A few thoughts about politics

A quick disclaimer: I am a resident of Arizona’s 4th Congressional district, which is comprised of just about every democratic neighborhood in Phoenix, so that three other majority Republican districts could be formed from the suburbs. Congressman Ed Pastor is effectively unopposed here, and Obama will likely carry this precinct by double digits.

But, while Pastor goes back to Congress (where he is among the most liberal) Mitt Romney will still carry Arizona by a good seven points. Mormons vote reliably. Hispanics do not. There are not enough non-Hispanic Democrats left in this state to make up the difference.

Richard Carmona has an outside chance of upsetting Jeff Flake for Senate. Good for him. And I keep hope alive that some reasonably competent individual will step up and oust Joe Arpaio as sheriff. The trouble is that while it’s easy to find better police administrators than Arpaio (you would actually struggle to find worse at this budget level), few of those guys are good politicians. And while I have always believed that Nickel-bag Joe is a menace as sheriff, there is no denying that he is a competent politician.

So I am voting out of a sense of civic duty more than any real hope of affecting the outcome.

I am a recovering liberal in that I am a reflexive liberal trying to become more moderate. (In AZ – moderate is still liberal. Not kidding.) I’m going to vote for President Obama because I think he did the best he could with a bad situation.

“It could have been worse” is not a resounding re-election slogan, but there we are.

You’ll have to trust me that this is not a partisan position: if you are moderate, you really have no alternative but the Democrats. This is not because the Dem’s have moderated their views to any substantial degree, but because the Republicans have allowed the Tea Party and the evangelicals to drag them so far to the right that they only speak to their own base now.

Jeff Flake’s ads decry that Carmona supports Obamacare as if this were akin to supporting puppy murder. No follow-up reasoning. Obamacare = bad – that’s all you need to know.

Of course he supports Obamacare. He’s a Democrat (despite the fact that he was W’s Surgeon General). That’s what they do. Why should this bother me? Flake can’t be bothered to explain that. I’m not part of his base.

This is why Carmona is in the hunt when he really should be ten points down.

This is also why Mitt Romney can’t pull ahead of a mediocre President sitting on 8.3% unemployment – his party has dragged him so far from center he can’t find his way back.

Mitt Romney used to be centrist. It’s true. He was the governor of the People’s Republic of Massachusetts – as a Republican. I remember in early 2007 watching him talk on C-span about how he was able to work with Democrats to solve problems. This was early in the GOP primaries, before some campaign pollster convinced him he could not win unless he prostrated himself to the evangelicals. So he did, competing for that vote with 6 other candidates. Meanwhile, after Gulianni collapsed, McCain was able to run off with all the business Republicans, who were still a deciding force back then, and win the nomination.

When McCain lost the general election, the GOP’s response was to purge itself of all of the moderates. Their reasoning for this escapes me. But they won some seats in 2010 – and so they doubled down on this approach.

If Romney had been able to run as a centrist leaning, problem-solving business Republican,  he’s be five points up. He could distance himself from the abortion freaks, he could talk about correcting Obamacare instead of just repealing it, he could talk about global warming as if it were a real problem, he could be making the argument that budget deficits are not the end of the world, if the money goes to create jobs, he could say all kinds of things that moderates like me would at least listen to.

These were more-or-less his positions when he governed Massachusetts. But the GOP has gone so far to the right since then that he can’t even run on his own record without alienating his base.

And here’s the real trouble: the hard-right GOP base is a dwindling resource. They are old and white in a  country that is growing younger and browner. This may be the last presidential election with a caucasion majority. (So much for their dreams of repealing the 14th amendment. Seriously – they talk about this like it’s a real plan.)

More importantly, he can’t rely on his own instincts. His instincts are to move the line and get to a deal. The Tea Party sees political activity the opposite way. Romney has been pretending to be someone he’s really not, and this may be the source of all these unforced errors. But even without these errors – he can’t win. Presidential elections are decided in the middle. He can’t get there from where he’s had to go.

Careful What you wish for…

For the Republicans, its a case of Careful What You Wish For. They have their majority in the House, and a working minority in the Senate. But to get that, they drank the Tea, and that same Tea is about to do them in.

The Tea Party sees the Debt Ceiling” Crisis” as their best hope to starve the beast – to eliminate the Federal Government as a major force in our lives. They believe the Debt Ceiling is an accounting trick, and many will not vote to raise it under any circumstances. It remains unclear whether the adult wing of the GOP can secure passage of anything without them (since apparently, working with Democrats is still unthinkable).

Here’s the Radical Moderate Position on the completely self-inflicted Debt Ceiling Crisis:

You pass a clean debt ceiling bill in the middle of the night – just like they always have in the past – not because its the responsible policy thing to do, but because it prevents one party or another from turning this into a hostage situation like we have now.

