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Potomac Tuesday Open Thread

[ 18 ] February 13, 2008 |

After New Hampshire, no blowout predictions or any such thing from me. However, VA already called for Obama.

…D.C. called for Obama at 8:00:01. This is probably not surprising.

…Democratic turnout appears to be roughly double Republican turnout. In Virginia. To put it more clearly, right now Obama is receiving more than 3x the votes of McCain. I know that the Republican race is supposed to be over, and that might depress turnout, but still…

…ROB: is it just my imagination, or is Pat Buchanan making sense? While I hope that the campaign doesn’t go negative, I think he’s right that in order to win Clinton needs to go on the attack right now. She’s not going to out-positive or out-likable Obama at this point.

…ROB: And for crying out loud, can’t either of them come up with a campaign song that’s not by U2?

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Please Please Please

[ 0 ] February 13, 2008 |

If Huckabee wins Virginia, this will be the happiest day of my life.

….er, except for my wedding day. Ahem.

UPDATE: McCain up by ~150 votes with 29% reporting. Shut the counting down now!

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Why Pantload Will Be Voting for McCain

[ 15 ] February 12, 2008 |

Shorter Pantload, explaining why conservatives just might want to reconsider their loathing of John McCain:

Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed, but free to explore extra-marital encounters.

Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?

Tobias: (chuckles) No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but…. But it might work for us

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Campaigns And Rules Matter!

[ 57 ] February 12, 2008 |

Josh Patashnik notes the vote-predicting regressions run by Pablano, which suggest that “if a normal campaign had been conducted in Florida just like everywhere else, there would have been a 12-to-14 point swing in Obama’s favor.” In some sense, this data is superfluous, because outside the necessity for desperate ad hoc pro-Clinton spin nobody would argue that no-stakes straw polls produce the same results as actual elections, or that campaigns in primary elections don’t matter. It should also be obvious that to cite the raw level of turnout as a reason why the non-election should be retroactively counted is to commit the same fallacy as the Literary Digest poll with a 2.3 million sample that had Alf Landon in a landslide over FDR in 1936. Not only would the size of the electorate had been different in a real election, but the composition of the electorate would different because vote preferences aren’t static.

Meanwhile, since we’re likely to hear more such desperation if Clinton doesn’t do well today, I suppose I should address this:

[A]n all time record voted.

Obama lost be 300,000 votes.

He lost. There will NOT be a new selection process.

Obama was ON the ballot.

Throw these results out at your peril. Florida will be lost to us.

Even if you agree that fundamental norms of fairness and legality should be violated to change the rules ex post facto to benefit a particular candidate and count a non-election as an election, this argument that we can’t afford to alienate Florida fails on its own terms because it ignores the obvious costs of such an action. Would a marginal increase in Democratic prospects in Florida be worth a convention battle that would tear the party apart? This is, to put it mildly, implausible. And, moreover, the assumption about Florida itself it highly dubious. What do you think that, for example, African-American turnout would be in Florida given the widespread (and correct) perception that Clinton stole the nomination? Do you think there’s much of a chance the Dems could win Florida under this conditions? Of course not. This dilemma might be a good argument that the DNC’s action against Florida was excessive, but to just change the rules in a way that would allow delegates from a non-election in Florida to determine the nominee would compound the error in numerous ways.

This may be unduly optimistic, but having said this I’m not too worried about this happening; I don’t think the people responsible for determining this have the kind of death wish for the party that some Clinton supporters do. The superdelegates will ratify any candidate with a significant lead in pledged delegates, the Michigan and Florida non-primaries will not count towards pledged delegates, and the delegates from these states will not be seated unless they can’t affect the outcome of the nominating process.

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More on Axe

[ 59 ] February 12, 2008 |

Following up on D, Axe has perhaps taken it to a new misogynistic low with their newest add (and here you didn’t think they could go any lower). Behold:

As Jezebel says, the ad “stinks worse than their crappy cologne.” Anyone else think Barack Obama could sue for defamation simply because the company implies that he wears the stuff? Apparently McCain could too.

