Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TPH: Who bailed who out in the what now?


The Political Hoedown
Bailout Battle; In the Polls; Palin's Peril


Monday saw the first (failed) vote of the bailout package proposed by Secretary Paulson and amended by Congress, Obama rise steadily in the polls and a growing spate of stories about the upcoming VP debate this Thursday. It's a heated time in politics and with the economy, the two often intertwining with disastrous results.

You've read (hopefully) my analysis of the first debate, and I stand by my conclusions: Obama wins in public perception, supported by numerous polls, while McCain wins when one actually reads the answers and sees the substance present.

Now we move on to the 800-lb gorilla in the room: the bailout.

***

But first, let's get poll news out of the way.

Obama has seen a definite bounce in all the polls over the last few days. His Gallup three-day tracking position is at 50% to McCain's 42%. It's not the widest margin between the two (Obama's led by as much as 12 points in other polls, McCain by 10), but it is supported by a number of other major polls that show this is not a mistake.

With the stock market (DJIA) tanking nearly 780 points today, or 7%, and the negative economy tied more to the Republican White House than the Democratic Congress, expect McCain's numbers to stay low while Obama racks up a great weekly running average going into the VP match-up this Thursday.

I fully expect this gap to narrow only by a few points in the next two weeks, until the town hall debate. Nothing short of McCain pushing through a Republican-backed bailout proposal that protects investors and regular Americans far more than the Democratic-slanted one will make his numbers rise significantly. A stellar performance by Palin (utterly unlikely) would only add 2-4 points, but probably detract only a point from Obama's overall.

Historically, incumbent parties and candidates do bad when the economy is in the toilet. Voters pushed out Bush Sr., Carter, Ford and Hoover, all suffering from bad or stagnant economies in their election years (granted, each had other issues to contend with). Association games usually only go four or eight years back, so the public sees failure and thinks, "Who's in charge now?" They don't thing about Congress, though it's been punished in the past, but the top seat; ignore legislation passed before the current administration, only what wasn't passed recently to stave off destruction; and believe whatever political opponents to the current administration say instead of looking back at historical market trends.

Gallup, Rasmussen and Zogby have great tracking polls that have been more/less in line with endgame election tracking, where we find ourselves. Check them out often to see how the game is shaping up, and use RealClearPolitics and their running average of all major, non-partisan polls.

***

Whew, that economy of ours - what a time we live in! So what's the deal with the $700 billion House "bailout" bill that came from Treasury Secretary Paulson and the Administration, was tweaked by Democrat leaders, balked at and (slightly) amended further by House GOP leaders and not passed by a Dem-controlled House yesterday? It's a big story, a big economic deal, a make-or-break issue for both presidential candidates, a possible lead-in to economic collapse and possibly the most important "real economy" issue since we gave up the gold standard.

Why aren't U.S. citizens beating down the doors of their Congressmen to pass this bill and keep us from a second Great Depression?

It's a bitter pill that we have to take, but it can be made to taste just a mite bit sweeter and the American people (and Congress) know it.

In short, the bailout or rescue package bill was aimed at infusing the U.S. economy with cash and credit, buying up bad mortgage-related securities from struggling investment firms and banks. There are other powers inherent in the proposal and approaches that can be taken by Treasury to provide a backstop against further institutional or private loss. There are also some clauses that deal with the companies and their top execs who participate, namely that the companies will be giving the U.S. government warrants to buy chunks of themselves and CEOs would have to accept salary caps (except they wouldn't, exactly, if the contracts were renegotiated, and "golden parachute" or termination clauses would remain in many cases).

In general, though, the idea is to take struggling mortgage backed securities/collateralized debt obligations off the books of similarly struggling companies and onto the government's own, with the intent of selling them at a future time, hopefully higher or even with what they will pay the companies.

It's a flawed plan, and you can't argue otherwise. But the alternative to not acting quickly, proponents argue, would be devastating.

Think about it this way. Every individual in American would have to pay $2,335 (roughly) to cover the cost of the $700B price tag attached to the bailout. But what would the cost be if we entered a prolonged recession that would turn into a (possible) great depression? Do you think most people would lose just $2,335?

So this bill goes before the House of Representatives, and by Sept. 29 - after all the nonsense the week before with the bill gaining and losing and gaining traction, McCain's 11th hour return to Washington followed by a reluctant, petulant Obama, House GOP revolting at what appeared to be no interaction by them at all due to stonewalling by Democratic leaders - we think it's going to pass. Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, Barney Frank - the Democratic leaders of the Congress all told their people and everyone else to vote for this act to save the American people the tragedy of a depression.

Except it didn't happen like that. Not exactly. You see, the House is split between Republicans and Democrats, but the latter have the majority, enough to pass any bill that requires only simply majority. Ostensibly, you'd think that if the entire party leadership were behind a bill, it would corral the rest of the rank-and-file Dems to vote "yes" and regardless of the GOP's response, it would pass. Minority Leader John Boehner (R) stated he thought the support was there by some Republicans, that though many disliked the bill, votes were there.

"$700 billion is a staggering number," Nancy Pelosi stated to the House just before the vote was taken, "but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country." Not many words, but it poisoned the deal.

GOP members who may have backed the bill balked at supporting something that, to start with, their arms were being twisted to pass and now was being blamed on their party and only their party, when true culpability was scattered through nearly two decades of Congress and two Administrations.

Still, 32% of Republicans voted in favor, along with 60% of Democrats. Ah, there we go.

40% of Democrats in the Democrat-controlled House voted against something their entire leadership supported, had pushed through. 40% either voted their conscience or for fear of their constituents voting them out. Regardless, they made their choice against their party. Nancy Pelosi, confident in victory, had Sunday and earlier Monday told her compatriots to vote their heart on the bill and not be feel obligated to, essentially, be the fall guys when the bill passed. Best to let secure or retiring Dems and who-the-hell-cares-about-them Republicans be seen supporting it.

For politics and principle, the Dems didn't get the votes. For seat security and principle, the Republicans denied them passage.

Now we are left to figure out what comes next. The economy needs something. There can't really be an argument against government action to some degree. Maybe they lower the amount to $350B and add a gov't insurance clause for certain businesses, placing less taxpayer dollars at risk of a negative return should Treasury get screwed when they (eventually) try to unload the securities they intend to buy.

One other idea called for the gov't to get preferred stock from companies in exchange for a cash infusion, with dividend payments providing a positive return for taxpayers. There are hundreds of economists, businessmen and politicians gunning to get their idea, if only in part, written into the new bill. Many see Paulson's original proposal as autocratic and extreme, a hammer blow to a problem that requires laser-precision.

