Tag Archives: politics

Quote of the Day*

9 Apr

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that not a single one of our major institutions, within government or without, is capable of confronting this problem. And if we can’t, that’s rather the ballgame, isn’t it?

Charles P. Pierce on the “[The Worst Thing Obama Could Say On Climate Change.”](http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/The_Wrong_Thing_To_Say?src=soc_fcbks)

* No promises that my quote of the day will not actually be from today.

H/T to Gerry Canavan


Obama ’cause he’s the only adult left in the room.

9 May

I cast my absent voter ballot yesterday in the Montana Democratic Primary. Although I seriously considered writing in my boy John Edwards, I voted for Barak Obama. I did so in the vain hope that a strong victory in Montana would help to finally force Hilliary Clinton out of the race (something that should have happened two months ago when Obama's nomination became inevitable). While I remain highly skeptical of Obama's ability to make significant changes to the policy status quo and am uncomfortable with some of his policy proposals (no health care mandates!), my doubts about Hilliary are much greater.

Although she has the ability to throw an elbow or two to bring about significant policy changes, she appears to believe public policy is a tool to be used for political gain rather then to make positive changes in people's lives.  This belief is one that is shared by George W. Bush and it will prove to be the tragic legacy of his presidency.  If you don't understand what I mean, take a look at the two most significant policy changes under his belt, NCLB and Medicare Part D. Both have been complete policy disasters. Further, Bush and his cronies are so uninterested in the substance of public policy that our government has rivaled that of failed states in the sheer level of incompetence, corruption, and malevolence it has exhibited the past eight years.  When you don't care how government governs, it can't. While there is no way Hilliary could be as bad as George W or John McSame, especially with policy wonk Bill around, her pandering on the Gas Tax Holiday and her rejection of policy experts means Obama would make a better president.  He won't be a transformative president, but at least the grown ups will be in charge again.  After eight years of George Bush, that's still pretty transformative.

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Who is this Barak Obama? Or why I still lean towards Hillary.

19 Feb

Barak Obama is amazingly inspirational speaker and I think any voter under age thirty-five cannot help but be drawn to him when he speaks about change.  However, Senator Obama has not demonstrated an ability to transform his idealism into real policy change.  This really scares me because it reminds me of the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.  Why is that scary?  Because both were candidates who ran on inspiration and hope, yet proved to be ineffectual presidents who did little to advance the progressive cause while in office.  I am so scared, that I have felt a need to support Hillary Clinton since John Edwards dropped out.

Kennedy was an inspirational president who is remembered very fondly (especially given his tragic death), but who didn't actually accomplish any significant change during his short presidency. While it is arguable he might have advanced civil rights and other causes had he lived, most of the real work in the area of civil rights happened because of his Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson.  LBJ was a brass-knuckles legislative fighter who pushed civil rights legislation through Congress and made a stab at building his "Great Society." He could not have done any of this without be a realistic and partisan fighter.  In other words, being someone like Hilliary Clinton.

Carter, as the democratic candidate in 1976, offered a new direction in American politics after the disastrous presidency of Richard Nixon.  Indeed, when Carter secured the nomination that summer he lead Gerald Ford by 70-30 in opinion pools.  By election day, Carter and Ford were neck and neck.  A major reason Ford was able to close the gap was the GOP attack, "Who is this Jimmy Carter?"  By highlighting Carter's significant inexperience, the GOP was able to play off people's fears and set the stage for Ronald Reagan.  Barak Obama suffers from the same flaw, and it may also prove to be his Achille Heel as President.

Barack Obama is an amazing orator who can inspire, but he cannot move the football without someone who can throw a few body blows for him when the times comes.  JFK, in the same position, understood this and choose LBJ to be his running mate.  History demonstrated, tragically, that JFK needed LBJ but LBJ didn't need JFK.  Jimmy Carter, in the same position, did not choose a legislative pit-bull.  He chose Walter Mondale.  That was doubly disastrous for the Democrats (Rememebr 1984!)

The same principles that applied to JFK and LBK and the Carter and Mondale applies to Hilliary and Obama.  Obama will need someone like Hiliary to turn his ideals into reality.  Hilliary will not need a Barack Obama.  Since it is impossible to have the two on the same ticket, I would rather choose the candidate that historical precedent shows can enact significant policy change over the candidate just hasn't demonstrated an ability to do anything other than inspire devotion.  I'd rather that we have another Great Society that fails to live up to its full potential than four wasted years that give way to a new Reagen that will make progressive change impossible for another generation.  Since I honestly do not see any evidence that Obama understands this important fact, it is very hard for me to support him.  My vote won't much matter, but I'm sticking with Hillary.

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My kind of Fantasy

8 Sep

How nerdy is this?  My team is #1 in my Fantasy Congress League.  Thanks, Obama!

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Dutch Voters Turn to the Internets

22 Nov

If you thought voting was hard here, try voting in Netherlands where voters have to chose between 24 different parties.  Dutch voters seem to be understandably  confused and a large number are turning to the Internet and sites that match voter and party:

At one site, called Vote Matcher, users answer multiple-choice questions. Based on the results, the site then suggests which party best represents the user's views. Another site, Voting Compass, offers a variant: after offering choices on a range of political topics, it shows where the user fits in the political landscape.

Each of the sites, which opened a month ago, has reported almost three million visitors, a significant number in a country with 12 million eligible voters. Those figures do not count the results from 13 other similar sites.

The sudden popularity of the voting guides in this democratic nation of outspoken citizens not known as wallflowers in politics, has baffled even seasoned analysts. Could this be just another set of computer games, or is this serious soul-searching?

"I think it's both," said Andre Krouwel, a professor of political science at the Free University in Amsterdam, who designed the Voting Compass site. "We are taken aback by the large numbers. It seems that people seem unsure, that they are trying to get a handle on a panorama that has become more complex with the boom in new small parties."

National opinion polls appear to confirm the wavering of many voters.

In the latest polls, released Monday, almost one-third of the people questioned said they had not decided whom to vote for.

The big question in my mind is: Do these sites work?  This is scarily related to my dissertation which included an entire chapter on the accuracy of Dutch voters' vote choice.  They did pretty good, scoring much higher than British or American voters.

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I was wondering why that was

15 Jun

Despite what my wife and the Social Security Administration might tell you, I worked very hard between 2001-2005 as a graduate teaching assistant.  My wife just likes to tease me, but the SSA really does not consider me as gainfully employed for those four years.  The reason was that despite my drawing a decent salary as a TA, I did not pay any any payroll taxes.  As a consequence, I have not yet qualified for Social Security when I reach retirement age.  At first, I concluded that this was due to my being a state employee.  However, other people I knew who worked for state and local government, including my wife who worked for a different state, payed payroll taxes.  I did not know what was what until I came this blog entry.  It turns out that at one point state and local government could opt out of paying payroll taxes.  Some states, who opted out early one, still do not pay them.  Others have slowly been pulled in to the system either by choice or through changes to who was exempt.  The lesson:  If you want to avoid paying payroll taxes while you go to graduate school, attend school in Iowa.

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I hear yeah

25 May

This guy has had some real problems in his life:

A problem I've had come up again and again is the ability to explore a space bound by a Dirichlet prior with a Metropolis-type algorithm.

Link: Social Science Statistics Blog: Dirichlet Spaces and Metropolis Traces.

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