Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Laughing At or Laughing With?

The tax cut extension “deal”. Sigh …

I hear the laughter. Either Republicans in Congress are laughing

  • at both Obama and the middle class

or

  • with Obama at the middle class

Which is it?

Based on Obama’s professed admiration for Reagan, the people he chose for the Bowles-Simpson catfood commission, and the inclusion of the payroll tax “holiday” in this deal, it’s the latter: Obama is laughing with Republicans at the middle class. Either way it’s galling.

Watch (or read the text of) Keith Olbermann’s special comment on this. He nails it.

Call your representative and senators. Will the Democrats in Congress eventually fold? Probably. But at least you’ll be able to say you tried to do something about it.

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Institutionalizing Corporate Oligarchy

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...

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The Supreme Court decision in the case of in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission yesterday, by a vote of 5-4, absolutely sickens me.

The New York Times editorial this morning is a pretty good summary. In case you don’t have a minute or two now to read the whole thing now, here are the key grafs:

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.
Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.

Hey, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, we’ve already got a corporate oligarchy here in the U.S., in case you hadn’t noticed. That you approve is no surprise. That you would make this long leap toward institutionalizing it is heinous.

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Unfiltered Perception

Obama smoking

UPDATED 2/24/09, 12:52 pm:
I’ve read this picture is fake.


That President Obama — boy it was fun to write those two words next to each other 🙂 — was a cigarette smoker (and may still be) is well known, but I had never seen (nor sought) photographic evidence. So I have to laugh at this picture from a Facebook sidebar ad for an I.Q. test that’s been running in recent days.

Amazing how much less confidence he inspires in this picture.

Thanks, Facebook. Was that really necessary?

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Predictions: Obama by 311-227, 3.3%

UPDATED 2/24/09, 1:33 pm:
My crystal ball was cloudy: In the Daily Kos election prediction contest, my predictions earned me a tie for 8,059th place (#8093: DK user ID nitetalker) out of 9,400+ entries.

In the earliest drafts of this post I had the winning margin at 4.8% but revised it downward by 1.5% for publication in a fit of pessimism.


Predicting election results is fun — especially when you think your candidate will win. Here’s a peek inside my crystal ball for this coming Tuesday’s presidential election:

Electoral votes: Obama 311, McCain 227
Noteworthy Obama states: CO, IA, NM, NV, OH, PA, VA
Noteworthy McCain states: FL, IN, MO, NC

My primary reactions: elation, relief.

Popular vote: Obama 50.9%, McCain 47.6% (Obama +3.3%)
The national polls stabilized this past week with Obama up 5-6% but it appears he has gotten a bounce from his infomercial in the last couple of days. I’m predicting Obama will underperform relative to the polls in the popular vote because I’m allowing for the effect of Republican shenanigans — vote suppression and, in some states, compromised voting machines and tabulation software. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, to see Obama overperform relative to the polls and exceed McCain’s popular vote total by 8-9%. Although it seems counter-intuitive given my prediction, I think overperformance is a actually more likely outcome than the pollsters getting the popular vote margin right.

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Big O-men: Not Speculation If I Foresee It

One of my favorite George Costanza lines from Seinfeld is “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie — if you believe it“.

With that in mind, I make the following statement, part fact and part speculation: Last night the Philadelphia Phillies won baseball’s World Series, bringing a major pro sports championship to Philly for the first time since 1983 and ensuring the election of Barack Obama, “The Big O”, as the next U.S. president.

In response to the last part, I imagine George looking at me earnestly and saying “QC, just remember, it’s not speculation — if you foresee it“.

Truthfully, I do predict victory for Obama — I’ll post specifics Sunday morning — but not as an effect of the Phillies’ winning the series. Rather, my prediction is based on polls showing Obama has leads — ample leads — in states totaling significantly more than the 270 electoral votes required to win.

A few related notes not worthy of separate posts …

  • The game 5 suspension actually worked out pretty well for Phillies fans, particularly casual ones like myself. The spectators in Citizens Bank Park were able to watch the deciding game without getting (further) soaked. Those watching on TV here in the chronically sleep-deprived Eastern time zone, were able to see the final pitch at a decent hour, 10:00, at least an hour and a half earlier than they would have otherwise.
  • The Phillies’ combined record for this playoff/series run of 11-3 was almost as gaudy as the 76ers 12-1 in 1983. Not too shabby. Based on this very limited sample size of two, there is a trend suggesting that when Philly teams win championships, they do it in dominating fashion.
  • The continuation of game 5 was preceded on TV by what I’ll call “The Big O Show”, Obama’s exceptionally well-produced 30-minute infomercial. Admittedly I am an Obama supporter, but I must say I was moved by it. I expect it will stop and probably reverse his recent slow slide in the national “horse race” polls.

By the way, earlier today I appended an update two updates to my recent post about rapidly declining gasoline prices.

Photo credit: Flickr user alpineinc, used here in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons license.

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Obama’s Fortunes Tied to Phillies’? (Updated!)

obama_4color_horizontalphillies_logooriginal version crossposted, with poll, as a diary at Daily Kos

“Cosmic” presidential election predictors, both sports-oriented and not, are often cited as elections approach. Depending on one’s candidate preference, these predictors serve either as reinforcement of or counterpoint to poll results.

The most famous sports-oriented predictor is based on the fortunes of the hometown pro football team for White House residents, the Washington Redskins. From the CBSNews.com article linked above:

If the Washington Redskins win their last home game before election, it means the incumbent party will get to stay in the White House.

This predictor’s long streak of accuracy, dating back to 1936, came to an end with the 2004 election.

