Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Ahmadinejad ally impeached in Iran

The Majlis, Iran’s 290-seat parliament, has impeached the country’s Interior Minister, Ali Kordan, on a vote of 188-45.  Kordan, an ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was impeached for, among other things, flasely claiming a degree from Oxford University.  He was questioned about his qualifications during his confirmation hearings three months ago; there had been concerned that he was unqualified, but he was narrowly confirmed after he produced an English-language certificate that purported to be from Oxford, despite numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes.

The Flag of Iran includes the phrase Allahu Akbar ("God is Great") is repeated 22 times

The Flag of Iran includes the phrase Allahu Akbar ("God is great") repeated 22 times in stylized script.

During his impeachment trial, Kordan’s defended himself by claiming that his impeachment was a conspiracy including–who else?–the United States and Israel.  President Ahmadinejad said that degrees are just “torn paper” and not really necessary.

Kordan’s removal from office is seen as a blow to President Ahmadinejad, who is not perceived as having delivered on promises to improve the country’s economy; Iranians often accuse him of spending too much time denouncing the United States and not enough time running Iran.  He recently said that oil prices would not fall below $100 per barrel; oil is currently selling for $60 per barrel, which makes improving Iran’s economy, whose chief export is petroleum, more difficult.

Ahmadinejad is up for re-election next year; if the United States isn’t an issue in the campaign, it’s likely he’ll lose.  Hopefully the Obama administration can avoid antagonizing the people of Iran or doing anything to make them rally around their leader.  Since October 29th, the chances of his re-election, as assessed by Intrade speculators, has fallen from 70% to just 32.5%.

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Frank Kratovil is going to Washington

This man is going to Congress

This man is going to Congress

The AP has just reported that Democrat Frank Kratovil has narrowly won the race to represent Maryland’s first congressional district.  No call was possible on election night, after which Kratovil lead 160,915 to 160,000 over Republican Andy Harris.  After the absentee ballots, which normally favor Republicans, were counted Kratovil actually increased his lead to about 2000 votes.  There are approximately 4800 provisional ballots to be tabulated and a few more absentee ballots that were postmarked on or before election day may still trickle in, but they are not expected to alter the outcome.

Frank Kratovil, the elected State’s Attorney for Queen Anne’s County, won every county on the Eastern Shore.  Harris, a physician who represents the Baltimore suburbs in the State Senate, won narrowly in Anne Arundel County and racked up big margins in Baltimore County and Harford County.  The first district is, by far, the largest in the state in terms of area; it covers about 29% of the state, which has eight total districts.  Though the non-Shore portions of the district are small in area, they hold about 45% of its population.  Democrats have a very slight advantage in party registration, but the district is a conservative one, represented by a Republican for 18 years.

Maryland's first congressional district (click to enlarge)

Maryland's 1st congressional district (click to enlarge)

Along with the state’s 6th Congressional District, the 1st District was gerrymandered by the legislature to give Democrats a stranglehold on the other 75% of the state’s congressional seats.  Now that a Democrat has the seat, I would predict that the General Assembly will move more registered Democrats into the district when they redraw the boundaries after the 2010 census, though the 2010 election will be held under the current lines.  (Back in 2000 the Democrats who dominate the state legislature moved many Republican-leaning areas from the 2nd District, then held by Republican Bob Ehrlich, into the 1st District.)  Note that this blog is opposed to gerrymandering or drawing district lines for political purposes and believes that districts should be drawn in a non-partisan way by an impartial body composed for that purpose.

Kratovil is a moderate Democrat who has promised to join the Blue Dog coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.  He will replace outgoing Representative Wayne Gilchrest, a moderate Republican defeated by Harris in a three way primary.  Hopefully he sticks to his guns and helps get the federal budget situation under control; the narrowness of his victory and a desire to serve more than just two years may help keep him from veering left once he takes office.  Godspeed, Frank.

What next for the Republican Party?

The Republican Party, to which I belong, received a solid—albeit not catastrophic—defeat in Tuesday’s elections.  The Washington Post‘s conservative columnist George F. Will has an excellent editorial putting GOP losses in perspective:

As this is being written, Republicans seem to have lost a total of 55 House and 11 Senate seats in the past two elections. These are the worst Republican results in consecutive elections since the Depression-era elections of 1930 and 1932 (153 and 22), which presaged exile from the presidency until 1953. If, as seems likely at this writing, in January congressional Republicans have 177 representatives and 44 senators, they will be weaker than at any time since after the 1976 elections, when they were outnumbered in the House 292 to 143 and the Senate 61 to 38.

