Blogs

Charlie Black: Eternal Optimist

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:37 PM EST

From former MoJo-er Michael Scherer's Swampland post yesterday, explaining why the McCain campaign thinks the race is getting closer:

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Barack Obama On The Issues: Sagging Pants

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:31 PM EST

In an otherwise issues-focused interview with MTV, we finally get to hear Barack Obama's position on what those darn kids are wearing:

Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq, and anybody, any public official, that is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What's wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face, that you don't have to pass a law, but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I'm one of them.

The campaign's new slogan: "Brothers should pull up their pants."

Boo!

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:26 PM EST

BOO!....This is a few days old, but it just occurred to me to wonder who won the Halloween mask contest this year. Here's the answer:

Barack Obama will be the next president. At least that's what BuySeasons of New Berlin predicted last week based on the sales of its 99-cent paper presidential masks.

Sales of the masks as of Oct. 31 showed Obama with 55 percent of the sales and John McCain with 45 percent. The company, founded in 1999, has accurately predicted the last two presidential elections based on its mask sales.

Just sayin'.

The Spitterati and Trickle-Down Genomics, Part 1

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:24 PM EST

The following is a guest blog entry by Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.

To read The Spitterati and Trickle-Down Genomics Part 2, click here.

Just before the world's financial system hit the skids, the New Yorker's Talk of the Town and the New York Times' Sunday Styles section both featured lengthy accounts of a celebrity "spit party," at which notables in cocktail attire ejected their saliva into test tubes. The chic gala, hosted by media moguls Barry Diller, Rupert Murdoch, and Harvey Weinstein, was the latest episode of a remarkable publicity push by 23andMe, the start-up biotech firm whose mission is "to be the world's trusted source of personal genetic information."

The Google-backed company launched its celebrity strategy this past January, when it distributed a thousand free spit kits at the elite World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But the genomes of the rich and famous were just the first step. Early this fall, 23andMe announced that it's slashing its prices to Christmas-stocking levels, in a bid to make DNA tests this year's high-tech must-have.

How an Obama Win Would Justify Years of Bush-bashing: A Personal Reflection

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:15 PM EST

I first posted this personal reflection at www.davidcorn.com....

This time it's personal.

Then again, it was personal in 2004.

In September 2003, I published a book immoderately titled, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. Its contention was a simple one: that Bush had gone beyond the normal boundaries of presidential spin in using falsehoods and misrepresentations to skew the public discourse on many fronts: stems cells, global warming, tax policy, and, above all, the invasion of Iraq.

At the time, this was not--in certain circles--a well-received argument. Conservative pundits, pointing to my book and others that came out at the time (Al Franken's Lying Liars, Molly Ivins' Bushwhacked, written with Lou Dubose, and Joe Conason's Big Lies), declared a new phenomenon was at hand: rabid, irrational Bush hatred. MSM commentators, ever looking to reside within the comfortable, above-it-all middle, observed that the left was now mirroring the extreme rhetoric of the Limbaugh-crazy, Coulter-loving right. I noted some examples of this dismissive reax in a recent Mother Jones essay. The New York Times' Matt Bai, citing my book, wrote, "the new leftist screeds seem to solidify a rising political culture of incivility and overstatement." Conservative columnist David Brooks proclaimed that "the core threat to democracy is not in the White House, it's the haters themselves." (Yes, I was more dangerous than George W. Bush.) What few of these commentators of the center and right bothered to do was to evaluate the case I (and the others) had put forward. That is, to confront the facts I had presented. Their aim was to discredit the very idea of anyone going so far as to call the president of the United States a liar. And National Review editor Rich Lowry opined, "I don't think the public is going to buy the idea that [Bush is] a liar."

Lowry got it wrong. By Election Day 2004, polls showed that a slight majority believed that Bush was not honest and trustworthy. Still, Bush managed to best John Kerry in an election that was something of a referendum on Bush's first term. But that election came too early. Had it been held a year later--post-Katrina--any Dem would have thrashed Bush and Cheney at the polls. And now about seven out of ten disapprove of his presidency, and most of the public agrees with the premise that Bush deliberately misled American citizens about WMDs and the threat supposedly posed by Iraq. Bush is heading toward the door widely regarded as a failure: Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown. He has become the vanishing president. Hardly seen. Barely relevant.

Bush's style of politics, his policies, his political party--it's all been discredited. Whatever happens in the presidential race, the GOP is poised to take a beating in congressional races. He has led his party to ruin. The battle over the W. story has been won by his critics--at least in the short run. The view that Bush has been a dishonest president and bad for the United States has become the majority position in the United States. If John McCain somehow manages to win, it will be in spite of Bush.

Many presidents are elected as reactions to the previous president. George W. Bush's (faux) victory in 2000 was a reaction to the Bill Clinton soap opera. And a Barack Obama triumph would be the natural reaction to the W. years. Obama is the most progressive (or liberal) Democratic nominee since FDR ran for reelection. He is black (or biracial). He is an intellectual. He is no child of privilege. To sum up: he is the opposite of George W. Bush. Not only has Bush started two wars he couldn't finish, presided over a government that lost a major American city, and did little as a financial tsunami hit the nation; he has (I am guessing) created a yearning among many Americans for a non-Bush. And within the realm of conventional U.S. politics, Obama is about as non-Bush as it gets. No wonder Obama has a strong chance of becoming president. He spoke (endlessly) of change; he is an antidote to the Bush presidency.

