Shot and Killed

(I posted this on Twitter earlier and am cross-posting it here.)

In the last day and a half…

Two firefighters were shot and killed responding to a fire in West Webster, NY.

A 30-year-old man was shot and killed in a bar in Bellevue, WA.

A 48-year-old man was shot and killed in York, PA.

A man was shot and killed in Placentia, CA.

A man was found shot and killed in a car in Washington, DC.

An 18-year-old woman was shot and killed by her friend who was “recklessly playing” with a gun in West Dallas, TX.

A teenager was shot and killed after a restaurant fight in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The NRA would have you believe these people would all still be alive if they, too, were armed.

Because the only solution is more guns.

So more money flows to gun manufacturers.

And the NRA.

And more people are left dead.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Country First

Jon Huntsman gave his speech tonight in New Hampshire in front of a giant banner with these words: “Country First”. At first, I was miffed. “He’s using John McCain’s vapid, petty slogan from four years ago,” I thought. Ugh.

But then I realized “country first” aptly describes Jon Huntsman. Huntsman, who was a popular Republican governor, put his political career on hold to what? To serve in a Democratic administration as the ambassador to China. That’s putting country first.

During Sunday’s GOP debate, Huntsman said:

I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. And I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think…

He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who what political affiliation the president is.

I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country: I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.

And what did Mitt Romney say in response?

I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama’s agenda.

Translation: Politics first. Huntsman:

This nation is divided […] because of
attitudes like that.

It’s unlikely that Jon Huntsman will secure the GOP nomination, and that’s a shame. I would love to see the debates between Huntsman and Obama. They have very different political beliefs but are also intelligent, intellectual men. Theirs could be the Lincoln-Douglas debates of the 21st century where they could have lively discussions on the merits of their different political philosophies rather than trying to out-soundbite each other. Talk about putting country first.

Pennsylvania Double Dutch

After reading about the plan  Pennsylvania is considering that would change how the state allocates electoral votes, I was going to write up something explaining how the plan was a very bad idea like I did when Massachusetts signed on to the interstate compact.

But Nate Silver wrote something much better than I could. He highlights five problems the switch could create for Pennsylvania Republicans:

  1. The Electoral College split could work against Republicans and cost their candidate the election.
  2. The plan could undermine the integrity of the Electoral College, which is probably not in Republicans’ long-term best interest.
  3. The plan could motivate Democrats and lead to higher Democratic turnout both in Pennsylvania and nationally.
  4. The plan would significantly reduce Pennsylvania’s influence in the election campaign.
  5. The plan would probably become unpopular in the state over time, potentially costing some Republican office-holders their jobs.

I would only add that in a scenario where a state with a large amount of electoral votes swings an election because of a real—or perceived—partisan decision, popular sentiment might actually be strong enough to change the Constitution and eliminate the Electoral College. Americans still remember the last time that happened. But after the 2000 Electoral College debacle, any talk of changing the Constitution died out. If there is another controversy so soon after, though, perhaps that talk would resurface and would spill over to action and kill the Electoral College. And as Mr. Silver points out, that’s not in the long-term interests of the Republican Party.

A Rick Perry Presidency

Mario Piperni:

Perry – the gun-slinging, Bush wannabe, has just made Romney’s pursuit to the top a little more stressful. Similar to Bachmann, he has the persona/Jesus ratio just about right but comes a bit short on the crazy scale, but not by much. His strength lies in his ability to appeal to all factions of a Republican party – from Religious Right zealots to establishment type Reaganites. It’s a potent mix in a Republican primary but less so when trying to appeal to independents still shaken from eight hellish years of Bush.


What Happened to Obama’s Passion?

Drew Westen writing at the New York Times:

Stories were the primary way our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values. Today we seek movies, novels and “news stories” that put the events of the day in a form that our brains evolved to find compelling and memorable. Children crave bedtime stories; the holy books of the three great monotheistic religions are written in parables; and as research in cognitive science has shown, lawyers whose closing arguments tell a story win jury trials against their legal adversaries who just lay out “the facts of the case.” […]

In that context, Americans needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety. […]

But there was no story and there has been none since.

