Saturday, October 27, 2012

Countdown: 10 to go

With only 10 days left before the election, it comes down to who is actually going to the polls to vote.

Undoubtedly, the Obama campaign has a far superior ground organization, but the Romney campaign has more advertising money.   But my guess is that, by this time, voters are saturated with TV ads.

The Republicans have other means that will counter the Democrats' better get-out-the-vote plan.

1.  The voter ID laws in some states will actually stop some voters and intimidate others from trying.   That will diminish the Democratic vote.   Part of the Democratic plan is to have poll watchers who will assist anyone who is turned away from the polls to cast a provisional ballot.  But that then requires the voter to go to some central office after the election and supply the necessary documents, which they may not have, or can't take time off from work, or are afraid irrationally that they will be put in jail.    No doubt it's going to hurt some.

2.  Republicans are not above dirty tricks.   Already there have been more than one instances of official notices being sent out about the election with the wrong date.   They lamely claim that it was an oversight in failing to change the date on the notice used in the last election, which was November 8th.    But many a malevolent scheme hides behind a rational explanation.   And that's only official mis-information.    Dirty campaigns can be expected to have "anonymous" notices sent out with wrong information about where to vote, or intimidating notices sent to voters who don't know better to frighten them from going to the polls.

3.  And then there is the appearance, at least, of improper connections.   Tagg Romney, son of the Republican candidate for president, owns a significant financial interest in the company that makes voting machines used in Ohio.   Isn't that interesting?    Wonder why he chose to invest in that particular company?    Seriously, I doubt that Tagg Romney is planning to steal the election by manipulating voting machines.    But there was proof that an election official in Ohio in 2008 owned voting machines that were flawed and messed up the vote.

4.  The Frankenstorm heading for the East Coast is predicted to do a lot of damange, maybe knock out power for days to come.   If there is major disruption that makes it harder for people to vote -- say knocking out public transportation -- it will affect the demographics that tend to vote Democratic.

5.   Look what they did with hanging chads in Florida in 2000.   If any of the vote winds up for the Supreme Court to decide again, it's even more likely to favor the Republican than in 2008.  We can no longer believe that this court is non-partisan.

Here's my prediction:   If there is no suppression or manipulation of the vote, either intentional or otherwise, Obama will win.

But that's a big IF.   And Republicans are not above stealing the election, if they can.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Rape and "God's will"

U.S. Senate Republican candidate, Richard Mourdock, made headlines and threw the Republican establishment into turmoil with his attempt to explain his opposition to allowing abortion of pregancies that result from rape.   Saying that creation of a life is God's will, then he would allow no exception in such cases.

Of course, Democrats made haste to use this as a political weapon (who wouldn't in a close race?), implying that Mourdock was saying that rape was God's will.  I don't think that's what he meant, but still he had some explaining to do to clarify that.   Which he sort of did, and apologized -- but is that what he really believes?

I do not agree, but as I've written before, if you are going to be a strict defender of the unborn, and if you believe that a person exists immediately after fertilization, then it shouldn't matter how that life was created -- it exists and must be protected.   To follow this principle, the only exception can be to save the life of the mother;  and that's different because if the mother dies the fetus dies as well.   So it's comes down to sacrificing one life to save another, as an alternative to both lives being lost.

But this has prompted some more serious discussion.   Now theologians and ethicists are weighing in -- and almost all differ with Mourdock's interpretation.   A Roman Catholic theologian said he found Mourdock's comments troubling, because "God does not want rape to happen."   Murdock's own pastor in the Christian Fellowship Church in Evanston, IL, said that his comments do line up with their church's belief in the sanctity of human life and that life begins at conception;  but he also said that God would condemn rape.

The Phoenix police chaplain, who frequently is called in to emergency rooms when a rape victim is brought in, told of a 12 year old girl whose father had repeatedly raped her and kept her on drugs to facilitate her compliance.    Did God intend for this to happen? he asks.  (By the way, she did get pregnant and chose to have an abortion.)

Theologians discuss it in terms of the time-less, and probably unanswerable, question:  "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?"   Or as it was put in a book by one of my professors at Duke:   If God is all-powerful, then he is not good;  if he is good, then he cannot be all-powerful.

Paul Wolpe, who is the Director of the Emory University Center for Ethics, says that Mourdock's argument is the equivalent to saying that "you shouldn't pull people out of the rubble because God intended the earthquake to happen or we shouldn't try to cure disease because it's God who gave us the disease."

Wolpe says that perspective was rejected by virtually every major religion a long time ago.

Politics !!   Bah humbug !!  I'm about fed up.   Three debates, and climate change was never mentioned.  So the final days of the campaign are consumed with argument about rape and abortion.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Late game signs of hope

Twelve more days, and what are the good signs that Obama will still win this thing?

1.  Nate Silver's magical number-crunching gives Obama a 71% chance of winning the electoral vote, even though the popular vote is frighteningly close:  50.2% to 48.8%.

