Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Republican Candidates on Romney

So here's what the other Republican candidates said about Mittens...remember?

(via somewhere. Reddit maybe?)

The Romney Landslide Fantasy

Here's some dude, one Michael Graham, writing in the Boston Herald (.com...), whistling past the graveyard wherein Romney's campaign is, apparently, about to be buried.

One wonders: do these people really believe this stuff? To do so, you either have to be astonishingly poorly-informed, or none too bright, or delusional. Mr. Graham sounds rather like a GOP true believer, as he has convinced himself not only that Mittens is set for a big win, but that Obama supporters believe that their man is going to win big. Neither of these things is true here on Earth.

Our two options are: (a) Obama wins by a narrow margin and (b) Mittens wins by a razor-thin one. The smart money is on (a)...there's about a 73% chance of that one. But that leaves a non-trivial chance of (b). I don't know any Obama supporter who is comfortable. When the consequences of losing are so disastrous for the country, a 23% chance of that happening is way, way, way too big.

Mr. Graham seems to be using Rasmussen polls to prop up his preferences...which is fine if it's psychological comfort in the immediate future that he's looking for. Me, I want to know what's actually likely to happen in the actual world. Which means: no relying on partisan pollsters.

Though Graham is likely to be wrong, he is undoubtedly counting on the fact that, in a couple of months, no one will even remember that he made the prediction. (If anyone even reads his column, which I rather doubt...) He's got about a 20% chance of Mittens winning, and people might actually remember if he does; in that case, Graham would score. That sort of effect makes wacky, long-shot predictions a pretty good bet, actually, for the intellectually dishonest.

However, what Graham writes is stupid. Mittens might win--we know there's about a 20-25% chance of that. But we also know that asserting that he will win--much less by "a mile"--is the utterest stupidity.

Romney Campaign Stocks Phoney "Storm Relief" Event With Supplies/Props from Wal-Mart

Turns out that Mendacious Mitt stocked his campaign-rally-disguised-as-a-storm-thingy with props--granola bars and suchlike that the Romney campaign bought at Wal-Mart.

These people are unbelievable.

In Which I Bet Dick Morris There Will Be No Romney Landslide

Via Balloon Juice, we see the wrongest man in America predict a Romney landslide.

That's not going to happen, Dickie, and you know it isn't. Or you're an idiot. Inclusive 'or.'

Kant rightly points out that the sign of belief is a willingness to bet. So here's the deal: I hereby offer to bet you that you are wrong. That is: that it isn't true that there will be a Romney landslide, a 53-47 inversion of the Senate in favor of the GOP, and all that.

I believe the traditional amount is $10,000?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tempest In A Tea Party: Sandy Hits the Fever Swamps

Drum on Brooks: Give the Terrorists What They Want

Kevin Drum accurately summarizes David Brooks's version of the argument Republicans have tacitly been pushing for the last year:

Shorter David Brooks: congressional Republicans are such implacable assholes that they'll flatly refuse to support big legislation that's good for the country as long as Barack Obama is president. But congressional Democrats are more reasonable, so if Mitt Romney wins, he'll be able to get some big stuff passed. Therefore you should vote for Romney.
Shorter shorter David Brooks: the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them what they want.

Bad News on Early Voting

This doesn't look good.

Mendacious Mitt and the Case of the Storm Rally


Mittens claims to have canceled his campaign events in OH...but he's holding a "storm relief event" in the exact same place at the exact same time with the exact same supporting cast as the allegedly canceled campaign event.


He is neither civic-minded enough to cancel his campaign event, nor honest enough to admit that it is what it is. Instead, he is driven enough by naked ambition to hold a campaign event anyway, but insufficiently forthright to fess up to what he's doing. So he holds a campaign event but claims that he isn't, merely calling it by a different name.

Mitt Romney, nominalist.

My God this guy is an asshole.

The New Katherine Harris

Ohio's Jon Husted

Romney Strategist Stevens's Authoritarian Clients

Stuart Stevens is a scumbag who has run campaigns for Joseph Kabila and Sali Berisha (Albania).

So...when he's not trying to saddle America with a crappy president, he's out working to get authoritarians into power.

This really is beyond belief.

Wisconsin: Romney Campaign Training Poll Watchers to Lie to Voters

NYC In Our Thoughts

Christ. I cannot believe the carnage.

Here's the front-page link to Sullivan...he's got multiple posts/pics. I really can't believe what I'm seeing.

Romney Tricky Tax Loophole Involving Donations to Mormon Church

This is nuts. It's insane that loopholes like this exist.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Fox News Created A New Culture of Assholes

At Salon, by Aaron James.

Romney Now Completely Unmoored From the Truth

The Jeep ad + the Obama campaign's response.

Wow. Romney is a shameless liar. He's not even pretending not to be anymore.

Tim Stanley's Anti-Silver Tantrum

In an earlier post I mentioned Tim Stanley's piece "Nate Silver is partisan and wrong. The voters will decide Romney v Obama, not The New York Times."*

I have better things to be doing, but Stanley's piece really is terrible, so I couldn't help myself...  Here it is, paragraph-by-paragraph:

Stanley writes:
In the history of presidential elections, has there ever been such an effort by one side to poll their way to victory? While the Republicans have spoken this season about jobs and debt – willing themselves to a moral victory – the Democrats have talked constantly about how well their guy is polling in one or two states. The goal is to create a sense of inevitability, to convince the public to vote for Obama because he’s a winner and who wouldn’t want to vote for the winner? We’ve witnessed the evolution of polling from an objective gauge of the public mood to a propaganda tool: partisan and inaccurate.
Is there anything sketchier--or more irritating--than a rhetorical question?

Rhetorical questions, of course, are thinly-veiled ways of making statements. Mr. Stanley here makes roughly the following assertion:

(A) Democrats are trying to poll their way to victory.

But this doesn't make any sense, and it isn't what he really wants to say. Rather, he wants to say:

(B) Democrats are trying to win by lying about/distorting polls.

Which is different than (A). One might "poll one's way to victory" by, e.g., doing a lot of polling, and using it to direct one's political efforts. But that's not what Stanley means. Now, (B) is, of course, false. "Democrats" are not trying to do that. Even Mr. Stanley believes that one Democrat--namely Nate Silver--is trying to do that. But I can assure Mr. Stanley that the rest of us aren't. Rather, we're hanging breathlessly on the analyses of Mr. Silver--as well as Sam Want at Princeton Election Consortium, Nate Cohn at Electionate, and Drew Linzer at Votamatic. (I used to check Real Clear Politics, but I don't anymore. I have to hear enough from the Right-Wing Noise Machine as it is, and if I check RCP, I'll just have to see some of the rabidly anti-Obama titles listed there, and then I'll want to read them, and I'll get annoyed, and waste time stewing about them, I don't. But I wish I could.) Nate silver trying to "create a sense of inevitability, to convince the public to vote for Obama because he's a winner"? So far we only have Mr. Stanley's assertion-masquerading-as-a-question to that effect. It doesn't seem too likely. First, Silver's reputation and livelihood are on the line. Second, unlike conservative dittoheads, liberals generally don't much like being fed their own talking points...especially if they are false. Conservatives and liberals really do differ significantly in this respect. Silver has little to gain and much to lose if he skews things in a direction liberals would like. If he's way wrong, I certainly won't be reading him anymore, and neither will most Democrats. He'd likely lose his NYT gig. Stanley's contention is extremely implausible.

Step forward Nate Silver of the New York Times. Nate has been an open supporter of the President and his newspaper just endorsed Obama (although it also went for Dukakis, so it ain’t that good at picking winners). But context doesn’t matter because maths is maths and maths can’t lie – and Nate says that, according to his model, Obama has a 74.6 per cent chance of winning. You might find that figure a little odd given that on the same page you’ll see that Obama is ahead by less than 3 per cent nationally and his advantage lies in one state, Ohio. It’s even odder when you consider how it conflicts with other polls that emerged this weekend giving a virtual tie in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s damn near-surreal when you discover that Gallup puts Romney ahead by four points among (and this distinction is critical) likely voters.

Translation: if you just look at the numbers and (a) don't know anything about statistics and (b) don't do any calculations, you will draw a different conclusion from them than will someone who (a') does know something about statistics and (b') does do the calculations. About this I must agree with Mr. Stanley.

He continues:
Meanwhile, Obama’s job approval rating is heading downwards. Does Nate know something that the rest of the world doesn’t?
Well...he knows something that you don't know, Mr. Stanley...that's for sure...

