Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Signs and portents

October 9th, 2012 1 comment

Imagine you care very deeply about a particular football game. You really want your team to win, but you can’t watch the game. You can’t even check on the score. You are close enough to the stadium that you can hear the roar of the crowd (usually) and you have access to a few random stats (but not the actual score, remember). You can see time of possession, and the QB rating for each team’s starting quarterback, and maybe turnovers. That’s it.

That is what it is like watching polls if you are a political junkie. You can get a decent idea of who is winning, but you are not sure, and there’s a lot of margin for error. But, you have an idea, and you kind of can tell the momentum. I think my team (Obama) was winning for while, based on the crowd noise, but it’s gotten very quiet as of late, and I notice we’ve turned it over a couple times in quick succession. But we don’t know the score, and won’t til the game is over in 4 weeks.

For my own mental health I should probably stop poll-watching and reading Nate Silver, but it is somewhat addictive, and frustrating at the same time. Are there really that many people who simply choose to ignore a year’s worth of political campaigning and change their opinion based on a 90 minute debate? Is the unlikeable, tin-eared plutocrat, who made gaffe after gaffe (47%, “severe conservative” “I like to fire people”) suddenly preferable to tired, adult Obama, who ironically has finally moved America into positive ground in unemployment and the economy after 4 years?

This is all the more frustrating because (in theory) Obama was leading for a while. It is a textbook example of loss aversion…I don’t think the frustration would be as bad if the two guys had been tied for months. It hurts more to blow a big lead (or pile of cash) then to lose a game that was close all along (ask any fan – or investor).

Ugh. Just depressing. And I know there is still time for it to turn around, but my confidence in the ability of the American people to make adult choices is not terribly high after seeing the polls (those polls again) seem to indicate that most viewers treated the debate like American Idol.

Categories: Politics Tags:

Obama vs Romney: Who wins the presidential spam race

August 1st, 2012 Comments off

I recently signed up to get a free Obama bumper sticker. All good and well, but after doing so, I started to get daily campaign spam from the Obama campaign. Well, technically not spam; after all, I signed up for that bumper sticker and in the small print, sure, I probably agreed to the emails…and in fairness they were easy to unsubscribe to.

This go me thinking, how do the campaigns compete against each other in the all important Electoral Spam College? So, I created two brand new email addresses, one for Obama, and one for Romney. I then went to the front page of each web site and gave them those respective email addresses.

I am very curious how often each campaign sends email in their “default” setting, and what kind of emails they are (call to action, calls for money, or something else). Finally, I am curious if these email accounts will get any true spam. They are brand new accounts on my own domain and will not be used for anything else so they are very unlikely to ever get spam – unless the source is one of the campaigns.

Anyway, stay tuned and I’ll update things here with an ongoing score.

Categories: Politics Tags:

The rich are not like you and me…

January 2nd, 2012 Comments off

Pity The Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank spends this book doing what he does best – analyzing why, in spite of historic trends which say otherwise – much of the politically active population of the United States espouses and defends policies and ideas which are contrary to their own best (economic) interests.

This is a restatement of Thomas’s thesis from “What’s the Matter With Kansas” with a focus on the political situation post-Great Recession. Like his earlier book, Thomas is puzzled why so many average Americans are seemingly choosing ideology over what actually benefits them economically. In this case, sympathy for billionaire bankers and their political supporters (couched in the rhetoric of defending capitalism and free enterprise) over policies – such as economic and health care reforms – which might actually benefit middle class folks directly.

I approach politics from a liberal viewpoint, but Thomas seems to fall into the same bit of blindness that affected “Kansas” – namely, he is shocked to see a group of Americans hewing to ideology over their own material self-interest. At least it is shocking and dismaying when these folks are middle-class Americans from the flyover states. This shouldn’t be surprising. Ever since the late 1960s and the rise of the modern political environment, large swaths of Americans focus more on ideology over their own self-interest – liberals and conservatives (how many wealthy Manhattanites voted for Obama in 2008 even though his proposed policies might have hit them in the pocketbook?)

Nonetheless, Thomas has written a fairly incisive book, and one which is rather depressing, if only as a catalog of the myriad of ways that a more imaginative or energetic Democratic party or President could have responded to the crisis. In the end, the President ceded the ideological battleground to his opponents, and like French generals in World War II, seemed most interested in negotiating his own defeat rather then using imagination (and the significant resources still at hand) to try to actually win.

Thomas’s book is a depressing reminder of the state of American politics today, and a fair look at the Tea Party and other forces (including a great side-trip into the depths of Ayn Rand’s oeuvre) who have been driving the debate in the country the past two years. He tells it like it is, and depressed liberals (as well as triumphant conservatives who aren’t afraid to read a book by someone on the left) will be both enraged and enlightened.

Categories: Books, Politics Tags:

Oh, Kevin Yoder, I had such hope…

October 19th, 2010 1 comment

Well, any chance that I would vote for Kevin Yoder for Congress pretty much evaporated after reading his embarrassing, evasive answers to some real softball questions asked by citizens on this Journal-World voter chat.