2.  The most important factor now is who actually goes to the polls to vote.   Good news:  the state parties also have their budgets for organizing and getting out the vote.  In the swing states, the Dems state parties have raised $101 million, while the Repubs state parties have only $51 million.

3.  Several judicial decisions have over-turned, or at least postponed, voter ID laws so they won't be in effect for this election.  It will still be a problem, and all kinds of dirty tricks are already afoot, like flyers being sent out in two different states with election date listed as Nov. 8 instead of Nov. 6.   But the Dems have anticipated this with their staggeringly well-organized ground game.

3.  Republican clowns continue to say extreme things about abortion:   a woman doesn't get pregnant from rape', 'even a rape is part of God's plan, so no abortion even when the result of rape', etc. **  (see below)   And this poses a problem for Romney, who had already made an ad for the senate candidate who said this one.

 4.  The Donald's Big Secret Revelation that he had hyped, trying to bring a little attention to Himself, proved to be a Big Flop.   It was nothing more than an announcement that he would donate $5 million to charity if Obama would release his college transcript and his birth certificate.

5.  Obama felt confident enough to go on Jay Leno's show to ridicule The Donald, mockingly saying that Trump's resentment of him goes back to their childhood . . . "in Kenya" . . . where Barack used to beat him in soccer . . . "he wasn't very good at it."


**Frankly, I've always thought the latter should be their principled position -- if a one-day old zygote is actually a person, then any abortion is murder, and it's not the child's fault.   So the only possible justification for abortion would be to save the life of the mother -- otherwise, the fetus would die anyway with the mother.   But that's another argument about when life begins.  So it's principled -- I just disagree with their principle.   And it obviously wasn't politically wise to say it to the independent voters you're trying to win.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I missed it too

Nobody mentioned it last night:  not during the debate, not in the commentary after, not in the critiques I saw this morning.   Some even said that "no Gerald Ford" moment, referring to the 1976 debate in which Ford claimed that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

But I missed it too.    Romney said:
"Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world.  It's their route to the sea.  It's the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel."
The trouble is that Syria and Iran do not share a border.  Iraq lies squarely between them.  And Iran does have access to the sea, both to the south and to the north.   It appears to have a coastline about 15 or 20 times as long as the tiny coast line in Syria.

No, it's not quite as big a blunder as Gerald Ford's.   But it is significant, when Romney is making such a big issue out of our protective alliance with Israel.

Why were the professionals asleep at the wheel?   My excuse is that I simply don't know the geography of the region that well.   But I don't claim to be an expert.  What about the news analysts, the Obama campaign?


"Memorized foreign policy Cliff Notes, poorly"

Great line in a fund-raiser letter from John Kerry (for Obama):
"Last night in the debate, Mitt Romney sounded like he had memorized the foreign policy Cliff Notes, poorly."

Another good Obama line

Here's another good Obama line:   "You seem to want to import the foreign policy of the 1980s, the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policy of the 1920s, when the U. S. was headed toward the Great Depression."

Yeah !!!

The difference in this one and "We also have fewer horses and bayonettes" is that this one was probably rehearsed.  But the horses and bayonettes line must have been spontaneous, given the way it came up in response to a specific Romney line.   If it had been planned, then Romney walked right into the trap.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate #3: Obama 2, Romney 1

Obama won the debate tonight clearly on points and on projecting strong leadership.  He attacked Romney early and often on his prior statements which either are confusing, contradictory of his own other statements, or showing a lack of understanding.

Romney obviously came into the debate to try to pivot from foreign policy to economic issues.   He used wordy rhetoric to criticize Obama on foreign policy, but there was very little that he actually differed with him on, when it got down to specific policies.

From the Romney camp's perspective, he probably did well in that he didn't make any major gaffes and he covered his lack of knowledge about foreign affairs fairly well for those who don't know much about it.  So I doubt he lost any votes from people who already supported him.

For those few undecided voters, Obama probably came out a bit stronger and more presidential.   So my guess is that it won't change the polls much, but it might have slowed the momentum which has seemed to be in  Romney's direction in the past few days.  But it's going to be very close -- and it could change.  Expect a nail biter two weeks from now.

Before the debate tonight, Nate Silver's poll analysis showed Obama with a 69.3% chance of winning the electoral vote and therefore the election.   It is still very close in the popular vote:  50.1% Obama, 48.8% Romney.   But as of Monday morning, the latest polls show Obama leading in every battleground state except North Carolina and Florida (NH, VA, OH, IA, CO, NV) with 289 electoral votes.   And I don't believe he lost any tonight.

By far the best line of the evening was Obama's, responding to Romney's criticism of his defense budget, which Romney wants to increase by $2 trillion that the military is not even asking for.   And he harped on the fact that "our navy has fewer ships now than we did in 1916."

"You mention the Navy, for example, and the fact that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets . . . because the nature of our military has changed. . . .  [T]he question is not a game of battleship where we're counting ships, it's 'What are our capabilities?'"
He then explained that the military budgets are the result of strategic planning with the military chiefs, putting more resources into the kinds of weapons and programs that actually meet our anticipated needs in the 21st century.

Bravo !!