Other pundits say we don't need this package at all, but a new sort of limited regulation, some advisory boards, the aforementioned insurance - but no whopping check. This highlights who are the true libertarians in our country, those who want the government to remain as small and out of our hair as possible, possibly to the detriment of the country.

Personally, I dislike the deal. I don't see it as a "bailout" of Wall Street. That word carries with it some unsavory definitions, like we're salvaging these firms who made the stupidest choices on their own. In fact, this is a rescue mission. Not only have Wall Street investment bankers abused the looser credit system, the laws letting low income families get mortgages they shouldn't and the deregulation breaking down barriers between banks and investment firms; but average people are to blame as well. Those mortgages aren't paid down by ghosts but real people.

Main Street is as culpable in this crisis as anyone else, as full of the same sort of greed and want that "fat cats" in glass-and-steel are. It's just easier to blame the big guys, to say the were enabled to this evil through the similar evil of deregulation, and that they, Luciferesque, ascended from the fiery Pit with tantalizing temptations. Own a house or condo you never could. Buy a security product that's new and backed by mortgages, things which rarely go into default in large numbers.

No one was enabled or pushed to do what they did; free will is beautiful, if you believe in it. It makes people responsible for their actions, not victims of circumstance or an unseen force. We make our choices and suffer the outcome. Many are suffering, but not everyone. Not a majority by any stretch. In fact, only 25% of sub-prime mortgages are in foreclosure, and sub-prime mortgages are only 7% (at most) of the total number of mortgages out there. The problem with all these foreclosure figures, saying it's X% higher than the last ten years, is because we're on the other side of the peak of an amazing boom economy. Of course the numbers look dramatic when taken out of historical perspective. In 1934, 40% of homes were in foreclosure. We are no where near that level.

And that underscores another aspect of this crisis: confidence. Credit exists in part on real numbers in ledger books - cash on hand, debt outstanding, receivables, expenses, etc. Do you know it's also tied to confidence? The dollar bill is a piece of paper that we say is worth a certain amount of money, placing economic value on something that, stripped of its economic importance, is just ink on paper. This is also called "fiat money," and that means it's worth what the government says its worth, in the absence of some form of hard backing, like gold (which would make it representative currency). We can easily see that intangible, unquantifiable factors can sway institutional credit, the value of the dollar, spending levels - all tiers of the economy.

Though it's very popular to say this, I will chime in and attach some blame for the "crisis" on the media's doorstep. If many stations were not hammering home with bold headlines, ominous music and graphic obfuscation that we're in crisis mode or economic meltdown or financial peril, many people would honestly not think we were. Psychology is playing a large part in all this. Traders on Wall Street are smart, but even they lose when playing chicken with the dire pronouncements of CNBC or CNN or the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal.

Will the economy collapse if we don't get $700B now? No. Will it collapse if nothing is done? Again, no, but it will decline sharply for the short term (say, two or three years) while the losing parties go bankrupt, are absorbed, scale back activity and in general, limit our economic growth. This would be a depression.

I have great confidence in capitalism and the free market to correct itself, even if that correction is a slap in the face, a punch in the gut and knee to the groin. We've seen bubbles pop, and this is no different. The credit and mortgage bubbles, tied in to every American alive, might seem farther reaching than when the Internet went bust. Not everyone owned tech stocks, but most do own houses and/or cars and/or credit cards.

We are a highly leveraged society. People loaning other people their confidence in the form of currency. Business relies on this for payroll, as "anonymous" stated in his comment to the last Hoedown. It is necessary to have stable credit. We can take a hit for a while, some companies and people will suffer and you know what? That's life in a "free" market, capitalist society. The risks are known that if you can't pay, something will be taken to cover that payment eventually, be it lamp, car, house, wages, corporation, etc. Returning to the overall topic, economic rescue, that is exactly what we have to do - rescue a faltering financial system before it starts dragging greater than 2% of mortgages nationwide. The collapse in confidence will trickle up and down simultaneously, with consumers not buying, hoarding currency, while corporations are unable to meet payroll because banks are unable or unwilling to risk their books - their confidence - in loans.

Lowering lending rates to free up capital, lowering taxes, affecting the reserve requirements - these are tools in the toolbox acknowledged by Paulson, but they aren't seen as efficient for a situation of this size. We've moved beyond for any number of reasons. Grander, more immediate ideas are required.

Things are moving forward still, with the FDIC accepting both McCain's and Obama's advice on raising the insurance cap for single and joint depositors. The House was not in session Tuesday, and won't be tomorrow either, due to the Jewish holiday, so we won't see another vote until Oct. 2. The Senate, however, will vote in a bill Wednesday. When the grumbling Congressmen return on Thursday, potentially in light of the upper house's positive vote, we'll see if they can pass a bill or send the markets screaming down another 777 points.

***

This Thursday, possibly hours after another failed vote, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will go head-to-head in what may be the most watched VP debate ever. And the most important.

In one corner, you have three-and-a-half decades of Washington experience, thousands of interviews and Q & A sessions tucked away - Biden's experience handling tricky "gotcha" questions and more seasoned debaters is likely a great boon to him. Though he'll have to reign in any snarky comments that might come out sexist, he still has the odds on his side, probably 3:1.

Hailing from Podunk, Alaska, weighing in at just sixteen years of political experience (and I'm including city council), with few national-level interviews and only off-camera question sessions with voters on the road, Sarah Palin is in for a beating. It'll probably be historic, the flames that will engulf her as Biden relentlessly assails her every answer and position. Can she beat him? Yes, a monkey could if they got Biden to start rambling about make believe history. But the odds are more than out of her favor. Right now, you might be favored to win the debate when you yell at the TV screen after a Joe B response you find unacceptable.

Palin is being sequestered in McCain's AZ ranch with the most senior members of the campaign guiding and training her. The lesson: be yourself. She has been so stifled by all the ex-Bush handlers brought in to make her seem "intelligent" that a gal who really is sharp is dulled and robbed of much-needed confidence. Larry Kudlow, of CNBC, had great things to say about her after early 2008 interviews he conducted, especially her grasp of the issues.

Should she shake all she's been force-fed since the convention and go back to the Alaska McCain-with-ovaries maverick, it'll be a debate - a fight worth watching.

***

I am tired. These last few weeks have worn me out, and there's still a month and change left until the votes are cast.

My opinion hasn't changed. It's Obama's to lose. He can win this without much effort if he stays under the radar and lets the Bush Administration drag McCain down, regardless of if it's fair to do so.

More after the debate.


-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, September 26, 2008

TPH: Just Answer the Question


The Political Hoedown
The First Debate; Biden Off the Ticket?!

Since we last met, Gov. Sarah Palin has spoken with the media, Biden has goofed his way around the campaign, Obama has come out against his running mate and McCain whiplashed them all by suspending his campaign.

