Friday, October 3, 2008

Past Is Prologue, Indeed

Take a few minutes to watch this video. There are three candidates at this table. Two of them sound like sane adults. Alaskans voted for the third. Yes, there's an institutional advantage for Republicans up there, but still, it begs the question: What the hell were they thinking (or drinking) in 2006?

Do We Havta?

I say, let her go.

Notes From The Ground

From Sean at
Let’s be clear. We've observed no comparison between these ground campaigns. To begin with, there’s a 4-1 ratio of offices in most states. We walk into McCain offices to find them closed, empty, one person, two people, sometimes three people making calls. Many times one person is calling while the other small clutch of volunteers are chatting amongst themselves. In one state, McCain’s state field director sat in one of these offices and, sotto voce, complained to us that only one man was making calls while the others were talking to each other about how much they didn't like Obama, which was true. But the field director made no effort to change this. This was the state field director.

The McCain offices are also calm, sedate. Little movement. No hustle. In the Obama offices, it's a whirlwind. People move. It's a dynamic bustle. You can feel it in our photos.

Up to this point, we’ve been giving McCain's ground campaign a lot of benefit of the doubt. We can’t stop convincing ourselves that there must – must – be a warehouse full of 1,000 McCain volunteers somewhere in a national, central location just dialing away. This can’t be all they’re doing. Because even in a place like Colorado Springs, McCain’s ground campaign is getting blown away by the Obama efforts. It doesn't mean Obama will win Colorado Springs, but it means Obama's campaign will not look itself in the mirror afterward and ask, "what more could we have done?"

You could take every McCain volunteer we’ve seen doing actual work in the entire trip, over six states, and it would add up to the same as Obama’s single Thornton, CO office. Or his single Durango, CO office. These ground campaigns bear no relationship to each other.
In addition to pollsters not including cell phone users in their polls, I think this will be one of the big stories post election. Obama's ground game—his state by state organization, field offices, GOTV effort—is just massive…and excited. McCain's going to get a "thumpin'."

More Post-Debate Analysis

You know, when you take the political framing off of last night and don't think about how she played to the Republicans' Christianist base, it's hard to escape the fact that Palin is just clearly out of her depth as a veep candidate. I don't care too much about experience, frankly, but she has shown in past five weeks an utter lack of interest in any of the subjects she ought to be at least somewhat fluent in. Last night merely reinforced that impression—but then, reading note cards would do little to dispel it.

Given the major problems facing this country right now, she is just too unserious a candidate for a position that's too important. It's become increasingly cledar that McCain's choosing her was a sign of desperation, showing his own lack of seriousness as a candidate—not to mention his contempt for anyone with a higher than 8th grade education.


And I'm still beating the drum about how impotent Ifill was as a moderator. She allowed herself to be worked by the Repubs (as in working the refs) and it showed. 

Thankfully, others with a much larger audience have the same take. Here is Sullivan's:
Were the candidates allowed to bring scripts in with them? And was Ifill told not to ask open-ended questions. Most of her questions helpfully contained within them all the facts necessary to answer them. [This bothered me too, though no on e else seemed to notice.] The intimidation of Ifill worked: she was clearly desperate not to be accused of asking anything that caould be called "gotcha". She was useless in actually prying information out of the candidates, which is to say useless at doing her job.

That's My Wife!

Am I lucky or what?

Don't Think Of Anything

A couple years back professor of cognitive linguistics George Lakoff wrote Don't Think of an Elephant, a book popularizing the concept of frames, or metaphor systems, and showed how Republicans had successfully used them to dominate the past 30 years of political life in this country. 

I think his thesis goes a long way to understanding why it seems we live in two disparate countries and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding American politics. But that's beside the point of this post. 

This post is about the title of Lakoff's book and the challenge it presents. About why it's impossible to not think of something you're instructed not to think about. Here's an excerpt from a post at a neuroscience blog I've just discovered, The Frontal Cortex
The Perverse Imp
What causes this insomniac process? If I had to venture a guess, I'd go with a theory put forth by Dan Wegner, a social psychologist at Harvard. In one experiment, Wegner asked people to not think about a specific thing, like a white bear. He tells them that this is their only goal. So what happens? As you can imagine, everybody starts thinking about white bears. The second we try to suppress a thought that same thought becomes impossible to avoid. We fail to achieve our goal.

