the Left, since Obama will certainly have much more influence in any arrangement between our two countries. Alberta is probably safe no matter what, since the US needs a secure oil supply outside of hostile OPEC states.

UPDATE: Calgary Grit makes pretty much the same point here, and also links to an interesting post comparing Harper and Hillary Clinton's positions.

"Help me Obi-Wolf, you're my only hope..."

CNN's experimentation with holograms (apparently achieved using dozens of cameras and computers) last night was just weird. But in a zany fun way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The day after

(Tribune photo by Chris Walker / November 4, 2008)

Last night was fun (much funner for the tens of thousands in Grant park). Obama beat the Clintons, beat the GOP, and beat the odds. Now he is the first black President of the United States, only 44 years after the end of segregation. It's a little hard to believe, given what many of us thought about America only four years ago. Remember this?

If someone had told me in 2004 that in just four years, the US would elect a black man of second-generation Kenyan ancestry with a Muslim name President, I would have laughed in their face. The only ones laughing now are Democrats.

The way I see it, the greatest challenge that Obama will face as he begins his presidency is pressure from the pundits and talking heads to "govern from the centre", and ignore all those Dirty Fucking Hippies who want crazy batshit insane stuff like health care reform, a green economy freed of dependence on fossil fuels, and withdrawal from Iraq. Hopefully Obama listens to his better angels and moves ahead with a badly needed progressive agenda.

Already, conservative columnists are gravely warning Obama against taking on health care due to the poor economy. Which totally misses the point, of course, but expect to see a lot of this.

Couple other things worth mentioning:

The polls actually underestimated Obama's support in swing states, making a mockery of right wing claims of "pollster bias". Damn reality and its well known Liberal Bias.

And a final laugh at Mrs. Mooseburger's expense; remember the dust-up over Palin's $150,000 wardrobe, and how Palin went to great pains explaining that she had nothing to do with it? It was all the campaign's fault, you see.

Well, not exactly :

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

I sooo hope she runs in 2012. Given that convicted felon Ted Stevens seems to have been inexplicably re-elected by his Alaskan constituents to the Senate, and that his Senate colleagues will now kick his ass out of Washington and into a jail cell, thus necessitating a special election, good ol' Caribou Barbie might just decide to resign the governorship and run for Stevens' vacant seat. Assuming she won, she would have just as much national political experience by 2012 as Obama did in 2008. Is that idea floating through her head even now? You betcha!

Also, this gem from the same article:

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'."

Obama's awesome.

What more can you say?

Just an incredible night for America and the world. Obama's presidency will be difficult, but tonight, when he said "yes we can", millions of people around the world heard him and believed. And that's something special.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election liveblogging #2

9:31 PM - Another one bites the dust; New Hampshire called for Obama. I guess he won't be losing any blue states. It's all offense from here on in.

9:58 PM - Okay, Virginia is finally tightening. It's about damn time. It looks like it might be a squeaker, and not the five or six point race the polls were predicting, but I honestly don't know enough to say for sure.

10:16 PM - Lots of states called now, with Obama at around 174 EV, still leading in Florida and North Carolina by significant margins. Early numbers from Ohio look good as well. But the one I'm really interested remains Indiana, partly because it's a real bell-weather state. Way too close to call at this point, but it looks like Gary is really late reporting, just as they were in the primary.

As it stands, Obama needs less than 100 more EV, with more than 50 already accounted for with California.

10:27 PM - Nets are calling Ohio for Obama. Ladies and gentlemen, it is fucking over.

11:10 PM - Well, Obama's finally pulled ahead in Virginia. Indiana is still irritatingly close, but I think he'll pull ahead there as well. Look for the popular vote spread to increase once New York and California start reporting in large numbers, which is important. I think Obama needs a bigger mandate than a 50-50 election.

12:02 PM - Okay, CNN just called it as California and the Pacific Northwest came in. Awesome. Feels damn good, after 2 years of being so invested in this election.

Election liveblogging

Been away for a couple hours playing Rock Band; doesn't look like I missed much. Still no exit polls, which are useless anyway, so when they do come out and show an Obama blowout, don't pay attention to them!

Stay tuned....

6:11 PM - SuperBarack:

Just awesome.

6:25 PM - Whoever produced that Reverend Wright ad spent a shitload of money on airtime. I've seen it at least five or six times since last night, and I haven't even watched much TV.

6:37 PM - Yglesias takes the time to remind us all just how horrible Bush is. No argument here.