Debates, Gaffes, Stunts, Mean-Spiritedness: now we've got an American election. With the economy dominated everyone's mind, the candidates took to the stage Friday night for a foreign policy discussion. In the weeks before, the government bailout of failing financial markets was the big bit of news, but beneath it all, the nitty gritty of election politics continued.

Busy times, people!

But, to start, we need to address that debate.


***

Hosted at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS, the first Presidential debate was moderated by PBS’ Jim Lehrer and was intended to focus on foreign policy issues. Of course, due to extraordinary circumstance, it did not. In fact, a good third of the debate time was given over to economy-related issues and those touching the government bailout package.

The point of this recap is not to recite each candidate’s answers to the questions posed. We know, in general, their positions. Obama has a tax cut plan that benefits - from an income tax perspective - most taxpayers. McCain favors tax cuts that affect all, but still include cuts for the (controversial) wealthiest among us. He also proposes a focused "league of democracies" that cold wield significant economic and diplomatic might when facing rogue nations. Obama is more satisfied with the UN and NATO, but seeks the same goal. They each want to spend, to cut, to alter the game plan for our military in different ways.

These are policy topics. While we did watch the debate to get reacquainted with their policy, we also needed to become acquainted with them. So let’s look at them, their appearance and mannerisms, the amount of respect they showed for their opponent and Jim Lehrer, the tone and phrasing of their responses and the personal qualities that shine through in such a magnifying-glass experience that indicate their presidential mindset.

***

We will start with Sen. Barack Obama.

As has been mentioned to me this past week, he has greyed a lot since this campaign started. His youthful looks are giving way to a creased face and whitening hair. I heard a (somewhat ridiculous) rumor that there was no effort made to disguise the grey to make him appear more experienced, as age adds wisdom. Image is the least important thing, but it pays to keep it in mind.

More so than McCain, Obama has had a great deal more recent experience debating and bandying about sound bites. As a great public speaker, and someone with a legal background, he understands the framing of a response and the body language required to connect to an audience. Not that McCain doesn’t, but his focus in life has been far less on speeches.

Points to Obama for the businessman-like movements and gestures, making us thing of a boardroom meeting, or failing that a closed-room hearing.

So that nonsense aside, how did he do?

His responses were well-thought out, heavy on stump speech themes and lines, but structured in such a way to forget he’s given all these responses before as part of larger speeches. He helped this by using the point system. "There are X things we need to do. Number 1...." It provides internal and external focus, allowing you the debater the luxury of a list-like framework to work in and the audience an easy-to-follow set of ideas.

Also more lawyerly was his tendency to be curt, to have "just one more point" to make, as well as the old mainstay, the objection. During the debate, Obama was far more likely to interrupt either Lehrer or McCain to get a word in. We know McCain has a temper, but I think we saw Obama has one, too. While he would laugh off some statements McCain made, he would also directly (forcefully? Angrily?) attempt to rebut what he saw as a distortion or lie.

When it came to answering questions, when it comes time for any presidential debater to answer questions, there is a certain amount of evasion. Pin yourself down with a hard statement and it’ll stick with you if proven wrong, folly or inadequate. Changing a position after a debate is a deathknell for a campaign. Faced with the question about what proposals he would cut from his budget to make room for the Wall Street Bailout package, Obama said it was hard to know since there isn’t a budget to judge the impact on, but he would still want to emphasize health care, education, alternative fuels, etc. Basically, he gave no answer but read a few bullet points from his website. This tactic did repeat itself, answering by diversion when he didn’t want to become stuck by a hastily stated position that he might not really believe in.

On foreign experience, Obama proved he knows the names, situations, requirements and key areas of long-term importance. I don’t think anyone will say he came off as unknowledgeable about issues beyond our borders. Do you agree? That is policy again. Save it for a true commentary.

The biggest criticisms I’d level at Obama would be his Kerry-like droning at times, rambling on, and the preference for saying "Senator McCain is right..." too many times. It hurts him to agree so much with his opponent, and he did. If he agrees with so many points, is there really a change we can believe in? Conservatives will hammer home on Obama’s playing up, inadvertently, McCain’s experience and skill with affairs of state.

Also, lest I forget, after McCain talked about Obama’s lack of field experience related to his foreign relations subcommittee, Obama referred to Sen. Joe Biden and his experience, like he could leach off of it and absorb three decades+ foreign and domestic policy experience. Big gaffe, exposing your crushing lack of governmental experience.

But he did do a lot right. His responses were clear and articulate, his presentation very professional, his eye contact maybe 65% of the time with the camera and not Lehrer or McCain. He made his stutters sound like thought-gathering moments, a tough thing to do. Showing an aggressive streak will probably help prove he has a backbone and can stand up to someone other than a middle-aged woman.

***

Across the aisle, to Sen. John McCain.

He looked old, but not decrepit. I think the boost in the polls the first half of the month did much to add vigor to him physiologically and not just mentally. He wasn’t Bob Dole up there, some old fuddy duddy best suited to retirement home living on Boca Raton. There was energy in those eyes, and silver on his tongue.

Unlike Obama, he did not have the best movements, but this isn’t his fault. As he cannot raise his arms past a certain height, it becomes hard to avoid looking like your suit doesn’t’ fit. The timbre of his voice, at the beginning, was also very somber, almost like he was speaking to a group of librarians. He got fired up and more commanding in tone as the evening went on.

Did that fire result in a victory?

I cannot, even as a Republican, say he hit it out of the park. His weakness on economic issues, or his unwillingness to defend certain areas of his tax plan (corporate cuts help every corporation, oil related or not), made the first few responses a little muddied. As he got into cutting wasteful spending, he developed better and his best moment regarding the economy was when asked that question about what he’d give up to accommodate the bailout: departments of the government. Basically, he’d audit the government, find the waste, and trim it to save money. "Scrub every agency of government," was the line, more/less.

This points to a difference in debate style. Obama was able to quite easily turn a question to a platform for another, vaguely related issue. McCain stuck, on the whole, to the question asked; he evaded some, but that wasn’t a great fault of his. His problems came in the force of his tone. We know he can holler, can pound a podium and raise his voice. It just took him 30 minutes to remember.

While Obama projected businessman or lawyer, McCain was the old general called back to action. He’d seen the battlefield, knew what had to be done and was here to tell us, to deliver a moral at times, a parable or story when appropriate. It wasn’t the ramble of a Grandpa in a rocking chair, but the burden of experience coming out. You could tell the weight of decades of public service has shaped McCain into more than just another Senator.

He hammered home on his record, how he has a record, to look at the record. Obama seldom tried, and mostly failed, to say how some parts of McCain’s record were shoddy or overly partisan, but with 26 years on Capitol Hill, there are bound to be highs and lows. McCain’s best defense was to highlight Obama’s slim record: when discussing the economy, to remind people of the nearly $1 billion in earmarks he requested over his first three years in the Senate; on foreign policy, bring up Obama’s continual opposition to the surge in Iraq.

