2012/10/28

Electoral math and boycotting the vote

Adding up the male and female vote in 2008 gives us a total of 130 million votes. According to Harper's, there is a pool of 90 to 95 million voters who are staying out of the voting process and that about two-thirds of that number would vote for a Democratic candidate if they were compelled to cast a vote (The piece recommends extremely mild, slap-on-the-wrist penalties for not voting). The first piece adds that part of the reason Obama won in 2008 was that "Turnout among young black voters was 55%, eight percentage points higher than four years earlier," and that "turnout among blacks, Hispanics and Asians increased by four percentage points in 2008 from four years earlier."

So why do the Presidency, the House and the Senate all skew to the right wing politically more than demographics suggest they should be doing?  Why aren't they all pandering and competing more towards the left side of the political spectrum? Two reasons, the first is campaign finance. Campaigns need money to get out their message and to air advertisements and getting a big check from a wealthy person is a good deal easier than getting lots of small checks from a lot of voters. A quick Google search on "obama small donors" shows that Obama did better with small donors in February 2012, but that he now gets about the same percentage of big to small donors as his Republican rival does. The second reason is that many on the left/liberal/progressive side of the aisle are convinced that the system is corrupt.

What's the result of people boycotting the system? Commenters saying that "we live in a center-right country," even though polling on specific issues (budget/economy) shows that voters lean towards the left on most political issues. Counting up newspaper endorsements, Romney has more newspapers endorsing him than Obama does, but "Total circulation of the newspapers endorsing Obama: 12.8 million Total for Romney: 7.8 million." [emphasis in original] But the vote is far closer than it should be.

Essentially, boycotting the vote because it's corrupt is of great electoral benefit to the right wing and helps get right-wing politicians into office.

2012/10/15

Mirror, Mirror

Just saw the Julia Roberts vehicle Mirror, Mirror on DVD. As with Snow White & The Hunstman, it's a re-telling of the tale of Snow White. Very interestingly, both Snows use swords. I guess if anyone knows of a young lady who wishes to be a princess, one might tell her that fencing is now part of their expected skill set. Of course, according to The Hunger Games, archery is a necessary skill as well.
The film gets a bit ideological as it examines how the evil queen rules the people of the kingdom. I explained to a buddy that the handsome prince (Armie Hammer) was bamboozled into allying with the queen and so he and Snow (Lilly Collins) had to face off against each other. Snow had perhaps a week of fencing practice whereas the prince had obviously been practicing all his life, so their fencing wasn't really much of a contest, but she distinguished herself through her resourcefulness and quick thinking.

2012/10/08

Comment on double standards

I'm scribbling out my response to Krauthammer's column in the Inky today, but I was most amused by the question posed by the  commenter who calls himself "The Monk": 

Bush was lambasted when he announced "Mission Accomplished" yet the media has not criticized President Obama one bit for his constant crowing that "Osama is dead, and GM is alive". Why the double standard?

Erm, well, let's see, the "mission" was NOT accomplished, if it had been, then US troops would have left Iraq. They didn't. they remained. Sure, if one defines the "mission" as merely overthrowing Saddam Hussein, then yes, that was accomplished, but Bush clearly meant much more than that. He wanted a "radical reconstruction of [Iraqs] entire economy." He meant that he had accomplished the first steps in bringing prosperity and stability to Iraq, that he would replace tyranny with democracy, or at least that he would give Iraqis a government that they would be content with. He did none of that. Heck, he couldn't even restore electric power to Iraq and because he couldn't follow up his initial military success against a nation that had been weakened by years of sanctions, Bush lost whatever success American arms had given him by May 2003.

How does the killing of Osama bin Laden compare with this? There's no indication that Obama ever wanted anything more than the destruction of al Qaeda and that project is proceeding quite smoothly, thank you very much. According to ABC News:

ABDUL BARI ATWAN: It seems Osama bin Laden had a long-term strategy. He told me personally that he can't go and fight the Americans and their country. But if he manages to provoke them and bring them to the Middle East and to their Muslim worlds, where he can find them or fight them on his own turf, he will actually teach them a lesson. It seems the invasion of Iraq fulfilled Osama bin Laden's wish. That's why the Americans are losing in Iraq, financially and on a human basis, and even their allies, including Australia, are really losing patience, losing money, losing personnel, losing reputation in that part of the world.