Still, the Republican Party retains a remarkably strong pulse, considering that McCain’s often chaotic campaign earned 46 percent of the popular vote while tacking into terrible winds. Conservatives can take some solace from the fact that four years after Goldwater won just 38.5 percent of the popular vote, a Republican president was elected.

Does anyone really think the donkey is a better mascot than the elephant?  Seriously?

Does anyone really think the donkey is a better mascot than the elephant? Seriously?

However, Will hits on an important way in which 2008 was worse than 1964 for Republicans and conservatives (who are, even now, not necessarily the same thing).  While McCain’s loss was not as huge as Barry Goldwater’s 1964 loss—in which he won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won—the Republican Party has some problems.  “Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.”  The Grand Old Party must immediately begin some very deliberate soul searching to figure out what sort of party it wants to be.

It appears that the three-legged stool of supporters that Ronald Reagan most perfectly united—social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and foreign policy hawks—can no longer be assumed for Republicans.  The issues that social conservatives care about, sometimes to the exclusion of other issues, appeal to a diminishing number of moderates and independents, though I say that with less certainty than I would have if California’s Proposition 8 had been defeated.  And voters rightly distrust Republicans right now; during the past eight years, the national debt has almost doubled and U.S. standing in the world has plummeted to lows not seen in decades.  Our party controlled the white house during that time and Congress for most of it, so what excuses do we have?

Slate has some interesting short essays by Republican and conservative thinkers about what the party needs to and can do in the next few years to shape itself back up.  Jim Manzi, a contributor to National Review, writes the following:

Most conservatives who propose a return to “Reagan conservatism” don’t understand either the motivations or structure of the Reagan economic revolution. The 1970s were a period of economic crisis for America as it emerged from global supremacy to a new world of real economic competition. The Reagan economic strategy for meeting this challenge was sound money plus deregulation, broadly defined. It succeeded, but it exacerbated a number of pre-existing trends that began or accelerated in the ’70s that tended to increase inequality.

International competition is now vastly more severe than it was 30 years ago. The economic rise of the Asian heartland is the fundamental geostrategic fact of the current era. In aggregate, America is rich and economically successful but increasingly unequal, with a stagnating middle class. If we give up the market-based reforms that allow us to prosper, we will lose by eventually allowing international competitors to defeat us. But if we let inequality grow unchecked, we will lose by eventually hollowing out the middle class and threatening social cohesion. This rock-and-a-hard-place problem, not some happy talk about the end of history, is what “globalization” means for the United States.

Seen in this light, the challenge in front of conservatives is clear: How do we continue to increase the market orientation of the American economy while helping more Americans to participate in it more equally?

Indeed.  It is not enough to simply create more wealth if it all goes to those who already have ridiculous amounts of it.  It’s about meeting society’s needs through, among other things, the creation of wealth.  If we can’t figure out how to accomplish this we’re in for a long time in the wilderness as a party.  We also need to rethink our relationship with the world.  China is not the Soviet Union.  Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union.  The European Union is not what it was thirty years ago.  We can’t just apply Reagan’s policies to today’s world; those policies were designed for the world as it was then, not now.  But the principles are the same.  What do we need to do now to increase economic performance, while helping the environment?  What do we need to do now to promote freedom abroad and to counter international aggression?

We’re out of power right now, so we’ve got time to think about these issues.  How much time depends on us.

Some trivia on presidents and President-Elect Obama

Well, Senator Barack Obama is now President-Elect Barack Obama, albeit unofficially until the electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6th.  Obama will be the second U.S. President from Illinois; the first, of course, being Abraham Lincoln.  But here is some useless presidential trivia that you may not know.

He is also the first president to be elected from outside the Sun Belt since John Kennedy in 1960.  (Note that Michigander Gerald Ford was appointed, not elected.)   When he assumes office at noon on 20 January 2009 he will be 47 years, 5 months, and 16 days old; that will make him the fifth youngest person to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt (42 years, 10 months, 18 days); John F. Kennedy (43 years, 7 months, 22 days); Bill Clinton (46 years, 5 months, 1 day); and Ulysses S. Grant (46 years, 10 months, 5 days).  He is the fourth youngest person elected to the presidency, since Teddy Roosevelt, as Vice President, took office upon the death of President William McKinley.