A former business and baseball analyst, Nate came to fame in 2008 when he correctly predicted the outcome in 49 of 50 states in the presidential election. Frankly, a headless chicken could have done that. It was a wave election and we all knew Virginia and North Carolina were in play. Plus Nate had access to internal Obama polls that gave him an advantage over his market rivals. Nevertheless, this success turned Nate into a star – despite his own admission that his analysis technique is not modelled exclusively for politics. In an interview about his life’s work, he wrote:
But the other thing too is on the blog I mostly focus on politics. And I think elections are a really interesting thing to study and to try to predict. But I don't particularly like politics. I find some of the people involved in politics, I don't think they're the most well-rounded or pleasant people necessarily, right? So I want to broaden my focus a little bit and say, look, by being data-driven and looking at how predictions go, doing analysis from statistics and everything else, we can look at business or sports or a lot different fields or science. And there's nothing about politics in particular that my interest and skill sets are uniquely suited to. [Italics are mine.]
That noise you hear is the sound of the cat being let out of the bag. Appreciating that Nate’s system is rather more generic, interpretive and partisan makes sense of its central paradox: that while the rest of us are talking about Romney’s post-debate momentum, Silver still gives the race to the President by a huge margin. Here are some of the problems with his stats.

Sigh. Wow. This is getting rather embarrassing for this Stanley fellow.

What Silver says, roughly:

     (C) My skills, methods and model are really pretty generic, not specific to politics

What Mr. Stanley says that Mr. Silver said:

     (D) My skills, methods and model are generic, interpretive and partisan

Note that (C) and (D) are inequivalent to say the least.

And Mr. Stanley adds, roughly: now we see why Mr. Silver believes different things than do people who don't understand math. Though I'm starting to think that Mr. Stanley might have trouble not only with math but with reading comprehension as well...

 1. Nate isn’t very good at calling close elections. In 2010, he correctly predicted the outcome of the senate elections with the greatest leads. But in the 5 genuinely close races, he got it wrong in 3. For the House elections, Nate ran this extraordinary headline: “House Forecast: G.O.P. Plus 54-55 Seats; Significantly Larger or Smaller Gains Possible.” So, this oracle predicted that the results could have been “larger” or “smaller” – how prescient. In fact, they were much larger. The Republicans took 63 seats.
Whoa! An actual argument that isn't embarrassingly terrible! Now, it's not clear that this argument is much good...but it isn't puerile, which makes it a giant leap forward. Someone more familiar with Silver's work would need to respond here--perhaps Silver himself. There are a  few things we can note, however. For one, we can't tell from this information how much confidence Silver had in the three races he allegedly failed to call correctly. For another, note that Stanley tries to turn a point in Silver's favor against him. If Silver did, indeed, note that larger gains were possible in 2010, then this makes his error less damning. He in effect included an informal estimate of probable error in the summary of his position--he pointed out that he couldn't/shouldn't be that confident in his prediction. That's how you deal with such things scientifically. Stanley pretends that this counts against Silver when, in fact, it counts in his favor.

2. People make their minds up at the last minute, which confuses the outcome of close elections. Historically, voters have tended to break towards challengers, and particularly Republican challengers, in the last week.
Now that's weak. First, some people make up their minds at the last minute...and some don't. Silver, like pollsters, is, as I understand it, primarily interested in the former. That is, he's interested in the question: how much support does each candidate currently have, and how much support is he likely to have on 11/6? As it turns out, there apparently aren't that many undecideds this year. But do undecideds tend to break for Republicans and challengers? Some say yes, some say no. Stanley, firing from the hip--the right hip apparently--only gestures at half of the story. This is the M.O. of the contemporary right, of course--they get their conclusion first, and then assemble whatever evidence they can to convince themselves that they are right, ignoring anything that doesn't support the proposition they prefer to believe.


3. Nate weights polls, meaning that he picks and chooses which data sets to run through his model. He has shown particular affection for Democrat-leaning pollsters like PPP, and this bias is evident in his use of state-wide polls. Silver embraces polling organisations that other writers avoid like the plague. Apparently, the New York Times isn’t as discriminating.
A cheap, abusive and unsupported ad hominem there at the indication that I'm spending way too much time taking an unserious person seriously...but Silver does weigh polls differently...but, then, polls should be weighed differently, as some are better than others. He does rely on state polls for predictions about the states...  Beyond that, we'd need to hear from Silver himself or someone more knowledgeable about his methods. Stanley launches another sloppy criticism here, so it is of limited weight...but it's not weightless as it stands. Bravo, Mr. Stanley!

4. Nate ignores polls that contradict him. So PPP is right and Gallup is wrong.
 Uh...Mr. Stanley should read his own links. Silver has a method for dealing with outlying results. When Gallup changed its methods and produced a radical outlier, he applied that method to the poll. His method might be wrong...but Stanley's own link does not sustain his accusation. Had Silver had to deal with Gallup in an ad hoc way, he might be open to Stanley's criticism. But that was not the case.


5. Politics is even riskier than baseball and “stuff happens.” As columnist David Brooks put it in a critique of Silver’s polls: “Obama turns in a bad debate performance. Romney makes offensive comments at a fund-raiser. These unquantifiable events change the trajectories of tight campaigns. You can’t tell what’s about to happen. You certainly can’t tell how 100 million people are going to process what’s about to happen. You can’t calculate odds that capture unknown reactions to unknown events.” Nor can we determine turnout – and a lot of the polling in 2012 has presumed that as many Democrats will vote today as they did back in 2008. If that’s wrong, many predictions will be confounded.
Gosh, this is getting tedious. Stanley is just wrong here, and wrong in a way that seems to betray a complete misunderstanding of his topic. Any prediction of the kind Silver is making basically has the form: if things continue on their current trajectory, then here is what is likely to happen... Now, of course, things might not continue on their current trajectory. Sandy might change the entire complexion of the race. The final jobs numbers might be extremely bad. An asteroid might hit the Earth. But none of that is relevant--Silver is telling us what we should expect in the absence of such an event. Mr. Stanley asserts that you "can't tell how 100 million people are going to process what's about to happen," but, of course, you often can, and to deny that is just sophomoric skepticism. We know, for example, that a good jobs number is likely to help President Obama, and a bad one is likely to help Governor Romney. We know that another "47%" tape is likely to hurt Governor Romney. And so on. Some uncertainty is not equivalent to total uncertainty. We don't know exactly how people will react to every contingency--but, then, no one anywhere has ever claimed otherwise.

Brooks’ point is really the most powerful of all. Politics is not a science and it doesn’t lend itself well to predictions. Voters lie, natural disasters happen, scandals rock the White House. No one could have predicted – including Silver – that the debates would radically transform Romney’s image in the eyes of the voter. In some cases, that transformation happened in spite of Romney losing one or two of those debates.
Again, this is just embarrassing. Consider the ambiguous:

(E) Politics is not a science

Well...doing politics--e.g. running for office, persuading voters, etc.--may not be much of a science. But predicting elections---that is to say, political science--certainly is. It may, in fact, be rather less complicated than predicting the weather--sometimes known as meteorology... And, interesting fact: political scientists and psychologists actually know quite a bit about when and in what ways people lie, for example. And, furthermore:

We can't predict everything

is not equivalent to:

We can't predict anything.

Silver’s stardom tells us two things about the Democratic Party. The first is that its obsession with numbers is part of a cold, mechanical way of looking at politics that divides the electorate up into blocks of voters who can be cobbled together into a winning coalition. Team Obama went out of its way in the 2000s to recruit professors and statisticians who would turn politics into something like baseball: hire the best players, master all the tricks, bet and gamble your way to victory. Grand narrative is gone. In its place are talking points designed to achieve a 51/49 per cent advantage: war on women, 99 per cent etc
This tells us that Mr. Stanley is either not very bright, or he is blinded by partisanship. Silver's fame lends zero weight to Stanley's assertion here. How one should try to predict electoral outcomes has nothing to do with how the political players view their path to victory. Mr. Stanley's puling is the wail of the innumerate when faced with all that frustrating mathy, sciency reasoning. Although Stanley here slips into postmodern-speak--something I myself eschew--with his talk of "grand narrative"...well, alright I'll go with it. But: what recent American politician has had a grander "narrative" than Obama? Maybe Reagan? By this point, Stanley's piece has become little more than an aimless tantrum, entirely unconnected with the facts.

Second, Nate’s success shows that Democrats are panicking. Losing the war of ideas, they’re resorting to bad maths. Last night a friend posted this on Facebook: “I want Nate Silver's data made into a blanket I can cuddle up with.” Sorry, but weighted polling served up by a partisan analyst is a very false comfort.
 And this is where we laugh out loud...  The right wing--Mr. Stanley, apparently, included--has constructed its own fantasy world and convinced itself that the fantasy is real. Conservatives, as is well known, deny the results of evolutionary biology, climate science, and contemporary economics when they fail to cohere with conservative preferences. Mr. Stanley's largely aimless anti-Silver flailing above, his desperate lunges for criticisms, his panicky assertion that it is his opponents who are panicking...none of these things should come as any surprise to those who have watched the degeneration and derangement of the right in the last twenty years or so. When conservatives don't like where their candidate stands, they leap to their favorite excuse--liberal bias, in this case, polling bias. When Mr. Obama was far ahead of Mr. Romney, conservative kvetching about polls began. When Mr. Romney made huge gains around the first debate, however, conservatives happily accepted these results...only to again reject careful polling analysis when Mr. Romney did not catch up quite enough. Having themselves lost the war of ideas--or, at least, of good ones--and in danger of losing this election, not to mention the demographic battle that will determine the shape of American politics in the longer term, they have retreated into a world in which they have not only their own media telling them what they want to hear, but even their own politically correct version of Wikipedia, scrubbed free of all those unpleasant, cognitive-dissonance-causing facts.