To compliment the disastrous phrase, "Senator McCain was/is right," McCain made sure to say that "Senator Obama is (still) mistaken/wrong/na├»ve," bringing the experience issue to light, undercutting Obama’s foundation without being overly snarky.

But McCain wasn’t perfect. As I said, his speaking voice cost him early on. He also didn’t use that temper to highlight how he was mad about mistakes made in the Administration. He should’ve practiced his gestures a little more to refine his appearance and he should not have repeated the phrase, "but most importantly" before every point. It diminishes what came before.

That said, he hammered out his views on the economy, pork barrel spending, and foreign policy. Repetition is key to votes in November, letting people know consistently where you stand. He also was able to draw on decades of foreign policy experience in the field to show he not only could point to Afghanistan on a map, but the towns he stayed in on his trips, show from a military standpoint how you needed to move personnel, recall the military and sometimes political history of a certain region and it’s bearing on today’s issues. Ready from Day 1 is a rallying cry in the McCain camp, and he went a long way to proving why.

***

So who came out ahead? Neither won, that’s for sure. Reading through the transcript, I’ve found great lines for both, and they really do read well. Were you deaf, and had to rely on a transcript, I’d say McCain comes off better, since the words and ideas are there, even if the dynamite oratory isn’t. But we judge this as an audible and viewable event, not a series of notes passed in class.

Did McCain’s longer sentences draw you into the narrative he built? Did the staccato phrasing of Obama keep your attention from short sentence to short sentence (and yes, you can ramble still with enough short sentences...)?

Before you assign victory, read the transcript, available at every news site. See the differences in opinion that are baldly apparent. Ideologically, many of you have made up your minds, or are voting a party line because it is what’s expected of you from some quarter of your life. But try to examine the issues through the focused lens of these two candidates’ measured responses. Ask yourself how you’d react and respond to the questions and crises.

A day later, the press says McCain turned in a slightly better performance, that technically he did do a better job. Again, reading the comments gives that impression, too. He avoided what historian James Chace says is a preference of politicians to value "repetition, vagueness and incantation," a great way to describe Obama’s rhetoric throughout this whole campaign. However, Obama looked better than McCain, crisper, younger. Nixon won his debate with Kennedy intellectually, but lost it in the court of visual opinion. I think similar will be said for McCain.

We have three more debates, one for the next three weeks. Plenty of opportunity to judge ideas, character and what is best for the country.

***

To quell some rumors, I’d like to talk about Joe Biden. There has been some talk that his gaffes of late, numerous and humorous, are on purpose and meant to set up an 11th hour removal from the ticket with Hillary taking his place. I do not find any credibility to this theory. The last time we saw this take place, in 1972 when Thomas Eagleton was replaced as George McGovern’s VP candidate after some embarrassing psychological details came to light, it ended in disaster for the presidential candidate. No one has convinced me this is any different.

People talk about Sarah Palin and then the return to Washington amid the bailout bill talks as Hail Mary passes on McCain’s part, but were Obama to boot Biden now and bring in Hillary, you’d see mounds of criticism bury the freshman IL senator for his poor judgment in picking a VP and pandering by choosing Hillary.

For your reference, Biden’s gaffes:

*Said Hillary would’ve been a better VP candidate than him
*Came out strongly against the Wall Street bailout package before Obama said word one and was later criticized by Obama for doing so
*Claimed Barack "ain’t taking my shotguns," highlighting further differences in policy on the ticket
*Said that FDR went on TV when the Great Depression hit to tell America what was going on: "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn’t just talk about the ‘princes of greed,’ he said look, here’s what happened."

***

This has been a pretty long Hoedown, so I’m splitting it in two and moving the poll analysis and Bailout Bill discussion to the next post. Look for it Monday evening.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TPH Presents: A Special Message From Hooper & Buck

Settle down, children. Let’s dialogue for a minute.

We here at The Den of Mystery would like to take this opportunity to remind you that in a little over a month, our country holds its 2008 National General Election, including the quadrennial election of a President. With that in mind, if you are not already registered to vote in your state, please do so in the next week or so.

We encourage you to exercise your civic duty to vote in this fall's elections. Whether you go left, right, or center, it's important to participate and make your voice heard, especially in states where the narrow margins of victory could be decided by voters like you.

So get out and Rock the Vote, Vote or Die, or whatever the fancy new voting chant is these days.

Some info on voting registration requirements by state.

A handy list of registration deadlines by state.

-The Management

Read on, faithful few!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

TPH Presents: Is the Straight Talk Express Going Off the Rails?

Presented without comment.



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, September 12, 2008

TPH: 90/97

The Political Hoedown
Poll Report & Bounces; "Maverick" Tendencies; Lipstick


First off, thanks to all who have been actively participating in our "issues" discussions (in "Ovary-Slapped" and The Daily Hoe's preview post). Remember that you may know who you're calling a close-minded bigot, so...chill out.

***

On to the developing political scene!


We at the Den follow a number of polls to see how things are shaping up nationally and state-by-state. The curious nature of each sort of poll has McCain winning in by popular vote, and Obama winning in the electoral college (though other sites have it slightly reversed, with a slim 2-Electoral vote lead for McPalin). Let's take a brief look at the states, using the parenthetical's numbers

Most are firmly in one camp or the other, with a few true battleground states holding pollsters and pundits rapt. Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Florida and Virginia are the attention-getters for the time being. It could be that a particular ad campaign or debate firms up the numbers one way (Florida, for example, is a virtual certainty for McCain, but post-Dem Convention, Obama got some bounce there, leading to it's flopping between neutral and red), while other states take their place on the fence. Michigan, Pennsylvania and (surprisingly) Washington are all running numbers nearly as close as those mentioned above, with neither candidate sealing the deal as they need to.

Looking at Electoral-Vote.com, one of the best electoral vote tracking sites out there, we can see how tenuous each candidate's hold is on their votes. Granting Florida will stay with McCain (likely), it hashes out to 268 Obama, 270 for McCain - enough for victory, but only 2 ahead. That's Nevada right there, a state firm as jello in the McCain column. Of course, though barely ahead even in the most recent round of state polls, McCain has to seize and maintain the slim margins currently achieved, clinging for dear life, or accept he may lose something small like New Mexico, but still try for a Colorado or better yet, Michigan or Washington (again, it's weird that it's close there).

The likelihood of a large number of states moving from column (D) to (R) or the other way around is well within the statistical bounds, even less than two months out. But my money, and my gut, says Obama will probably eke out ahead.

