Mojo - September 2008

Mathematical Model Predicts Obama Win by Ten Points

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 9:14 PM EDT

Emory political science professor Alan Abramowitz seems to have a mathematical election model that works. Abramowitz's system has correctly predicted the popular vote winner within two percentage points for every presidential election since 1988. This year, it's predicting an Obama win: 54.3 percent, versus McCain's 45.7 percent.

The model isn't perfect, of course, but it does factor in a wide range of variables such as GDP, a party's time in office, and recent polls. "While factors outside of the model, such as rising partisan polarization and resistance to an African American candidate by some white voters may result in a somewhat smaller popular vote margin for the Democratic nominee," Abramowitz writes, "the combination of an unpopular Republican incumbent in the White House, a weak economy, and a second-term election make a Democratic victory in November all but certain."

If you're skeptical of models, check out the Iowa Electronic Market's trading index for the presidential election. For decades, it's been a much better predictor of presidential wins than Gallup polls. As of today, the market's predicting a 54 percent win for the Democrats, versus 45 percent for the Republicans. it could be a coincidence that those numbers are so close to Abramowitz's, or it could be that investors are reacting to his model's predictions. A third option: it could be that Obama actually is going to win by ten points.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Sex, Drugs, and Offshore Drilling

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 8:58 PM EDT

It looks like the folks at the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service have finally gone too far.

For years, the MMS has been assisting private energy companies in carrying out a massive rip-off of the American public through sweetheart deals for extracting oil, natural gas, and minerals from public domain lands. In the most recent issue of Mother Jones, I described the corrupt system that allows companies like Shell and Chevron to suck up these publicly owned resources at bargain prices, and proposed the abolition of the MMS as one of the ideas for "How to Fix a Post-Bush Nation."

But except for the work of watchdog groups like the Project on Government Oversight, and of the Interior Department's own tough-minded Inspector General, a former Massachusetts cop named Earl Delvaney, this travesty has received relatively little attention--until now. Apparently, even in a country where no one is surprised to find government officials figuratively in bed with the oil industry, we are still shocked to learn that they have been literally in bed with them.

On Wednesday, Delvaney's office released the latest in a series of investigations focusing on the MMS's Royalty in Kind (RIK) program. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Nick Rahall (D-WV) described the report as reading "like a script from a television miniseries--and one that cannot air during family viewing time." It documents what investigators called a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" at the MMS, and what the Associated Press described as a "fraternity house atmosphere."

Sarah Palin on Russia

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 7:13 PM EDT

ABC has released excerpts of Charle Gibson's interview with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Among the parts released so far, the Alaskan governor's views on experience, God, and US policy to Russia. Here is an excerpt of her comments on Moscow and how to deal with recent Russian-Georgian hostilities. Among her recommendations: that Ukraine "definitely" and Georgia too be given NATO membership -- with the commitment that the US as a NATO member would be required to defend them from any future incursion by Russia, and that the US consider measures such as economic sanctions against Russia to punish it for invading Georgia.

PALIN: We cannot repeat the Cold War. We are thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War, without a shot fired, also. We've learned lessons from that in our relationship with Russia, previously the Soviet Union.
We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it's in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.
GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

Norm Coleman's $1 Million Mistake?

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 6:19 PM EDT

Norm.jpg Republican Senator Norm Coleman may pay a big price for a small violation of federal elections law.

Coleman, who is locked in a reelection battle with comedian and author Al Franken, is running a television ad in Minnesota that fails to meet the requirements of what is known as the "stand by your ad" law. The provision says any political ad aired within two months of election day that mentions the name of an opponent must close with a four-second image of the candidate running the ad, along with his or her name and a statement that he or she approved and paid for the ad.

In 2006, then-Senator Rick Santorum got in hot water in Pennsylvania for violating this provision. Santorum put his image at the beginning of the ad and the written statement of approval and sponsorship at the end. This slip-up threatened to disqualify Santorum from receiving the heavily discounted advertising rate — known as the "lowest unit charge" or "lowest unit rate" — commonly offered to political candidates.