Liberals have Nate Silver, Nate Cohn, Sam Wang, and Drew Linzer. Conservatives have Dean Chambers who takes polling data and adjusts it on the basis of his gut feeling about what it should look like. We have, roughly, science on the left and they have the equivalent of witchcraft on the right. Science is, of course, a dicey matter, and the witches accidentally hit on the truth a non-zero percentage of the time...but that doesn't mean that it's smart to bet on the witches.

* I reckon Mr. Stanley isn't responsible for that heinous title, so I won't complain about it too much. But honestly, if I hear one more idiot suggest that someone, somewhere, thinks that pollsters believe themselves to be determining the outcome of elections rather than predicting them, I'm going to...get quite annoyed...

Tim Stanley: Nate Silver Overestimates Obama's Chances


Some cogent-seeming--though rather thinly-supported--criticisms of Silver by one Tim Stanley [edit: mixed with some truly terrible arguments.] It's not a great sign that this guy is a biographer of Pat Buchanan...but he offers some prima facie plausible criticisms of Silver's methods.

(Note: everybody quit saying 'methodology.' The methods you use are your methods, not your methodology. Your methodology is your theory of method...and almost no scientist or philosopher has one; after all, few are methodologists. Most people just apply methods, but don't specialize in critiquing and developing them. Almost every time someone writes 'methodology' they mean 'method.' Gah!)

Also not a great sign that the piece seems a tad vituperative...but, of course, it's the substance that really matters, of course.

The American Right Acquires The Intellectual Vices of the Left

Krugman calls out the conservative war on objectivity. Perhaps we should call it the Global War Against Reality.

So in the latest offensive in the GWAR, Nate Silver has been called out for being small and insufficiently masculine by some jackass named "Dean Chambers," a fringe nut even by the standards of the fever swamps...but now he's being attacked by fever swamp central, the NRO.

Of course, trying to undermine opposing views by deploying fallacious ad hominem arguments is something that happens all over the political/intellectual spectrum. It has, however, been raised to a kind of art form on the intellectual left, where a huge percentage of discussions devolve into what I think of as "bias chess," a game in which each party tries to make up ever more baroque and implausible stories about how the other party is manifesting some prejudice or other, generally one of the Holy Trinity of biases, racism, sexism, or classism. The right has now decided that every argument that has a conclusion they dislike is unsound, and the best explanation for anyone advocating one of these unsound arguments is THE LIBRUL opposed, say, to a plain old honest error.

Its embarrassing to admit, but I'm even more invested in this election than I ought to be because I really hate to see stupid, intellectually dishonest people end up accidentally seeming to have been right. I know. I suck. I'm not proud of it. A better man would be able to ignore this aspect of things. I'm trying to be that better man...but am not, as yet, him.

Stop Writing Like This

Not really much of an exaggeration...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dean Chambers: Idiot


This guy is dumb as a particularly dumb sack of hammers.

Silver summarizes his argument thusly:

"Nate Silver seems kinda gay + ??? = Romney landslide!"

Joss Whedon's Surprise Presidential Endorsement

Joss, how could you?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Exactly What We Don't Need...

Something that will shake up the race.

Sandy is bad news for the good guys. It might give Obama a chance to look particularly presidential...but what we want is smooth sailing, no surprises, and no disruptions. I'm not freaking out, but I'd much rather this not be happening.

It's All About NoVA


We are, in certain respects, like a less-unpleasant bit of NoVA, displaced into the Valley. But, whether that's true or not, the real point is: it comes down to high-population-density parts of the OD. NoVA's the biggie, of course, but we're a sizable population center by the standards of the Valley. We've got three Obama offices, one hub and two outposts, and the hub is pretty active. I, for one, am canvassing--something I'm fairly adept at--like a madman.

But a big damn chunk of this thing really does come down to NoVA. We absolutely have to turn out those blue votes.

I'm starting to wonder what effect Sandy is going to have...  Any chance of it turning serious attention to global warming?

Romney Supporters In TX Steal Obama Signs, Assault Cameraman

There are assholes everywhere, of course, but it's hard to see such assholery as unconnected to facts about the contemporary GOP.

Gosh how I would have loved to have been there to have a discussion with these lovely fellows about the role of civility and respect in democratic politics.

(via Reddit)

Rape: God's Will; Homosexuality: Your Choice


Democalypse 2012: Expect GOP to Challenge Electoral College If They Lose

A split between the popular vote and the electoral vote has come to seem like a real possibility.

Consequently, I think it's worth thinking back on the defining political event of my lifetime, the election of 2000. Gore won the popular vote but seemed to have lost in the electoral college in virtue of--apparently--having lost Florida. The vote was close, and there were massive irregularities, so, as was his right, Gore requested recounts in some counties. The Bush campaign howled that counting the votes constituted a "coup," and began pouring massive resources into stopping the recounts, using the courts, but also pouring money into a propaganda campaign that included an "electronic command post," and Young Republican thugs flown in from other states. They were aided in their efforts by a vapid and sensationalist media that fabricated an on-going  background story about a public craving/demanding a fast resolution. When the half-hearted recount efforts indicated that Gore had lost, he conceded graciously, and made a powerful statement about his commitment to the system. When the result was repeatedly challenged in the Senate, but on technically insufficient grounds, Gore, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, immediately and forcefully rejected each challenge. Sad and tragic though the result was for the nation, Gore's performance remains one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.

It is important to note that that is not what would have happened had the roles of the campaigns been reversed. The Bush campaign apparently planned to fight a loss in the Electoral College by, in effect, fomenting revolution, albeit a nonviolent one. The Democrats did their duty and did it with nobility and even a certain amount of relish--as evidenced by Gore's concession speech. Republicans would have taken the Presidency by hook or by crook. They sought to push for a kind of popular uprising that would demand that Bush be illegally installed as "President."

Since we have an extremely recent precedent for a popular vote-electoral vote split that came out the other way, it has become much more difficult for the GOP to challenge such an outcome. IOKIYAR...but the more patently asymmetrical the double standard, the harder it is to defend.

Still, we are dealing with a party that is more strongly committed to political victory than it is to democracy--this is evident, inter alia, in their attempts to disenfranchise Democratic voters. If Romney wins the popular vote but loses in the EC, do not expect him to go gentle into the good political night.

My view, FWIW, is that the odds of November 7th being very interesting are much higher than any of us should be comfortable with.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Moral Case for Drones

This (by Scott Shane) is good, and clarifies and summarizes some of my own objections to objections to the use of drones.

Which is not to say that I'd call myself, pro-flaming-death-from-sky-robots... I'm just pretty sick of seeing liberals only give half the argument. And I'm extremely sick of GleenGreenwaldian hysteria on the issue.

My basic position currently is probably: drones are terrible but likely to be the least awful option available to us...unless we're overusing them, which, from our/my perspective we seem to be...though we're in a bit of an information vacuum on this we can't be too certain about our conclusions.

The Mittmentum Myth

There is no Mittmentum.

To the extent that there is any movement recently, it has been in Obama's direction; but there has been little movement.

The Mittmentum myth is worrisome. First, it may help Romney...though it may, of course, help should stop worrying about that. But I also worry that it will help feed the inevitable conservative outrage and flood of conspiracy theories if Obama wins. This is an easily-avoided error, and it's shocking that anyone who is writing on this topic for a major publication would be clueless on the issue.

GDP Up 2%

If this weren't probably too late to help, conspiracy theories would be pouring out of the fever swamps like skeeters right about now...

Sexually Suggestive Obama Ad

Like me, you're probably fretting ceaselessly, just hoping our lead in the EC can last another 13 days. So one of the things you are worrying about is some new, probably largely fabricated, gaffe.

Well, I present to you, the worst Obama ad ever, virtually guaranteed to lose use votes.

I had never heard of Ms. Dunham. I wish I still hadn't. WTF is OFA thinking?? Even ignoring the genuinely weird stuff about this ad, don't they realize that we're fighting a fair bit of racism in this election? This ad is not going to make that any better.

In my view, this is just kind of off-putting...I simply don't see what's to be gained by analogizing voting to sex. If it worked, if it gained us votes, I'd be fine with it. But I don't see that happening.

Sununu Says Powell's Endorsement is Racial

John Sununu, the man who stole something like half a million dollars worth of services from the United States as part of the Bush '41 administration, asserts that Powell endorses Obama because for racial reasons.