A Report From the Economy

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:57 PM EST

panic-button.jpg

Something called the Institute for Supply Management's factory index "plunged" to 38.9% in October. In an email, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research tells us why this matters:

[The ISM index] is a pretty good measure of the direction of change in output in manufacturing. The current reading indicates that manufacturing output is falling sharply. That likely means many more layoffs and plant closings. It's pretty bad news.

The index, which used to be called the purchasing manager's index, is now at its lowest level since September of 1982. Numbers below 50% indicate that the economy is contracting. Newly minted economics Nobel winner Paul Krugman says the latest ISM number means "We need a government of national unity to deal with the economic crisis, starting at, oh, around 8:45 PM tomorrow."

Photo from flickr user zengrrl used under a Creative Commons license.


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Three Seconds

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:49 PM EST

THREE SECONDS....Megan McArdle suggests that you be very, very careful if you're driving in Virginia:

I don't know about other parts of the country, but around here governments are partially dealing with their revenue shortfall by upping their traffic enforcement to outrageously persnickety levels; my sister got a ticket the other day for stopping at a stop sign for three seconds instead of the apparently requisite five. There were no other cars around — except for the cop who handed her a gigantic ticket.

Five seconds? Seriously?

For that matter, where did this whole "three seconds at a stop sign" meme come from in the first place? As near as I can tell, both the Virginia and California vehicle codes require only a "complete stop," with no mention at all of having to wait a few seconds before you continue through the intersection. The law firm of Lawrynowicz and Associates agrees fervently ("Many people receive unfair and unjust Stop Sign tickets when they have obeyed the law completely. Why pay an unfair ticket and have your insurance rates raise when you can fight it and keep your record clean?") Is this whole thing a myth? A rule of thumb drilled into teenager by drivers ed teachers and never forgotten? Buried somewhere in the vehicle code where I couldn't find it? What's the deal?

Is The "Cell Phone Effect" Lowballing Obama's Numbers?

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:35 PM EST

Do pollsters who don't call cell phones make the election look closer than it actually is? Polling maven Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com thinks so. The traditional assumption is that young, cell-phone-only voters probably lean heavily toward Obama. It turns out that the four national polls that include cell phones in their samples are also the four polls that have him with the largest margins of victory. He charted it for you, too (after the jump):

Presidential Success

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:19 PM EST

PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESS....Matt Yglesias predicts a land office business after the election in op-eds warning Democrats not to get too full of themselves, but argues that analogies to Clinton's first couple of years are off base:

But that aside, I just think it's pretty blinkered to act as if the electorate has a deep commitment (or lack of commitment) to bipartisanship or some finely nuanced conception of moderation. Rather, voters tend to re-elect incumbents when things seem to be working out okay whereas they tend to punish incumbents — and those closely associated with incumbents — when things seem to be going poorly. What Democrats need to do if they want to prosper in 2010 and 2012 is deliver the goods. In other words, return the economy to prosperity, avoid terrible foreign affairs calamities, etc.

I think that's right. Obviously administrations need to pick their spots — in retrospect, leading off his first week in office with a proposal to allow gays in the military didn't do Clinton any good — but the key thing is to succeed, and then to get credit for succeeding. If the opposition is able to frame the terms of the debate, or if you allow the press to frame success with its usual idiotic "hundred days" narrative, you're behind the eight ball before you even start.

(Please, please, Senator Obama: make clear to the media that you aren't planning to change the shape of the country in your first hundred days. Please. It's long past time for this trope to be buried once and for all. Only one president in history has ever done this, and you won't be the second.)

So what would success look like? I've said this before, but I'd put my money on three things:

  • Withdrawal from Iraq. Sure, sure, Obama will leave a few "residual troops" in place. I get it. But it's time to get out.

  • Serious healthcare reform. Obviously I'd prefer reform even more serious than what Obama has proposed, but his plan is a good start if it doesn't get watered down too much.

  • Carbon pricing. Obama needs to pass a real energy plan that includes a version of cap-and-trade with teeth. (A carbon tax would also be fine, but I don't think that's politically feasible.) Price signals work, and increasing the price of carbon has to be the backbone of any attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. We're already too late on this, and getting the rest of the world on board may take decades, but we have to start. We're condemning hundreds of millions of people to an early death if we don't.

So those are my big three: Iraq, healthcare, and carbon. Get something serous done on those issues, and Obama's administration will be a big success. Fail on them, and it's not clear to me that any combination of other new programs will be enough to salvage it.

Tomorrow

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 11:44 AM EST

TOMORROW....As near as I can tell, here's the state of the race. Obama is ahead by a lot, but (a) the Bradley effect might cost him a couple of points, (b) super-duper black turnout might help him by a point or so, (c) Palin-mania might help GOP turnout more than we expect, (d) Palin-phobia will increase Obama's share of the female vote, (e) independents are likely to break heavily for McCain, (f) a joyous Obama tsunami will add a point or two to the Dem column, (g) Joe the Plumber is making inroads among working class voters in swing states, but (h) Obama's ground game is awesome and adds hidden strength to his poll totals. Plus i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, and y.

Feh. This is a mug's game. None of the pundits know squat. The polls are what they are. Obama's ground operation has been in the planning stages for months and it's superb. As of today, pretty much everyone's mind is made up. Obama's going to win by 5-6 points (maybe more!), and tomorrow the most disastrous presidency in modern history will finally begin the shamefaced descent into the memory hole that it so richly deserves. I can't wait.