Everybody – that’s everybody – knew the budget passed would require additional debt by the summer of 2011. You can be appalled, but you cannot feign surprise.  They’ve had the same numbers in both houses since last November. If you haven’t affected “lasting change” by now – it’s too late.

Just raise the debt ceiling. Every alternative is actually worse now.

I know the Tea Party isn’t fond of facts clogging up their emotional catharsis about the Crushing Debt, but the chart above is derived from fairly undisputed numbers.

If you are serious about the deficit, you gotta put the Bush tax cuts on the table. Because the economy is what it is, and the wars can’t just be turned off. (Oh – and TARP actually made money – probably because it was actually cooked up by Republicans to begin with).

If the money that went into Social Security had actually stayed in Social Security, it would still be solvent.

Speaking of shameful legislative skullduggery – Mitch McConnell is right: if the Tea Party (let’s face it – they’re the problem here) torpedoes every  Ceiling deal, they will be on the hook for whatever happens August 3rd and after.

The Democrats would have just raised the ceiling. You know its true.

I know none of the Tea Party Caucus read my blog, but here’s some advice anyway:

You could vote yes because its actually good for the country (at this point). Did we spend too much? Probably. But – and this is key – we already spent that money, in the sense that once you order the food from a restaurant, you still have to pay for it, whether you enjoyed the meal or not.Even if you have to borrow money from your date.

As one of our supervisors famously explained to an obstructive client, “Look. This is what it costs. At some point, you have to grow up and pay the bill.”

Or you could vote yes because you value your own stock portfolio.

OR you could vote yes because otherwise you get the blame for an economy that might otherwise sink the current President. Pinning a secondary collapse on obstructionist Republicans helped FDR get elected in 1936 with 12% unemployment; and it could help BHO do the same thing in 2012.

That’s right: a vote against the debt ceiling is – in an admittedly convoluted but foreseeable way – a vote for President Obama.

Now you know.

Seals, squash and the return of Brazen Wonk

There exists a seal recovery facility in British Columbia that was doing fine work helping wildlife recover, until the government unexpectedly yanked their funding. I know this from someone who used to work there.

Island Wildlife Natural Care Center

Check it out, and if you can, help them out.

My dogs like squash. Not the sport – the food. I was taking some rinds to the compost heap, and they’re following, tails wagging, so I let them sniff it, to prove I wasn’t just throwing away meat, and they ate it. They ate some more tonight. Love the squash.

If you see an article on Trails.com with my byline (such as this one), that came through Demand Studios – through which I’ve almost made enough to fix my wife’s laptop, and get my own life back.

Some days, leadership has more to do with being calm than being knowledgeable.

Now for some Brazen Wonk:

It all connected: health-care – education – the so-called economy – all of it. Unhealthy children don’t learn as well. Uneducated populations don’t produce as efficiently. People under economic stress do not seek preventive care. Its all part of the same puzzle.

Worried about the Big Stupid Health Reform Package? Ready to take to the streets over it? Too late. We were screwed by the agriculture bill that passed last summer, subsidizing large corporations so they could generate bigger profits by feeding us crap.

Do the execs at ADM tease the execs at Aetna when they’re all at the yacht club?

If it were up to Americans, President Obama would not have recieved the Nobel Prize. Hell – if it were up to Democrats he wouldn’t have gotten one. We value results. He hasn’t had any. We’re less than a year in, but zero is still zero.

The Nobel committee, however, apparently awarde the prize on the basis of campaign promises. If the president comes through on even hgalf of that – he will deserve the prize. Even Americans would agree.

Now You Know

From stats to polls to toilets to writing

The Phoenix Mercury are like their male cousin-club in that ordinary assumptions based on stats do not apply to them. For example, yesterday afternoon, they gave up 20 offensive rebounds and won big anyway. They did this by shooting nearly 62% from the field – which is impressive in any league.

From stats to polls:

The Republicans are painting themslves into a corner on healthcare. In the short-term, they see little to gain amongst their conservative base, and a lot to lose amoung big-pharma donors (who tend to favor the GOP) by supporting any sort of serious reform. Their problem is that the Democrats could conceivably push through meaningful reform anyway, take all the credit, and hound the Republicans as the Party of No for the next few election cycles.

And if such reform somehow benefits the citizenry in some obvious way (this could happen), the Democrats could become a permanent majority for twenty years or more. This was exactky what a cadre of Republican operatives (namely William Krystal) feared in the early 90’s, prompting them to go full guns after the Clinton Plan.

Eighteen years later, though, that approach has a couple of problems:

* The Obama Administration has learned from the Clinton’s mistakes.