That's right - despite the amazing resurgence in the polls by McPalin, Joebama will most probably win come that cloudy Tuesday in November. There's too much of that Obamamentum not for him to win.

***

But I'm willing to issue a caveat, in form of the national polls.


Here's the story.

That's the Gallup organization's daily tracking poll going back several weeks, ending on 9/11/08. We see how Obama has been on top most of the time, even the rest. Once it became Joebama, he suffered an odd flat response in the polls, erased by his convention performance. Then McPalin emerged like a cracked-out vagrant from an alley and all eyes went to Team Maverick.

The interesting data we're looking at are the last four days: 49 McPalin/44 Joebama; 48 McPalin/42 Joebama; 48 McPalin/44 Joebama.

So for three days, McPalin managed to maintain it's gap against Joebama, five crucial points putting him outside the margin of error. In the face of this, and ignoring state polls, we may say the tide has turned for John McCain and left Barack Obama to face a series of narrow, but just slightly diminishing polls. A lot to glean from just two days, but it supports a growing number of polls conducted by a variety of respected institutions saying McCain is ahead. It's a lead he's holding, and the Obama campaign is sweating bullets.

Of course, with data released today, we see the lead has shrunk a point as some support has returned to Obama. Independents have increased a point or two for Obama, firming up from the "no opinion" category, but not significantly impacting McCain's overall.

What's most impressive are the surrounding polls showing larger gaps, running even, or McCain leads. Few show Obama ahead. Of the nine averaged polls at RealClearPolitics.com (as of 9/11/08), showing McCain with an average 2.3 point lead, six have McCain ahead, two are for Obama by 1 and one is tied. McCain's biggest lead is a 10-point likely vote knockout - 54 to 44 - conducted by USA Today/Gallup. At the worst, he's at 45, his current support level. Obama's highest showing is in the CNN/OpinionResearch poll - 48 - while his lowest is 42, from a FOX News Poll (for those discounting FOX, Gallup has him at 44 for a low) That high is also from the only tied poll left in the average.

I think we can hold the chart above to be a good measure of each candidate's support: Obama ranges from 50 to 44, while McCain spreads out between 49 and 41. Odds based on that are certainly for Obama.

In the Gallup tracking poll that predated the one above, it said it's 48 McCain vs 43 Obama. So the gap was preserved (5 points), but each loses a point to "no opinions." It's those people, as I've said, who are firming up. There was a long-held opinion that the country is broken down 40-40-20/Republican-Democrat-Independent. The logic is, going into a presidential campaign, unless you are a horrible candidate, you have 40% of the vote already; you're just fighting for 10.1% of the remainder.

Now, we're into 45-45-10, as the country has polarized over the last two decades. Fewer voters are undecided. Look at the running avg. at RCP: 47.4 McPalin vs 45.1 Joebama. 7.5% undecided or with another candidate. Figure 6% factoring in third-party votes. The future of the country is in very few hands.

Joebama's campaign says "Wait until next week, and especially after the debates. Let the air clear after the RNC." Team McPalin just can't stop cheering to listen.

***

So what's in a word? "Maverick." It brings to mind a number of things: James Garner, old western TV show, Mel Gibson, 90s western movie, one who bucks the trend, McCain. Looking at FactCheck.org, I rounded up some numbers (and they got them from Congressional Quarterly).

According to Joebama, McCain is anything but a maverick, voting "with" President Bush 90% of the time (actually, voting with Republicans that much). Meaning, I'd assume, voting on those initiatives which had his support. So 10% of the time, he bucks the trend, crosses the aisle and lives up to his nickname.

Of note, he has several key pieces of legislation that were co-written with Democrats to his name. Those are major points for him.

McPalin has been quieter about Obama being a maverick or daring to use that word in relation to him. They instead stick with his lingo, agent of change (I can't help but think "Agent of C.H.A.N.G.E., some old adventure serial spy organization). Is he an agent of change, they ask. According to the same people, Congressional Quarterly, Obama voted with Bush roughly 40% of the time, but with his fellow Democrats 97% of the time. So 3% of the time, he votes against the party line.

He has no major legislation to his name.

Analysis? It depends on who you talk to.

Obama supporters would say it proves 1) Obama can be bi-partisan, voting with Bush, 2) supports his party's platform of progressive/liberal politics instead of the Republican line and 3) McCain is in lock-step with Bush and the Republican party.

McCain supporters would say it proves 1) Obama is no agent of change, voting a party line rather than principle, 2) McCain has voted on ideology and not with party identity more (and for longer, if we drill down through Bush's full two terms) and 3) there is a greater probability that he will put the (R) aside for (USA).

What I get from it is, and from looking deeper at the numbers, is that Obama hasn't been in the Senate long enough to really establish a solid voting record. What he has is very pro-Democrat, and he doesn't show a great tendency to associate with Republican legislation. McCain, on the other hand, only voted with his party 77% of the time in 2005 and 67% in 2001, proving that - if not always - he can quite easily stand on principle and ideology, and not party doctrine.

But he has two decades in the Senate. Obama hasn't finished one term yet.

***

By now you've heard about the Obama lipstick flap ("You can put lipstick on a pig...but it's still a pig." - in reference to McCain trying to gussy-up his campaign with Palin). A few words on it that I shared with an ardent Obama supporter:


I won't get into deceptive or manipulative politics. As long as all campaigns have 30-second negative ads, there will be deceptive politics. As long as candidates opt for quick, media-friendly soundbites during speeches instead of boring - but necessary - policy statements, there will be deceptive politics. But not all deception is malicious, and some is downright humorous in political races. You have to have a thick skin about you.

For example, Barack made a verbal gaffe when he used the Palin/female keyword "lipstick." We argued that she doesn't own the word, nor do women, but that's for us to agree on, not reality. In reality, lipstick is worn by women, but that's ok and not the issue. The problem Obama has is that he used a word associated (key word, again) with another major opposition candidate, who unfortunately was also a woman. I agree he is not in the wrong, just in error. He should've had the foresight to realize the "pit-bull with lipstick" quote was pretty popular and not going away and would be associated with his follow-up comment. "Lipstick" is an uncommon word in politics, though it won't be again. He made a gaffe. The McCain reaction was a deceptive ad, a quick thing that was meant to more irk you guys than win major votes. And it worked. Point McPalin. Joebama needs to step up now and ignore the remark, as it is a non-issue.

Because this campaign is about the issues, right?


It was a key word associated with Palin, and will be until after election day. Obama should've known better. He's paying the price for trying to be cute. The phrase isn't invalid, and the sentiment can certainly be expressed about McCain and his tax policies or campaign or whatever. But not in that way.

***

Remember to tell a friend. We're trying to get exponential growth here, people.

C'mon - it's cheaper than gas!


