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Aug. 22nd, 2008

Political Stupidity, Stupidity, Campaign Stupidity

DIY Political Blogging/HouseGate and the EMPSCAT

OK, so my promises to update more when my grad work was over didn't happen, but I'm still doing plenty of reading. Since most of what I write about here comes mostly from a few sources and the sites those sources link to, here's the blogs I check. Read these, and you'll know roughly as much as I do.

Now, onto the one bit of news that compelled me to post here in the first place. In case you haven't heard, McCain was recently asked how many houses he owned. Clearly flustered, and stumbling for a response, he asked the reporter (from a blog I don't read too often called The Politico) to check with his staff. Checking with McCain's staff yielded the response "At least four."

Obama jumped on it with an ad, which can be found here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/21/112248/677/796/571793

In that ad, the narrator claims that the number of houses McCain owns is seven, worth a total of $13 million.  I've since read (at the above sites) numbers as high as eight, ten, and twelve.  In some cases, it appears that the number depends on--to paraphrase Clinton--what your definition of house is.  For instance, McCain has a property at Hidden Valley, but there are three houses built at his ranch there.  Is that one house or three? I'll leave that to you.

If, as today's rumors go, McCain picks the equally rich Romney for VP, the Republican ticket will have 7-12 houses from McCain and (from what I read) at least three for Romney.  The media narrative immediately becomes "The Republican Prez and VP candidates own more houses than you can find on some suburban city blocks"  How much will this change things?

Enter the EMPSCAT, or the Electric Minor Political Scandal Acid Test, a product of FiveThirtyEight writer Nate Silver.  He'd devised it back during another minor scandal involving McCain's houses, where McCain had apparently failed to pay his taxes on a California beachfront property for four years.

The EMPSCAT consists of five questions that measure how much traction a scandal has.  Here's my take on how the newly christened "HouseGate" stacks up.

Jun. 26th, 2008

Political Stupidity, Stupidity, Campaign Stupidity

Blaagh! There's a McCain ad on my blog!

My blog! MY blog! Gaaah!

I feel dirty. But hey, at least we admit our biases here on Politics For Dummies.

Ahem, so, news then?

The big news is that there have been two big Supreme Court decisions today. In case you missed it, the Millionaire's Amendment and the DC gun ban are toast.  In response, I've asked our resident legal scholar to do a post on the recent Supreme Court decisions . Find it on the also-long-dead politics4all.

On another Scalia-related note, I found this article about Scalia decrying the release of Guantanamo prisoners being "returned to the battlefield" as Scalia put it. Among those released, according to a Pentagon report: "The Tipton Three and The Road to Guantanamo".  Who are these oddly-named terrorists?  They were apparently 3 Brits who were arrested because someone thought they looked like people in an Osama Bin Laden rally video.  They then participated in the documentary "The Road to Guantanamo" after their release.  Of course, for all I know, a "documentary" in Britain is slang for "blowing up stuff with Stinger missiles.  Don't remember that from my travels, but it could happen...

Jun. 25th, 2008

When people want porn, they stop reading Wikipedia.

It's hard to see it in the imported picture, but go to http://google.com/trends?q=porn%2C+wikipedia to get the full picture.  This is Google Trends, which lets you search how often people google certain terms.  The light blue is "porn" and the red is "wikipedia".  Note that when porn spikes, wikipedia dips.  Weird, no?

Jun. 23rd, 2008

House of Representatives

Wherein the author coins three phrases and rambles a lot

In an attempt to coin a phrase, I shall define "Federally Blue" as a state that votes for Dems for President, Senate, and for its House seats.  This is hard to do in large states, where regional differences are likely to mean that some areas are red enough to earn at least one house seat.  Virginia may become an example of this, as it is becoming a swing state for Obama to target, has Jim Webb as one senator, and also is overwhelmingly likely to elect former VA gov Mark Warner as another senator.  Choice of governor is something that isn't reflected in "Federally Blue", and will be what I shall call (for purposes of coining as many terms as I can) "Big Name Blue", which includes Prez, Governor, and Senate but not the House, as Representatives tend not to be as well known.  Thus, VA is potentially "Big Name Blue" in 2008.  Montana is another possibility, with Dem Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus (the latter is up for reelection, but is up against Bob Kelleher, a chronic candidate who recently lamented the possibility of winning).

I bring all this up in response to this post on Swing State Project, an excellent Senate/House/State Legislature blog that is one of my daily must-reads.  With Tom Udall looking to cruise to victory in his New Mexico Senate race, and with Obama doing very well in recent polls, New Mexico may become "Big Name Blue" (the other Senator is Democrat Jeff Bingaman, and the governor is the better-known Bill Richardson).

However, having heard whisperings of good news in the two house districts in New Mexico, I could forsee the state going "All Blue" which is hopefully self-explanatory enough.