Great read. The president sits in a terrible position. Those seated on the right never supported him and never will. Those seated on the left are becoming increasingly disillusioned with him. What is he to do? Perhaps he needs to stand. For something. We’re all listening, Mr. President. Tell us a story.

Quick Thought

There’s some light conversation over what to call this American Adventure™ in Libya. Is it a war? Is it a skirmish? But I think more importantly, we should ask if eventually we’ll call this a quagmire. Scratch that. Another quagmire.

The debate now seems to be whether or not the U.S. arms the Libyan opposition forces and thus champions regime change. In a third country. While the other two adventures continue.

So the quick thought: What would Candidate Obama think of President Obama? You know, the one who called the Iraq war a “dumb war.”

For those of us who voted for him, donated to him, and volunteered for him, this question is worth pondering.

“Give My Regards to King Tut”

President Obama this week gave a speech in Schenectady NY. And apparently he also opened the Stargate?


The Eagle Has Landed… Far From Home

While driving through Verona, NY (between Syracuse and Utica), I noticed this campaign sign for Mike Hennessy, a “fiscally conservative Democrat” running for the New York State Senate:

Here’s a better rendition of his logo:

(Photo source)

Patriotic, no doubt. The problem is, this logo was used once already. By a Republican. Running for president:

(Photo source)

Even the same color scheme. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any more information about the logo or any mention of it being a rehash (theft?) in any news article. Seems strange, though, that Mike Hennessy, a Democrat, is using Mitt Romney’s logo from his failed 2008 presidential campaign. But that’s politics, I guess.


Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana was for defense spending cuts before he was against them while still remaining a “fiscal conservative.”

From a Politico article in June:

If we are going to put our fiscal house in order, everything has to be on the table. We have to be willing to look at domestic spending, we have to be able to look at entitlements, and we have to look at defense.

But in an interview last week, Pence said this:

HUNT: Everybody seems to be for most people say they’re for fiscal discipline, but it gets hard when it’s in your district. Let me give you one example for you. You went to the House floor to defend money for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter … [which would have] a factory in your district. The Pentagon says it doesn’t want it. The other day a Tea Party group this is a Tea Party group said of this project, it’s an example of “opportunistic parasite feeding on the expansion of government.” Tough stuff.

PENCE: Well, sure. And everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but and not entitled to their own facts. The reality is, and the Heritage Foundation produced a very important study on this, is that it is believed that when you were talking about a military defense contract that will span decades of time, it is in the interest of taxpayers in the long run to have more than one source, more than one manufacturer of that engine.

The fact that one of those two engines in part is manufactured in Indiana, we certainly welcome. We’re proud of those jobs. But at the end of the day, I really do believe that it was in the interest of our national defense.

Dissenting opinions are healthy and necessary for debate.   Hypocritical dissenting opinions, however, aren’t healthy for anything except to get yourself off.   If you want to be a fiscal conservative, then BE a fiscal conservative.   Don’t be some narcissistic, bloviating, self-rightous, insensitive, pompous, truth-be-damned, hypocritical jackass.

Cuts in defense spending shouldn’t be off the table when asserting the federal budget needs slashing even when cuts mean sacrifices at home and making tough decisions.   This is the same as if the person I know who complains that Apple celebrates and fosters consumerism and materialism would go buy an iPhone 4 because her friend works there.

A hypocrite is a hypocrite whatever way you try to spin it.   Mike Pence is a hypocrite.

Happy Campaign Season!

President Obama:

They have not come up with a single, solitary new idea to address the challenges of the American people. They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas, not one. Instead, they’re betting on amnesia.

Counting the Vote

The Massachusetts state legislature today passed a bill that would force its state electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally.  Having done my graduate school thesis project on Electoral College reforms, I had to jump on this.

Forcing the Electoral College to follow the national popular vote effectively renders the Electoral College moot.  The winner of the national popular vote would automatically be the winner of the Electoral College—at which point the Electoral College serves no purpose.  But without a constitutional amendment, the Electoral College has to exist is some bastardized form of a LOST-esque purgatory.