Why is it so hard to not think about white bears? The answer returns us to the intricate connection between our consciousness awarness, the part of our brain that establishes and maintains goals, and our unconscious, the part of our brain that gives us feedback about whether or not we are making progress towards our goal. According to Wegner, whenever we try not to think about something, this cortical setup backfires. Because our unconscious brain continually checks to make sure that we are not thinking about white bears (this is our goal), we end up thinking about white bears. Before long, the brain is trapped in a recursive mental loop and we can't think about anything but white bears. We have fallen victim to what Edgar Allen Poe called "The Imp of the Perverse." (Wegner calls this an "ironic process" of mental control.)
Cool stuff, eh? Check out the rest of the blog. It's great.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Post Debate Poll Snapshots

Cool. The insta-polls are giving Biden a clean win. CNN and CBS both have him at 50+%. And everybody, but everybody, thinks Ifill did a terrible job. (Well, every blogger and pundit, I've read anyway.) I thought so, too, though some of you point out she was constrained by the debate parameters. Perhaps, but still… 

On the other hand, by not challenging Palin, she may have given her enough rope to hang herself with. Doggone it.

Update: Been over to Huffington Post and see that some do think that Ifill did a good job. There you go. 

Update II: Some hard numbers. 
(Uncommitted Voters who watched the debate)

46% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Joe Biden was the winner. 
21% thought Sarah Palin won, 33% thought it was a draw... 98% after the debate saw [Biden] as knowledgeable (79% before the debate).

Who Did the Best Job In the Debate?

Biden 51%
Palin 36%

QUESTION Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the best job in the debate - Joe Biden or Sarah Palin?

Thank God, It's Over!

Because I cannot stand that woman's voice. And her "folksy" schtick.

My instant post-debate analysis is that by normal standards, Biden wiped the floor.

But let's be real—sane people watch debates differently from the crowd Palin's appealing to. Palin did come on strong to begin with. Sounded like she was holding her own. Was fairly aggressive. But as time went on she sounded more and more out of her depth. Endlessly repeating talking points, talking circles and blowing smoke. She was better than those Couric interviews, but how couldn't she be? Did she win by not totally screwing up? Maybe. 

Biden really came alive during the second half of the debate. He really played the night well. Never did he seem condescending, sexist, or overbearing. So test passed there. He attacked McCain and his record and judgement strongly and only once attacked Palin directly. He was firm in his beliefs and positions and 

Overall, perhaps it's a draw in terms of moving votes. I find it difficult to judge objectively. But psh come to shove, I'd had to give it to Biden on points.

Update: Oh, how could I have forgotten? The winks. Palin actually winked at us. At least twice. Utterly creepy. May this campaign ruin her career forever.

Veep Debate Live-blog, part 2

Palin just blew what could have been an effective (though bs) line calling Obama's plan to withdraw from Iraq a "white flag of surrender." Attacks Biden from switching a position.

Biden defends well, while attacking McCain, but sounds a bit angry. Palin hasn't said a thing of substance, but is killing on style. We will go after bin Laden if we have actionable intelligence.

Palin sounds as if she's holding her own. But what has she said? Dear god, I cannot stand her voice! My ears hate me right now. Just spent several minutes blowing smoke. Where's Ifill?

Biden calls Bush Admins Middle East policy an abject failure. Strong.  

Palin smoke, smoke, smoke.

Biden gets all rhythmic and hammers McCain. But, frankly, he didn't say anything either.

Palin: She loves her some "nucular". She's sounding chatty, nervous almost. 

Ifill is letting her get away with murder. Moderate, Gwen. Moderate. 

This is a much feistier debate than last week's. 

Biden sounding good and strong. Ooh, reminds people of Obama-Lugar nuclear bill. Good stuff.