Calling all pterodactyls...

If our resident New Yorker could fill me in on his take behind NY Senate Majority Leader Bruno's retirement, I'd appreciate it.  The Albany Project has been my source so far, but I like a personal touch.

Jun. 20th, 2008


Two good articles on VP selection

Both from www.fivethirtyeight.com, which has become my new source for pure polling data:

Political Stupidity, Stupidity, Campaign Stupidity

The (apparently bi-weekly) Hunch

States Bush Won in '00 and/or '04 Likely to Vote Obama in the General Election, roughly organized by likelihood.

Very likely:
2/3rds of Nebraska (They split 3 of their electoral votes by Congressional District, with 2 more for the popular vote winner (which will probably still be McCain))
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina

Somewhat likely:
North Dakota

A little bit likely:
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Places where Obama needs to play defense:

Obama just ran a 60-second bio ad in the following states:
Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia

Follow this link for the Obama ad and a very good metaphor equating early political ads to artillery fire.

Jun. 5th, 2008

Political Stupidity, Stupidity, Campaign Stupidity

The Weekly Hunch

This is one thing I'm considering introducing as a regular event on this, to test my ability for political prognostication. The weekly hunch is exactly that, a hunch. I won't try to track my successes, and I won't guarantee quick or correct results from said hunch. That being said, here is this week's hunch.

If they can find another Dem to replace him, Brian Schweitzer (the popular governor of Montana) will be Obama's running mate this fall.

Flip the switch, Igor! Give my creation...LIFE!!!

Time to dust off the ol' blog and do a little posting. For those who remember my warning at the end of the last post, I have indeed been in a crazy-intense Masters program. I am still very much in the grips of this program, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and what with the recent political news, I long for the old days of having a place for my political blatherings. Don't expect a lot now, but maybe a trickle of news will come your way.

I will remind you of my biases now, that I am usually far more interested in the House and Senate races than I am in Presidential races. There are a few reasons why this is, and why this time I might change my ways.

1: By a score of 535 to 1, there are more Senate and House races than presidential races, meaning the potential for more interesting factors and stories.
2: Also, the time I really came into my own politically was just before I got to have my spirits crushed by Bush defeating Gore. 2004 didn't help much either. But (and this is where the optimism comes in) I'm getting good vibes this year. We'll see how things go.

As of now, though, it is time for me to sleep. See you on the morrow.

Apr. 20th, 2007

Dubya, thumbing one's nose at decency

Dubya comes to East Grand Rapids

How did I get to give the President the finger today? To be fair, I was about 3-400 feet away at the time, so I doubt he saw me. But, like homemade gifts, it's the thought that counts, right?

The President came to my old high school, to speak in its shiny opera house-esque performing arts center. Something called the World Affairs Council brought him in, with financial help from my dad's law firm. My dad is on the firm's allocations committee for giving away money to various civic and philanthropic purposes. Needless to say, he was not pleased when someone offered the chance to give $5,000 to let Dubya prattle on for an hour and a half. He tells me he wrote three emails expressing this displeasure, though he only sent the one where he managed to keep a civil tongue in his head and not reach through the computer screen and throttle his fellow committee members. He was outvoted, and was feeling pretty good when the committee was having trouble finding guests to come with. Unfortunately, some clients gleefully expressed interest, ruining his day.

While I for one came out of the experience with a full camera memory card and mild sunburn, you, dear reader, get to enjoy the viewpoint of each individual member of my family. Roll call time:

Stewart: Wandering around town, photographing pro/anti-Bush folk,
My sister: Trying to go to school while it's under lockdown.
Dad: Front row of the audience for the speech, as the President likes people who toss money at him, even if they do so begrudgingly.
Mom: Watching the news coverage from home. For once, she got the easy job.

I woke up at the stroke of 11:30, had a very quick breakfast, and walked towards town, pausing alongside a postal worker to watch a Federal Helicopter buzz the neighborhood. My second sign of something out of the ordinary was watching a procession of about 7 small children with their parents, decked out in red, white and blue clothes, flags, frighteningly red cowboy hats emblazoned with flags, and carrying large signs with lariats on them, with the words "You have a friend in me" inside. Toy Story references aside, the children happily played in traffic on their way past a home construction site, where the builders had erected a makeshift sign out of plywood and orange spray paint that said "Builders for Bush". Many hours later, as I walked home, these builders could be found shouting such patriotic phrases as "Four More Wars!", "Four More Queers!" and the simplistically-ominous "More War!" as they worked. Oh, for the days of catcalls and wolf-whistles.