6:47 PM - Like clockwork. Drudge:


Allow yourself to be optimistic. But take nothing for granted. Exit polls are utterly unscientific and highly unreliable.

6:59 PM - Well, I'm all set. I've got CNN on my TV, MSNBC on my PC, and an IE tab open for TPM. And I've started drinking. First polls close in one minute. Fired up and ready to go!

7:03 PM - Ah, dammit. Looks like they can't report results until all the polls in a state close. Well, that totally spoils my fun.

7:20 PM - John King's talking about the glum situation for House Republicans. The best case scenario for them is a loss of around 25 seats, but if there's a big turnout for Obama, and those voters remember to vote for congressmen, they could be looking at a 30-35 seat loss. Ouch.

7:33 PM - Okay, CNN's got some results, very early ones, of course, but so far, McCain's winning Kentucky (no surprise), and Obama's winning Indiana with 20,000 or so votes in. Doesn't mean much, but normally the rural counties report first, so that may be a good sign.

7:54 PM - Obama's still hanging onto a narrow lead in Indiana, with about 80,000 votes in. It doesn't look like the bigger urban areas have started reporting yet, so this could be very good news for Obama. The last few polls showed McCain around 5 points ahead in that state, so if Indiana is a nail-biter, McCain is finished.

BTW, it looks like TPM's cool election map thingy is fucked. I'm trying IE and Firefox and can't get it to load. Will check it later.

8:14 PM - Just had a quick supper; Indiana is still very close, Kentucky called for McCain and Vermont called for Obama, with polls now closed in Virginia and South Carolina. Scarborough basically already called the election for the Democrats, saying that if you're a Republican, and Indiana and South Carolina are "too close to call", you better be worried. I agree.

8:31 PM - Still very, very early. Can't read much into the Florida/Virginia/Georgia numbers just yet, but Indiana is the real story so far, with Obama neck and neck with McCain even without the Democratic strongholds of Indianapolis, Bloomington, or Gary reporting at all.

9:06 PM - I'm starting to feel good about Florida; Obama seems to have banked a lot of early votes. Virginia is a little annoying thus far, with McCain holding a persistent lead, but I don't know which areas are reporting or which areas are strong for Obama.

9:16 PM - Lots of numbers coming in now; most of it looks good. MSNBC and ABC have already called Pennsylvania for Obama, based on a pretty overwhelming exit poll, I guess. Terrible news for McCain. Flipping PA was his one chance at pulling off the upset.

Going to start a new post, as this one is getting crowded.

Three o'clock update

1. Obama's late grandmother's vote will count. It's a shame that she didn't live to see her grandson become President. Maybe she's watching from above.

2. Top stories on Drudge:


What a tool.

3. 538's final prediction: Obama 349, McCain 189.

Sounds about right. Crucially, 4 of 5 Florida polls today show Obama ahead, albeit narrowly. That'll be one to watch.

4. Is Obama afraid of the job to come? I'd be worried if he wasn't.

And so it begins

This kind of thing should make us Canadians pretty ashamed:

(Photos from here)

These people are not waiting for hours on end to see a show, or to get paid, or anything else of that nature. They're waiting to exercise their right to vote. Something that more than 40% of eligible voters in this country couldn't be bothered to do.

Vote or be ignored.

PS: I'll probably be posting sporadically throughout the afternoon and early evening, and later on, I plan to liveblog the results as they come in with my always astute and entertaining commentary. TPM seems to be a good place to be tonight, as they have a cool map thingy that you can zoom in on and see numbers for specific counties, and they also have tabs for Senate and House results.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Late night update

One last disgusting gasp from Palin:

Sarah Palin has been an embarrassment to herself and her party since joining the Republican ticket in late August, so it stands to reason that she'd want to end the campaign season with her most disgraceful rhetoric to date. After blasting the notion that some Democrats want to cut the defense budget, Palin told a Missouri audience this morning:

"What do they think? Do they think that the terrorists have all of a sudden become the good guys, and changed their minds? No! The terrorists still seek to destroy America and her allies and all that it is that is that we stand for: Freedom, tolerance, equality."

First of all, McCain has bragged repeatedly about his intention to cut funding to the Pentagon. (I'm still looking forward to her condemnation of her running mate.) Second of all, to even suggest that Democrats think terrorists are "good guys" is sickening. It seems Palin hit the bottom of the barrel, and then dug a hole so as to sink a little lower. She added:

"John served our nation in uniform for twenty two years. He spent five and a half years as a POW. He has met great adversity in his life and in the service to this country. He knows how tough challenges are overcome, he will not wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists, he will not -- as our opponent did -- he will not support cutting off funding for our troops over in the war zone."