-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buckshot: Star Trek: The Shatnerverse


As I recently wrapped up William Shatner's latest Star Trek trilogy, I thought I'd do a little background/review post of all of his Trek writing thus far. So click through for some science fiction geekery of the highest order.

First, a little background for those who may be unfamiliar with the novels that make up the "Shatnerverse" of Star Trek continuity. The three trilogies take place in their own "side universe" if you will, where Captains Kirk and Picard are adventuring side-by-side.

Odyssey: Ashes of Eden, The Return, Avenger

How is this possible, you may ask? Shatner's stories (co-written with the husband-and-wife duo of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, no strangers to Trek writing themselves) hinge on the events The Return, the second novel of his first trilogy. It picks up following the events of the film Star Trek: Generations. After Picard buries the late James T. Kirk and leaves Veridian III following the defeat of Soran and the crash of the Enterprise-D, the Borg resurrect Kirk to use him as a weapon/sleeper agent against the Federation. Dr. McCoy (still alive and kicking at over 150 years old thanks to futuristic medicine) and Dr. Bashir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine manage to remove the Borg tech, and Kirk and Picard become fast friends as they set out on new adventures.

It's a real hoot to see Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Scotty (also both running around in the Next Generation era) interacting with Picard, Data, Worf and the rest. The first three novels are not direct sequels to each other, but rather a loosely-connected series that sets up this new status quo for James T. Kirk.

The Mirror Universe Trilogy: Spectre, Dark Victory, Preserver

The second threesome of novels brought back the alternate universe introduced all the way back in the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror." This time around, Kirk, Picard, & Co. find themselves battling the tyrant ruler of the mirror universe, Tiberius. Having somehow found a way to stay alive well into the TNG era, Tiberius is the mirror version of Kirk himself. This trilogy is a lot of fun, and one I plan to re-read at some point in the not-too-distant future.






Totality: Captain's Peril, Captain's Blood, Captain's Glory

I recently finished the latest trilogy, Totality. This series begins with Captain's Peril. While on shore leave, Kirk tells Picard of a little-known adventure during his first five-year mission captaining the Enterprise. The story doesn't directly affect the murder mystery plot of the novel, but comes back into play in the second installment, Captain's Blood. While investigating an assassination in the Romulan Empire, Kirk becomes aware that the Totality, the enemy he faced nearly a century prior has returned to threaten the United Federation of Planets. The trilogy wraps up with Captain's Glory. We finally learn the true origins of the Totality, which are interesting if a little cosmically trippy. It's really not giving anything away to Kirk prevails in the end because, hey, he's Jim Kirk. But the manner in which he does so is pretty clever in my opinion.

Are the books masterpieces of literature? Of course not; they're Star Trek novels for crying out loud. But as I said before, they really are a hoot. The only problem I have is that I keep picturing Kirk as William Shatner looks now, when I'm sure Kirk would be in a bit better physical condition due to his continuing Starfleet service. But that's my fanboy problem, I'll deal with it.

I've recommended the Shatnerverse novels to Hooper on previous occasions, and I think they're a great read for anyone with a mild interest in Star Trek. The novels reference events from the films and various television series, but aren't so heavily bogged down in Trek continuity that new readers should shy away. In fact, Shatner's latest trilogy, Star Trek: Academy might be perfect for casual fans. It takes place when Kirk and Spock are just young men starting their Starfleet training. The first installment, Collision Course, comes out in paperback next month.

If you're into Trek, I also recommend any of the novels by Peter David, including Vendetta, Imzadi, and Q-Squared. Also recommended is the Q-Continuum trilogy by Greg Cox: Q-Space, Q-Zone, and Q-Strike.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: It's the end of the world as we know it.

Okay, not really. But today is the day the folks at CERN fire up the Large Hadron Collider.



Will it rip open dimensional rifts, creating miniature black holes that will unravel the fabric of the universe and destroy us all? Keep refreshing this page to find out.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Daily Hoe: Inaugural Poppycock

This new socio-political feature is a short, bullet-points only production capturing my (Hooper's) thoughts of the day surrounding local to world politics, society and culture. And it's daily.

I mean, c'mon. What's the point in having a blog if you don't update it daily with nonsense no one cares about but feels obliged to read?

Anyway...enjoy the preview of this "coming attraction."



*First point of interest is the story reported in CNN's Political Ticker that Obama has claimed he "thought of the military as an ennobling and, you know, honorable option," and gave some consideration to enlisting, but in the end decided no to. Not if that isn't the biggest load of political posturing we've had so far this election, I don't know what is. Fresh off a string of polls that show his national lead shrinking, and after a Republican convention that stressed military service and "country first," he now comes out and says he was interested at one point in the armed services.

Why? Because "I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there." Faced with backlash against his lack of military appeal (not that he has to serve; volunteer army and all that), he feels it necessary jump up and say, "Oh, me, too! I love uniforms!" He serves the US in his own, admirable way, and he shouldn't diminish that with these base maneuvers.


**If you live in Chicago, you've no doubt read about the school strike last week led by Rev. State Senator Meeks. It's purpose was to expose the disparity between urban Chicago public schools (high school, mainly) and suburban, "wealthy neighborhood" schools. Never mind that Chicago's public school system has a higher per student funding than ninety percent of schools in Illinois. Never mind that the funding is based on property taxes, and so this isn't a question of the state funneling thousands at rich kids, but those kids' parents pouring thousands into the system to make it better for their kids. I benefited from this, I'm the first to say, and I'm also the first to say that funding doesn't mean jack when it comes to education.

You can pour untold thousands per kid into certain (urban) school system, but if those kids, and their parents and their communities are unable to cope with the responsibility of maintaining some level of decorum both in and outside of the classroom, why should we bother? Why should we weep for communities that have given up and aren't willing to fight for their own children? It's easy to embrace a negative, I'm-a-victim culture, to blame racial disparities, but it's harder to stand up to the thugs and bullies and machine politicians that care less about a good education and more about keeping you down so you vote for them, they who offer hope and anger and Equality but deliver a form of cultural slavery more deadly than iron-forged chains.


***What is it about feminism that's so exclusive? I know, it benefits women. Focus. Why do feminists only promote strong women who think like them? It's no secret that Sarah Palin is reviled by the leading feminists and organizations like N.O.W. (National Organization of Women). But why? She is a hard-working mother of five, contributes on of two paychecks to her house, manages to raise her kids as best as she can (they all make mistakes), enforces a tough responsibility for personal actions, is unafraid of bullying good ol' boys - how is this not a feminist's dream? She's the first female governor of Alaska, a state many would think of as a last bastion of the cowboy/frontiersman mentality - and that means a man leads things, not some hussy. But lo, she leads and is respected.

Is it because she disagrees with them on a few issues? I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you really are a democratic organization, you accept opinions of all stripes. Denying someone the respect they deserve as a pioneering woman simply because you disagree with her on abortion is a slap in the face. It's an insult to all the brave, hard-working, strong women out there who think like she does but have busted their asses to succeed in "a man's world." Show a little character, you Gloria Steinems of the world.


There. I've said my piece for the day.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, September 5, 2008

TPH Presents: If "Ecology" Were to Replace "Economy" in McCain's Speech


The following is an independent, op-ed piece by Matthew H. Griffin, long-time sounding board and conscience of Hooper's. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author's, and they do not have to be yours. But he certainly wants you to think about them.

And you should. Please read on.

-The Management



Listening to McCain's speech on Thursday night, I repeatedly heard invoked "global economy." What I really long to hear is a politician that starts talking about "global ecology."

A global ecology envisions the benefits of letting the earth lie fallow, of cultivating inefficiencies in the hope that something will germinate because it has the time and positive conditions for growth. Unemployment benefits, state-supported universal access to excellent, affordable health care and education: the global economy that I heard so much about does not allow for such inefficiencies. The global economy holds true that there can be no end to the parade of commodities that ceaselessly stream into our homes and pass out just as quickly. The motto of the global economy is, "Drill, baby, drill."

I long for a politician who can make a convincing case for conservation and for preservation in all its myriad forms. The real candidate for change will formulate the problem thus: unfettered access to profit is resulting in our poisoning! The global economy is causing immeasurable degradation to our bodies, to our planet, and to the delicate web of wildlife about which we know so little and hear, see, and experience increasingly less.

I struggle with the fact that I can't bring this point home to those to whom it matters most. My friends will not hear me equate my father's poisoning and death by cancer with the machine behind, "drill, baby, drill." They will say that's liberal crazy talk.

Who now would stop to consider if his condition has been adversely affected by the lack of migratory birds that pass through Hinsdale, Illinois, because of the toxic sprays used fifty years ago in the campaigns against insects that killed Elm trees? Who would stop to consider if he has been hurt by the increasing indiscernibility between art and marketing. For surely art--which is using up and wasting a lot of paint to quote Monet--is one of those inefficiencies that has to go!

We need inefficiencies and fallow time to let the earth produce wonders that we can only come to appreciate in future generations. Otherwise, our constant demands on the finite resources of the planet will make deficiencies our only legacy.

-Matthew H. Griffin

Read on, faithful few!

Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP.

Hooper's promised me that the Dick Morris clip in particular is taken out of context for comedy purposes. But you can't deny Rove's flat-out contradiction of his own previous stance.



YouTube link in case the above doesn't play for everyone.

UPDATE: More Daily Show goodness:



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

TPH: Breaking Convention


The Political Hoedown
The Republican National Convention

(Make sure you check out the polls in the sidebar!)

The GOP's big to-do has come to a close in St. Paul/Minneapolis. We've had an abbreviated convention this year, focused as we were over the weekend and on Monday, the first official day of the Republican National Convention, on the threat of Hurricane Gustav. Well, the media frenzy whipped up by the hope of another national natural disaster proved premature, and the RNC moved forward, truly starting on Tuesday.

So did they make their case? Did Gov. Palin's roll-out continue as dramatically as it started? Are any other teenage Republican daughters sporting buns in their ovens?


***

As stated, the RNC did not get off to the same start the Democratic National Convention did last Monday. Where they had pacific weather and a harmonious speech by Michelle Obama, the Republicans were left essentially running a "boot fund," passing the plate to raise money for hurricane victims. And though Laura Bush and Cindy McCain did a great job as MCs of the truncated first night, it was a dud for all involved, a misfire that nearly cost them their week's publicity.

Then came night two, and two very different speakers.

I'll start with the boring approach first. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I...or D) is a friend of John McCain's and the two share a similar policy view for Iraq, the war on terror and the Middle East. On most other things, I don't think they see eye to eye, but many vote on one issue and Joe cast his lot just that way. But did you care? His speech, while filled with a number of good lines and ideas about bipartisanship that really ticked off Dems, came across flat and monotone, more of a Ben Stein parody than a keynote address.

But at least he had Fred Thompson, former Senator, warming the crowd up before him. Whew! That man can rumble. He told McCain's story better than anyone, with that perfectly cadenced, deep southern drawl, giving us a human portrait of an individual often thought of as "hero" before "man." It was a firebrand speech that got people whooping and cheering, elicited great response and had no small measure of laughter.

Night three followed the cavalcade of almost-were Presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani. This triumvirate was to cause McCain the most headache on the campaign trail, because they were the best liked for a long time. But each did their part to get the audience revved up for the true introduction of Sarah Palin. Romney hit Obama hard and stressed economic talking points while Huckabee did his own hatchet work and came across like the southern preacher he is.

Giuliani, however, had the best lines:


"[Obama] ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn’t make a decision...I didn’t know about this vote “present” when I was mayor of New York City....You don’t get “present.” It doesn’t work in an executive job. For president of the United States, it’s not good enough to be present."

"Because change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy."

"How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president. How dare they do that. When do they ever ask a man that question? When?"


He led right into Sarah Palin's speech and, as you know, this writer was taken with it.

She tossed a heap of red meat into the audience, got the waters churning, and really dug into Obama like few in the Republican camp have done. Her personal story is fascinating, as is Obama's, and she used it to reach out to blue-collar, average Joe Americans who might have gotten married at 19 because of a roll in the hay with your high school sweetheart, or had the life-altering happen when their child was born with a handicap, or seen a son or father or brother ship off to a foreign shore, possibly to never return.

But for all that, she was still a pit-bull with lipstick and I can't imagine Obama isn't still smarting at her jabs:


"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities."

"We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco."

"Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

"Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems — as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all."

"And there is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot — what exactly is our opponent's plan?"

"In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.They're the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners, or on self-designed presidential seals."


Soundbites, some written weeks ago, quips meant as radio and TV fodder - but they're effective. Palin's speech was watched by only a million less than Obama's. Think about that. Anyone who looks at those numbers (38MM vs. 37MM) and thinks she isn't shaking up the campaign should take another look. I imagine her impact in the polls will be seen after the weekend and people have had a chance to watch her some more.

But what about McCain?


"Stand up and fight! Nothing is inevitable here." His closing remarks indicate his willingness to take this all the way. Despite the almost laid back quality of his speech, it's conversational town hall tone and lack of soaring rhetoric, he still managed the slow boil that brought deafening cheers to the Twin Cities.