Perhaps surprisingly, Obama is just the third sitting U.S. Senator to be elected president.  The other two were Warren Harding and John Kennedy.  Thirteen other presidents had previously served as a U.S. Senator, but not immediately preceeding their becoming president.

Obama is the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote in 32 years; the last one to do so was Jimmy Carter, who won 50.08% of the popular vote in 1976.  (Due in part to the participation of Ross Perot, Clinton received only 43% and 49.24% of the popular vote in his two winning campaigns.  Though Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, he also didn’t get an absolute majority, securing only 48.4% of the vote, due to Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan being in the race.)

Had John McCain won, he would have been the second U.S. President to have spent time as a prisoner of war; the first was Andrew Jackson.  McCain, who is from the Sun Belt state of Arizona, would have been the oldest president to assume office, beating out Ronald Reagan by over two years.

Why I’m voting NO on Maryland’s slots referendum

Maryland's flag is one of the best in the Union

Maryland's flag is one of the best in the Union

With Maryland certain to cast its 10 electoral votes for Barack Obama in tomorrow’s presidential election, the most controversial state-wide ballot question is the Constitutional amendment that would legalize slot machines at five locations in the state.  The purpose of the measure is to raise tax revenue for education, but, after a lot of thought, I am going to vote no on the amendment and urge my fellow Marylanders to do likewise.

The problems with gambling are well known: gambling addiction, increased alcoholism and bankruptcy, and the potential for increased crime and family problems.  Treatment and response to these issues could cost $228 million to $628 million annually, absorbing some of the revenue the state would gain through legalizing slots.  Liberals and those interested in social issues should note that these challenges all fall most heavily on the poor, both because they can least afford to gamble and because these taxes are very regressive, they take a much larger percentage of a poor gambler’s income than of a rich one’s—and this is after the General Assembly just increased the regressive sales tax by 20%.  There are good reasons why our state Comptroller, Peter Franchot, opposes the measure.

These are bad for Maryland

Don't believe the hype; these are bad for Maryland

Just as importantly, the many promises of the pro-slots side are unlikely to be fulfilled.  The revenue estimates were made before the current economic downturn and are therefore too high.  Additionally, some of those estimates assume that 100% of the money that Marylanders currently spend on slots in neighboring states will be spent in-state if the measure passes, clearly an unreasonable assumption.  The money won’t be staying here in the Seventh State; the biggest beneficiaries of slots will be wealthy, out of state license holders and horse breeders, not our school children and local business owners.  Many stores and restaurants near the gambling locations will suffer, as just about every dollar stuck in a slot machine is a dollar that would have been spent elsewhere.  And the five locations that slots would be limited to under the current measure are not particularly good spots for such devices; it’s quite possible that this amendment is only allowing slots their foot in the door before a future measure will be needed to fix this one and make slots even more profitable.

Fiscal conservatives may want to note that this measure doesn’t just raise an existing tax, or create a new tax; it creates an entirely new industry—that brings with it all sorts of economic and social problems—just so the state can tax it.  And, since money is the most fungible of all resources, in the future this will probably result in a net increase in state spending, since general revenue dollars that otherwise would have been needed for schools will then be free to be spent elsewhere.  Conservatives like me should also be concerned about subsidizing the horse racing industry.  If I were going to give welfare to an industry, it certainly wouldn’t be one that is non-vital and essentially a form of entertainment.

The Washington Post joins me in urging Marylanders to oppose slots.  You can read their editorial here, and they provide additional information about the issue here. See also what the non-aligned Ballotpedia has to report about the measure.

The revenue raised will likely be much lower than advertised, and less than half the profits would go to education in any event.  Besides, it’s immoral to balance the state budget on the backs of the poor with a regressive tax like this.  The biggest gainers if we amend our Constitution for this will be already rich out of state casino owners who won’t have to worry about the problems we’re creating for ourselves here.  Maryland did well to get rid of slots in 1968; let’s not bring them back in 2008. Vote NO on Question 2.

Watch football on Monday to see who’ll win election on Tuesday

Everyone who thinks that the election is important should pay close attention to tomorrow’s Monday Night Football game, when the 6-2 Washington Redskins host the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.  If Washington wins, John McCain is looking at an upset victory.  But if Pittsburgh prevails, Obama could be in for a big night.  Why?  Well, as my fellow Washington Redskins fans have probably heard, it is claimed that the result of our beloved franchise’s last home game before a presidential election presages the result of that election.  That is, when the Redskins win their final pre-election home game the incumbent, or his party, retains control of the White House; and when the Redskins lose so does the incumbent, or his party’s nominee.