Now Coleman faces similar trouble.

Palin's Supporters and Zombie Feminism

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 3:46 PM EDT

The excellent Rebecca Traister, who writes about gender politics for Salon, is totally on-point about what Sarah Palin means for women and for feminism. Here's a sampling:

The pro-woman rhetoric surrounding Sarah Palin's nomination is a grotesque bastardization of everything feminism has stood for, and in my mind, more than any of the intergenerational pro- or anti-Hillary crap that people wrung their hands over during the primaries, Palin's candidacy and the faux-feminism in which it has been wrapped are the first development that I fear will actually imperil feminism. Because if adopted as a narrative by this nation and its women, it could not only subvert but erase the meaning of what real progress for women means, what real gender bias consists of, what real discrimination looks like.

Check out the whole thing.

A Minor Obama Advantage: Three Places At Once

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 3:30 PM EDT

It looks like Palin will be by McCain's side throughout the campaign season. Here's First Read:

The McCain campaign is "very seriously considering" having McCain and Palin campaign together more often than not in the next two months, a senior campaign aide said...
The aide said the two have developed a strong chemistry together and will likely utilize it through joint rallies. He likened it to the chemistry Bill Clinton and Al Gore had in 1992, suggesting it was instinctive.

Of course, this has everything to do with the fact that McCain's solo attempts at campaign rallies aren't going well, and Sarah Palin has essentially become the draw on the GOP ticket. It's an advantage for the Democratic ticket. The fact that Cindy McCain is usually by her husband's side means that, for the GOP, the presidential candidate, the vice-presidential candidate, and the presidential candidate's wife are all in one place on any given day. On the Dem side, those three figures are all fully capable of campaigning unaccompanied.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Another Sarah Palin Email Controversy?

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

Is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin taking I.T. tips from Dick Cheney and Karl Rove?

As Mother Jones first reported, her office, responding to an open records act request, refused to release about 1100 emails involving Palin and her aides, citing what seems to be an iffy claim of executive privilege. And now another email issue has emerged: Palin's use of a private email account for her official duties.

Emails obtained by Andrée McLeod, the independent government watchdog in Alaska who filed that opens records request, indicate that Palin, who is running along side John McCain to replace Cheney, has used a gov.sarah@yahoo.com account--rather than an Alaska state email account--for official business. As McLeod, a registered Republican, points out, this raises at least two potential problems. One is security. Is Palin conducting state business outside of secured Alaska state servers? Another is transparency. Can her emails on this private account be properly maintained and archived? Can they be reviewed in response to, say, an open records act request?

To date, nether Palin nor her spokespeople have had anything to say about the withheld emails or her use of a private email address for state business.

McCain Wants To Spend 1/3rd of a Trillion Dollars on Nuclear Plants

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 12:17 PM EDT


From Bloomberg

John McCain's plan to revive the U.S. nuclear power industry with 45 new reactors may cost $315 billion, with taxpayers bearing much of the financial risk.
...Taxpayers are on the hook only if borrowers default. A 2003 Congressional Budget Office report said the default rate on nuclear construction debts might be as high as 50 percent, in part because of the projects' high costs.

So much for Mr. I-Watch-Out-for-the-Taxpayers. Read the rest here.

20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress, Freshly Revealed

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 6:29 PM EDT

CREW's list of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress is out for 2008, and constituents of Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) should be very pleased. Their congressional representatives are new additions to the list!

Here is the 2008 list; here are the previous three years'.

It's Not Just Palin Who Is Hiding From the Press

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 5:57 PM EDT

From Fox News, of all places:

For a candidate who once railed against "stale soundbites, staged rallies and over-managed messages," John McCain seems to have turned over a new leaf.
Today marks the four-week anniversary since McCain held his last press conference (8/13 in Birmingham, MI) and three weeks since his last public town hall meeting (8/20 in Las Cruces, NM).
McCain's new campaign strategy: staged rallies with thousands of supporters.

Obama held a press conference yesterday.