It looks like there's definitely going to be a little bit of good political news for everyone tonight - a statement released by leading theocon James Dobson:
Archive for the 'Presidential' category
It's Super Tuesday, but the primaries aren't the only political action in town. My kids came up with an election of their own. They created, and are both running for, the position of "President of the House." Both of them have been putting up posters, and each of them has independently discovered a common political strategy. My daughter managed, in just a couple of hours, to master the fine art of the meaningless slogan ("Vote for me and do what is right"). My son has mastered the tactic of slapping his posters directly on top of his opponent's. They're ten and eight respectively. I think this says a lot about the state of American politics.
It's been a couple of days since I posted on the New Hampshire recount. At the time, I fully expected that I wouldn't do another post on the topic, but a couple of things that have happened since then changed my mind. First, Scibling Chris Chatham included me in a list of people who he thinks should get off their "soapboxes", stop "hurting America", and focus on the statistical anomaly he's identified. Second, and far more importantly, preliminary recount results are in from a number of precincts.
First, let's look at this "Diebold Effect" thing again. When I took my first look at the results, I decided that a detailed statistical analysis would not be appropriate, and I stand by that. My decision to avoid the potential pitfalls of an inappropriate statistical analysis is not merely because I "assume" that demographic factors don't always explain all of an election result, but because I think that there's a factor that should explain at least some of the results, but which isn't included in analyses that focus on the demographics: campaign effort. We do not have data about where the campaigns chose to focus their efforts during the period between Obama's win in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary.
In fairness to Chris, he did attempt to take this into account after I pointed this out the first time. He found a list of Clinton campaign offices, included their presence as a variable in his analysis, and found that the "Diebold Effect" was still significant. Unfortunately, I don't think that the variable he used as a proxy for campaign effort was remotely adequate. The presence of a campaign office might reflect decisions about where to focus effort that were made early in the campaign, but it's unlikely to reflect last-minute decisions about where to focus effort. (For example, did the campaign shift volunteers from office to office?)
In the week since the New Hampshire voting, a number of people have become increasingly concerned about some of the things that they've seen in the results. Two things, in particular, have gotten a lot of attention. The first is the difference between the pre-election polling, which had Obama ahead by a considerable margin, and the final result, which was a clear victory for Clinton. The second is a difference in outcome when hand-counted precincts are compared to precincts where the ballots were counted using machines. Obama came out ahead in the hand-count areas, while Clinton came out ahead in the machine-counted regions.
Some people are concerned enough about this that they want to see a recount, and it looks like there will be at least a partial one. Dennis Kucinich came up with a little under half the money needed for a full statewide recount of Democratic ballots, and the state has agreed to count until his money runs out. I expect that they'll find some differences between the machine totals and the hand-count (it would be shocking if there was 100% accuracy), but I'd be surprised if there's a large difference, and even more shocked if the discrepancies between machine and hand tallies systematically favor one candidate.
Clinton did receive a much greater percentage of the vote in machine-counted precincts than she did in the hand-counted areas, but I think there's a single factor that can explain most (but not all) of the difference. Imagine that you are running a statewide campaign. Wining the state is very, very important to you, and with less than a week to go before the election, you are running way behind in the polls. Where do you focus your effort and resources in the time you have left?
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied, "because that's where the money is." If you are behind in the polls and want to win an election, you're going to focus your efforts (if you're smart) where the votes are.
As the dust settles in New Hampshire, people are starting to talk about the winners and losers, and what it all means in the grand scheme of the election. Some are looking for excuses reasons why Obama didn't actually pull off a win when every poll conducted in the known universe last week said he would. Others are discussing the critically important question of whether the whole "tears" thing helped or hurt Clinton, and whether the emotions were real or fake. Then there's the pressing question of whether Fred Thompson's arrival in South Carolina was a calculated political decision, or if it just means that there's more than one thing he can't find with both hands and a map.
Ultimately, there were two very clear winners and one clear loser in New Hampshire - not counting the candidates.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a page A1 article (and accompanying blog post) about John Edward's decision to invoke the Nataline Sarkisyan case in his campaign-trail discussions of health care. Sarkisyan, you may remember, was the 17-year-old California girl who died a few weeks ago, shortly after her family's insurance company turned down her doctors' request that they cover a liver transplant for her. The tone of the article is somewhat negative toward Edwards' decision, and not all of their criticism is entirely unfair.
Edwards, they claim, "has been bashing big health insurers in recent days with the [Sarkisyan] story ... but ... may be oversimplifying the tale." In truth, the Journal is almost certainly right. Sarkisyan's case was very complex. The transplant was very risky. According to her doctors, the transplant would give her a 65% chance of surviving for another six months, and even if the transplant was a complete success, there would still be the problem of the underlying leukemia to deal with. It's entirely possible (if not probable) that the chief medical officer for the insurer is correct when he says that, "It is highly unlikely that any health-care insurance system, nationally or internationally, would have covered this procedure."
Despite all that, Edwards is absolutely right to put this case front and center in the debate over health care policy in this coverage. There may be a great deal of room for debate over the details, but the undisputed facts of the case illustrate both some of the key problems with our health care system and the complete and utter fallacy of one of the primary sound bites used by the politicians who oppose any significant health care reform.
There are times when I wish I was a right-wing hack. If I was, I could let the title of this post stand just as it is, and attack the President for his lack of support for military families. It is true, after all. He did just veto such an act. In fact, he did it twice! Our President, a man who uses the military as a backdrop for a photo op at least once a month, just vetoed both "The Support for Injured Servicemembers Act" and "The Military Family Job Protection Act."
In "The Republican War on Science" Chris Mooney referred to the Newt Gingrich-led Congress' decision to eliminate the Office of Technology Assessment as "a stunning act of self-lobotomy." If anything, he was lowballing the effects. For those of you who aren't familiar with this agency (and don't feel bad if you're not; it's been dead for 12 years), the OTA was a nonpartisan Congressional agency. It's job was to provide Congress with an objective analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues relevant to various issues that were relevant to measures under consideration.
Ostensibly, the OTA was a victim of budget cuts - Congress trimming some of its own "unnecessary" spending. In reality, it might have also been the one of the early victims of the surreality-based community's time in power. An agency that reports objective facts to Congress can get in trouble pretty quickly when reality itself has become a partisan issue. With reports containing controversial truths like, "sex education and AIDS education directed at school-aged youth do not increase sexual activity," and, "delay in responding [to climate change] may leave the nation poorly prepared to deal with the changes that do occur and may increase the possibility of impacts that are irreversible or otherwise very costly," it's not much of a surprise that they didn't do well under the Contract on America.
Mark Hoofnagle thinks that it's time to bring back the OTA. He's right. We need to return to reality-based governance. Bringing back the OTA would be a fantastic step in the right direction. Yes, it would mean spending money, but that shouldn't be a big deal. When it was killed, the OTA has an annual budget of about $22 million. To put that in perspective, that works out to an annual cost per American of well under one cent; it would fund the war in Iraq for about 155 minutes.