A national popular vote, while seemingly popular, probably wouldn’t change election outcomes much; candidates will still likely campaign the same or similarly to how they do now.  The Democratic candidate still will not campaign in Massachusetts, California, or Illinois, and the Republican candidate will still not campaign in Texas, Georgia, Utah, or Oklahoma.  Who most voters in these states will vote for is all-but determined before the election season even starts.   Instead, both candidates will still campaign in the battleground states of our existing electoral system in an effort to secure as many toss-up votes as possible.   Why?  Because this is where the majority of toss-up votes are.  They’re battleground states for a reason.

If the purpose to switching to a national popular vote is out of anger at the Electoral College, the anger is misplaced.  The thing is, a close election will be a close election no matter how the vote is counted.  Take 2000 as an example.  Of the roughly 105 million votes cast, less than 540,000 votes separated Bush & Gore—roughly 0.0052 of the total.  In 1888, another year the popular-vote winner lost the presidency, out of 11 million votes cast, less than 91,000 votes separated Harrison and Cleveland—roughly 0.008 of the total.

Close elections will remain controversial.  The nightmare scenario with a national popular vote would be a recount of every vote in the nation.  What would the recount threshold be?  0.01?  0.005?

A far more interesting Electoral College reform to explore is a proportional allocation of each state’s electoral votes.

As a review, whichever candidate in a state receives the most popular votes in the state also receives all of that states electoral votes.  If the candidate receives 1 more vote or 1 million more votes, that candidate gets all of the electoral votes.  This process is in effect in every state but Maine and Nebraska (these two states award electoral votes based on which candidate wins each congressional district and two for the winner of the state’s popular vote.  Maine adopted this method in 1972 and has never split its vote; Nebraska adopted this in 1992 and only split its vote once: 2008).

The proportional allocation plan splits a state’s electoral votes according to what percentage of the state’s popular vote the candidate won.  So if a candidate wins 60% of the state’s popular vote, the candidate receives 60% of the state’s electoral votes.

With a proportional allocation plan, no disbanding of the Electoral College would be necessary.  State results are still state results—thus retaining the federalist aspect of presidential elections.  And, switching the Electoral College to proportional allocation wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment; rather, each state would pass a law directing their electoral votes to be proportionally allocated (there isn’t anything in the Constitution on how a state’s electoral votes be allocated; only that they must exist).

More than anything else, though, the best aspect of proportional allocation is the likelihood of increased voter participation.  Suddenly, every vote matters. Candidates would have to alter their campaign strategies.  California’s 55 electoral votes and Texas’s 34 are up for grabs more so than they are now.  John McCain would have won 20 electoral votes in California and Barack Obama 15 in Texas.  Republicans in decidedly-Democratic states and Democrats in decidedly-Republican states who might not vote in the current system because “their vote doesn’t count” now have more relevance and have more purpose to vote.

And that, is the point.  Increased voter participation is the real issue.  So whether proportional allocation is the method or a national popular vote, if more people vote and vote smartly, everyone wins.

If you’re interested in how reform proposals might have changed past presidential elections, check out my thesis project where you can apply a reform proposal to a past election and see the results both nationally and state-by-state (mouse-over each state for further breakdown of results).

Great Hair

One of the best descriptions of Mitt Romney I’ve read came from The Daily Dish yesterday:

A hologram of a politician defined only by
ambition and great hair.

Blaming Obama?


Ezra Klein this week wrote an insightful post regarding blaming the oil disaster on President Obama.   He writes:

It strains credulity to suggest that presidents will enter office and zero in on failures at tiny regulatory agencies [like the Mineral Management Service]. But their underlings should. And they appoint their underlings. So insofar as Ken Salazar fell down on the job, it’s Obama’s fault in a “buck stops here” sort of way.

But this is also evidence of what a bad idea it is to routinely elect people who make it a point to degrade the capacity of regulatory agencies. If your regulators are going to be effective, the commitment to their effectiveness has to be continuous, not episodic. If every other administration has to come into office and nurse a sabotaged bureaucracy back to health, they’re going to miss some of the problems, and much of the damage will already have been done.

