Saturday, November 3, 2012

3 days left, and the tide is shifting to Obama

I'm almost afraid to believe my own reassurance, but there do seem to be clear indications that the tide is shifting to Obama.

The popular vote is still virtually a tie, but the electoral vote is definitely in Obama's favor.

Even the more volatile Huffington Post's daily analysis of polls now gives Obama 277 electoral votes and reports that latest polls in Ohio give him a 6% lead and in Florida a 2% lead.

The consensus is that there are 7 battleground states:   FL, OH, VA, WI, CO, IA, NH.  There is no scenario in which Romney can win the election without winning Florida., even if he wins the other 6 of the 7 battleground states.  Those 6 would give him 60 additional electoral votes, and he has to have 64 on top of those considered "leaning Romney."

In addition to FL, however, he would also have to win most of the other 6 battleground states, say FL, OH, VA, and WI;  or, if he didn't win OH, it could be FL, VA, WI, IA, NH.

But that means he has to win 4 or 5 of the 7 battleground states in all of which Obama has a slight lead -- even IF he wins FL, which Obama leads by 2% in the latest poll.

On the other hand, Obama only needs 27 more electoral votes to add to his "leaning Obama" states total to get the necessary 270.   So he could win FL and lose all the other battleground states (very unlikely:  he's least likely to win FL but if he did he would certainly win others too).   Or winning OH and WI, without any of the others, would do it.  So there are multiple, quite plausible routes to an Obama win;   not so much for Romney.   If he loses FL, there's no way.   If he wins FL, he also has to win OH or VA, plus others.

Nate Silver's more reliable summary and analysis of the polls gives Obama an 83.7 chance of winning the election with 305 electoral votes.

So, yes, the reassurance is there.  But there are also the dirty trickster Republicans, trained by Karl Rove and bankrolled by the Koch brother, Sheldon Adelson, etc.

So I do not rest easy yet.


Friday, November 2, 2012

"It's the economy, stupid."

Remember this famous line from Bill Clinton's campaign team?   I believe it was specifically attributed to James Carville who, along with George Stephanopolis, managed the campaign.

Everyone says the economic situation should determine the outcome of the 2012 election and that it should favor the Republicans.   And it probably would, if they had a better candidate.   They have an almost good one (good from their standpoint).   The problem is that Romney has no core positions, and his stragety presents a paradox to the electorate.

He is trying to sell two contradictory stances:   (1) He says, "I have a plan to fix the economy;  I'm not going to give you the details, but you can trust me because I have been a very successful businessman";  and (2) At the same time, he is the biggest chameleon in the history of presidential races.   So on the one hand, he asks voters to just trust him;  then he proves himself so malleable to the moment -- how can you trust one word he says?

They are really depending on the Republicans' ability to fool the American people into voting against their own best interests, for believing what they're told by FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh, and the false ads that are paid for by an obscene amount of money given by wealthy, right-wing fat cats.

And then for a little something extra, they're trying to manipulate the vote by suppressing the Democratic voters.    Lying and stealing the election -- that's the only way they can win the election.

But here are some good signs for Obama -- about the economy:

1.  Gasoline prices are down.   I saw one sign this morning for $3.29

2.  The final pre-election jobs report this morning was better than expected:  showing 171,000 new jobs in October, when economists had expected 125,000.   The report also revised the prior reports upward by another 84,000 jobs.

3.  Although the unemployment figures for October ticked up to 7.9% from 7.8% in September, analysts suggest this was because some who had given up looking have returned to the job market -- a positive sign indicating more hope of finding a job.

4.  Housing starts and prices are going up.

5.  Consumer confidence is at the highest in four years.

6.  Consumers are beginning to add to their credit card debt, which means they are buying again.  This will stimulate production, meaning more jobs.

And Nate Silver's number crunching shows a steady upward climb of Obama's chances of winning:   82.7% -- up 2% in the last 24 hours.


More, more, and still more Republican mendacity

My cup of outrage runneth over

Outrage that Romney's lying seems to have no consequences.   Fact-checkers and impartial policy analysts can show that he has lied, and he just doubles down and keeps saying it.  It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people -- and it (almost) works.   There is some indication that it is beginning to backfire.

But, wait, there's another whopper coming down the pike.   The New York Times has reported that, back in September, the Republican leadership put pressure on the Congressional Research Service -- supposedly a non-partisan, official service to evaluate potential policies and bills under consideration -- not to release a report of their study showing that cutting the marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans has no effect on economic growth or job creation.

This refutes the Republican tax mantra that they have been peddling for decades, against any evidence to the contrary.

Now, with an authoritative study going over facts from the last 65 years, this sounds like the definitive answer about tax cuts and job creation.  In addition, what they found was that cutting taxes for the wealthiest increased the income gap.