I am a Redskins fan who has endorsed Barack Obama, which could lead to a state of dissonance tomorrow.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), the legend about the Redskins being proficient presidential predictors is not quite true—but it used to be.

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they'd have never run that headline!

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they wouldn't have misreported the 1948 results.

Snopes has the facts:  Since 1936, the Redskins first have correctly predicted, via the method described above, 17 out of 18 presidential elections—a success rate of 94.4%, which ain’t bad.  (Note that this counts the correct “prediction” in 1936 when the Redskins played in Boston and ignores the incorrect “prediction” in 1932 when they played in Boston as the Braves.  Apparently, it’s the Redskins part, not the Washington part, that’s important here.)  The one that they got wrong?  It was the last election; the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins, which should have meant defeat for George W. Bush as well, but John Kerry was the one who went on to lose.

Of course, this whole thing is all coincidence—there’s no plausible causal mechanism in place and, given all the thousands of things that could be correlated with anything else, it’d be surprising not to find one that, due to happenstance, just happens to do so.  Therefore, I’ll have no trouble pulling for Washington tomorrow.  Hail to the Redskins!

News and thoughts on California’s Proposition 8

MSNBC reports that the contest to pass or defeat California’s Proposition 8 is the second most expensive political battle in the country this year, trailing only the bajillions of dollars being spent by McCain and Obama—but mostly Obama—in their battle for the White House.  Proposition 8, which I previously blogged about here, would amend the California Constitution to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry.  This blog opposes the measure and hopes that Californians will defeat it at the ballot box on Tuesday.

Flag of California

It may be the best state flag with writing on it... but it's still got writing on it! Grrr.

The latest polls indicate that 49% of respondents intend to vote no (and support protecting the rights of same-sex couples) and 44% intend to vote yes (and remove the marriage rights of same-sex couples); the remainder are undecided.  Apparently, most people who are undecided in the final days of such campaigns on controversial social issues tend to vote no.  So, the smarter money would be on the measure not passing, though it is sure to be close.  Incidentally, Intrade speculators are indeed putting their money on it not passing; current market consensus is that it has about a 25% chance of success.

I am disappointed and distraught that Proposition 8’s main supporters are, with no exceptions that I know of, all part of my own religious tradition, Christianity.  Formerly, Christians like William Wilburforce—who successfully lobbied against the slave trade—and Martin Luther King, Jr.—who championed civil rights—were all about expanding human freedom; it’s unfortunate that that’s not the case in the present instance.  It is furthermore unfortunate that Prop 8 supporters and others similarly minded people—when they address the issue at all—make such flimsy arguments about why the parts of the Mosaic Code that they want to impose on other people must still be followed but the parts that they don’t want to be held to don’t apply any more.  I think they also damage their standing with their claims about the alleged harms of permitting same-sex marriage, which, at best, are all out of proportion to the evidence and, more commonly, are in direct contradiction to it.

Andrew Sullivan has interesting blog posts here and here on the enourmous amount of money that Later Day Saints (Mormons) are donating to the pro-8 cause.  Though they’re only about 1.5-1.8% of the state’s population, apparently about 30-40% of all pro-8 money is coming from Mormons (not all of them in-state).  The second Sullivan piece indicates that the total might be as high as 77%, but that figure seems insufficiently sourced and is pretty unbelievable to me.  He writes that LDS efforts are “about consolidating the Mormon church into the wider Christianist movement. If the Mormons can prove their anti-gay mettle, they will be less subject to suspicion from evanglicals.”  He quotes another gentleman who says that “For whatever reason, [Mormons are] trying to get some respect from other religions. … They’ve always been looked down upon by the Christians, the Catholics, and evangelicals” but would gain credibility if the marriage succeeds.  An interesting analysis.

The LDS Church is by no means monolithic, however (few religions are).  Mormons for Marriage have an excellent website explaining why they respectfully oppose Proposition 8 and are actively working to promote marriage rights.  (It strikes me as Orwellian how so many groups that are against marriage rights for certain people get themselves considered the “pro marriage” side.)  Check out their site; it’s very well organized and contains lots of information.

