Kevin Drum - November 2008

Are You Smarter Than a Blogger?

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:57 PM EST

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A BLOGGER?....Want to amuse yourself while you wait for election results? In 2004 the Guardian entertained us with a campaign quiz on election day, and I blew it, getting only 33 out of 40 correct. Pretty poor for a political blogger, I thought. This year's quiz, however, is way harder, chock full of questions that require specific dates and numerical answers. The final two questions were gimmes, but even so I only got 20 out of 30 right. I guess that means I should turn in my keyboard.

Anyway, the quiz is here. Have fun.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Final Poll Porn

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:20 PM EST

FINAL POLL PORN....Just for the record, here's the final RCP national poll average for the 2008 race. They've got Obama winning the popular vote 52%-44%. FiveThirtyEight.com projects 52%-46% and 346 electoral votes for Obama. Pollster has it at 52%-44% for Obama. Sam Wang, after adding in a cell-phone bias adjustment, projects 53%-46% and 364 electoral votes for Obama.

Cap and Fade

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 12:10 PM EST

CAP AND FADE....Matt Yglesias on media misconduct:

I don't, for example, think I ever saw a television network or mass-media publication provide a cogent explanation of the differences between Barack Obama's climate change proposal and John McCain's climate change proposal even though the proposals contained some important differences. I have no idea whether this was attributable to "bias" or even how I would know. Nor am I sure which candidate would benefit from exploring this question. I am, however, sure that I've several times seen their plans described as being the same on the grounds that they're both "cap and trade" plans. That's false. Does the habit of saying it reflect bias? And bias toward whom?

The biggest difference between the two cap-and-trade plans, of course, is that Obama seems to actually believe in his proposal whereas McCain pretty plainly doesn't. For him, it's just window dressing that would almost certainly have been forgotten as soon as he got in office.

But how do you get that across? I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, but I certainly can't prove it. And any straight news reporters who took my line would (rightfully) be accused of massive bias. They could work around this by quoting other people on McCain's priorities and making clear that the GOP base hates cap-and-trade and would fight it, and then hoping that readers got the point. But maybe readers would and maybe they wouldn't. And if they didn't, the story would be fundamentally flawed.

But there's also another problem: on policy issues, the media tends to follow the campaigns. And neither campaign talked about cap-and-trade much. In McCain's case, I assume it's because Republicans hate cap-and-trade and he really didn't want to remind them that he supports it. In Obama's case, I assume it's because cap-and-trade would raise the price of energy and that's not exactly a winning campaign plank during a summer in which gasoline prices broke four bucks. So for different reasons they both kept quiet about it, and since they weren't attacking each other over cap-and-trade, the media ignored it too.

Which is kinda too bad because it had all the elements of an epic battle. It really is true that Obama's version of cap-and-trade amounts to a tax increase, and that would have been an issue right in McCain's share-the-wealth-tax-raising-socialist wheelhouse. Conversely, McCain's version of cap-and-trade really would have provided enormous windfall profits to coal plants and other carbon emitters (explanation here), and that would been right in Obama's fat-cat-more-of-the-same wheelhouse. It could have been a great fight.

Instead we got Joe the Plumber and Obama the terrorist lover. Oh well. We'll do better next time, right?

Der Tag

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 11:36 AM EST

DER TAG....Are the early exit polls out? Have the nets called a winner yet?

No? Well, then, go vote!

Early Returns

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 3:04 AM EST

EARLY RETURNS....The fine folks in Dixville Notch, NH, have recorded their usual midnight vote:

Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement in Tuesday's first minutes. The town of Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. Independent Ralph Nader was on both towns' ballots but got no votes.

Looks like a big win for Ron Paul to me. He's probably planning his 2012 campaign already.

Then and Now

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 9:18 PM EST

THEN AND NOW....In 2004, everyone complained that John Kerry was an old-media plodder who didn't react quickly enough to conservative attacks. What a dunce! In 2008, everyone is praising Barack Obama for keeping his composure and not letting conservative attacks knock him off his message. What a cool customer!

Just curious: Am I the only person amused by this?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Joe Mania

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 8:05 PM EST

JOE MANIA....A Norfolk station asked John McCain today why he wasn't doing better in Virginia. Here's his answer:

"We're doing much better actually, there's a poll out today that shows we're within about three so we're moving up and moving up fast. And look, Joe the Bomb — uh — Joe the Plumber turned the whole thing around."

The comical part of this is that McCain almost called him "Joe the Bomber." Ha ha. But the genuinely weird part of it is McCain's bizarre embrace of Joe. It's one thing to use the guy as a campaign prop, but to tell the world that it was Joe who "turned the whole thing around"? That Joe is his personal "role model"? You gotta be kidding. Those aren't things you'd want to admit even if they were true, are they?

A Tax Cut Everyone Should Support

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 3:51 PM EST

A TAX CUT EVERYONE SHOULD SUPPORT....Riffing off a Rachel Maddow segment about stupendously long lines to vote, largely in poor urban precincts, Ezra Klein says:

The poll tax was a sly system of disenfranchisement used in the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise Southern blacks. Aware that the Constitution now assured everyone the "right" to vote, Southern states imposed a voting fee heavy enough that African-Americans would deem it a right too pricey to exercise. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, of course, did away will all that. But as Rachel Maddow says in the clip above, voting lines are just another form of poll tax. They are a time tax. How much is four hours worth to the average voter? How many voters can take four hours off from their job, or their family, to stand at a precinct? We tend to frame long voting lines as an inspiring vision of democracy, but they're quite the opposite: They are disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax.

Just for the record, the poll tax wasn't actually especially "sly." Everyone knew exactly what it was for. But point taken anyway. The flip side, of course, is neighborhoods like mine. I live in an upscale, white, suburban city, and you will be unsurprised to learn that I haven't had to wait more than five minutes to vote since the day I moved here. Quite a coincidence, eh?

Boo!

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 2:26 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'.

Three Seconds

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:49 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?