By ending the Iraq War on a schedule (As opposed to waiting for conditions to be fulfilled), Obama has stopped the bleeding and has frustrated one of bin Laden's objectives. General Motors is indeed alive and doing well.

In order for there to be a "double standard," Bush and Obama had to have made similar statements with similar intentions. They obviously didn't as Bush made grand and glorious plans for a brand new Middle East and Obama just wants to destroy al Qaeda and get America's economy back up to speed. There's simply no indication that Obama is pushing for more. Sorry "Monk," but your question is a FAIL!

2012/10/01

Republican campaign and billionaires versus education

Laura Ingraham feels that Mitt Romney will win by "reminding people that we have 11.7% unemployment, not 8%" (I more or less agree with her featured, headline view that for Romney to try for a "human moment" is a fool's errand as he's a dick and there's no point in his trying pretend otherwise). By the way, Media Matters disagrees with Ingraham's assertion, calling it baseless. The problem with telling voters that the economy is in bad shape is that we already know that. The real problem is what his plans are for doing something about it.

VP candidate Ryan's no help. He spent his Sunday talk show appearance saying he and Romney will fix the economy, but kept claiming that the subject was too complicated and wonkish to get into. Of course, he could book a smallish university auditorium, warn the audience in advance that his speech was going to be lengthy and complicated and have at it. Not all that many people would see the whole speech, but economists and analysts could review something really meaty and substantive.

I completely agree with Ryan's statement that:


We want to grow the pie. We want economic opportunity. We want people to be able to get a better job, have more income security and higher take-home pay. And you can do that through economic growth.

There's no question that this is definitely the way to do it, but then Ryan makes a bizarre statement:

Attend our town hall meetings. Look at how we're walking people through how we fix Medicare, how we fix Social Security, how we create jobs, how we reform the tax code, how we have an energy policy, an education policy, a trade policy. Mitt Romney has put out more specifics on how to revive this economy, on how to get people back to work than the incumbent president of the United States has.

This is not the slightest bit believable. If these details had ever been presented, why doesn't anybody have the transcripts for any of those town hall meetings? Obviously, there are many people who would be happy to present these details to a broader public, if only to show fellow citizens how stupid they are.

Update: From Ezra Klein's analysis:

That doesn’t mean Romney is doomed to lose this election. But he needs to do more than convince voters that the economy is bad at this very moment. He needs to convince them that the economy will be better if he’s elected president. And that means convincing them that he’s got a policy agenda capable of turning the economy around.
Which gets to Romney’s real challenge in the debates, which has also been his real difficulty throughout the campaign: He doesn’t have an appealing policy agenda capable of turning this thing around, and his party hasn’t given him the freedom to construct one.



On a completely difference note, I'm very pleased to report that the movie "Won't Back Down" is a complete and utter bomb. I saw the preview. Wasn't impressed. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a very enthusiastic, vivacious single parent. Holly Hunter is credited, but I didn't see her anywhere in the preview. Main problem I had with the preview is that the movie appears to be very two-dimensional, setting up a very simple problem, followed by an equally simple solution.  I saw later that the movie is very anti-teachers' union and that it suggests privatizing schools. As I pointed out back in June, privatization is not driven by popular demand, it's driven by wealthy special interests and it's simply not the answer. Not surprisingly, the movie is

Funded by Republican billionaire (and owner of the Weekly Standard) Philip Anschutz, who also funded the anti-teachers union documentary Waiting for Superman, the movie is, happily, drawing terrible reviews, many of which comment directly on its political mission.


Unfortunately, I wrote to my Representative and both Senators about the apparently bipartisan desire to make deep cuts in the budget that will, naturally, have a deep and unnecessary, very painful impact on the public at large. They all appeared determined to make those cuts anyway. Paul Krugman calls attention to the planned cuts. Let's hope he has an impact.