A few points:

1. No, Powell explained why he is endorsing Obama. His list of reasons was long, and his individual reasons were clear and sound. Psychological explanations are only required in the absence of good reasons. So a psychological explanation is out of place here.

2. So, by parity of reasoning, Sununu is endorsing Romney because he's white? Wow, that's some racist sh*t right there. Disgusting, Sununu. Really disgusting...

3. Sununu is a proven liar and crook. He's also patently an idiot. So I'm not sure why anyone is listening to anything he says anyway.

Obama: Romney's a Bullshitter

Oops. The president accidentally said what everybody already knows...or maybe not so accidentally...

I do not want the race shaken up. I want it to stay exactly where it is. So, tactically speaking, I'm not wild about this. But, speaking as a human being: good show, Mr. President.

It's a little less raw than "liar," but much more direct than references to Romnesia.

It might (or might not) be worth noting that, according to Frankfurt in "On Bullshit" (or: On Bullshit, now that it's been made into a little book and somehow managed to break out of the insular world of academic philosophy) the liar cares about truth and falsehood because he wants to get you to believe that something false is true, whereas the bullshitter just doesn't care much about whether what he says is true. Frankfort's line on this is interesting, but I've never been convinced that it's quite right...not that I'm going to spend lots of time thinking about it. Romney's probably more liar than bullshitter on that way of slicing things up, but the case might be complicated.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Goode Strategy?

I wonder...might we do better to give a few bucks to Virgil Goode than to Obama?

Goode could swing the OD to the good guys by taking votes away from R-Money...

Ezra Klein: Where the Race Stands

Pretty good summary so far as I can tell.

Been canvassing most days. Did two turfs today. This is the turnout phase, so I'm seeing mostly committed Dems, and they are:

(a) Fired up


(b) Ready to go

To paraphrase Sgt. Malcolm hold, hold!

November 7th: Distopian Fretting

I'm beginning to sound paranoid to myself, but I really do worry about what 11/7 is going to look like.

So does Andrew Cohen.

We know that one of our two parties has become unhinged, that it exhibited a willingness to steal the election of 2000, and that it has made moves already to steal the election of 2012 by engaging in a widespread campaign of voter suppression.

We also know that that party has many ties to voting machine companies.

Why, exactly, are we not up in arms (figuratively speaking) about the situation? Does anyone really doubt that there are many and powerful people in the GOP who would steal the election if given the opportunity? Are we all just sitting around hoping that they are...what? Too lazy to do it? Too scrupulous? That they will  develop consciences in the next two weeks? Do we think that it doesn't matter that they own voting machine companies?

The situation is exacerbated by the asymmetrical nature of the parties. Think about how Democrats would react if it were revealed that the Dems had stolen the election. Then think about how Republicans would react if it were revealed that the GOP had done it. Dems would demand a do-over. Republicans would say: better luck next time.

Harrisonburg: Voter Fraud Capital of Virginia

Jebus, somehow I did not realize that Debby Logan was still the registrar in Harrisonburg.

It is very difficult for me to believe that any reasonable person could possibly have confidence in Ms. Logan's fairness and objectivity in electoral matters.

Pathetic Nutjob James O'Keefe vs. Possible Moran Campaign Sliminess


I was totally befuddled by lack of sleep when I came across this post at BVA, and I just clicked on the video. I didn't realize that this was the Moran campaign, nor that it was done by pathetic loser, eternal virgin and poster boy for young Republican repulsiveness James O'Keefe. In fact, I wasn't paying much attention and somehow got the impression that it was a Republican who was being questioned. My reaction was: "Huh. This doesn't seem that bad because I think this dude thinks the dude with the hidden camera is full of shit / a nut... But even under those conditions, he should be outraged and turn the guy in. Though obviously he shows no real interest nor enthusiasm for this proposal. Still, he should in now way be discussing ways to commit voter fraud, even non-seriously" Then I noticed that it was James "I Will Never Get Laid" O'Keefe, realized that he'd never be trying to bust a Republican, realized it was the Jim Moran campaign, and so forth. When I realized this was a Democrat, I became outraged that he hadn't been more indignant at the mere suggestion--though I still suspect he wasn't taking O'Keefe seriously.

I expect this'll be as big on Fox "News" as the ACORN/pimp nonsense. Let's hope it doesn't do too much damage to the good guys.

The Obama Team's View of the Home Stretch

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benghazi: CNN Helps Fabricate a Scandal


See, this does exactly nothing to show that the administration did anything wrong with respect to the Benghazi attacks...contrary to what the title seems tailored to suggest. People falsely claim responsibility for such things all the bloody time.

What nonsense.

F-22: No Dogfighting Advantage Over Eurofighter


Apparently it's really hard to close on the F-22...but if you can get within dogfighting range, the Raptor ($420 million each) has no real advantage over the Typhoon ($200 million each).

I guess thrust vectoring isn't as effective as I'd been led to believe.

And I hear that the Typhoon has an oxygen system that actually works. Which is a plus...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Larison: The Dictatress of the World


The last sane conservative on "the central foreign policy lie of the Romney campaign" and related matters.

Ryan: Can't Compare Bayonets To "Modern American Battlships"

Ryan tries to defend Romney from Obama's barb:

"To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets - I just don't understand that comparison."

Sadly, somebody else beat me to this point (though I can't find the reference now), but:

Interesting fact, Congressman really kinda can...

Like...we don't have any battleships anymore...

Which is to say...there is no such thing as "modern American battleships"...  Unless, of course, you're using 'modern' like, say, philosophers do, to mean since about 1650 or so...

Romney Supporter Games Intrade

...or so it seems...

Pretending They're Winning


I keep hearing this nonsense on CNN...JQ has it on...I never watch the crap...about the Romney campaign's "confidence" and suchlike...which is really weird since they are losing...

Turns out, they're probably bullshitting about that, too, trying to trick a gullible media into helping them create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Syria is Iran's Path to the Sea" and The NRO JCDs

Wow, I missed Romney's claim last night that "Syria is Iran's path to the sea."

But if you think that was a hoot, don't miss the NRO's defense of the claim.

Geography, after all, has a notorious liberal bias...

The Sugar Wars: Science's Fierce, Geeky Debate Over Soda


My emphases below:
So what did the audience make of the debate? In a remarkably timid response to the vigor and volume of data on display, the chair, Patrick O'Neill, did not put the motion to a vote among the hundreds of experts and students in the hall. Instead, he asked how many people had changed their minds based on what they heard. A few—but not many—raised their hands. Perhaps the Obesity Society, which had put out a statement in support of Mayor Bloomberg's soda policies, didn't want to risk a vote where the audience, its membership, might be interpreted as disagreeing with that position; or perhaps the academic stakes for publicly confirming where one stood on soda were far too risky for most people who weren't at the top of their careers like Allison and Hu.
This latter hypothesis was partially confirmed when I asked, over the course of the conference, various poster presenters—newly minted and almost PhDs and MDs—what they thought of the debate: all were reluctant to comment and possibly offend one side or the other, without the assurance they wouldn't be named. So, with the promise of anonymity, I can report that some people were already in camp "Harvard" and admitted so on political grounds, or because the search for perfect evidence was a rationale to do nothing; for them, Hu was the clear winner. Others, however, expressed surprise at the dissection of the evidence. "It made me think about the data in a way I hadn't, because I am not that strong on data," said one academic. Another said she went into the debate with an open mind, but with the conviction that telling people what they couldn't eat was not a good idea in the real world; she said what troubled her was that academics have a tendency to go from the hypothesis to the conclusion without analyzing the validity of the data in between, and that the debate, as a consequence, had been eye opening. Another said her coursework in statistical analysis had already been a wake up call to her bias on this issue.
Let me note that this is a debate about soda. Soda. This is not what you'd call an Earth-shaking issue. And it's so politicized that people won't even comment on it because they fear for their careers.

Obama Wins Debate 3 On All Polls


CBS uncommitteds: Obama won debate 3 by more than Romney won debate 1 (24-point difference in debate one, 30-point win for Obama in debate three).

PPP poll of swing-state voters: Obama wins 53-42.

And, via Sullivan, the very best evidence that Obama will win the election: Bill Kristol just published a post titled "President Romney." Whew! Thank God. Kristol is always wrong about everything, of course. I feel much, much better about the election now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate 3: Obama 53%, Romney 23%

Yeah, that's more like it.

These are undecideds. The CNN poll is everybody, so it reveals basically nothing.

CNN Debate Bullshit

LOOOOOL 48% Obama to 40% Romney. Utter nonsense. Way, way bigger Obama win that that, almost no matter how you look at it.

The most irritating thing on CNN, though, and the thing that reminds me why I almost never watch this bullshit network, is that I've had to hear the following bullshit conversation over and over:

CNN: Who won the debate?

E.g. James Carville: Well, obviously Obama won.

E.g. Ari Fleisher: That doesn't mean he'll win the election.