I feel that it’s very likely that by 2030 same-sex marriage will be legally available to most, if not all, Americans.  This current opposition is another one of those things some Christians think is a really good idea (and others think is really bad) that the church is going to have to come to terms with  and eventually apologize for.  Sort of like slavery, the inquisition, and the crusades.  Though I will say that taking away a person’s right to marry is nowhere near as bad as taking away his or her life or freedom.  Society is making progress; we’ve decided that it’s not okay to kill or enslave people and now are discussing if it’s okay to let them marry.

Anyway, here are some No On Prop 8 ads that imitate Apple’s “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” ads.  Even if you disagree with the points raised, you may find them amusing.  I especially like the second one which features the Constitution of California, who’s a lot more attractive than I thought she’d be, given that she’s one of the longest state constitutions in the country, albeit nowhere near as long as the monstrosity that Alabama uses.

California polls close at 8:00 pm local time, 11:00 pm eastern time.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this initiative.

Thoughts on progressive taxation, redistributing wealth

Here is a quick, multiple choice, quiz.  First, consider the following quote:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

Now, who said that?

(A) Karl Marx
(B) Vladimir Lenin
(C) John Maynard Keynes
(D) Adam Smith

I’ll get to the answer shortly. I bring it up due to recent discussions on the “redistribution of wealth” in the context of the imminent presidential election.  Specifically, John McCain criticizing Barack Obama for wanting to “spread the wealth around” and such.  But, as a recent Slate article points out,

Government redistributes wealth to some extent by its very existence, since it’s impractical for citizens to pay for or benefit from it in equal proportion, even if that were desirable. So long as you have a system of taxation and a spending on public goods like education and roads, some people will do better in the bargain than others.

The same article points out that McCain himself supports all sorts of programs that unquestionably distribute wealth, including inter alia Social Security, Medicare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  And he opposed President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts on the grounds that they unfairly favored the rich.  (He has since changed his mind.)  And then there’s McCain’s hero, Theodore Roosevelt, who said this:

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. … The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and … a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

Slate argues, in another article, that McCain should either stop calling Teddy Roosevelt his hero or should stop calling Obama a Socialist. T. R., after all, supported the 16th Amendment which authorized progressive income taxes.  That first Slate piece then critiques claims that, while McCain’s redistributive policies are okay, Obama’s are far different and go too far.  But if you’ve read that article you already know that.

McCain might call this man a Socialist for wanting to redistribute the wealth of nations

McCain might call this man a Socialist for wanting to redistribute the wealth of nations

And you also know the answer to the question which lead off this post.  So, who did say that people “ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities”?  Was it Karl Marx?  Or Lenin? Hopefully you didn’t guess either of them; they weren’t very big on any sort of private revenue at all, let alone protecting it with the state, whose existence Marx disdained.  So it must have been Keynes, right?  Nope.  The correct answer is (D) Adam Smith. The quote is straight from The Wealth of NationsBook V, Chapter II, Part 2 to be precise.  If, like me, you own the Modern Library edition you’ll find it on page 888.  I was pleased to see that I’d underlined that particular passage when I had last read the work.

Anyway, arguments against progressive taxation have long seemed a bit inconsistent to me.  Bill Gates must pay at least tens of thousands of times as much as I do in income taxes. But does he get tens of thousands of times more use out of the Interstate Highway System?  Does the U.S. Army protect his freedoms a million times more than they do mine?  Sure, he’s got more property to protect, but we’d both be about equally upset if the Canadians invaded and destroyed our homes.   So, unless you want a poll tax, where everyone pays the same dollar figure regardless of income, or to have everything based on user fees, you are in favor of redistributing wealth.  But, don’t worry, you’re in good company.

Palin a drag on McCain, going rogue & planning for 2012

This blog’s criticisms of Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate are well-known to its readers,so I won’t swell the record here with those points again.  For them, see here, here, and here.  Suffice it to say, her selection by McCain played a role in the decisions of a number of conservatives who have endorsed Obama, myself included—and add Reagan advisor Ken Adelman to the list too—along with decisions by many other solid Republicans who won’t be supporting the GOP ticket, including my Congressman and Colin Powell.  Her addition to the ticket was pretty clearly a cynically executed political maneuver by John McCain, not one that put country first.

"Wait, what do you mean when you say that you're 'looking out for #1'?  Do you mean me...or yourself?"

McCain: "Wait, what do you mean when you say that you're 'looking out for #1'? Do you mean me...or yourself?"

