Saturday, January 12, 2008

Makes Sense to Me

Another busy day, but here's some lyrics from Widespread Panic:
I was talking to a homeless drunk about religion
He said "It's all I got, but it ain't much
'Cause the way I feel these days,
I'd rather have a gun than a crutch"

Well, that makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess
That makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess

Listen to a little girl, she was a runaway.
She said "My daddy treated me like a slave.
Soiled me in my momma bed when I was just 15.
That's why I had to lay him in his grave!"

Well, that makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess
That makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess

Talking to a black man from Atlanta.
He said "The time has come to take what's mine.
And if I must bust a few heads to achieve justice,
My righteous cause will well explain the crime!"

Well, that makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess
That makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess

Well, that makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess
That makes sense to me
It makes sense to me, I must confess

A song that fits my mood. (And you can find your own youtube videos; I don't do video).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Aches (and some pains)

So I was out working a side job today. Normally, I don't say much about my various not-full-time jobs, but today left me sore. I spent the day pruning apple trees.
I'm a fairly physical guy, and I've done my share of hard labor. Many of my recent temp work has involved moving large, heavy objects. I'm good at that.
Pruning trees involves a lot of reaching over your head. I haven't done that as much. Certain muscles are telling me that. Reaching overhead for an object is one thing. Reaching overhead for hours hurts. At least, in certain muscles.
Where's my masseuse when I need her?
p.s. I shouldn't complain. Zymurgian made a killer dinner.

A Friday Boobie

I'm out all day today, so here's your Friday Boobie.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Way to Stop Wire Tapping

If you've got any terrorist phone calls to make, now is the time:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time, according to a Justice Department audit released Thursday.

The faulty bookkeeping is part of what the audit, by the Justice Department's inspector general, described as the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And at least once, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation — the highly secretive and sensitive cases that allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies — "was halted due to untimely payment."

"We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence," according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

They're too incompetent to pay their bills.

Easily Confused

(pic of pundits analyzing New Hampshire voters)
There's a lot of analysis of the New Hampshire vote (click on yesterday's graphic from the NYTimes for a whole lotta data), but I'm confused by the correlation of votes and views on the Iraq war. On the Democratic side, the "out of Iraq" vote went to Clinton?

Of the candidates, Richardson was the strongest on withdrawal from Iraq, followed by Obama. Clinton has taken a much slower approach, so how did she win amongst the demographic?
On the Republican side, the results are even weirder. Look at the "approve" and "disapprove" and how the votes breakdown:

McCain, "stay in Iraq 100 years", won the vote of those who disapprove of the Iraq war? As Kevin Drum observes:

Granted: voters are often irrational. And the differences between Obama/Clinton and Romney/McCain on the war are fairly small. Still, Obama is the one who opposed the war from the start and has been more aggressive about calling for a withdrawal. Shouldn't he be getting more support from the get-out-now crowd? And although Romney supports the war, McCain is the dead-endest of the dead-enders. If you don't like the war, shouldn't he be your least favorite candidate?

I'm not sure what explains this. On the Democratic side, Hillary has recently been taking a harder line on withdrawal, and maybe that's showing up here. Or maybe it's just that women are more likely to want to get out of Iraq fast and also more likely to support Hillary. Or maybe Iraq isn't as big a voting issue as we think.

The Republican side is even odder. Why would voters who disapprove of the war overwhelmingly support McCain? Are they reacting to the fact that McCain is constantly claiming that he "disapproved" of the conduct of the war? Has McCain's uber-hawkishness not gotten a lot of play? Or what?

Anyway, not the biggest deal in the world, and it's only one state. But still, a bid odd.

Maybe Iraq has faded as an issue for voters, but it should still be a factor. No wonder the polling numbers are so slippery. The voters aren't predictable. But as a long time political junkie, I'm confused.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Campaigns and the Media

It appears that Bill Richardson will drop out of the campaign. I've made no secret that, in my opinion, Bill Richardson would be the best person to have as President out of the current crop of candidates. His resume is about as impressive as you could get, and in my own conversations with him (before he was a candidate) I have been impressed by his diverse fund of knowledge. But the reality of modern presidential politics also includes marketability. And Bill never had that.

MERRIMACK, N.H. - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ended his campaign for the presidency Wednesday after twin fourth-place finishes that showed his impressive credentials could not compete with his rivals' star power.

Richardson planned to announce the decision Thursday, according to two people close to the governor with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the governor's announcement.

Richardson had one of the most wide-ranging resumes of any candidate ever to run for the presidency, bringing experience from his time in Congress, President Clinton's Cabinet, in the New Mexico statehouse as well as his unique role as a freelance diplomat. As a Hispanic, he added to the unprecedented diversity in the Democratic field that also included a black and a woman.