E.g. Carville: That wasn't the question. You asked who won the debate. Obama won.

CNN: So there you have it: we don't know who will win the election.


Obama Wins Debate 3 Big


A big win for Obama.

(Interlude: CNN just spins a flat-out Romney lie into a "true on both sides" rating--in particular, Romney's claim that Russia is our biggest geo-political foe. Not only did he say it, he reiterated it when questioned. But Then he went on to say that we had some other foes, CNN rules "true on both sides." What utter nonsense.)

Anyway, some initially claimed that debate 2 was a huge win for Obama, whereas I thought what the polls thought--a modest win.

This was no modest win. This was an ass-kicking.

Live-blogging Debate 3...All Of A Sudden

JQ abandoned her laptop, so I'll type in some of my fascinating thoughts.

9:49 Romney's foreign policy: Exactly like Obama's, but with more tough talk, and derisive sneers directed at Obama. Jeez, this guy is way, way out of his depth.

9:53 "I think they saw weakness." Utter bullshit. Perhaps the clearest sign of the derangement of the Republican party is their inability to recognize that the United States can be tough without being a bully. They think that rational, forceful, assertive and stalwart behavior...but behavior that falls short of maniacal, irrational somehow soft. Utter madness.

9:56 Apology tour! Take a shot!

9:57  Whoa, doubling down on the Apology Tour!  Hit it outta the park Mr. President!

9:59  Obama smashes R-Money in the Bad Tour exchange...but I wish he'd have reiterated the point that the Apology Tour lie has been repeatedly debunked.

10:00 Goddamn it, Scheaffer, quit trying to get people to make policy on the fly!!!  Romney actually said something semi-reasonable there when he refused to answer.

10:04 Wow. I think the Prez is beating Romney down hard.

10:04a Hey, good on Romney for admitting that he didn't really deserve a response.

10:08  No sound. That's what I get for watching CNN. Over to PBS where I belong...

10:12  Romney: we've got to do more than kill the bad guys...  What a moron. When Republicans get Saddam, it's the greatest thing ever. When Obama gets OBL, it's "you've got to do more than get the bad guys." This is a textbook fallacy, confusing roughly necessary conditions with roughly sufficient conditions.

10:15 Perhaps the most important lesson from this debate: men are apparently insane. I'm back to CNN to see whether the green line is still moving roughly randomly. Answer: yes.

10:18  Romney's getting flustered... falls back on his government can't help business line.

10:23  Obama maybe getting a little worn out. China answer not great. A little unfocused.

10:25  Ouch. Maybe not tired after all. Obama smacked Romney down hard on the auto industry.  Oops...Solyndra! Take a shot! Desperation setting in on the Romney side...

10:27  Holy crap. Obama is kicking Romney's ass.

10:29 Romney desperate...again confuses roughly necessary with roughly sufficient conditions.

Obama Kicking Ass Thus Far in Debate 3

Very nice. Obama's knowledge of foreign policy clearly puts Romney's to shame.

I think Obama is, thus far, winning far bigger than he did in debate 2.


Ugh. Terrible question on Israel. Why do debate moderators try to force Presidents to make policy on the spot in debates?

Sunday, October 21, 2012


VA SBE Will Not Seek Investigaton of Ballot Destruction



Saturday, October 20, 2012

GOP Voter Registration Scandal Widens

At Salon.

The GOP is trying to steal the election. That much is clear--and, for that matter, was clear independently of the registration scandals enumerated by Salon. Mass suppression efforts in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin would be grounds for outrage even if not for the new revelations about voter-registration fraud in Virginia and elsewhere.

You know as well as I know that, if Republicans manage to get one vote more than Obama, then, no matter how they got it, no matter what scandals and shenanigans are revealed, they will argue that democratic principles demand that Romney be inaugurated...and, sure, those problems will be looked into later. The maniacal dogmatism they displayed in Florida in 2000 would be deployed once again to deny any efforts to rectify a stolen election. We already know that they have a two-phase strategy: steal the election no matter how blatantly, then deploy pseudo-patriotic outrage to prevent the result from being overturned.

It's rather difficult to get one's head around the fact that we are dealing with dangerous extremists here. You, like me, probably think of yourself as a centrist, and you, like me, are probably averse to saying or thinking the kinds of things I've written above. But we cannot allow a mere desire to sound reasonable to prevent us from actually being reasonable. One of the two parties is currently pouring massive resources into trying to steal the election. If they succeed, the theft simply cannot be rolled back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Republican GOP Shocked, Shocked To Find Voter Suppression in VA

At the Daily News-Record, behind paywall.
Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said party leaders were “alarmed by [the] allegations.”
“The actions taken by this individual are a direct contradiction of both his training and explicit instructions given to him,” Mullins said in a statement.
“The Republican Party of Virginia will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process.”
Mullins said Small was fired immediately after the allegations surfaced.
Tracy Evans, chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party, said he was “shocked and saddened” that voter forms would be tossed out in the area.
Evans said the blame for the incident falls on Pinpoint and Small, not the state or local GOP.
“I’ve never met the guy. Certainly, I didn’t have authority over him or control of him. … It’s a failure on the part of the this individual to follow the rules and procedures he was supposed to follow, and it’s a failure on the company that RPV hired to do all the things they’re supposed to do,” he said.
I mean, Republicans would never be involved in voter suppression, right?

Giving Children the Vote

The single stupidest idea you will read about today...that is not Mitt Romney's tax plan...

The only thing this will get us is candy subsidies...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney's Contempt for Obama

I said many bad words during the second debate, let me say. I used to defend Romney, and try to convince my friends that he wasn't so bad...just a soulless technocrat, really. Cut from different cloth than the rest of the idiots and lunatics in the Republican field this time around.

But that guy has turned out to be a loathsome piece of crap.

I mean...was it just me, or did he ooze blatant contempt for the freaking President of the United States?

He even seemed to be trying to come right up to the edge of getting in his face. I mean...where does he get off acting like that to the President? WTF happened to the principle that we respect the office even if not the man?

Imagine how Faux News et al. would have reacted had a Democratic candidate treated a sitting Republican President so disrespectfully. They'd be calling for the Secret Service to cart him away, and doing hours on how he had shown himself unfit for office. And I think they'd be right...

I've done a 180 on Romney now. I now suspect that there is something deeply wrong with that guy.

Arrest Made in Harrisonburg Trashed-Voter-Registration Case


Dammit, Not Larry Sabato beat me to it again. That'll teach me to rely on the DNR rather than WHSV...

Quoth the latter, re: the accused:
Colin Small, 31, Phoenixville, Pa was a Voter Registration Supervisor employed by Pinpoint, an independent private organization contracted by the Republican Party of Virginia, for purposes of general voter registration.
Huh. Shenanigans by the minions of the GOP... Hard to believe, eh?

The Uninformed Crave Opinions; or: Why Democracy Is In Trouble

Here's why Romney might win.

Or, rather: it's because something similar would have happened if these people had been asked about Obamacare, or the competing tax proposals, or drone strikes.

People want opinions about politics, even if they don't have any idea what they are talking about.

I tell my students in critical thinking that the three words I most respect someone for saying, and most want them to learn to say, are "I don't know."

We have this bit of civic lore to the effect that we have a duty to vote. But this is not true. We have a duty to be informed. If you are informed, then you'll want to vote. But you have no duty to vote (simpliciter) and, in fact, you have a duty not to vote if you don't know what you're talking about.

Pro-Romney Bias/Error From Politifact?

Sure looks that way.

Look, that's just a bad ruling. P-fact is simply wrong here. Obama is right, Romney is wrong.

I'm certainly willing to describe this as a "pro-Romney error" rather than "pro-Romney bias," since the latter implies a pattern. I am inclined to think, as I've said in the past, that Politifact has bent over backwards trying to keep the fact-check tally from being a complete blow-out.

This is a bridge too far, however.

It is Romney who reduced this important question to the cartoon question (in essece) did the President use certain words? It's appalling that this is tolerated, but it is tolerated, and Romney did it. But Obama did indeed use the relevant words: he did identify the Benghazi attacks as "acts of terror." Case. Bloody. Closed.

Obama did not say "The attacks in Benghazi were acts of terror," but he used the phrase "acts of terror" in a way that clearly included and referred to the Benghazi attacks. This cannot be denied without absurdity. If this objection gets a "half-true," then so should the following objection: even when Obama says "the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack," he may be talking about a different Benghazi attack. But that's absurd.

P-fact needs to walk this one back. They are simply wrong about this.

Focus of Request for More Security at Libyan Embassies was Tripoli

...not Benghazi.

This is huge. Why isn't Obama using this to hit this issue out of the park?

Sandbagging for the foreign policy debate, I'll bet.