Now he appears to be paying the price for the decision.  A recent poll shows that voter’s biggest concern with the Republican ticket is Palin’s perceived lack of qualifications.  Another poll indicates that 59% of voters think that she is not qualified to be Vice President.  If accurate, then at most 41% of Americans think that she is qualified (it’s probably lower due to respondants who gave no opinion).  That indicates to me that probably almost everyone who’s not voting for McCain finds her unqualified.

Now, with McCain’s slim chances of pulling off a victory declining each day, one of his campaign aides has said that Palin is “going rogue.”  She has been critisizing McCain’s campaign, saying they should have kept competing in Michigan and should stop using “irritating” robocalls to reach voters, even as the campaign was defending their use.  A second campaign insider said that Palin seemed to be looking out for her own interests more than those of the campaign.

She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone. … She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.

Possibly the words of displaced insiders on a campaign that’s behind big with just days to go.  There is a history of tension between the #1 and #2 people on a ticket and their respective staffs.

Hopefully, Palin will still be seeing plenty of this flag after January 20th, and not just because it's a pretty good one

Hopefully, Palin will still be seeing plenty of this flag after January 20th, and not just because it's a pretty good one.

But these are also possibly real insights from people who are positioned to know what’s going on behind the scenes.  Palin does appear to be positioning herself for a run in 2012 “if” she and McCain don’t win on Tuesday; when asked if she’d just return to Alaska if Obama wins she said “Absolutely not. I think that if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken … I’m not doing this for naught.”  She has also publicly broken with McCain over a federal marriage amendment, something that McCain opposes (he wants states to decide) but that Palin’s most likely constituency, social conservatives, absolutely love.  These are not things that garner the type of attention that a guy needing a huge upset, come-from-behind victory needs to have in the week before the election.

She is clearly now a liability, not the asset she seemed to be in the days after her selection.  A number of sources are now speculating about what might have been if McCain had selected another running mate.  The guy that I would have liked to see, Tom Ridge, recently said in an interview that “I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania [if I were the Vice Presidential nominee]. … I think we’d be foolish not to admit it publicly.”  Ridge, the campaign’s national co-chairman, admitted that McCain “had several good choices and I was one of them.”  (He later backpedaled saying he was “taken out of context” and that “Governor Palin will make a great Vice President” and, oh yeah, they’re going to win Pennsylvania too.)

Ridge was a popular Governor of Pennsylvania and has at least twenty times as much experience as Palin, most of it “executive experience.”  McCain would be extremely competetive in Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) right now if he’d picked Ridge, and would probably be ahead in Florida (27 votes) and Ohio (20 votes) as well. The biggest reason that he wasn’t picked is that social conservatives in the party would probably have objected to someone who is pro-choice being on the ticket.

I hereby propose an amnesty for any and all conservatives and Republicans who have previously endorsed or supported Sarah Palin’s selection as the GOP vice presidential nominee.  Simply admit that she is, after further consideration, not the best possible pick and that you wish that McCain had selected someone else.  Do this by midnight Monday and no questions will be asked.  This doesn’t even require you to vote against McCain, just admit that Palin is not helping the ticket and shouldn’t have been selected.  You can do so in a reply to this post if you’d like.  And, whoever wins on Tuesday, let’s try to pull back together to keep our party from getting screwed up for next time, okay?

Obama targetting Arizona

Arizona's flag is quite good.  But don't worry, I'm sure there'll soon be news from a state with a sucky flag.

Arizona has a good flag. But don't worry, I'm sure there'll be news from a state with a lame one soon.

CNN indicates that Barack Obama is going to air ads in John McCain’s home state of Arizona.  They say that Arizona would be a key swing state if not for the fact that McCain is from there; the Republican only leads 49–45 with 6 percent undecided.  McCain’s residency and his long representation of the state in the Congress is probably worth at least 4 points; the state would probably be looking bluish, like neighboring New Mexico and Colorado if the GOP had nominated someone else.

Intrade speculators think it is 4.35 times more likely that McCain will win Arizona than that Obama will do so.  However, they may not have had time to factor in Obama’s latest decision into the pricing.  In any event, Obama’s only goal probably isn’t to win Arizona’s 10 electoral votes, though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind them.  He’ll probably consider the expenditure worth it if it simply creates the impression that McCain is embattled and struggling even to win his home turf.  Hmm.  It seems to be working.

Readers may recall that Democrat Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in 2000; had he won it, he’d have been president.