In reality, McCain did support "cutting off funding for our troops over in the war zone." (Again, we await Palin's condemnation of McCain.) For that matter, playing the P.O.W. card this blatantly, this shamelessly, reflects a striking desperation.

Greg Sargent concluded, "Palin's final appeal on the eve of almost certain defeat puts it right out in the open: It's war hero versus ally of terrorists who want to destroy America and kill your children."

The entire Republican campaign is built entirely on hate, fear, and ignorance. If there's ever been a more offensive campaign for national office, it doesn't come to mind.

This is why I hope for an absolute thrashing tomorrow. This brand of politics needs to be resoundingly repudiated.

In a way, these comments are like a microcosm of the entire campaign. McCain/Palin blast Obama for something stupid, probably a comment taken out of context and maybe something they're guilty of as well (like having ties to Fannie May and Freddie Mac) or something they actually agree with him on (like cutting military spending), and they conclude by questioning his patriotism and injecting subtle racism (like describing progressive income taxation as "welfare").

T-minus 28 hours...

Good sign.

All the national polls except for the stupid IBD/TIPP have Obama over 50% nationally.

Gallup's final prediction is 55-44 in favor of Obama, thanks to big leads in all three of their trackers.

And for all you worryworts, the last few Pennsylvania polls look good enough , with Obama drawing the support of 52-53%.

I honestly don't see much to worry about here. The big question is going to be whether he lives up to his apparent leads in Ohio, and whether he can win some of these really close swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri. But all of that is just icing on the cake, since Obama wins with Colorado or Virginia alone. Winning the presidency seems almost like a foregone conclusion at this point, unless ALL the polls are dramatically, unforgivably wrong. If McCain somehow pulls this out of the bag, lots of people will have some 'splainin to do.

As for myself, I look forward to the coming Republican meltdown. The cracks have already been showing for the past couple weeks, from numerous moderates jumping ship, to vicious infighting within the McCain campaign, to Palin "going rogue", but I think it's just a taste of what is to come. It should be fun.

The Republicans need their 40 years in the wilderness, and after a lot of soul-searching, they just might one day become a viable political party once again.

So to all liberals, progressives, moderates, and otherwise sane individuals of any nationality who read my blog, rejoice! The Bush era is over, and American voters are finally getting wise to the deceptive and divisive politics of Nixon and Rove, which is good news for all of us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My prediction

Given that it's a little late for an October surprise (unless we're talking about the Bush administration conveniently leaking embarassing details about Obama's Kenyan half-aunt and her US citizenship status three days before the election), I think it's probably safe for me to come out with my election prediction.

So here goes (I'm using RCP's electoral map calculator):

Popular vote: Obama 52%, McCain 47%

To clarify what I'm doing, all the solid blues are states that I think Obama will win. The light pink, "lean GOP" states are ones that I think Obama can win, but ones that I don't have the guts to actually predict an outcome for.

In a best case scenario, where Obama wins Indiana, Georgia, Montana, and even McCain's home state of Arizona, that would give him 406 electoral votes, which sounds pretty impressive. It's more than Clinton won in either '92 or '96, but still not in the same category as the Republican landslides of the 80s. Reagan won 489 in 1980, 525 in 1984, and Bush I achieved 426 in 1988.

I think that says something about the increased polarization of the American electorate. The two Bush nailbiters earlier this decade were not aberrations; starting with Nixon and continuing through the Reagan and Bush years, there has been a conscious strategy to divide the American people among cultural and religious lines. Otherwise irrelevant issues like abortion, gay rights, and gun control have dominated the political discourse; discourse that could otherwise have been concentrated on the decline of the middle class and increasing inequality in society, the utter travesty that privatized health care has become, or the increasingly shaky merits of an Imperial foreign policy. Largely because of the Right's obsession with cultural division and their co-opting of the Christian religion, they have won five of the last seven presidential elections.

An Obama victory will be an important first step in pushing back against this toxic state of affairs, but let's not confuse a solid Obama victory with a transformational landslide and dramatic realignment. Democrats still have a lot of work to do in convincing Americans that they have better ideas about national security and foreign policy, and also that it is possible to find some common ground on these controversial cultural issues. Hopefully they'll build on a solid victory in 2008 with a true landslide in 2012.