Somehow, and this is a puzzle to me since the Democrats control the Senate, Senate Republicans persuaded the CRS not to release the report.   In other words, they suppressed the facts.

And what I want to know -- now here's a subject for Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate -- is how the Republican leaders were able to intimidate the CRS into suppressing the report.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Obama's chances looking better

Nate Silver's metrics continue to edge back in favor of Obama's winning.

Electoral vote:   Obama 303.4, Romney 234.6.

Popular vote:    Obama 50.5%, Romney 48.4% .

Chances of winning:   Obama 80.9%, Romney 19.1%.

Graphs for all three are interesting.   All show a sharp shift in Romney's direction in mid-October, probably reflecting both the first debate and increased negative ads from Romney.   But since then, they are returning to the early September levels, except the popular vote which shoes a shift back toward Obama but remains closer than early September.

Also InTrade has Obama at 66.6%.

Still too close for comfort, but very good news.


Is this the most cynical, dishonest GOP campaign ever?

I can remember plenty of presidential compaigns (all the way back to FDR and Harry Truman), and some of them have gotten pretty ugly, with a lot of false claims and mean attacks.   But I cannot remember one in which the top of the ticket condones and even engages in the utter disregard for the truth -- even when the facts are pointed out to him -- as Romney is doing.  Even Richard Nixon pulled dirty tricks, but didn't just get up in front of people and baldfacedly lie.

As all politicians do, Obama selects his facts, exaggerates, and uses hyperbole.   But he does not outright lie, as Romney does ten times before breakfast.

Leave it to Joe Biden to put it in plain English.   He said Romney's latest ad, claiming that GM and Chrysler were shipping American jobs to China, is "one of the most scurrilous" and "most flagrantly dishonest ads I can remember in my political career."

He said that it calls into question the candidate's character.

But they aren't backing down.   Paul Ryan responded to Biden's words with an artfully designed statement that used innuendo to seemingly support Romney's claim, while blaming it all on Obama.   See, Obama's federal support to keep the American auto industry from collapsing in 2009 is "costing the American taxpayers $25 billion dollars" AND "GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas."

That it.  That's how you make a souffle out of cement.    It's true, we put some money into the auto industry (most of it since repaid).  But what would have been the cost in jobs lost and lives ruined if the industry had collapsed?  To say nothing of government support for those who lost their jobs and needed assistance -- everything from unemployment checks to health care to food stamps.

AND they are expanding production overseas.   In order to meeting growing demand for overseas sales of their products.   It will not decrease production in this country, nor ship jobs overseas.  It is simply an expansion of their business over there, not decreasing it over here.    That is a far cry from the "shipping jobs overseas" that Romney's various business holdings have been accused of doing.

Both GM and Chrysler have taken the unusual step in an election of releasing statements refuting Romney's claims.   The GM spokesman even said that Romney has "clearly entered some parallel universe" and that "it represents campaign politics at its cynical worst."

Caught lying, they sent Paul Ryan out to repair the damage.  Ryan doesn't actually lie.  He doesn't actually say -- as the ad does -- that they are shipping jobs overseas.   He says they are expanding their production overseas, which his audience will hear as "sending jobs overseas," even though it technically correct.   Sly . . . but dishonest nevertheless, because it is carefully designed to deceive.

Wake up, people.   Biden is right.  This is a question of character -- and ideology.  I don't mean right-wing/left-wing ideology.   I mean business ideology, where winning and increasing the bottom line profit are all that matter.   But the government is not a business in that sense.

And, ultimately, it is a question of the moral character of the candidate.   Despite his image of moral rectitude, Romney has a rigid code of "I'm right" and "you do it my way."   Just ask the teen age boy that Mitt and his self-righteous cronies held down and forceably cut his hair.   This character flaw developed early and has persisted.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Romney's silence on FEMA

Now it's clearer why Romney refused to respond to 14 questions about his plans for FEMA, if elected.   He pretended he just didn't hear the questions, even when one reported said, "Governor, you've been asked 14 questions about FEMA.  Why won't you answer?"

Well, here's the reason.  There's no way he can respond without revealing (1) a disastrous policy of cutting FEMA's budget drastically;  and (2) that he doesn't understand how FEMA works.

In saying he would return it to the states, that's exactly how it is today.   The states are the first ones to deal with disaster.  If it goes beyond their capabilities, then they request federal aid from FEMA.   And in big disasters, involving multiple states, FEMA becomes the primary director of the rescue efforts.

Romney should already know this, as we all should, if we pay attention to the news.   Remember how many times you read in the news that Gov. So and So has requested that portions of the state be declared a disaster area and is requesting federal assistance?   That's the way it works.

For Romney to have answered, he would have had to reveal his ignorance.  But then he does that all the time.  So what?