I am sure Yoder has experienced campaign operatives advising him to ruthlessly Stay On Message and don’t say anything controversial but his attempts to do so in the context of the simple questions asked on this forum were a joke. There were only five questions asked, none of them very difficult, and by my count, Yoder completely ignored two of them (on bipartisanship and gay rights), provided a partial answer to two of them (on drug legalization and roadway safety) , and only gave a decent answer to one question, on health care, probably because for that one he at least had a nice canned answer prepared in advance.

Yoder’s responses to the question on partisanship was a complete non sequitur; he was asked if his political philosophy had changed (he was known as being moderate to liberal in the Kansas House) and his reply – talking about the federal government spending too much money – was like he hadn’t even read the question. Yoder was later asked if he supported gay rights, specifically about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (because in the past he had been endorsed by a gay political group) and he replied with a non-answer about the Kansas marriage law that says marriage was between one man and one woman, which he said he supported (although as a state legislator he voted AGAINST an amendment on this issue). He didn’t mention Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at all, although he at least gets a D- for answering the part of the question about the Federal marriage law.

Moving down the list, Yoder’s answer to the question about legalizing drugs was buried at the end of a rant that can basically be summed up as “California, you suck!” which doesn’t strike me as being terribly relevant to the actual question, although hey, at the end Yoder does actually answer it by saying he’s opposed to drug legalization.

So, finally, at the very end of the entire “chat”, a solid unequivocal answer!

Yoder’s a young guy, but he can apparently dodge and weave like an old pro. This actually kind of stinks, because I would like to vote for an intelligent moderate with some fresh ideas who can work together with both parties and get stuff done. Apparently voters in the third district don’t have that option with either party.

Categories: Politics Tags:

Voting just encourages them…

October 17th, 2010 1 comment

It’s election season! You know, the magical time of year when, if you’re a good little boy or girl, Uncle Sam will cram something up your chimney, or something like that. This year, it’s just so hard to choose, with all the teabagging going on, not to mention our socialist communist Muslim president, who even as I write this, is forcing gay people to get married and then have abortions performed by government-controlled doctors.

Anyway, my little corner of the world is actually pretty boring. We don’t have any candidates who with pro wrestling backgrounds, nor do we have any right-wing Republican former witches or Nazis (although we do have Kris Kobach).

I think our country is in a lot of trouble, and the results of the forthcoming election are almost certain to make it worse, as we look poised to give the Republicans back control of Congress (“Today’s GOP – We’re the party that campaigns on government not working, and then we prove it once we’re elected!”)

But, all we can do is vote (and bitch – loudly). My Douglas County sample ballot had a dozen or so races, a bunch of judge retentions, and a couple ballot measures on it, and for what it’s worth, these are my thoughts on how I will be voting this year.

US Senate

Lisa Johnson is my pick here. The big knock on her is lack of experience, but she has responsible, moderate positions on the major issues, which unfortunately won’t stop her from losing by 30 points to cookie-cutter Tea Party favorite Pat Moran in the election.

Congress – 3rd District

Stephene Moore versus Kevin Yoder
This (was) the most difficult decision I have/had, and to tell the truth, I still have not made up my mind. I think retiring Congressman Dennis Moore is one of the finest legislators Kansas has ever elected, and if he were running, he would be my pick. However, he is retiring, and his wife is running for the seat. She has good positions on the issues, but has absolutely no experience (other then being Dennis Moore’s wife). Her opponent, Kevin Yoder is a moderate to liberal Republican who has a very solid record in the Kansas House, especially on social and financial issues. Yoder was a leading GOP voice against the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Kansas, and in fact was a registered Democrat for much of his adult life until he realized that you need an “R” next to your name to win in Kansas. Yoder’s been mouthing tea party platitudes to secure his election, and electing him is still a vote for a GOP majority – but, we ought to also encourage socially moderate Republicans, especially when the Democrat is not a very inspiring alternative. I will probably not make up my mind here until election day, but, I was for a while leaning Yoder.

Not anymore. After seeing Yoder’s embarrassing, evasive answers to softball questions from readers in this Lawrence Journal-World forum, I can say that any desire I had to vote for Yoder has been significantly diminished. I have additional thoughts about that forum if you want the ugly details. Making it even “better” is the revelation that Yoder had a “glug glug vroom vroom” moment back in 2009. I am definitely not going to vote for him. I may look at Moore again, or perhaps even consider a write-in vote or something.


Tom Holland is a decent, thoughtful public servant. He also has an IT background, which is a plus, especially given the state government’s recent PC-related ‘oopsies.’ I don’t like the fact that Holland gave gay people the big middle finger a few years back by supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but overall, he’s a moderate guy who would keep Kansas on an even keel. In contrast, his opponent, Senator Sam Brownback is running for office on a social-conservative ideological crusade, including cozying up to pro-genocide African “Christians.” Unfortunately, given his statewide name recogniztion and the “R” by his name, Brownback will win in a landslide, but I don’t have to help him along his way.