Police Investigating Links to GOP Office in Trashed Voter Registration Form Case

Per the DNR (behind paywall), Harrisonburg police are investigating possible links to the local GOP "victory office" in the case of the eight completed voter registration forms found in the trash. Word is that a car seen at the scene, a black Camry with Pennsylvania plates, has also been seen at local Romney HQ.

Of course this sort of thing, heinous though it is, is just going to happen from time to time. There are scumbags associated with every political campaign...  But in this case, what we have is yet another data point in a large and well-established pattern of disenfranchisement and voter suppression by the Republican party.

Stay tuned...

Onion Talks

They can't be much more ridiculous/hilarious than TED talks...but Onion Talks are coming soon...

(via Metafilter)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NOT Larry Sabato on the H'burg Voter Registration Forms

WHOA, we made the front page of Reddit!

Larry Sabato on the Harrisonburg voter registration form case.

We famous! We famous!

[Note: NOT Larry Sabato!]

Harrisonburg: 8 Completed Voter Registration Forms Found In Trash

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate 2 Goes to Obama

Well, I thought this was just about the second-worst night I've seen from Obama, but he managed to be significantly better than Romney.

It's really rather hard for me to draw a conclusion, because I thought both men were pretty terrible tonight. Romney--as usual--seemed to be straining to seem normal. Obama, on the other hand, seems almost to squelch his innate intelligence and charm in these things. But Obama at (almost) his worst still comes off as more engaging and sincere than Romney at (almost) his best.

Romney was busted in a lie (about calling the embassy attack "terrorism") by Crowley. Any other candidate might be significantly harmed by being so blatantly called out, but Romney has been caught in so many lies that I'm doubtful that this will hurt him much.

It's rather difficult for me to be objective about this battle of good versus evil, but it did seem that Obama got the better of the thing by quite a bit.

Hold the Line, Virginia

Goddamn it, if you're in the OD, get out there and canvass.

If you're not in the OD, SEND MORE MONEY.

Shit is getting real.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Recent Romney Bounce Did Not Start With Debate

There's been chatter about this.

The debate probably didn't help anything, but it at least doesn't seem to have started the problem.

It's also worth thinking a bit about something Wang has suggested. The media reaction was important, and it's at least a little bit weird that three conservatives pollsters, including the clearly partisan Rasmussen, came out of the gates with polls showing big Romney gains asap after the debates. Funny.

Chris Wallace Hassles Prince Riebus About Tax Plan

[As Matthew  notes in comments, it was Ed Gillespie, not Reince P. So weird. I can still "see" RP in that video in my mind's eye... Freakah...]

Whoa. Et tu, Fox?

Reince & co. are still spouting the "six studies" lie, and Wallace actually calls him on it. You gotta give some credit for RP for his argument that AEI is "non-partisan." Way to use misleadingly narrow definitions, dude. You get this weekend's Golden Gorgias for that one...

The Walking Dead Season 3 Premier

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of the TWD. Everything in that show just seems a little off to me. The writing, the acting, the directing...all just a tad off in a way that I can't articulate. Just to mention one odd thing in particular, neither Rick nor Shane is plausibly from Georgia. Not only do they not talk like they're from Georgia, they weirdly don't even look like they're from Georgia. Well, I might as well go ahead an air my major complaint again: too much soap opera, too little action. I think it's good to limit action in such shows...but not if you're going to fill the time with shrieky, weepy Real Housewives of the IZA crap. I'm not knowledgeable about movies and the like, so I don't have the conceptual tools to say much beyond that, really. I'll watch almost anything with zombies in it, but I basically gave up on TWD, and didn't even realize until last night that I'd not seen the final episode of season 2.

But I watched both the end of season 2 and the beginning of season 3 last night, and I have to say, I thought there was a notable improvement. More action, less overwrought dialog , and several kinda cool things showing up here and there. I thought [spoiler alert] fillingspacefillingspacefillingspace ok: I thought that splitting everybody up after the farm fight was really well done. Though it sure was hell on secondary and tertiary characters...

There's still annoying stuff in TWD. Like: shooting zombies in the head at twenty yards from speeding vehicles. Not gonna happen my friends. Not gonna happen. As I've noted before, you can't do that. Especially not while dropping a deuce and crying for your mommy. But everybody on TWD is a crack shot, e.g. hitting zombies in the head with pistols from fifty yards, and never missing a shot. Here's a hint: stop the vehicle, shoot, drive some more, stop, shoot. Meh, that's not their fault so much; they inherit that crack-shot convention I suppose. Oh and: the group's public deliberations still make little sense, to the point that they're painful to listen to even when they're not painfully overwrought. There's no way these people would actually have survived; they reason together like a bunch of twelve-year-olds. And they always just wait for Rick to be right anyway. So why bother?

Still, there was reason for optimism on display last night I thought, even with the arrival of Kendra the Zombie Slayer who, though a bit wince-worthy, was still pretty cool. And her pack zombies were awesome--in the sense of grotesque and horrible. Nice gruesome touch.

So good job, TWD. Glad to see things getting on a better trajectory.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More Canvassing

More canvassing today.

Seriously, if you aren't doing it, you should.

It gives you an excuse to walk around your town and meet other Democrats, and they're generally very appreciative of your efforts.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Canvassing: Saturday

Just got back from three hours of canvassing.

Ugh. Long route. But I have to say, it really is enjoyable walking around town and getting to meet some of my fellow Democrats.

They're fired up and ready to go!

Obama Would Win World-Wide Election in Landslide

Bain Capital Moves American Jobs to China, Flies Chinese Flag Over Illinois Factory


They moved in, immediately informed the workers that their jobs were being outsourced, made them train their Chinese replacements, and flew a Chinese flag over the plant while those replacements were there.

Shot Fired at Obama Denver Field Office. Also: The Rovian Bargain


This sort of thing is a foreseeable consequence of the right's propaganda strategy. For four years they've pushed the "Evil Obama" tale. According to this yarn, Obama is a foreigner who is in the White House illegally, a Manchurian Candidate responsible for all the nation's woes, and intentionally seeking its destruction. He's going to take our guns, close our churches, heard us into concentration camps, and hand the country over to the U.N. In fact, he may very well be the Antichrist.

This yarn is aimed primarily at and consumed by a segment of the population that we might politely describe as cognitively vulnerable. And some of them obviously believe this story to at least some non-trivial extent. In fact, on the more cognitively vulnerable end of the curve, some fair number of them will believe a fair bit of it.

Now, if you do believe the "Evil Obama" theory sketched above, violence is not an unreasonable reaction. Who among us, in fact, would not begin planning violence if we believed such a thing?

The right, the GOP, and the right-wing noise machine cannot be surprised at such events. They've spent four years fanning the flames of hatred and fear.

The GOP's strategy is to trade reason and national unity for votes. They know that by destroying part of the foundation of rationality and good will that are requisite for democracy, they can increase their odds of winning elections. This Faustian--or, rather, Rovian--bargain* as been the centerpiece of their strategy since the Clinton administration. They are playing with fire, betting that they can fan the flames of unreason just enough to make their irrational policies winners, but not enough to burn down the country. They think the risk is worth it.

* Probably more accurately described as "Atwaterian"

Romney's Debate Bounce Big and Apparently Durable

A sobering assessment from Nate Silver.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Paul Constant's VP Debate Analysis

What Biden Should Have Said About the Nasty Campaign


Biden bean Ryan like a rented mule for 80 minutes, and that was gratifying to watch. Ryan was fighting out of his weight class, and it showed. Biden was damn close to getting a TKO when pushing Ryan for specifics with respect to how they're proposing to pay for their $5 trillion tax cut.

But the point that really sticks out to me is Biden's missed opportunity for a coup de gras. Radditz asked a question about the nastiness of the campaign (couched in a story about a soldier in Afghanistan...jeez, we have to be careful not to let the deification of the military get out of hand here folks...). I've discussed this tricky issue many times, and perhaps Biden didn't want to take a risk in a debate he had already won handily... But I think he should have said something like:
Look. We should be very clear about something. This is not a case where both parties are equally responsible. It's just a fact, acknowledged by every even vaguely objective observer of American politics that the Republican party has begun using using unusually nasty tactics. The Democrats are far from blameless, but it is the Republican party that is moving American politics farther and farther in a bad direction. They began engaging in the politics of personal destruction when Bill Clinton was President. They falsely accused Bill Clinton of everything imaginable, including murder. They continued to blame Clinton for every failure of the Bush administration for eight years. Then they launched a vicious campaign of personal destruction against President Obama. The very night of his inauguration, Republicans including Newt Gingrich met to plan how to destroy him politically. The Republicans in the House have refused to compromise on almost everything, and Republicans in the Senate threaten to filibuster almost everything that cannot get 60 votes. They relentlessly prosecute a campaign of obstruction...and then blame the President for not making Washington more bipartisan. The whole time they spin out a non-stop stream of false, despicable charges against the President. That he was born in Kenya and is not an American citizen. That he is a socialist. That he is not a "real American," that he does not love his country, and so on and so on. He's the President who got Osama bin Laden--something the last Republican President couldn't do, and something that the current Republican candidate didn't even think was important--yet they spin out laughable fantasies about him being soft on terrorism. This is a very dangerous time for the Republican part and for America. The GOP has allowed itself to wallow in and relish its anger. It has constructed for itself a fictional Obama that bears no resemblance to the actual President. It has then gone out and convinced average Republicans that the fictional Obama is real, and that he is dangerous, and must be hated and stopped. The incredible vitriol in American politics is one of the biggest problems our country faces. It undermines our ability to make rational policy and electoral decisions. We all need to work to change it. But the hard fact of the matter is that Republicans are far more responsible for the problem than are Democrats. There is only so much we can do to change this. Change, on this one critical issue, can only come, in the main, from Republicans, who must return to their traditional roots, learn to face the facts even when they don't like them, learn to control their anger, and learn to admit that it is possible to disagree with them about policy without being evil or hating America.
Well, there's a fantasy speech, I guess.