New low for dishonesty in Romney ads

In the third debate, Romney accused Obama's policies of shipping jobs overseas to China.   His rationale for the false claim:  General Motors is expanding it's manufacturing in China.   But, as Obama corrected him in the debate:   The expansion is to increase the supply of cars to be sold in China.   It will not take away from the U. S. production and will not reduce jobs here at home.  It is merely an expansion of the company in China.

Despite that refutation, plus copious post-debate media discussion of the false claim, Romney has continued to use the line in his campaign speeches, adding that Chrysler is also shipping production of Jeeps overseas -- and of course blaming it on Obama's policies.   And now Romney has ads saying the same thing in Ohio -- one of the areas that produces cars -- and a must-win state if Romney is to win the presidency.

A spokesman for GM has refuted the charges about China, and the CEO of Chrysler has written a letter to the Detroit News insisting that there is no validity to Romney's claims.

Is there no bottom low enough for the Romney campaign to sink?   Is there no shame?  What of all this image-building of Romney as a man of honor and moral values, a la his Mormon faith?

How can you paint yourself as a devout man of religious faith -- and be so dishonest?

Surely, surely, the American voters will see through the veneer of rectitude in this shallow man, whose morality seems to be a mile wide, if you agree with him and live according to his design, but it's only about one inch deep when it comes to business or politics.

More and more proof that character shows up early and rarely changes.  This is the same character as the 17 year old prep school boy who led a pack of well-dressed hooligans to chase down, throw to the ground, and cut off the hair of a non-conforming, long-haired boy in their class.    That was a horrible act, and Romney doesn't seem to get it how bad it was.

He hasn't changed much from the self-righteous prig he was at 17.

He has no business in the White House -- that wasn't intended as a pun, but so be it.   Being president should NOT be approached as being the CEO of a business.    The bottom lines in the two are entirely different, yet Romney doesn't see the difference;  he touts his experience as a businessman.**   We do not need our president to be thinking only of the bottom line.   There are human lives at stake.


**   As someone has pointed out, Romney was not a business man.  He never ran a business that made things or sold thing or provided a service to people.   He was a manipulator of financial markets -- that's what he was and what he made his hundreds of millions of dollars doing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nails in the coffin

Of all of the brazen, unmitigated gall, this takes the prize.    Former FEMA Director under George Bush, Michael ("heck of a job, Brownie") Brown, who made such a mess of the FEMA response to Katrina in New Orleans, had the nerve to criticize President Obama's handling of Superstorm Sandy.

He said that Obama had acted too quickly in mobilizing relief efforts because it made people "too complacent."    As opposed to what?    Total neglect until people start drowning and clinging to rooftops for dear life, or bedridden hospital patients being carried down stairs in the dark by exhuasted hospital personnel?''

Isn't a little forethought and planning better than what happened in New Orleans?

Is Katrina supposed to be the standard by which we measure effective government aide?

This would have been beneath the dignity of comment, except that it is so outrageous it demans refutation.

Romney's refusal to answer 14 questions about his position on FEMA at a news conference wasn't much higher on the scale.   But what could he possibly say that wouldn't just dig him in deeper than he already is on such things?

This may be the final straw that swings the election more decisively in Obama's favor.


October surprise

Well, while we were all wondering what the October Surprise would be that could affect the election, little did we suspect that Nature would provide quite enough surprise in the form of the Storm of the Century.

How has it affect the NorthEast region?   An estimated 350,000 are without power in the D. C. area;  2.5 million without power in New Jersey;  millions more in New York -- one estimate is that overall the storm has left 7,000,000 without power.

Also in New York, the transportation system was shut down in preparation.  Now we hear that five tunnels under the East River are flooded, according to a MTA official, worse than their worst case scenario.

How will it affect the election?    Both campaigns suspended active campaigning, although Romney/Ryan appeared in some unplanned areas where they were stranded by air travel restrictions.

Obama suspended all campaigning, cancelling an important appearance with Bill Clinton in Florida.   But he has been praised highly for his response, especially by Gov. Chris Christie who said:   "I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally.  [He] has been outstanding in this, and so have the folks of FEMA . . . been excellent !!"

Having to drop out of the campaign trail is not all bad, for the president anyway, because he has the chance to show his presidential qualities of leadership and steadiness.    Seems he's looking great doing this (not to imply that's his motive;  he's merely doing his job the way he would do it a month after the election).

But it can't hurt . . . . especially because it inevitably calls up the parallel dismal performance of George W. Bush during Katrina.


More reassurance

Polls of the popular vote have been back and forth, with Romney leading on some days, Obama leading on others.    Too close to call as anything but a tie that could go either way -- that is, the popular vote.

However, Nate Silver points out that his prediction model of electoral votes, using averages of polls weighted for their past reliability and for how recent they are, has been remarkably similar since he began the forecasts in June.

At that time, Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia were the closest state races, with Obama slightly ahead in all three;  and Romney showing a modest lead in Florida and North Carolina.

Exactly the same is true today -- consistent over the past four months.  In fact, the leader in each of the 50 states is exactly the same as it was in June.

So, as close as the numbers are, the consistency over time suggests that even slight leads are probably significant.   And on election day, it takes only one more vote in each of the 50 states to win its total electoral votes (with a couple of minor exceptions, one in Maine and one in Nebraska, each for 1 of their electoral votes being decided another way).

Accordingly, Silver still predicts a 72.9% chance of an Obama win, with an electoral victory of 297 to 241.

May it be so . . .


Monday, October 29, 2012

Paul Braun makes national news again

Georgia's 10th Congressional District representative, Paul Braun, made headlines a couple of weeks ago with his declaration that evolution and the Big Bang Theory "are lies straight from the pits of hell."

Running with no Democratic opponent in the district that includes Athens, Braun has had free rein to preach his fundamentalist doctrines -- inexplicable to me in a district that includes the University of Georgia.  I know it's not exactly a hot bed of liberalism, but isn't there someone from the academic community who might have run?

It's too late to do anything now but protest -- and try to send a message with your vote.   So UGA plant biologist and others started a "Charles Darwin for Congress" protest, with a FaceBook page to encourage people to write in Charles Darwin on their ballots.

This weekend, they had someone dressed up as Charles Darwin, standing at the main entrance to the campus, waving a sign that read, "Vote for me.  Don't let Paul Braun make a monkey out of you."

The outrage of such ignorance in one of the 13 representatives Georgia sends to the U. S. House of Representatives is magnified by the fact that Braun, along with fellow-ideologue Todd Akin, is a member of its Science and Technology Committee.  And he is a medical doctor, a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia.

Why are we surprised that the American people's approval rating for Congress is 10%?   This is what the Pew Research Center found.   It also found the approval rating for Socialism to be 31% -- three times as high as for our current Congress.   How about that !!!

So why do we have only one declared Socialist in the whole of Congress?


Disaster relief and FEMA

As Sandy, the storm of the century, approaches the high density populations of New York City and Washington, DC,  and as both cities felt it necessary to shut down their transportation systems in anticipation;  and, as President Obama pledges help for storm damaged areas through the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA);  let's remind people that in one of the GOP primary debates on CNN Governor Romney said he favored shutting down FEMA and turning over the responsibility of disaster relief to the states.

How much sense does that make when storms like this wreck havoc on multi-state areas.  If each had its own disaster relief, we might have 10 different systems with no central co-ordination.  What a disaster !!

Republicans in Congress have already cut 43% in primary grants to FEMA for disaster relief in the past two years, the New York Times reported last August.   And Romney pledges to cut spending across the board by another 5% on his Day 1 in office, another $500 million.

Also remember who was president when FEMA performed at its very worst when most needed, in Katrina and New Orleans.   It was George W. Bush, who had appointed a man to head FEMA who had no experience in disaster planning or relief.   Typical of his immature short-sightedness.

All the more reason to vote for the Democratic candidate.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's time to put John McCain out to pasture

It's sad to see a once-respected public figure outlive his position of honor and respect.  John McCain could once be held up as a man of honor and dignity, a man of rare individual courage and independence from a political party that increasingly has departed from any semblance of moderation in favor of the radical sensationalism of the ultra-right wing.

Unfortunately, John McCain is showing his true colors in his senescence.   The kindest thing would be to put him out to pasture before it gets worse.

His latest excess occurred today on CBS's Face the Nation, where he likened the Obama administration's handling of the explanation of the Benghazi attack to Watergate.  Watergate, remember, was the tip of the iceberg that brought down the Nixon presidency, which turned out to have been rotten at its core, Nixon himself.

But to suggest an equivalence between a third rate burglary and its coverup directed from the Oval Office as the same as a confusion of explanations, based on incomplete intelligence information, in the heat of a world crisis -- is patently absurd.

John McCain diminishes himself by such absurdities.  It's time for him to retire -- or at least for his handlers to put a muzzle on him -- at least in the interests of his historical reputation.


Nate Silver's predictions

Nate Silver's election predictions show Obama holding or slightly increasing his lead in the swing states over a few days ago.  It's still perilously close, and some major event could swing things around.  But the flood of SuperPac advertising doesn't seem to have been decisive here in the last 10 days of the campaign.

Here's the latest prediction as of Sunday, October 28th:

Projected electoral vote:     Obama 295.5         Romney 242.5

Projected popular vote:      Obama 50.3%     Romney 48.7%

Chances of winning:            Obama 73.6%      Romney 26.4%

Now those are number I can live with.