* The health insurance situation is a lot worse – meaning every bit as bad as the liberals predicted it would get if the Clinton plan fell through.

* And polling data is clear that the public wants access to Medicare, but they’ll settle for some composite public option.

If, however, the moderate GOP senators throw in with the Dems, they could get actual tort reform, a slow phase in of the public option, and some say in who gets soaked to pay for it. And if it works, they share just enough credit to stay viable in the 2012 elections.

If they are seen as defeating it though, (as opposed to Democratic infighting), the Democrats won’t need Al Franken and the zombie corpse of Robert Byrd to break a fillibuster – because the Republicants will get killed on this issue in 2012.

Health care costs are starving us out. Democracies never vote to continue a famine.

From politics to toilets:

The newest charity drive: Toilet Twinning.

Where toilets go when they die.

And because bears on the only ones who shit in the woods: The Packit Toilet.

And one last thing for the writers: John C. Wright’s Rules of Writing.

Now You Know.

A hundred miles a day for eight days

Between driving a stakebed out to a distant golf course and back for a show, cross-valley errands, and a camping trip to the Rim, I drove about a hundred miles a day for the past eight days, gaining some wisdom in the process.

First, the Equinox photo I promised:

2006 Chevy Equinox

That photo is near General Springs on the Mogollon Rim. If you can see them, the decorations drawn in the dust on the side of the car are courtesy of the children.

Eight busy days later, and I have learned a lot of things:

Three layers of mark-up will seriously impair the viability of a competitive bid.

Burn Notice is the secret re-boot of the A-Team.

Everyone in Little League is a volunteer, except the guys in the national office – who are paid – and this is reflected in the league dues.

My informal and random poll indicates that  0 out of 19 education professionals believe that No Child Left Behind (as implemented) is actually helping to educate children.

One guy calls the truck pack – and all the other logistical geniuses on the call need to live with that guy’s decisions, or you add an hour to load out.

If you have a crew loading out a show on a golf course, and you lock the only restroom, this will not prevent the crew from relieving themselves. It will only prevent them from relieving themselves in the toilet.

One simply cannot underestimate the importance of worklight when loading out in an open field in the middle of the night. Moonlight is not an acceptable substitute.

When launching model rockets, bring extra batteries and fuses.

The RXC went camping at Bear Canyon Lake, on the Mogollon Rim. Some notes about that site can be found on my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

Hammock at Bear Lake

When taking middle-graders camping, they all need chairs, or none of them need chairs. Musical chairs around the campfire is a recipe for discontent.

The kids get their own campfire.

The kids get their own campfire.

American adults car-camping will never run out of food. They always bring too much. This was, however, the first trip in a long time where we did not run out of booze. Perhaps we’re growing wiser.

Pie irons still rock! Especially now that we know how to use them.

New vocabulary: Bailing wire = “ranch tape”

I have established that the Equinox can bounce through the Buick Filter. Though I damn near found the Equinox filter (its still a 2WD) on our way to General Cabin Springs. We were scouting a multi-day bacpacking trip taking the General Crook Trail east from Clear Creek to its intersection with the AZT (near General Springs), then taking the AZT north to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Having scouted that, I have concluded it wuld be far easier to start at Blue Ridge and head down to Clear Creek. But it would be even easier just to stay n the AZT and go down the Rim to Pine. I’m still noodling on these things.

But there is a marked section of the GCT that follows AZ 260 from around Camp Verde to the Rim. We found a blaze by following a randomly selected dirt road off the highway. I love the Equinox.

Camp Verde State Park s closed on Tuesdays.

Some links:

World Food Program trying to bring disaster relief over the objections of the Myanmar government. “The people of Myanmar do not eat biscuits…”

The Onion reporting on President Obama’s visit to Denny’s.

Now You Know

No Lead is Safe

When the Dallas Mavericks dashed out of the USAC 15 days ago with a win and a five game lead for the 8th play-off position, we all threw our hand up in despair. The Suns had lost 5 straight at that point, and they would lose a 6th to Cleveland a few nights later. It was over. When does baseball start?

The Suns just beat the Utah Jazz to win their sixth straight. They are now 3 behind the Mavs with 11 games to go, one of them in Dallas. At the Suns Charity dinner (last post), coach Alvin Gentry promised the blue-blooded crowd that his Suns “will catch the Mavericks…”

I’m not saying that’s going to happen. But it seems like its going to be close enough to be worth watching. (The Dallas game is Sunday, April 5th.)

Looking for the Wed Night Meet-up notes? Look here.

The President will speak at the ASU commencement. Just when we thought May might be slow for us…

Now you know.