Instead, Ryan immediately launched into more vitriolic attacks, using that "if you don't have anything to run on you something something run away from" line yet again.

Anyway. I think that was a great opportunity to make a point that could be pivotal in this race. Sometimes you just have to speak a truth and it's like turning a light on for people.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Frustrated Biden

Obama the Communist


"Just study it out! Just study it out!"


Now That Was An Ass Whuppin'


I was really worried, but Joe came through. He kinda faded out in the last ten minutes, didn't finish strong, and passed up an opportunity to administer the coup de gras on the question about the nastiness of the campaign,  but it seemed to me that he just slapped the snot out of Ryan.

I know these are stupid rhetorical battles, but Biden managed to win with content, not style. His style was fine, but, unlike Mittens, he didn't have to rely on it. It is, of course, a fundamental fact about the campaign that the blue team is significantly more honest than the red team, and that was underscored again tonight.

Johnny Quest tells me that the GOP talking point of the moment has to do with Biden's style being bad (rude or something), but that's a fair sign that they realize that their boy was punked. Ryan looked like the squeaky-voiced treasurer of the high school debate team who had made the mistake of taking on the local District Attorney.

A solid win for Biden and the blue team tonight, no doubt about it.

This sort of thing never seems to benefit us as much as them, and, of course, it's just the VP debate. But I don't see how we could have reasonably hoped for a more thorough ass kicking of the loathsome Paul Ryan.

Good job by the Joetorious B.V.P.

FDR: Let Me Warn You

Big props to Jon Stewart for making this clip popular.

I think the Obama campaign should just buy ad time and run this as an ad.

Mitt's Lies in Debate 1

The Romneys: Lying Apparently Runs in the Family

There are liars and bullshitters who are willing to relent when called out.

And there are liars and bullshitters who are willing to lie and bullshit about their lying bullshit.

Then there are the liars and bullshitters who are not only willing to lie and bullshit about their lying bullshit, but who are also willing to accuse the honest people who bust them on their lying bullshit of being liars and bullshitters.

Guess which category of lying bullshitters we're dealing with?

GOP Embassy-Attack Witch Hunt Blows CIA's Cover

It's hard to win the Global War On Terra with the Keystone Kongressmen on our side. In some sense of "on our side," anyway...

Yet more confirmation of something that's long been obvious: they hate Terra, and they hate Obama...but they hate Obama a lot more...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sould Obama Acknowledge That Romney Is A Liar?


Tough question.

I am inclined to agree with Drum: you just aren't allowed to say it, no matter how obviously true it is.

But you really do have to make things painfully clear to the American electorate.

So I suggest saying things like: What Romney is saying is false. It is false, and he knows it's false. He is knowingly telling you things that are false in order to get you to vote for him, because he knows that you will not vote for him if he tells the truth about what he believes.

That is equivalent to "he's lying," but it doesn't use the 'L' word.

Romney is, as we'd say back home, a lying sack of shit. Too bad Obama's not permitted to say as much.

Sam Wang: Everybody Calm Down

Lakoff's Wishful Thinking


First, I will be much happier when people finally give up the term 'narrative,' which they now lean on like a freaking terminological crutch. It just means 'story,' see, but it something...

Second, why is everyone named 'Lakoff' incapable of saying anything sensible about politics?

To some extent this just comes to it ain't over til it's over. Which is true, but could have been said more clearly. But then there's the other part... And I see no reason to believe that the first debate was a Pyrrhic victory for Romney. Our evidence thus far is that it was a just plain victory. (And...a parenthetical explanation of 'Pyrrhic victory'? Really?)

He did provide the Obama campaign with some more targets by shamelessly lying his way through the debate, and shifting positions yet again. But he shook up the race, swung for the fences, and put Obama on the defensive. And that's the absolute best he could have hoped for. Rhetoric matters in these BS contests, and Republican politicians rarely pay for lies. It ain't over, but things just got a lot harder for the good guys.


(via Maddow. Why do liberals think that the Lakoffs are worth paying attention to?)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Slavoj Zizek: The Borat of (Sorta) Philosophy

Jesus this guy's a moron.

And a Leninist to book.


(via Sullivan)

Sully Suicide Watch

Jesus Christ, Sully.

You are now officially a Romney force multiplier.

Your self-indulgent public catharsis, your petulant temper-tantrum aimed at the President, is now a real problem for the good guys.

Just STFU.

Andrew Sullivan, GOP Force Multiplier

Jesus, Andrew, STFU.

You're scaring the women and children.

Although, I have to say, I agree that the Big Bird ad is a bad idea. Don't try to go for the cute, tricksy responses. Stick with facts and analysis. Beat Romney where he's weak. No reason to descend to his level and hope to be able to beat him there.

Andrew Sullivan, Post-Debate Footage

Rare footage discovered of Andrew Sullivan immediately after Wednesday's debate.

The NRA is a Republican Organization

I rarely catch Maddow's show, but I generally enjoy it when I do, and this bit on the NRA's endorsement of Romney is excellent.

We were members of the NRA when we were kids, back when it was still a sportsman's organization, rather than a right-wing political organization. As I've confessed before, I joined up again for a year while I was living in Charlottesville, and the only shooting club in the area required membership--ostensibly because it bought insurance through the NRA...though it became clear later that that wasn't the only reason. Non-NRA members simply are not welcome at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club, except as guests.

Anyhoo, my conscience wouldn't let me sign up again the next year, and I got kicked out of the club...but the NRA kept calling me for years. I'd explain to them that I couldn't join b/c they'd become shills for the GOP, and oh my, did I ever get into some fights with the guys who called. Oh, how they'd insist that the organization was just supporting whomever had the more permissive gun policies, regardless of party. That's false, and anyone who has any contact with the NRA knows its false.

But never has it been so clear as this year. An organization choosing a candidate exclusively on the basis of his having a more libertarian position on firearms would have to choose Obama over Romney; the NRA, however, is, as I may have mentioned, a Republican organization, dedicated to supporting Republican candidates. Accordingly, they are supporting the Republican this time, despite his having clearly supported restrictive firearms laws in Massachusetts. The Obama administration, however, has made no moves to make firearms laws more restrictive.

MOrons: Dave Spence Edition

Oh Missouri, you got at least your share of idiots...  Hell, Limbaugh counts as ten or twelve of 'em...

Behold Dave Spence, Red Team candidate for MO Governor, fond of trying to pass off his home economics degree as an economics degree...

They're different, Dave.

They're very, very different.

Andrew Sullivan Wets The Bed

Sully, my man...I'm a big admirer...but you need to buck the f*ck up.

If this is how you react to one bad debate performance and a couple of bad polls...I'm wondering WTF it would be like to have been with you at Bastogne...

I'm concerned, too, but running around the interwebs screaming that we're all doomed is not--I repeat, NOT--as helpful as you might think.

The debate is over. Its primary effects now are through media commentary on them, of which your writings are a part. How about a little more steely resolve and a little less hysterical catharsis?

Our man is the stronger candidate. We have reason and facts on our side, and that ain't exactly nuthin'. As Peirce says, notwithstanding the iniquity of the world, truth and justice are the most powerful forces in it.

Give time. Give money. Get tough.

Mittens Don't Hunt No Varmints

Here's Mitt Romney blatantly lying about hunting.

I have never, in my entire life, heard anyone say that he hunts "rodents." And certainly not "if you will." I've also never heard anyone refer to deer as "big game." 

It's not that I think you have to hunt to be a good President, but I do think you have to not lie about it...

Monday, October 08, 2012

Shorter Buzz Bissinger / "Why I'm Voting for Romney"

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Debate Debacle Hurts Obama in (Republican-Leaning)

Well, someone seems to have shot himself in the foot.

Romney's onslaught of shameless lies and/or newest position changes, and Obama's terrible performance seem to have affected the polls.