I propose a one-time predictor for the pending election based on the results of baseball’s World Series — or as I annoyingly refer to it, the “world serious”. If this predictor turns out to be accurate, my pet name for baseball’s championship will be appropriate — or at least, less stupid.

With the resumption of World Series game 5 between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays just an hour away, I suggest a Phillies championship, whether finalized in game 5, 6, or 7, would portend a Barack Obama victory.

Here’s why.

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Lower I Say! Lower! (Updated 2x)

Gasoline prices have been in free-fall for weeks. This has become the usual pattern before an election. It’s even more pronounced this year. I recall a peak price in my neighborhood earlier this year of $4.13 per gallon. Yesterday, as I was out and about, the going price was $2.69. Today, who knows — maybe even lower.

I’ve long suspected Republicans, in particular the oil-soaked Bush administration, have significant influence on gas prices. Although I’m not offering supporting evidence, I contend falling gas prices before elections have worked to Republicans’ advantage in recent elections.

Conspiracy theories aside, the price decrease scenarios in the run-ups to those elections were different than what is happening now. As Andrew Leonard explained on Salon.com:

A worldwide economic slowdown is depressing demand and popping all kinds of commodity price bubbles. No conspiracy theory necessary. Recessionary winds are blowing out inflationary fires.

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Matching Mismatches

I’ve heard one of my favorite songs, “My Old School” by Steely Dan, hundreds of times. However, it was not until this past Saturday, October 18, just hours before I went to a college football game in Newark, Delaware between the University of Delaware and The College of William and Mary, that I realized this part of the song lyrics specifies the commonly used moniker of the visiting school:

I was smoking with the boys upstairs
When I heard about the whole affair
I said oh no
William and Mary won’t do

Is this lyric a reference to the college? When I told Mrs. QC of my revelation, she insisted it has to be a reference to the college. Color me skeptical. I’ll revisit this controversy at the end of this post.

Now to the topic at hand — the football game. The University of Delaware is “my old school” for both myself and Mrs. QC. We went to grad school there. I previously wrote how I used to attend Delaware games when I was growing up.

It was a beautiful day for football — sunny, not too breezy, temperature pushing 60°. Mrs. QC and I bought subs on the way to Newark and then tailgated briefly before going into the stadium.

The game was a mismatch. Au contraire, Steely Dan — William and Mary did do — they rolled to a 27-3 victory. It was the first time Delaware failed to score a touchdown in a home game since 1990.

My thanks to Mrs. QC for taking these pictures. Click ’em to enlarge to 800 × 531 pixels.

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The west stands at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.

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The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (in blue) and the William and Mary Tribe at the line of scrimmage prior to one of the first plays of the game.

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The Jumbotron (video display) is new at Delaware this season. It's not all that jumbo-sized, though. I couldn't see it very well from my seat at the 15-yard line near the other end of Tubby Raymond Field.

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Pie Sizing and Slicing

A January 9, 2007 piece titled Why Income Equality Matters by Charles Wheelan, Ph.D., writing as The Naked Economist on Yahoo! Finance, is a fascinating read, especially in light of the current credit crunch and bailout and the upcoming elections.

I’m particularly intrigued by this part:

There’s a very interesting strain of economic research showing that our sense of well-being is determined more by our relative wealth than by our absolute wealth.

In other words, we care less about how much money we have than we do about how much money we have relative to everyone else. In a fascinating survey, Cornell economist Robert Frank found that a majority of Americans would prefer to earn $100,000 while everyone else earns $85,000, rather than earning $110,000 while everyone else earns $200,000.

Think about it: People would prefer to have less stuff, as long as they have more stuff than the neighbors.

The point — and this is still a nascent field — is that a nation may be collectively better off (using some abstract measure of well-being) with a smaller, more evenly divided pie than with a larger pie that’s sliced less equitably.

This point, according to Wheelan, constitutes one of two reasons to be aware of income inequality in the US, the other being that “Income inequality doesn’t motivate anything good when there’s no hope of sharing in the pot of gold”.

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Nyuk-Nyuk-Nyuk-ular

Rewind to the end of the last of Governor Sarah Palin’s prep sessions for last Thursday’s vice-presidential debate. Picture the captain of the prep team — let’s call him Steve Schmidt — giving his last piece of advice to Palin …

And Sarah, sweetheart, one more thing. We need you to say ‘nuclear’ like President Bush … nuk-u-lar. Got that? Let me tell you why. The public at large doesn’t care how it’s pronounced but Bush’s way drives libs insane … batshit crazy. Mwa-ha-ha.

I mean if there was ever any doubt Sarah Palin is George Bush in a moose hunter get-up, this salvo of “nukular”s from the debate transcript should erase it.

An armed, nukular armed especially Iran is so extremely dangerous to consider. They cannot be allowed to acquire nukular weapons period. Israel is in jeopardy of course when we’re dealing with Ahmadinejad as a leader of Iran. Iran claiming that Israel as he termed it, a stinking corpse, a country that should be wiped off the face of the earth. Now a leader like Ahmadinejad who is not sane or stable when he says things like that is not one whom we can allow to acquire nukular energy, nukular weapons. Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, the Castro brothers, others who are dangerous dictators are one that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions being met first.

And an issue like that taken up by a presidential candidate goes beyond naivete and goes beyond poor judgment. A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous because leaders like Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nukular weapons and wipe off the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first.
[emphasis and spelling adjustments mine]

Palin’s use of the Bush pronunciation is rather fitting, really.

The funny thing is — and I’m basing this on no evidence of any kind — I’ll bet 75 percent of the public pronounces it like it’s spelled — nu-cle-ar. If I’m right then pronouncing it nuk-ular was yet another way Palin didn’t help herself woo uncommitted voters with her debate performance.

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