Walking up to the high school, so far the mental tally of pro-Bush to anti-Bush people was leaning heavily toward the former. There were several more people with Bush/Cheney signs, and various other posterboard signs welcoming the president, and telling him how he was doing the right thing, etc. It was here I witnessed one of the more interesting parental admonishments I've seen in a while, which went something like this:

"Billy, pick that up! What would the President think if he came by and saw your sign on the ground like that?"

My dad later told me of a parallel experience, where, at around noon, a client called him up and asked him if he could drop everything and work on a project for him for four days. My dad's reply?

"Sorry, I'm meeting with the President in a little while..."

'Cause really, even if you don't like the President, there's little one can do to argue with something like that.

Fortunately for me, I soon saw some proper protesters across the street, and managed to snap a few more pictures. I had to wander around a large quantity of trucks to do so. As they did with the Gerald Ford funeral, large vehicles (salt trucks, snowplows, garbage trucks, etc.) were used as roadblocks, though they had to bring in some from nearby cities to block all the roads in need of blocking. It was at this time I got a call from my sister.

The high schoolers, you see, were faced with an interesting choice. Come to school, or join the massive protest being organized off school grounds. The high school would be sealed up tight soon after school started. My sister chose to go to school, and had to pass through metal detectors and the like (never before seen at my little school) to do so. Many of the entrances were blocked the whole day, guarded by Secret Service agents in business suits and nametags ("Hello, my name is Secret Service?" I asked my sister. She said I wasn't too far off.) SWAT teams and dog sniffing dogs roamed the halls. The gym was turned into an area for the media (which apparently involves installing about 100,000 phones, or so I'm told) The theater's Green Room was turned into a staging room for security. Translation, according to my sister: It was filled to the brim with guns. No people visible, just guns. Some students did manage to have their school and protest too; protest signs were taped to the classroom windows, making a case for peace, or pace in the Latin classroom window and paz in the Spanish classes. However, the mood was rather tense. My sister described the following exchange:

Somewhat ditzy girl: Why are all those SWAT team guys carrying guitar cases?
My sister: Those aren't guitar cases, those are sniper rifles.
Somewhat ditzy girl: Eeep! (Hides)

Unsatisfied with the small crowds at the front of the school, I had to go the long way around to get to the back. As I walked toward the police station I saw a massive gathering of law enforcement. Two fire trucks flanked the building, each with a person standing on top, alternately looking authoritative and as if they were about to start doing the macarena (this one guy was doing something odd with his arms, which is why it came to mind). The library parking lot next door was filled with police cars from all the neighboring cities, as well as State Police, Highway Patrol, a SWAT team, and the Sheriff. This is sort of odd, as this area is nowhere useful, as the President came and went southeast of their position. My only theory on why they chose to gravitate here is that, if the protesters got rough, the police could swoop in from behind. This is, admittedly, a rather paranoid and unrealistic theory.

Speaking of protests, as I walked past the gathering of policemen I was confronted by a massive protest heading up the street, chanting and otherwise being loudly enthusiastic. Many more photos were snapped before the protesters stopped in front of the police barricade. They were here for a while, as nobody was sure exactly how the President would arrive. There were two ways he could have come, three if you believed the rumor going around the high school that he would be brought in via helicopter. The protesters seemed to be massing around one entrance, and not surprisingly the President's limo (plus the decoy, several black SUVs, and a parade of unmarked vans) came and left via the other way. The crowd, I later heard on the news, was between 1,000 and 2,000 people, which seemed pretty accurate. There were a lot of people from out of town (hence such a large number) but I ran into a fair amount of people I knew, which was fun. There was one impressive moment where someone unrolled a massive spool of paper, which had the names of all the American soldiers who had been killed so far on it. It stretched much further than I'd have liked.

There were plenty of news reporters about. Fittingly, NBC, CBS, and ABC were allowed to park their news vans within the police cordon, while Fox News was stuck outside, down the street. Curiously, this happened to be exactly the route the President took to go to and from the high school. Conspiracy theorists, that one's for you.

Once I find the login and password for this site's corresponding Flickr account, I'll try to get some photos of the event to you. In the meantime, feel free to bombard me with questions and comments, such as "Where the hell have you been? It's been months!"

So let's attack that subject head on, shall we? I admit, after my last massive post I got rather burned out, especially after losing all the links I was trying to archive. And now, as some of you may know, I'm headed off to grad school, for a frighteningly intense program which crams 40 credits into nine months, including many hours of student teaching. Free time will be a luxury, long story short. Thus, you can expect the occasional post, but unless I clone myself or suddenly become the god of teaching, this site may be dormant 9 times out of 10. If you're desperate for political news, I can tell you where I usually go to find it. At this point, simply keeping in touch with friends (something I'm also crap at) takes priority over talking politics.

Feel free to keep talking on Politics for All. Email me if there's something I can do to help--or for any reason, for that matter.

Yours in politics and otherwise,

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August 2008




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