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It’s The Media

[ 0 ] February 12, 2008 |

I agree with my colleagues about Krugman’s latest column, which is really unworthy of him. To add one more point, it should be noted that Krugman adduces exactly two pieces of evidence for his claims that Obama’s supporters are unfairly savaging Clinton. The first is about criticisms of Clinton’s LBJ comments. These criticisms were, I agree, stupid — sort of like Clinton’s surrogates bringing up Obama’s brief use of drugs as a young man — but 1)Krugman supplies no evidence that they’re “venomous,” and 2)the most prominent advancer of this argument was the New York Times op-ed page, a supporter of…Hillary Clinton. The second data point is the comments of David Shuster, which were indefensible but again I’d like to see some evidence that Shuster is an Obama supporter per se. And this is what’s so frustrating about Krugman’s column. It’s great to see someone in his position calling out the Whitewater non-scandal and the media’s treatment of Gore, but Krugman completely buries his very legitimate points about the media’s treatment of the Clintons by shoehorning it into his anti-Obama jihad, where it simply doesn’t belong. I’m sure there are isolated incidents of Obama supporters indulging in sexist attacks on Clinton, but I see no evidence that Obama’s Democratic supporters — as opposed to various media hacks — are generally playing by the “Clinton rules,” and Krugman certainly doesn’t supply any. And the fact that even his random anecdotes don’t actually support his position pretty strongly suggests that his central claim is false.

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Missing the Forest for the Trees

[ 19 ] February 12, 2008 |

The wingnutty among us are about to go into a frenzy over the fact that a group of volunteers opening an Obama office in Texas (in preparation for actual Obama staffers, who will arrive later this week) placed a Cuban flag with a picture of Che Guevara on the office wall. While considering this crime against humanity, it’s probably useful to recount the following planks of the platform of the Texas State Republican Party:

  • The Party calls for the United States monetary system to be returned to the gold standard. Since the Federal Reserve System is a private corporation, has no reserves, and is not subject to taxation or audit, we call on Congress to abolish this institution and reassume its authority, enumerated by Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, for the coinage of money.
  • The party opposes the decriminalization of sodomy….We publicly rebuke judges Chief Justice Murphy and John Anderson, who ruled that the 100 year-old Texas sodomy law is unconstitutional, and ask that all members of the Republican Party of Texas oppose their re-election.
  • We urge that the IRS be abolished and the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution be repealed. A constitutional tax, collected and controlled by the States, must generate sufficient revenue for the legitimate tasks of the national government.
  • The Party believes the minimum wage law should be repealed.
  • The Party believes it is in the best interest of the citizens of the United States that we immediately rescind our membership in, as well as all financial and military contributions to, the United Nations.
  • The Party urges Congress to support HJR 77, the Panama and America Security Act, which declare the Carter-Torrijos Treaty null and void. We support re-establishing United States control over the Canal in order to retain our military bases in Panama, to preserve our right to transit through the Canal, and to prevent the establishment of Chinese missile bases in Panama.

Ask not for whom the batshit crazy in Texas vote; they cast for thee, not me.

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The Axe Generation

[ 39 ] February 12, 2008 |

I have little to add to this open letter from the Angry Professor to her male students:

Sexy television commercials notwithstanding, Axe body spray does not make you smell irresistible. On the contrary, it makes you smell like rubbing alcohol and pickle juice. Hot chicks would prefer it if you smelled like soap, and you can smell like this simply by taking a shower every morning.

The only thing Axe body spray might be good for is masking the odor of your acne medication. Of course, you wouldn’t need quite so much acne medication if you smelled more like soap.

Oddly enough, I have come to learn that Axe once marketed a variety of the spray known as “Alaska”. I assume the scent was intended to evoke the place rather than the people, but Alaskans being a rough-hewn sort, “rubbing alcohol and pickle juice” wouldn’t actually be too far off the mark.

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Language Makes All the Difference…

[ 0 ] February 12, 2008 |

Eva Destruction at Bluegrass Roots makes a great catch. The Louisville Courier Journal:

State Rep. Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Spring, said ultrasound technology produces images that women should be allowed to see before they terminate pregnancies.