We cannot argue Obama's skill with the spoken word. McCain has no chance competing with Obama for the same part in community theater. But for the Presidency, he presented a measured, even-tempered approach far different from the quick-hammer "Yes we can/No he can't" oratory that has typified Obama's many (excellently delivered) speeches. McCain's speech was literary, building a narrative about his life, the changes wrought with age and experience and the goals and ideology he has in store for America. A few lines:

"Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that's an association that means more to me than any other."

"...the first big-spending pork-barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. I will make them famous, and you will know their names. You will know their names."

"Now, my opponent promises to bring back old jobs by wishing away the global economy. We're going to help workers who've lost a job that won't come back find a new one that won't go away."

"Education is the civil rights issue of this century...but what is the value of access to a failing school?"

" I hate war. It's terrible beyond imagination. I'm running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals -- to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace."

" I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God."


Certainly, his speech wasn't aimed at liberals, but centrists at best, those not so calcified in their positions that they can't see something positive in the other side. We'll check in with the fine folks at Gallup next week to see the daily tracking data, and if McCain succeeded better, worse or as well as Obama. He didn't actively distance himself from Bush, but also didn't tie himself to the President. He criticized his policies, his administration and the government these last several election cycles. Did he do enough to (at least start to) sunder the hoops of steel created by Democrats that they hope bind him to Bush?

I predict he'll close to within two points in Gallup and even in national averages (CBS already has him dead even).

***

There was a reason for this post's title aside from being quippy. Past RNCs have been militant in their Republicanism, their conservatism, their "right wing" ideology. Granted, none of that was missing, except from McCain's speech. Yes, his ideas are those of the GOP, but there's a lot behind, between, next to and in those words. He, like Palin and Lieberman, slammed the Republicans and partisan politics enough to jump-start again the "maverick" image, and cable commentators picked up on that.

His break with party orthodoxy may not seem so severe to you reading this. You say, he has a 90% pro-Bush voting record. Well, a lot of Congressmen on both sides of the aisle have a pretty strong pro-Bush record as well; that doesn't mean they're yes-men to the guy. Not every vote is an authorization for war. And McCain has put his name on legislation that is unpopular to Republicans, teamed up with Democrats to get business accomplished. Aside from his war stories, stressing the earned image of the "maverick" is his best asset, one Obama cannot claim to have.

***

On a purely personal note, I was happy with the anti-union rhetoric. We've moved beyond the days of the union - and the need for such, one one time necessary, organizing among workers. The only folks now who could benefit are illegals, and they shouldn't be here anyway.

Whoops! There I go again...

***

Please comment with your reaction to the RNC, the speeches and all that jazz.

I might put a piece up over the weekend on the protests that interrupted McCain a few times, what it means for both parties as well as our freedom of speech. Protests in front of 45,000 fans sure do get a lot more airtime and voice than those in front of 80,000.


-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

TPH Presents: Ovary-Slapped


This commentary by Hooper, presented by The Political Hoedown, and does not mean you have to vote Republican or buy a shotgun. It also isn't indicative of Buck's belief system, based as it is around the availability of tar heroin and illegal fireworks.

I know I didn't respond at all to last week's Democratic Convention speeches as they happened, but I could not pass up expending a few words on the brilliant speech by Gov. Sarah Palin.


She's a conservative all right, and also a feminist. A mother, and a full-time government employee. A wife to a working husband, and the Republican VP nominee. There's a lot on Sarah Palin's plate. Tonight, she (and the other speakers before her) made the case that though she's handling a great deal right now, she's ready for more.

Perhaps it was Rudy Guiliani who had the best retort to those saying she should drop out to "be a mom," essentially 1950s' housewife thinking spewed by leftist liberals: "How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president. How dare they do that. When do they ever ask a man that question? When?"

It's a valid point. But enough about that. You know my opinion now, that her ovaries of steel can take and dish out more abuse than the media and the Obama campaign want you to believe. Let's look at her honeyed words.

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." <-- that's when the speech rose from simple acceptance, from rote "life story" territory into something downright magical for a conservative or Republican. It hits hard right at the root of Obama's story, his time spent working for the "downtrodden." It's time and experience that shaped him, he says, but Sarah Palin would argue it brought no executive experience. It's snarky, funny and to the point. She followed it later with another effective jab, "[America]'s not just a community and it doesn't just need an organizer." While certainly community organizers will bristle at this line of attack, the average person will understand that she is deflating an overinflated resume.

"The fact that drilling, though, won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all."

Some have argued that Palin brings nothing to the White House but a few episodes' worth of Jerry Springer material. Here, she reminds us Alaska's key role in supplying America with domestic energy sources - and that it's got a lot more to give. For those frustrated at the pump, what sounds better: drill on our soil for a product that we can use and support today with our current infrastructure, or don't drill and instead "invest" in alternative energy sources as the way out, sources that would require an unprecedented change in our country's energy supply systems? I think they'll pick the former, because when you listen to Palin, you understand it isn't the end of the road, as Democrats doom-and-gloom. Oil is step 1. Natural gas, step 2. Ethanol, geo-thermic power, nuclear power, wind, water and solar power steps 3. and up. Innovation, creativity, ingenuity: these are the hallmarks of US industry, captured perfectly in Gov. Palin's statements.

On final quote, and then I must away to bed.

"But listening to [Obama] speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the State Senate."

If there's one thing Palin's not afraid to do, it's attack, and that's what the Republicans need. The party needs to get out the message that Obama has essentially been campaigning for president his entire time in office, posturing, but not following through. Michelle Obama did mention some legislation she was proud her husband was attached to or behind, but none of it has been made law or made it out of committee.

It's easy to target Palin as inexperienced. Alaska is big, but has less population than most states. And a small town in Alaska is a bump in the road to the rest of us...right? That is the line we have been fed, but will not swallow. Being mayor simply gives Palin a better record than the law-less Obama; adding to that being Governor - even if just less than two years - puts more "executive" experience marks in her box than anyone else on either ticket.

If Palin, the second name on the ticket, can get the American people to doubt the competition's #1 guy (and I think she has), what chance do the Dems have? Can they do more than try to manufacture scandal? Will the killing blows be left to Palin to deliver, freeing McCain from the rigors of being his own offense and defense?

Whatever the outcome after the debate, after the election, I have no reservation in saying Palin has become this election's unlikely star. Her deft defense of her record and experience, relevant family story and cutting attack of the Democratic hopefuls must cast aside any aspersions even the harshest of pundits had.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Buckshot: I'm a lead farmer, muthaf---a!

A couple of busy weeks at work and the first week of the fall semester at U. of Akron have hindered the "dumb crooks/arrests" Buckshot. But because it's never too late to recommend a good movie...

Unlike Election 2008, Hooper and I are in total agreement on this: Tropic Thunder is one hell of a funny movie.


I say we give Robert Downey, Jr. a Best Supporting Actor nod.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!