Secretary of State

Chris Biggs is a thoughtful, responsible public servant running against an ideologue. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Biggs’ opponent, Kris Kobach, is a nasty piece of work, who has made a career immigrant-bashing (he helped write Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law) and as an anti-abortion crusader (best known for subpoenaing patient medical records in abortion cases). Biggs? Just a boring public servant who is doing the very unglamorous job of running the Secretary of State’s office. I’ll take boring but competent over ideological crusader any day. Hopefully even in 2010, Kansans will agree.

Attorney General

Steve Six has already proved himself to be a capable Attorney General who has spent his time doing things like building a consumer fraud protection division and enhancing identity theft law enforcement. The other guy’s major campaign plank is that he wants to sue the federal government to overturn the recently passed health care law – which, regardless of how you might feel about the law is just a waste of taxpayer money since a suit against the law is already underway. Once again, I prefer the competent do-er versus the ideologue.

Insurance Commissioner

Sandy Praeger is running unopposed, but I will still affirmatively vote for her, as she has done a good job of running this office and addressed several consumer-friendly improvements to insurance regulation in Kansas during her past time in office.

State Representative, 46th District

Paul Davis is also running unopposed, but I will still affirmatively vote for him. Paul Davis has always responded when I have contacted him, and is a reliable liberal voice for Lawrence in the Kansas House. He deserves another term.

Country Commissioner

I don’t know enough about the candidates running for this office to make an informed choice. I’m not just going to vote for the Democrat, because honestly, I just don’t know, and I think it is better to leave the ballot blank then vote based purely on party or by guessing.

Judicial Retention

There’s a bunch of judges up for retention. I do not have enough information to specifically vote on the merits of each judge, but I am included to vote to retain all the judges, because as seen in Iowa, politicizing the judicial selection system is a very, very bad idea.

Constitutional Question 1: Right to Bear Arms

I am going to vote yes on this (purely symbolic) amendment which makes it clear that the right to bear arms in Kansas is an individual right (versus a collective right). The amendment is symbolic since the Federal constitution already secures an individual right to bear arms (at least based on recent Supreme Court rulings), but nonetheless, expanding civil rights is a good thing. The right to defend one’s self is an basic civil liberty, the same as the right to free speech, religion, freedom from search and seizure, and so on. The repulsiveness of certain conservative supporters of this right shouldn’t nullify the right any more then the repulsiveness of certain First Amendment supporters (I’m looking at you, Fred Phelps!) nullifies that right.

Constitutional Question 2: Right To Vote for Mentally Ill

I am going to vote yes. The state constitution currently allows the legislature to strip the franchise from anyone who has a mental illness. This has never been turned into actual legislation, but that doesn’t stop it from being a bad idea, and a sign of an old stigma that should be excised from the constitution.

Local Question 1: Library Funding

I will vote yes. Lawrence’s library is overused and under-funded. Its current facilities date from when Lawrence was half its size, and it needs to grow with the town. I believe public libraries are a fundamental public good, and Lawrence should make the needed improvements in the library system. This bond issue would provide money for a much improved library building, with more parking, more books, more computer terminals, and more meeting rooms, all at a cost that for the average household is less then $20 a year in additional taxes. That seems like a damn good deal to me.

Categories: Politics Tags:

Oooh, it’s a “Washington Takeover!”

May 13th, 2010 Comments off

Anti Net-Neutrality folks are running a set of ads warning that net neutrality would mean a “Washington takeover” of the internet.

Never mind that the internet was invented by the government, and that net neutrality, far from being any kind of “takeover” would actually enhance competition and internet access for American.

Instead, I just want to say, why is a “Washington takeover” considered automatically a bad thing? (well, I know why, because of the hard work of decades of right-wing demagoguery)

I want Washington to “takeover” certain things. I kind of like the “Washington takeover” of national defense, the national park system, child labor laws, consumer protection regulation, and civil rights laws. And more recently, the “Washington takeover” of Wall Street and GM (as unpopular as the bailouts were) was the only thing that saved this country from a second Great Depression.
The jury’s still out on the so-called “Washington takeover” of health care, but I’m pretty optimistic the mild set of regulations that were part of health care reform will certainly do better to bring quality health care to more people then the unregulated private insurance industry did.

I have philosophical appreciation for libertarianism, but in the real world, it is like communism — something that is appealing in theory but can never work in practice because of human nature.

I don’t think the government can – or should – do everything. Economic innovation belongs to the private sector. But making the rules and enforcing them do belong to the government.

I am glad a private company called Apple invented the iPhone. The government never could have. But I am also glad that the government is regulating the frequency spectrum the iPhone uses and making sure the internet traffic that flows to it is treated fairly.

Categories: Politics Tags:

Greek flu?

May 6th, 2010 Comments off

I understand intellectually why economic unrest in the tiny, and thoroughly meaningless (unless you are a history buff) country of Greece has caused my 401k to decrease in value by a not-so-meaningless amount, but on a gut level, the fact that a sneeze in Greece caused the American stock market to crater is a real sign that the entire international economic system is a massive house of cards.

Well, I guess we kind of knew that already, but still, it is depressing. Or recessing.

Anyone up for a gyro platter for dinner?

Update: is user error to blame?

Categories: Politics Tags: