Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Scab Grab

I don't think anybody is going to top Marcy Wheeler's name for last night's Green Bay Packers interception, mistakenly ruled a touchdown by replacement referees because the NFL had locked out the union refs: The Scab Grab.

Fail Mary is good too, but there have been lots of things that could get that name and it should be saved for later.

The fact that the offensive pass interference call was missed too by the replay booth (Golden Tate shoves a Packer out of the way) just adds to the disaster.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some Political Donation Thoughts

I probably have a couple more campaign contributions in me this year, and I'll be looking into where my money should go over the next couple days. In anticipation of the end of the fundraising reporting period, anyone who's gotten themselves on candidates' email lists is probably going to get a whole bunch of messages over the next couple days, so this might be a useful thing for us to discuss together. The Singapore dollar has gotten a bit strong lately, so this is a good time for me to donate some money.

One general principle that I've heard Jonathan Bernstein suggest, and which I wholeheartedly subscribe to, is that giving money to races that don't get as much coverage is better. This is because the best-known races, like the presidential campaign, attract so much money that they're pushed deep into the territory of diminishing returns. Obama has so much money that an extra hundred dollars is unlikely to win him that many extra votes. Donations at the Senate level can have more of an impact, and if you donate to a House candidate (I'm thinking, especially one in a non-presidential-swing-state where coattail effects are minor) you might get more bang for your buck. And if you know a really good state legislature candidate or something like that, wonderful.

Along those lines, I'd be interested to hear what people have to suggest. It's possible that I'll still be doing the Senate thing, just because it has usually been the major public policy bottleneck and Senators last for 6 years rather than 2, with 4.35 times the voting influence because of the smaller chamber. But if someone has a good House or state legislature candidate to talk up, I'm curious to hear more.

If I could give more to Jeff Merkley's Leadership PAC, which I've talked about at length here and here and here, I'd definitely do so, but I've already hit the $5000 annual maximum. That's really my number one recommendation for anyone who wants to help Democrats win more Senate races, because you get to do it while increasing the influence of a solidly left-wing and tactically smart Democrat within the party. (That's Jeff and me in the picture at right, in a wine cellar in his home state of Oregon.) Moreover, Oregon is a reasonably clean state as far as special interest issues go -- you don't have to worry about Merkley's influence being put to use in support of the coal lobby or even the corn lobby. If you're interested in helping him out, you can donate the money via my ActBlue page. If you have any questions, just ask below or send me an email.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Worst Movie-Like Thing Ever

This anti-Muslim film that is triggering chaos around the world seems to be the worst thing in the history of movies. It was only shown once to the public in a theater under the misspelled title "Innocence of Bn Laden", with about ten people present. The producer had previously been convicted of bank fraud and running a meth lab. The crude anti-Muslim slurs were not in the original script but were added in overdubbing, and all the cast members now repudiate the film. The public response, of course, has been terrible, with religious fanatics murdering innocent people. On top of that, everybody from the New Republic to the New York Daily News to Salman Rushdie says the film is just pointlessly bad.

I doubt that any movie ever made has had so much awfulness going on.  I guess it could be saved from being the worst movie ever if you don't consider it a legitimate movie, but that's about it.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney and The State Of The News

Today is another good day for everyone in politics to stop what they're doing and read James Fallows's seminal 1996 essay "Why Americans Hate the Media". Once you've done that, you can come back and read the rest of this post.

It appears today is the day that a large chunk of the press, even right-leaning pundits such as Josh Barro, David Brooks and Bill Kristol, have decided to shoot the Romney Presidential campaign in the head. For mainstream journalists, there seems to be an intense competition to be the one to write the article that emerges as the seminal "is this the moment where Mitt Romney lost the election?" piece of this campaign. For conservative elites, my guess is that they've  known for some time that Romney is behind the eight ball. The "47%" video is a convenient point where they can jump ship. The economic fundamentals are not great, but they're actually good enough that we should expect Obama to be reelected, especially given that the foreign policy fundamentals are pretty good. So rather than continue to waste energy and SuperPAC dollars propping up a doomed Presidential campaign, conservative activists are probably better of paying more attention to the Senate. I don't know that I believe Harry Reid's threat to curtail the filibuster if Democrats control the world's lamest deliberative body, but the threats exist, so if Obama is reelected, the Senate becomes the most important lever of power that is still in play this election. (I'm assuming the House stays in Republican hands, and even if it doesn't, Democratic control there will still depend on placating the handful of Blue Dogs who still hold office, plus the financial-sector-dependent Democrats in the Northeast).

Part of me is a little sad at the way the campaign has unfolded, and empathize a little with Romney, who I feel like is often actually trying to answer the question asked of him rather than pivot back to the campaign's message. Certainly, the Romney campaign deserves some of the blame for failing to wrangle the media. But the bulk of the negative coverage of Mitt Romney that has penetrated the minds of those who have better things to do with their lives than follow politics on a daily basis has focused not on his limited policy proposals or unwillingness to offer more than vague platitudes, but instead of campaign trivialities like the story of Seamus Romney, leaked videos from a closed-door fundraiser, somewhat inartful assessments of London's preparedness for the Olympics, Clint Eastwood's empty chair, and so forth. If Romney loses, conservatives will be able to point the finger at an inability to wrangle the press, as well as the fact that he wasn't a particularly authentic conservative, rather than pay attention to David Frum's critique that the conservative agenda no longer offers anything that can credibly improve the lives of many voters. It may take yet additional Presidential defeats for the party to get the message that their platform has to change.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Campaign

The Presidential Campaign is now only happening in four states. The Romney campaign isn't spending any time in North Carolina, though they are certainly spending money on ads there. Instead, almost all of the Republican nominee's campaign events (as opposed to fundraisers) are focused on Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, and New Hampshire. Barack Obama has even further narrowed his appearances to those four states.

The polls in New Hampshire have shown Obama with a modest but consistent lead, so it's unlikely that Romney has a path to victory through the Granite state. Instead, he will have to pull of a clean sweep of the other four true swing states. Naively multiplying Romney's 538 win probabilities in those states gives him a 5% chance of victory, though that probably understates his chances a bit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Okay, Just Stand There Then

Paul Ryan is opposing the Chicago teachers' strike with the line "We stand with Rahm Emanuel!"  It sort of reminds me of the moment in Three Kings where the American troops rally Iraqis by saying "George Bush wants you to stand up for yourself!"  As far as I know, nobody has particularly positive feelings towards Rahm Emanuel.  I guess it's supposed to be a clever move where you divide the left against itself by siding with a popular leader against a left-wing interest group, except the leader isn't actually that popular, so nobody cares.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Campaigning Is Fun

A musclebound pizza restaurant owner in Florida is lifting Barack Obama into the air:

And in Ohio, Joe Biden is really going after this biker chick's, um, vote:
Superb bystander reaction in both photos.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

2012 Presidential Election Map: September Edition

The sprint to Election Day is underway, and only a handful of states remain truly competitive. Both the Romney campaign and Crossroads GPS are at least temporarily pulling out of Pennsylvania and Michigan, two large but expensive states where Republicans were always slightly behind. That leaves Mitt Romney with a narrow but viable path to victory. He must sweep Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina, and then win either Wisconsin or, more likely, Iowa.

Fivethirtyeight's state-by-state forecasts show Obama as the favorite in four of the five inner swing states (Silver's model also suggests Colorado is as competitive as Ohio and Iowa, even though Obama's lead in that state has been more persistent). In fact, if you naively multiply Romney's win probabilities in these states, he has a vanishingly small 0.7% chance of winning the Electoral College. Now, obviously, win probabilities in each state are not purely independent. If Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin, that's a strong signal that he will also win Iowa. But it does demonstrate that that Obama is firmly in the drivers seat as we head into the final eight weeks of the election.

Deep Thoughts: Marijuana Edition

Sometimes I wonder if the Democrats are sticking with a bad position on marijuana legalization because they want the Ron Paul bloc to stay intact and remain a headache for Republicans.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vote From Abroad!

I've just printed out my absentee ballot request form from Votefromabroad.org, a website set up by Democrats Abroad.  If you're overseas and looking to vote, I strongly recommend it.  It asks you a bunch of questions and then lets you print out a ballot request form with just the information your state requires.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fireworks Like You've Never Seen Them Before

I'm not as big on fireworks as a lot of people. However, it turns out that pointing a camera at a fireworks show and taking long exposure photographs produces some awesome results. Here's the full gallery of long exposure fireworks photos.

Via jwz.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This Time, It's Personal

Like Kevin Drum, this year's election is unusual in that my family will be directly impacted by the outcome in a way that is far more concrete than "my tax rate will go up or down" or "there is a slight increase in the probability that there will be greater funding for mass transit that trickles to my metro area". My mother is in her sixties, and is probably in worse health than Mr. Drum. She's uninsurable in the current individual market. If Obamacare reaches full implementation, she'll be able to buy a policy on the individual market instead of paying through the nose for the Federal high risk plan (she lives in Georgia, so of course there's no state-level high risk plan).

If Mitt Romney is elected, some or all of Obamacare will be delayed or rolled back, and she'll be waiting until age 65 for an affordable insurance option. So in this election there is a clear choice.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ryan's Marathon Lies

I was amused by the ambiguity in the Huffington Post link depicted at right.  At first I was thinking that Ryan had admitted that his address at the convention was some kind of lie-a-thon.  But actually the point is that he told a lie about how fast he ran a marathon, as the text underneath makes clear.

I've been kind of wondering why Ryan gave the speech he did, with the obvious factual errors it had. The point of picking Ryan, as I saw it, was not just to fire up the conservative base, but to also draw in wealthy centrists who think you're brave and serious if you make a lot of virtuous noise about balanced budgets.  Since Ryan hasn't really talked that much about social issues, his furiously right-wing voting record there might not influence their perception of him as an earnest honest policy wonk. But that reputation gets destroyed if you tell big whoppers that get roundly mocked in the media. I really didn't know why he and his people made the lies so obvious. If the idea was to raise money for some worthy charity that was holding a lie-a-thon, that would at least be something.

Anyway, the best joke I've seen about the actual story is that if Ryan really ran a marathon in under three hours, we should really be asking about his birth certificate, because people who can do that tend to be born in Kenya.