Sam Wang expresses some surprise at the fast, unified onslaught by Republican-leaning (e.g. Rasmussen) polls:
The Meta-Analysis, a snapshot of today’s conditions, has taken a remarkably sharp and large downtick for President Obama. This comes with a massive polling release from three Republican-leaning pollsters: Rasmussen, Gravis, and We Ask America. Just think – what are the odds that they would all come out of the gate so fast and all at once? It’s almost like they planned it. 
We don't want to go all fever-swamp/Bullshit-Mountainy, tho...

Obama's got a big lead. But we don't want too many more screw-ups like this one...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Sexism in Science: More Reflections on the Moss-Racusin Study


1. I'm going to get the actual paper because it's important to see what percentage of the subjects gave differential evaluations inconsistent with chance. It's possible that some people are just better at this, immune to such biases, and could be analogous to experts in the department when it comes to evaluating applications.

2. There is already some evidence that in-person interviews make hiring decisions less reliable rather than more so. If that's roughly right, then applications could be prepared blind with respect to names and other indicators of sex, and in-person interviews could be eliminated or radically reduced in importance.

I'm still torn on the affirmative action issue, since it doesn't take class/economic privilege into account...but this Moss-Racusin study (if it holds up) just can't be ignored.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Conservatives Agree Jobs Numbers Cooked...Can't Agree On How

Think Progress

Did BLS cook them? Did Democrats across the country conspire to say they got jobs when they didn't? Does Obama sneak off to Hogwarts every night, and does he now have a magic wand of statistics inflating and...and...?

One thing we know for sure, though: if Republicans dislike something, it cannot be a fact..

Jobbers: Jobs Report Truthers

I'll skip right over the good jobs report to point us to...jobbers!

Because, as you know: any fact that is good for Democrats is, ipso facto, not a fact at all.

(via Reddit)

GOP Machismo Watch: Democratic Presidents Do Not Cause Embassy Attacks

One persistent conservative fantasy is that Republicans are tough and Democrats are weak. And, like so many conservative beliefs, this one is immune to disconfirmation by empirical evidence.

Here's Adam Serwer on the question. CHECK OUT THE CHART.

Also note Serwer's deft expression of the conservative fantasy in question, that:
...somehow sufficient man-musk from an American president can dissuade any potential terrorist from laying his finger on an American diplomat.
These conservative tough-talkers are never, of course, tough themselves. Romney's physical altercations seem to be limited to one instance of three-on-one gay bashing. More importantly, they seem to fail to realize that, though weakness is an invitation to attack, an overly-aggressive posture makes you at least one of the crazy guys, and often one of the bad guys. The ideal is to speak softly and carry a big stick--and that has been the Democratic approach in my lifetime. Tone deaf on this issue, as on so many others, conservatives think that soft-speaking + big-stick-carrying = weakness/wimpiness, and favor a laughable/crazy, overly-aggressive, strutting, preening macho national demeanor, suited only to bullies and not to reasonable men nor nations. "Weakness is provocative," they like to say, and that's almost true (though "provocative" is not exactly the right word). But macho bullshit is extremely provocative. I've never, ever in my life found myself taunting or provoking a weak-seeming guy into a confrontation, but I have found myself doing so to macho assholes--and I'm not alone in that. Romney and company want America to be the guy who deserves an ass-kicking, rather than that calm, rational guy who doesn't want any trouble but can handle it if it shows up. That latter guy is analogous to the nation Democrats want us to be. No one anywhere of any significance in American politics wants us to be cowering wimps. Only conservative's insanely distorted view of the world makes speaking softly and carrying a big stick look like cowardice, just as the reasonable and judicious man looks like a coward only to the macho asshole. (You'd think, with their John Wayne fixation, conservatives would be able to get this bit right...)

The overall problem with American conservatism, let me note, is not so much that it is wrong about this point or that point, but that its perspective on the world is distorted overall, like an image in a fun-house mirror.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

NYT Debate Fact Check

Salon Debate Fact Check

GOP Tax Deficit Lies, Old and New

Ah, I remember back in the days of the Clinton administration, when some of us thought we might actually use some of the surplus to pay down the debt...

Al Gore suggested that in the 2000 election, while Dubya promised massive tax cuts with no adverse effects on the deficit...

How'd that work out for us? Anybody know?

Here's Chait with some of Dubya's greatest hits from the debates of 2000.

(via Benen)

The Moss-Racusin Sex in Science Study: A Bright Side?

About that disheartening sexism in science (actually: biology) study:

Here's a tiny hint of a silver lining:

If we did studies like these for all the disciplines, we could get some idea how common such sexism is, and find out how to control for it in the affected disciplines. So, for example, it looks like males were rated about 0.22 points higher on a 1-7 point scale in this study. Suppose that held up pretty well in biology. Then biologists could rate all their candidates, and add 0.22 to the ratings of females.

Still depressing...but perhaps usefully so...

It would also be interesting to see how the disciplines vary in this respect, and to see whether disciplines with more females are subject to less of it. If so, that might give some evidence to the weak inference hypothesis over the wetwiring hypothesis.

Sexism in Science (or Biology, Anyway...)

Holy crap.

The only difference in these grad school apps was the name--it was sometimes given a male name and sometimes a female name. The applications were given to 127 biology professors. Both male and female profs tended to rate the ones with male names higher on everything.

This is bad news indeed.

In the humanities, bogus charges of sexism fly around with such frequency that it's hard not to become afflicted by a blanket skepticism of them.

But this evidence seems pretty damn hard to explain away...

[Well, upon a moment's more thought, it might be possible to explain something here away, though it won't help much. It may be a kind of weak inference on the part of the professors. Surrounded by mostly male biologists, one might come to think that males make better biologists via some kind of abduction or something. This would still result in a kind of sexism, but not the worst kind--that is, not some wet-wired, inveterate sexism. This kind could be remedied just by achieving a better sex balance in the discipline (which we're working toward). Anyway, the worse possibility is that it's something wetwired into us. I'm skeptical about that. Though if we're wetwired to respect tall, strong, deep-voiced people, such sexism could be an effect of that.]

Calm, Calm

1. In grad school we used to talk about Spurgin's Law (named for my buddy Earl "The Squirrel" Spurgin). Spurgin's Law concerns retrospective reflection on lectures you've given, and it goes like this:

It's never as good, nor as bad, as you think it was.

Although we were observers last night, and not participants, I think S's L is applicable here on account of how invested most of us are in this thing.

Anyway: it probably wasn't as bad as it seemed.

2. Stats dudes like Wang and Silver assure us that debates don't matter much. Since there are so few undecideds left, I expect they'll matter even less than usual this year.

3. It really is hard to defend against blatant lies and a constantly-changing position.

4. Romney had to tack to the center, and that might hurt him...though I doubt it.

Anyway, given that fretting and wallowing in posts about last night's awfulness can't accomplish anything positive, and can only feed stories about Mitt-mentum, it's time to move on.

That's What We Call An Ass-Whupping


It's hard not to be a bit angry at Obama and his team for this miserable performance.

Years of work, millions of dollars, and, to be honest, the fate of the nation, hang disproportionately on debate performances. They don't matter much, but they matter more than any other hour-and-a-half. And Obama was just terrible. He seemed tired, confused, and poorly-prepared.

Starting off with that business about Michelle and his anniversary was just godawful--a transparent rhetorical ploy of the worst kind. Really nauseating to watch.

Granted, things seemed to start going badly in earnest when Romney insistently and repeatedly lied about his tax plan--but the Obama team had to know that something like that was going to happen, and they needed to be prepared for it.

This simply cannot happen again. Honestly, I could have done better than Obama did. When envisioning possible outcomes before the debate, I did not even consider such a lopsided Romney victory a possibility. I know that these things are bullshit, and are bullshitting contests. I do realize that Romney will have an advantage in such a contest. However, I never imagined that the President would come out and stammer his way through ninety minutes of the loathsome Mitt Romney eating his lunch for him.

One can't always do one's best, of course...but to turn in one's poorest performance ever at such a crucial's a bit difficult to excuse.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Debate Disaster


That seemed like a completely disaster to me.

Romney was more cogent and human than I've ever seen him. Obama was just horrible, stammering and stuttering his way through his answers so badly that I actually had a hard time following what he was saying. He tried some shameless gimmicks like starting off with the stuff about his anniversary, he refused to abide by time limits over and over gain, and came off as kind of a bully by constantly talking over Lehrer and refusing to allow him to do his job.

Obama looked haggard and flustered. He looked  and spoke like a man who hadn't slept. He just was not on.

Of course Romney is full of shit, and was lying his ass off, for example about his tax proposals, and about the Affordable Care Act...but these things aren't so much about substance as style and appearance, and Romney won that battle hands down, IMHO.

Of course, his smug assholishness is insufferable, and I had to shift from CNN back to PBS so I didn't have to watch him smirking on the split screen while Obama was talking... But I won't be voting for the SOB anyway...

What a disaster. I certainly hope the current prevailing wisdom is right and debates really don't matter...