Palin rebuts Biden's points. Biden sighs audibly. Don't do it, Joe!

Veep Debate Live-blog, part 1

Here we go...

Clearly, Ifill is biased toward Biden. I can tell already, can't you? See, first question to Biden.

Palin upon shaking Biden's hand: "Can I call you Joe?" The eyes roll. 

Biden thanks Ifill then begins answer. Ties financial crisis to Bushies. Solid start. Has he botoxed his forehead? Draws contrast between tickets. Focus on the middle class.

Palin starts talking about kids' soccer. "See, I'm being folksy." Shouts out McCain's virtues.

So far, they both look good. 

Biden is nice. Palin lies about McCain's "fundamentals of economy are sound" comment. Lies about Obama's record. She's on a "team of mavericks" okie-dokey.

Gwen calls them both out on non-answers.

Palin: "Darn right, it was predator lenders." Shucks. She's looking straight into the camera as she speaks. Effective. 

Biden reminds of McCain's poor judgement. Reminds of McCain's deregulating impulses. He's speaking to Ifill, now goes to camera. Ugh. First human interest story. 

Palin: "Darn right, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah." Attacks Obama's record again. 

My prediction: "Darn right..." is the soundbite take away from the night. 

Biden defends Obama. Both attack top of the ticket. Okay, finally Biden goes after Palin. 

Palin attacks gently admonishes Biden and media elite and "wants to talk straight to the American people." Groan.

Biden: Fairness. Middle class, middle class, middle class. Fairness. Middle class, middle class, middle class. Attacks McCain's tax plan. 

Palin: Basically, calls him a socialist. She's such valley girl. Oooo, she said "budget neutral." "I used jargon, don't I sound smart?" Defends McCain's health care plan, while using old "government in charge of 1/6 of economy talking point.

Biden: I'll see your middle class background, with my middle class background. Attacks McCain's plan. Looks straight into camera. Ends with "bridge to nowhere" diss. 

Biden: May have to trim foreign assistance. Sort of answers, then pivots to attack McCain. 

Pizza break. Be back later.

45 Minutes To Go

Not long now before the veep debate. I'm fully expecting Palin to perform better than she has in her interviews. In fact, I'm expecting her to "win" the night, just by beating the expectations created by those interviews. 

I hope Biden is able to outshine her and not do anything damning, but here's the beauty: Palin can rock, Biden can suck ass, and it won't, in all likelihood, affect the election. Historically, veep debates don't make a damn bit of a diff to how the election turns out (think Bentsen-Quayle). This year has been full of surprises, but I don't think this will be one of them. 

So, my prediction for the night is, Palin holds her own and it gets called as a win for her. And a week from now, no one cares. 

McCain Pulls Out

Of Michigan, that is. To focus his resources on Wisconsin, Ohio, and...wait for it...Florida—a state that appeared safe for him for much of the year. 
McCain pulling out of Michigan
John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, according to two Republicans, a stunning move a month away from Election Day that indicates the difficulty Republicans are having in finding blue states to put in play.

McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Wisconsin went for Kerry in 2004, Ohio and Florida for Bush.
My cautious optimist is fighting an increasingly losing battle against my flat-out triumphalist. I need to remember it's not over yet...and Obama my still lose. LOL.

More Of This, Please

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka exhorts union members to vote for Obama.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Palin's Poetry

Slate has a hilarious article on Palin's inadvertent knack for poetry. One example (taken from exact quotes):
"Befoulers of the Verbiage"
It was an unfair attack on the verbiage
That Senator McCain chose to use,
Because the fundamentals,
As he was having to explain afterwards,
He means our workforce.
He means the ingenuity of the American.
And of course that is strong,
And that is the foundation of our economy.
So that was an unfair attack there,
Again based on verbiage.
(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

Compare And Contrast

Pre-debate warmup.

Which isn't to say Biden is necessarily going to clean her clock. She's proved she does have a sting to her...

God, she's grating, eh? But that old footage begs the question: is she really dumber than a doorpost or has she been playing rope-a-dope lately? I guess we'll find out tomorrow night.