But unlike Mike Huckabee, who pulled off that feat on the Republican side, Richardson never really put it together. He took a much stronger anti-war stand on Iraq than his rivals, but he was also prone to some positions well to the right of the others, like his support for a constitutional amendment requiring a federal budget. His public performances were uneven at best. After numerous lackluster debate performances and some dreadful television appearances--like the time on Meet the Press when he pandered too much claiming to a fan of both the Red Sox AND the Yankees--he had seemingly campaigned himself out of contention for even the VP slot.

Richardson had by far the most impressive resume of anyone in the race. But people don't vote for resumes, and he never came up with a compelling enough reason for people to vote for him instead of one of the big three. After last night's performance, where he received only 5% of the vote, his fate was sealed.

I'm sorry to see him leave the race, but he really never stood a chance. As much as a political junkie and policy wonk as I am, I grimaced at his debate performances. He was running for VP at best, or secretary of state (which he still might get). Our current media system favors style over substance, and Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all have style. We live in a society where the President is a "star" (although how shrub got the role is beyond me) and the 30 second "sound bite" is more important than the actual policy. If experience and policy mattered to the electorate, we'd be looking at a race between Biden, Dodd, and Richardson, but none of the three look good on TV.
Oh well, my favorite choice for President hasn't been a viable candidate during my lifetime. I'm used to trying to elect a "acceptable" candidate (Carter, Clinton, Gore, Kerry), rather than the one who I thought would be the best President.
Added: Some sources are denying the story, but I don't have a link yet.

Where are we going? And why am i in this handbasket?

Of the four writers contributing to this blog, I am by far the least informed of politics. I can hardly define the differences between Democrats and Republicans, much less what is a "pundit"(sounds sanskrit?), or a "neocon" or many other nebulous terms we hear of so often these days.
Frankly, defining " American"- sans geography- is the hardest one of all. Ain't it? Unless you are so sure that Dems or Repubs are the real "volk"
I am already way over my head here. But I want to dip my toes in this stagnant puddle with the rest of ya'll. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid- I am just a guy who enjoys making his own ale -why do we (whatever that is) have only TWO political parties pretending to represent us? Why is it that Independents, Greens, Libertarians, etc haven't a chance of media coverage? This is what I hear- BARACKHILLARRYHILLARYBARACKHILLBILLBARK ad nauseum. This disgusts me. Personally, I find Kucenich and Paul rather noteworthy (one of my favorite journalists- Bill Moyers- takes the time to interview 'em) But how many others with real ideas we'll NEVER hear from, because they are not landed-gentry, because those jerks who run the t.v.(or NPR- mind you) can't classify them into what they consider charismatic; marketable.
So am I venturing too far into the vapid, boring political puddle by asserting that whatever befalls us is up to the Media... Many of my fellow Americans are even dumber than I am (I'm smart enough not to own a t.v.) Do not underestimate the power of lighting, amplification, and editing. When Joe Six-pack tunes in to Fox coverage on presidential contenders, or, Julianna Chai, or Billy Bible, will said folks not be swayed by the roar of the teeming BARACKAHILLARYBARACKABARKO roar? I maintain, Human beings are far more likely to make decisions based on their emotions, before intellect.
Calm, collected, rational discourse regarding politics in our society does maybe exist. Perhaps somewhere in the oversaturated inanity of our blogoshere. Certainly, it did once, in the taverns, where insurgents such as Jefferson and Adams and other noteables (pundits?) shared ideas over a pint of ale.
Those dudes sure had a lot to deal with. But not Fox, CNN, and NPR. Redcoats of our age...

The Ongoing Job Hunt

I'm really sick of job hunting. I'm about to go out and drop off a couple more resumes, and the interview that was snowed out on Monday is rescheduled for tomorrow, but I'm feeling rather frustrated.
How do you get one of those plushy political pundit jobs? The blowhards on the radio don't seem to have any more insight than I do.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm broke, so if anybody feels that they can make a small donation (button on the right), I would be most appreciative.

Scoring New Hampshire

Every political blogger is starting the morning by analyzing New Hampshire, and I don't want to be left out. Given that the professional pundits are all over the map, anything I say can be considered equally profound (or not).
There's a lot of surprise at Clinton's victory. There shouldn't be. While the polls showed Obama leading before the vote, the race was still close. I thought Obama would win by a small percentage; instead he lost by a small percentage. There is a ton of speculation as to "why", but two factors stood out to me. The youth voter turnout was not as high as in Iowa, renewing the question of how reliable it is. And Clinton's political machine appeared to do a very good job of getting out the vote. Obama's vote totals were close to the projections; Clinton's were much higher than forecast. Given that New Hampshire has on site voter registration, it looks to me that the Clinton team did a very good job.
Democrats should be very excited about the turnout. The Republican turnout was down, below even the turnout of 2000. The Democratic turnout set a new record.
As I've said multiple times, the compressed primary schedule makes this a long game. The pundit class hoped to choose the winner in the early innings, but that isn't happening. The winners wont be declared before super duper Tuesday, February 5th, and may not even be decided then. There is a lot of game left.
Added: A whole bunch of data here: Who supported Hillary?