T-minus 3 days...

Only three more days, kids! I'm going to take a cue from Atrios and recommend a news blackout and heavy drinking.

1. Great discussion on Real Time last night, ranging from McCain's "hero and role model", Joe the Plumber, to creepy Evangelical Jew-love, to this week's Exit Strategy, Russia:

Maher himself was on fire too, with a great election-retrospective New Rules segment:

"By the grace of Allah, Comrade Obama and his Nubian army will usher in a new era of socialism and gay marriage. So vote early and vote often, and if you're not registered, just ask one of the nice people at ACORN for a form."


2. From Open Left:

(1) Social Security is not in crisis, and may not even ever have a shortfall. The projections used to show a shortfall are based on worst-case, GWB-style economic "growth", not on anything seen in our historical record over a similar multi-decade period. Furthermore, even with such miserable, precedented economic performance, we could fill most of the shortfall simply by raising the SS/Medicare taxes on those whose taxes are currently capped.

(2) Medicare costs are skyrocketing because our entire medical system is far more costly than that of other countries. From my diary from last April, "Medicare Myths--Don't Blame The Boomers":

Treating medicine as a commodity in our economy has caused it to become far more costly than in any other country, but with poorer overall health outcomes than all other advanced industrial nations. Thus the solution to exploding Medicare costs is not to abandon or try to replace Medicare, but to universalize it--the exact opposite direction of change from that suggested by the generational warfare meme.

Good points. Especially the latter. How many times have I said it now? The US health care system is a complete disgrace, and what is even more of a disgrace is the way that Americans cannot have an honest debate about health care reform.

3. I can't help but be entertained by Stephen Harper's revolving door of Foreign Affairs Ministers. The posting has been treated with utter unseriousness by the last few governments, and the latest selection, Lawrence Cannon, who seems not to even want the job (great start), will be the eighth in eight years.

This is part of the reason why Canada's influence in the world has diminished. Sure, we've taken on a greater military role in Afghanistan, but in many ways, Canada used to be the world's elder statesman, a grownup in a club of adolescents. That seems like a long time ago.

4. Watch as Lawrence Eagleburger falls all over himself apologizing for criticizing Sarah Palin's qualifications for office:

Wow. Josh Marshall has it about right; this is more than a little evocative of coerced public apologies in Communist countries. From the party running against "socialism".

Thursday, October 30, 2008

T-minus 5 days...

1. The Economist endorses Obama:

For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama
offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them. The
does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We
do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers
the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence.
2. TPM's "100 seconds" clip is particularly funny today:

I especially like the part that starts 14 seconds in. Just a little mix-up...

3. Joe Klein is pretty disgusted with McCain's blatant Jew-baiting:

There is so much desperate, crapulous spew from the McCain campaign right now that it's hard to keep track of it all--but this ad, via Andrew Sullivan, marks some sort of low. Yet again--in a last, desperate attempt to scare the elderly Jews of Florida--McCain posits Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the "leader" of Iran, even though he has no control over Iranian foreign or military policy. (Ayatullah Ali Khamenei is the guy in charge in Iran, which is why they call him--you guessed it--the Supreme Leader.) Yet again, McCain brings up the notion of "preconditions," only now the preconditions are Ahmadinejad's: namely, that the U.S. would have to leave the Middle East before he'd be willing to talk.

It's all inflammatory nonsense, of course. Obama has said that he would meet with the Iranian leadership without "preconditions"--namely, the Bush Administration requirement that the Iranians stop processing uranium. Of course, the Bush Administration doesn't seem so set on that precondition anymore, either. Again, this is a purposeful effort to mislead on Obama's actual position: he would begin lower-level negotiations with the Iranians, and see how much progress could be made. That is a position supported by many of McCain's own diplomatic supporters.

But that's not really what this is all about: this ad--with its Middle Eastern music--is all about implying that Obama isn't one of us, that he's one of them. It is shameful, in the extreme. It's also really bad policy.

4. Some in the media are starting to connect the dots with all this talk about "welfare" and "taking your money and giving it to someone else". Either McCain doesn't understand the difference between tax breaks and welfare, or he has another agenda.

5. Yes, the national polls are tightening somewhat. This is to be expected, as "undecideds" finally make up their minds, including many who were "soft" supporters of McCain all along. But this means, at best, a couple points for McCain nationally. Obama is holding steady or improving his position in nearly every major swing state, so some limited tightening in the national numbers is irrelevant at this point.