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.

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Late game turnovers will kill you [10/31/08]

The New Orleans Hornets still own the Suns, beating them for the 5th time straight last night in Phoenix.
Of course, 20+ turnovers will do that to you.

OK – this isn’t just a random loony at a rally. This is not some low-level campaign worker in an unguarded moment. This is the national campaign spokesman, Mike Goldfarb, coughing up the football on CNN.

Everything that is dumb and wrong with the McCain campaign summed up in about 50 horrifying seconds. (Jesse Jackson? You couldn’t at least have smeared Jesse Jackson? I mean that would be untrue in five different ways, but at least we coud follow the logic. And Jackson’s fuming denial would have kept this thing going another news cycle at least.)

(Or maybe he just couldn’t bring hmself to say “Jimmy Carter” out loud…)

OK, he probably meant to say Jeremiah Wright, but then remembered that McCain would fire him if he did that*. But I really don’t think the answer he didn’t give helps his career as a spokesman in any way.No matter how desperate you might be to steal some jewish votes out of Florida, this sort of crap won’t get it done on the national level.

My nine year old daughter laughed at him.

Now you know.

* I suspect there is a gentleman’s agreement between McCain ad Obama. McCain won’t bring up Wright, and Obama won’t bring up the three or four right-wing crazy preachers that McCain publicly accepted endorsements from.

Pro Wrestling Ate my weekend [10/27/08]

Well, they did. I try not to make this an online diary but I culdn’t come up with a better title.

It is estimated that 40,000 people still live in some form of slavery in Niger.

Isn’t BBC World Service uplifting?

ABC News, among others, is reporting that Camp McCain is starting to split into factions (most natably the McCain faction and the Palin faction) and circulate resumes.

My count has 13 states “in play” on November 4th. The four biggest ones are going to report relatively early: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Ohio. McCain must win 3 out of 4 of these to have any shot at 270. If Obama wins two (and he’s up big in PA), you can go to bed.

The tires on airplanes are filled with nitrogen.

Now you know.

SF, eagles and gratuitous football metaphors [10/16/08]

Eventually, sleep deprivation overwhelms any amount of caffeine or motivation, and you just pass out on the couch, without updating your blog or rotating your laundry. Life goes on.

Paul Chitlik, who teaches screenwriting at UCLA has posted Eight Things to Remember when writing science fiction. [via SF Signal]

So say we all.

The southwest bald eagle is, according to ornithologists, a separate and distinct species from the rest of the North American bald eagles. They are, on average, smaller, geographically isolated, and nest and breed in the winter rather than the summer like the rest of their kin.

I’m working on an article about these birds, and their prospects (the Feds recently de-listed them as “Threatened”, but all of that is still in court). At the 2/3’ds mark of the research, I’d say their prospects are good regardless of how the Feds classify them.

A quick Debate Metaphor: Down by 9 points, Team McCain took the certain field goal, forced Team O’Bama to a three and out, and ended up with decent field position. They still need a touchdown with about 3 minutes left, and face a very good O’Bama secondary that knows they have to put the ball in the air.

The best electoral map on the web: Real Clear Politics.

According to their math, McCain can sweep the toss-up states and still lose. Personally, I think he steals Virginia from the Dem’s as well – but that won’t change the result – just reduce the landslide.

Sources of Weirdness and despair [9/16/08]

I’m going to start collecting a list of random fact blogs, starting with Unnecessary Knowledge. This lists a new random fact every time you refresh it.

This is not from the above site, my dauighter was simply proud she knew it: slugs have four noses.

This has been making the rounds: Both Senator Obama and Senator McCain to the time to answer written science questions (about policy – not are you smarter than your intern) from Science Debate 2008. Surprisingly, I found McCain’s answered the questions with as much thought and detail as Obama. If I were a science-only voter (I think there might e six of them in the republic) he might even get my vote – until I reflected that his running mate is a creationist, on the record that Earth is less than 7000 years old.

Sherwood Forest – yes, that one – has shrunk to less than 450 acres.

The wages of deregulation are failure and bankruptcy – no wait, we’ve known that since 1932. It’s like railing against the traffic signals for holding up traffic. They only have to be off for a few hours before you realize why we put them there…

Finally, if you want some depressing portals on the world, you can subscribe to Reuters AlertNet, which will inform you that South Africa has one of the highest HIV rates in the world because local superstition equates the disease with the creation of undead zombies. And that south-asian women, having to wade through flood waters all the time, are contracting high rates of vaginal infections.

September 4th 2008

One of the guys in my writing group used to own a house down the street from me. Before he finally sold it, he tried renting it. Neighbors told him later that rental furniture trucks rom different companies would show up almost daily in the morning. Later that day, and unmarked box truck would pull up and haul it all away. He also fraudulently sub-let the house to 30 different couples.

Then he fled.

My friend then sold the house.

There is no rhyme or reason as to how the New York Times compiles their bestseller list. It frequently differs wildly with lists that base their rankings on actual reported sales.

It’s difficult for two inmates in a high security psych ward to have a normal adult conversation. It’s considered erratic behavior, and alarms the staff.

John McCain’s full name is John McCain III.

And two old yet timeless bits of wisdom that I really already knew, but that events reinforced today:

To get published, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to be published.

And…

Measure twice – cut once.