Westwood showed fellow lawmakers images of an unborn baby at 10 weeks gestation, one showing a baby’s tiny foot and toes.

“The idea is that what is inside this woman is not a mass of tissue, but, in fact, is a live baby,” said Westwood, sponsor of the legislation that has drawn vocal opposition from abortion rights supporters.

And the bill:

Amend KRS 311.720 to redefine “abortion” and to add definitions of “reasonable judgment,” “unborn child,” and “woman”; create a new section of KRS 311.710 to 311.820 to require physician to perform an obstetric ultrasound and show images to the woman seeking an abortion; create a new section of KRS 311.710 to 311.820 to provide for an exemption to the ultrasound in case of an emergency and require placing the reason for the emergency in medical records; amend KRS 311.990 relating to penalties to provide a fine of not more than $100,000 for a first offense and not more than $250,000 for each subsequent offense and provide for referring incident to Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure for action and discipline.


The bill doesn’t allow for squat. Because women are already allowed to view their ultrasounds if they wish to do so. This bill is not about allowing. It’s about forcing and punishing and slut-shaming.

Indeed; a golden moment for local journalism. Then again, it wouldn’t really be that out of place in the Washington Post.

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[ 35 ] February 12, 2008 |

As bean notes, Hilzoy has a good response to Krugman

I have no doubt that most of the venom that Krugman sees comes from Obama supporters. He has, after all, been on an anti-Obama tear for several months now. But he is an economist, and economists should know enough about basic social science techniques to be able to ask: am I working from a genuinely random sample? In the case of, say, Krugman’s email, the answer would have to be: no.

…but then Melissa wrote

Someone has also emailed me private accounts of older female Hillary supporters who reported being intimidated, shouted down, and outright bullied by younger male Obama supporters while caucusing. (Shades of the virtual world, in which female Hillary supporters have been effectively run out of dKos.) There were also reports of male McCain supporters who showed up claiming the specific purpose of intimidating female Hillary supporters.

(And why not? When everyone’s free to take shots at Hillary without serious consequence, it doesn’t exactly send the message that anyone will care if her supporters are treated as fair game for sexist bullying, too.)

Put this in the context of the series of posts Kate and I have written recently, along with the associated comments threads and women bloggers who have linked approvingly to those posts, all of which speak to the very real, if near-totally ignored, phenomenon of women who are hesitant for various reasons to openly support Hillary, and the reality of caucuses requiring public support that the privacy of a voting booth does not—and only someone deeply engaged in willful ignorance could deny that sexism is playing some role in Obama’s caucus wins.

…which seems to me to be relevant to the question. At first I had Hilzoy’s reaction to Krugman’s column, which was that he was making an unwarranted generalization based on his own experience. I’ve also been wandering the comment threads at TalkLeft lately, which have their own share of venomous, unfair attacks on Obama. But after thinking and talking about it, I’m not so sure.

To start off with, this conversation concerns only intra-left attacks; Clinton clearly receives more venom from the right (and from the Chris Matthews-esque center) than Obama has ever received. Even on the left, though, I think that Krugman is partially correct; the problem is that I would categorize many of the venomous attacks on Clinton as “fair”, which makes me forget that they are, in fact, quite venomous. To be a bit more clear on that, I don’t fully agree with attacks on Clinton that are based on her pro-Iraq War vote, and I certainly don’t draw the conclusion that the vote is sufficient reason to vote against Clinton, but I do think that it’s a “fair” line of attack. As such, I tend to discount their venom. There really isn’t anything comparable on the other side, if only because Obama’s record is too short to inspire anger on the scale of Clinton’s war vote (or even elements of her husband’s presidency).

But of course “fair” and “unfair” are in the eye of the beholder, and in any case in an angry comment thread they tend to blend together pretty quickly, such that supporters (especially women) of Clinton seem to get subjected to much nastier attacks than supporters of Obama. As anyone who has paid attention to this blog must know, several recent comment threads have degenerated into nasty, venomous attacks (often launched by myself) against Clinton supporters and “apologists”. Again, I think that these attacks (the bulk of which have revolved around the delegate seating question) are “fair”, but it’s undeniable that more venom has been poured forth against Clinton than against Obama, or that a substantial portion of this venom has little to do with policy differences between the candidates.