Alien Tumbleweeds [2/8/09]

Well -of course- the House Republicans voted against the Obama stimulus plan. All the moderate republicans were defeated by conservative democrats. The militants, whose constituents would pretty much demand they oppose such things, are the only ones left. Knowing that, the House democrats piled on a lot of earmarks, most of which will be stripped in the Senate. Which the House GOP still won’t vote for, because they have nothing to gain by it. And the Dem’s don’t care, because they have a comfortable majority without them.

By bipartisan, Obama really means three votes from Republican Senators.

This may be the last post for a week – I’m going into the NBA All-star Game – which is an 85 hour week for me. IF i can smuggle in my laptop and IF I finagle working internet (neither a guarantee at the USAC), I might update this week. If not, it’s work-drink-sleep until the 17th.


Homes made out of dirt.

A long, but compelling entreaty on e-books. Most of the links are worth clicking as well.

And, it turns out the tumbleweed is not native to the SW deserts. Its actually an accidental import from Russia. [via Cactus Camping, my blog-mates from Trekalong.]

Now you know.

A Whole New Universe – again [1/20/09]

There is a theory among physicists that the instant anyone comes to understand tghe fundamental nature of the universe, that universe will be immediately replaced by some far stranger universe. Many physicists insist that this has happened several times.

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.

The Arizona Cardinals are giong to Superbowl 43.

These are the only two topics of discussion anywhere on Phoenix talk radio.

There is such a place as Obama, Japan.

President Obama is left handed. Not a secret – but I just noticed that today watching him sign his first few official documents.

William Henry Harrison delieverd the longest innaugural address to date, and died 31 days later of pnuemonia.

Now some good links:

Graphics to make you thirsty for that which is not good for you – an illustrated guide to whisk[e]y.

From Locus online, omni-geek Cory Doctorow on Writing in the Age of Distraction.

And, Kevin Kelley, of Wired Magazine, explains how by 2040 we’ll be as dependent upon the web as we are upon the alphabet. [about a 20 minute video].

Now you know.

More late game turnovers [11/11/08]

Both the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Cardinals, while not considered contenders are headed for the playoffs. Both played teams that are, well, not headed for the playoffs. And both teams struggled mightily to prevail in what should have been easy contests at home.

Steve Nash had as many TO’s as assists, contributing to 19 turn-overs as a team. Grizzlies rookie OJ Mayo is For Real, scoring 33 points. BUT it took him 23 shots to get there. In contrast, Suns guard Leandro Barbosa shot 10-13, including the go ahead 3 pointer with seconds left. Then Nash nailed free throws.

The San Francisco 49ers’ traded trunovers and stoopid penalties with the Cards throughout the 4th quarter. Seriously, I think they set a Monday Night Football record for penalties in the second half. Late hits, off-sides, stupid things. In the end though, the Niners made the last mistakes as time ran out, and the Cards squeaked by with a 5 point win.

The true heros were the refs, who worked hard to sort out conflicting penalties on what seemed to be every damn play. In the end, they got almost all of them right. So someone was on top of their game tonight.

A few remaining drops of election knowledge: Outstanding election result cartograms. And 50 things you may not have known about the President Elect.

The Phoenix Mars lander officially ran out of sunlight, and therefore power as the Martian pole drifts into winter.

And some perspective on the national debt.

WordPress will not flag “stoopid” as a mis-spelled word.

And I can unclog my dishwasher with a length of wire and a Shop-vac. Hooray!

Now you know

Variety show [11/9/08]

So the last four days I have been running followspot for the Sin City West variety show. While that duty was not particularly arduous, it was time consuming, and I had no real internet access. I did, however, get some reading done.

Galactic North, by Allistair Reynolds is a collection of shorts and novellas based in the same Revelation Space setting as several of his novels. Several of the stories explore either the origins or the ultimate fates of characters that apparently appeared in some of the novels. I don’t know. This is the only R-Space work (or Reynods work FTM) that I’ve read so far. I’ll read more, but I suspects this collection is better appreciated after reading some of the longer works.

Outstanding stuff in any case. All the good hard SF writers seem to come from Britain these days, and Reyonolds is foremost among them for a reason.

My daughter normally plays on-line games that involve magic ponies, or dfressing-up some doll. Then  I find her playing this. The most disturbing part is not how good she was at it, but how much she giggles…

Marine scientists may have found the common ancestor of all octopi, among other things. In unrelated news, workers at a German aquarium caught their octopus juggling hermit crabs. More about the octopus here.

Big Pharma is already preparing to whine when the Obama admin starts reviewing (and presumably improving) the Bushco gutted FDA.

One more thing: Simply Fishing has published my article on Night Fishing in the desert reservoirs. Kinda wished it came out in August, when I submitted it, but this beats having the article killed.

Now you know.