So though Obama deserves to take his lumps on this one, Americans should take the lesson of recent disasters, from the financial crisis to the BP spill to Katrina, and realize that they actually like having good regulators and they get upset when their regulators fail them. Which might mean it’s a good idea to elect people who are interested in making sure regulators don’t stop doing their jobs every couple of years, as opposed to people who think that the best regulation is no regulation, and the second-best regulation is whatever the relevant industry tells them it is.

(Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)



We Need a Hero

Jon Stewart had a pretty good take-down of the president this week (starting around 4:39):

Whether or not there is more that the president can do, he needs to convince the American public that he is doing all that he can. Every classic story has a villain and a hero. We have a villain: BP and Big Oil. Now we need a hero. Especially if the computer models are correct (via Discovery News) or if a hurricane (or two) blow through the Gulf.


top tax rate

(Via Chart Porn)


Jon Stewart went after the Fox News Spews Channel last week:

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Yes, invoke Reagan’s name like he was the second coming of Jesus but ignore his words when they aren’t convenient for your argument.

Anti-Government Spending, Pro-Government Subsidies?

There’s a term for people who are against federal-government spending and against the federal government but who gladly accept federal dollars to support their states.   The term is Tea Partiers hypocrites.

The Fourth Branch posted this week about government spending and highlighted two maps.   The whole article is a great read.   Here’s the key info:

The red states in the map below are states which received more than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 in taxes paid by residents of that state. Blue states are states which received less than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 paid by residents of that state in taxes (information from a 2005 study by the Tax Foundation).


Look at all familiar to you?

election results

From The Fourth Branch:

There is a very strong correlation, then, between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes (the rust belt and Texas being notable exceptions). In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states. Both red and blue states appear to be acting politically in opposition to their economic interests. Blue states are voting for candidates who are likely to continue the policies of red state subsidization while red states are voting for candidates who profess a desire to reduce federal spending (and presumably red state subsidization).

So should those of us in blue states like Connecticut ask the Tea Partiers in Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and, ahem, Alaska to give us our money back?

(Nod: Ezra Klein)

He’s There to View the Tapestries!

From the White House Flickr stream:

President Barack Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010.


He went to view the tapestries! But he is neither a Scottish lord nor Mickey Mouse.

Just as long as he hasn’t gone and caught a sniffle.



All the President’s Pens

From The White House:

Why do presidents use so many pens to sign legislation? White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown explains.

AND!!!   Brown confirms my speculation back in December that Obama’s pens are left-handed pens!

(Nod: Nagle)


If you haven’t been to Teabonics yet, you’re truly missing out on some of the funniest pieces of political English-speaking Engrish.   The Teabonics Flickr page compiles some of the more “creative” “Tea Party” signage.   Some signs take two reads to discover the error because of how the mnid wrkos.

I found Teabonics via GOOD.   Their posting included this image:


With the following caption: “And if you wrote that sign, Pelosi is probably smarter than you.”   What’s with the creepy eyes?

Here are some others.   I guess this person gets points for straight letters:


Apparently fear mongering doesn’t come with spelling lessons:


And you cannot spell “dividing” with an ‘e’:


And then there’s this one:


A Flickr user’s comment: “I wonder if this guy keeps his birth certifict with his dplma.”

Things That Go Bump in the Mess Hall

Well, those crazies did try to warn us President Obama was intent on destroying the country from within.   This weekend he was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan converting/recruiting unsuspecting U.S. troops with the super-secret, infectious move: the terrorist fist bump.


From the White House Flickr stream.

Just a Bill?

He’s not just a bill.   No, not only a bill:


See here if you missed the joke.

(Nod: Nagle)

“The Unfinished Business Is Done.”


From The Washington Post:

The political odyssey of health care reform in many ways is the story of Ted Kennedy, and as President Obama signed the historic bill into law Tuesday, Kennedy’s gravesite was a place of quiet celebration and poignant reflection.

The late senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, spent hours Sunday at the simple white cross at Arlington National Cemetery marking where her husband was laid to rest only seven months ago. Ted Kennedy’s youngest son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited on Monday morning and left a hand-written note that read: “Dad, the unfinished business is done.”