But of course this only goes so far, and it doesn’t go as far as Krugman is suggesting. Rather, like Hilzoy argues, I think we’re far, far short of a civil war. I know that I’ll be happy to vote for Clinton in the general election (in fact, I preferred her to Edwards) if it comes to that, and I think that for a variety of reasons that most potential Democratic voters feel the same way. Of course, things could change over the next four months; it could get much nastier than it is right now, especially if the convention leaves one side or the other believing that they’ve been unfairly treated. But I’d say that it’s quite premature to suggest that the debate is going to be dangerous in an electoral sense.

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On Krugman

[ 27 ] February 11, 2008 |

What hilzoy said.

What is up with Paul Krugman? It’s not even just that he has some sort of middle school personal nit to pick with Barack Obama. It’s that…aren’t there more important things for him to be talking about right now? And, even if there weren’t, does he (or any Hillary Clinton supporter, really) want to get into a tit-for-tat in terms of whose campaign and proxies have been meaner? I think not.

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Worst American Birthdays, Vol. 41

[ 17 ] February 11, 2008 |

Nearly 200 years ago, on 11 February 1812, free white child named Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born on a nondescript Georgia farm.

He was a frail, sickly boy whose weight never exceeded a hundred pounds, even as an adult. Born into slavery, a child like Stephens would have spent his life dropping seeds and gathering manure chips; as a part of the master race, however, even a common farmer’s son might look forward to a world beyond the cornrows. Stephens’ knowledge of the Bible — a book from which slavery’s advocates would draw affirmation and reassurance — earned him a scholarship to the University of Georgia, where he studied until his graduation in 1832.

After a successful career as a lawyer, Stephens served his white Georgian brethren as a member of the US House of Representatives from 1843 to 1859. A Whig by party affiliation, Stephens’ tenure in the Congress coincided with one of the most ferocious periods of American political history. In the wake of the Mexican War (which Stephens opposed along with most of his fellow Whigs), both major parties were eventually torn in half over the question of extending slavery into the new territories. Stephens, who by this point owned more than two dozen men and women, supported the rights of slaveholders to bring their property anywhere in the United States. Thus, he supported most of the 1850 compromise, which opened most of the western territories to slavery; he voted for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which overturned the Missouri Compromise and turned the region into a gangland; and he celebrated the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which asserted that the Federal government could do nothing (short of a Constitutional amendment) to interfere with slavery.

Satisfied that white rights to human property had been secured forever, Stephens retired from the Senate in 1859. When Lincoln swept the free states in 1860 and won the presidency for the Republican party, Stephens — returning quickly to public life — failed to persuade most of his peers in Georgia from breaking away from the Union; unable to steer the hard core secessionists away from the cliff, he nevertheless decided to join them. On his 49th birthday, Alexander Stephens took the oath of office as the Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

A little over a month later, Stephens delivered an address in Savannah that came to be known as the “Cornerstone Speech.” Enumerating the differences between the confederacy and the United States, the Confederate vice president announced that the nation’s founders had been wrong to view slavery as a “necessary evil” and that believers in unversal human equality were mistaken. Instead, Stephens explained that black inferiority and subordination were merely the expression of a “great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” The Confederacy, therefore, lay closer to nature than any government in human history.

With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material — the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner” — the real “corner-stone” — in our new edifice.

Though Stephens could not imagine any outcome but Southern victory, the Confederacy was obliterated within four years. After spending five months in prison, Stephens resumed his political career. In 1873, he returned to the Congress as a Democrat and served for nearly ten years in the House before ending his life with a brief stint in the Georgia governor’s office.

Although the cornerstone of Stephens’ ideal republic did not survive in the form of the Confederacy, he would have been pleased to know that within a decade after his passing, the principle of “negro” subordination had been reasserted throughout the land.

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