Click the graphic for more data.

How much info do you need?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Quick New Hampshire Comment

Just a quick observation; the polls were way wrong. But the numbers I'm noticing: voter turnout. Turnout for the Dems is way up. Turnout for the reptiles is down from '04, and may be lower than in 2000.

If you were taking CNN seriously, you would think New Hampshire IS the presidential election. Please tell 'ol Wolf to look on the next page of his calendar, around 2/5. Might be some more votes.

That, and Mike Gravel has 305 votes (last screen I saw), so his campaign is still alive. Uhm, party like it's 1973, Mike.

Diplomats Against Shrub

Another reason why this election is so important. Shrub has no diplomatic corps left:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly half of U.S. diplomats who do not want to serve in Iraq say a key reason is because they do not support the Bush administration's policies there, according to a union survey released on Tuesday.

The survey by the American Foreign Service Association, which represents the rank-and-file diplomatic corps, not political appointees, also found that most U.S. diplomats were frustrated by what they saw as a lack of resources. Four out of 10 think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is doing a bad job supporting them.

The electronic survey conducted at the end of last year found 68 percent of respondents opposed a decision by Rice last year to consider forcing employees to go to Iraq, where the embassy has been plagued by staff shortages.

Asked about those who would not go to Iraq because they had policy disagreements, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said people who signed up as foreign service officers were expected to support the policies of the U.S. government.

"And if people have a problem with that, they know what they can do," said McCormack, indicating disgruntled employees could quit if they were unhappy.

I can understand why career diplomats don't want to go to Iraq, but these are the people who we most need there. The next president will have a tough task in rebuilding the core of the diplomatic corps.

A Reason for Optimism

News from New Hampshire that gives me reason for optimism:

ABC News' Karen Travers Reports: New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan told ABC News that turnout among primary voters today is "absolutely huge" -- and there are concerns about running out of ballots in towns like Portsmouth, Keene, Hudson and Pelham.

"Turnout is absolutely huge and towns are starting to get concerned that they may not have enough ballots," Scanlan said. "We are working on those issues. Everything else seems to be going smoothly."

Scanlan said that the Secretary of State's office is sending additional ballots to Portsmouth and Keene (traditionally Democratic strongholds), Hudson (Republican leaning with significant numbers of independents) and Pelham (large number of independents).

According to Scanlan, the ballot strain seems to be on Democratic ballots, which suggests that the undeclared voters are breaking for the Democratic primary. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner predicted that 90,000 undeclared voters would vote in the Democratic primary compared to 60,000 voting in the Republican primary.

When voters start turning out in huge numbers it's usually against the status quo. This could portend a major shift away from the republicans, and a large shift come November.

Or the republicans may turn to "ballot rationing" as their next election strategy.

Business vs. Populism

Some of the presidential candidates are running on "populism", putting people ahead of corporations. But don't worry, the corporations are ready to fight back:

WASHINGTON — Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said.

The warning from the nation's largest trade association came against a background of mounting popular concern over the condition of the economy. A weak record of job creation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, declining home values and other problems have all helped make the economy a major campaign issue.

Reacting to what it sees as a potentially hostile political climate, Donohue said, the chamber will seek to punish candidates who target business interests with their rhetoric or policy proposals, including congressional and state-level candidates.

Although Donohue shied away from precise figures, he indicated that his organization would spend in excess of the approximately $60 million it spent in the last presidential cycle. That approaches the spending levels planned by the largest labor unions.

The chamber president is scheduled to announce the broad outlines of the organization's plans for the 2008 election and beyond at a news conference here today. Donohue also plans to fire a rhetorical warning shot across the bow of candidates considered unfriendly to business.

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media," he said. "It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them.",1,398255,print.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

Well, at least he's honest about his plan. Remember who owns the media that will inform a lot of the voters. The corporations aren't going to give up their power without a fight, as John Edwards has said many times. Look for the phrase "anti-business" to be used in ads attacking the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is.
Government "of the people, by the people, for the people" has been perverted into government "of the rich, by the media, for the corporations."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Morning Snow

Great. We've got somewhere around 8 inches of snow this morning, with a lot more to come through the day. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but I have a job interview this afternoon. I'll have to make a choice between dressing "warm" or "professional." Bet on "warm."
Update: Interview cancelled. Interviewer stayed home because of snow.