Wednesday, November 28, 2007
At first glance this looks to be significant news, deserving of prominent display. After all, it would represent a roughly 10-point slide by the presumed Democratic front-runner in a very short span of time.
However, what AZAce didn't mention (and I suspect simply missed, because it isn't noted until you get to the small text all the way at the bottom - I missed in on my first fast read-through) is that this latest poll is not a traditional phone poll, as all the prior surveys Zogby cites were, but instead an online interactive poll. This changes things considerably.
First, there are clearly some self-selection issues with online polling (old folks, poor, etc., are less likely to vote in it). This can be adjusted for with proper weighting, but it does take more care.
Second, Zogby's interactive polls do not, shall we say, have the best reputation for accuracy. In general, they have been shown to be far less accurate in predicting actual outcome margins than traditional phone polls.
Third, a more traditional poll done by Gallup about 10 days earlier showed Clinton with a small, but steady, lead on all Republican candidates.
Given the result of the Gallup poll is entirely consistent with across-the-board trends over the last several months, while the Zogby interactive poll represents a dramatic break from those trends, it might be best to wait for a few more sets of polling data to come in and confirm the Zogby result before concluding the entire dynamic of the race has suddenly shifted.
If I were to place a bet, it would be that the Gallup poll will be found to be consistent, and the Zogby results an outlier.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I wasn't aware any positions within our government were alloted by religious belief (or lack thereof - atheists will want their seats in the cabinet too), and in fact I thought the Constitution explicitly prohibits such calculus (although apparently the US Attorney General's office didn't get the memo).
Still, leaving aside such trivial items as our nation's founding document, as well as the fact Republicans are allegedly against the used of quotas in hiring, school admissions, etc., one could certainly make a pretty strong case, based on the fact that only about 1.4% of the US self-identifies as Mormon, that one "cannot see that a Presidential position would be justified" for Romney, based on the percentage of Mormons in the US.
Not surprisingly, this past summers debate on how to deal with immigrants, legal or otherwise, inspired a number of individuals to turn in their citizenship applications in hopes of
becoming citizens in time to vote in next year's elections. However, despite a large increase in the application fees, an increase allegedly intended to help develop the necessary infrastructure to speed the process along, new applicants are being told the backlog for processing is now reaching 16 to 18 months.
For those who are to lazy to count, the elections are less than 12 months away.
As the linked piece notes, this isn't a backlog due to visa limits or any other issue. This is simply a matter of not having enough people on hand to deal with the influx. Once again our "corporate administration" proves its core competency is incompetence.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Apparently "buying elections" is now official republican policy.
The linked articles discusses the ramifications of the difficulties the RNCC is having in raising funds for the 2008 races, where it currently finds itself at a roughly 12.5-1 disadvantage in cash on hand compared to the DNCC. The discrepancy is especially start when compared to the vast advantage in funds the RNCC had is past years, even 2006.
Among those ramifications is Republicans are actively seeking candidates who can "self-finance" their campaigns, without help (or, at least, much help) from the party fund raising institutions.
That lack of funding is a real issue when looking at the 2008 campaign map, where 17 Republicans have already retired or announced plans to not run for re-election next year, with more such announcements on the way. That's a lot of open seats to defend without much money to do it, not to mention some number of incumbent candidates who will find themselves in hotly contested elections, and it won't leave a whole lot, if any, left over to challenge sitting Democratic incumbents, no matter how new or how vulnerable they might seem.
If this guy decides to run, he might want to save his pennies or win the lottery ... or both.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Midway through the article comes this:
On Tuesday, senior aides to Mr. Bush said he drove the experiments by holding his moral ground.
“This is very much in accord with the president’s vision from the get-go,” said Karl Zinsmeister, a domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush who kept the president apprised of the work. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the president’s drawing of lines on cloning and embryo use was a positive factor in making this come to fruition.”
Of course, this completely overlooks two points:
1. While the recent announcement was a joint one between teams from Japan and Wisconsin, it is in fact the Japanese team which has been the primary moving force in this line of research. It was their seminal announcement last year of a method which worked in mice that both teams built on to apply to human cells.
Bush's views and policies had nothing whatsoever to do with the Japanese research.
2. These developments would have been entirely impossible without initial research with actual embryonic stem cells. You can't create a method for developing cells with the same properties as embryonic stem cells unless you actually know what those properties are.
Bush's policies have done nothing whatsoever to promote research of pluripotent stem cells in this country, much to hinder it. There is a reason the leading research in this field comes primarily from Japan and South Korea.
Sadly, there is nothing unusual in this President taking credit for accomplishments he had nothing to do with, or weren't complete. "Mission Accomplished" anyone?
Soooo ... lets say, hypothetically, Giffords were to introduce some piece of legislation to help address this issue (a special investigative unit, extra penalties/fines, whatever) ... anyone care to wager just how much time would pass before the first conservative blog had a post up citing it as evidence she was "anti-business"?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
As noted at the link, Dem Congressman Jason Altmire has already introduced legislation to prevent this practice, which should never have occurred in the first place. I'm sure by challenging the army on this, he will shortly beheld up as yet another Democrat who "doesn't support the troops".
After all, once they are severely wounded and can't hold a gun or take a bullet anymore they're no longer "troops" but civilians, so Conservatives don't feel the need to pretend to care about them anymore.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Well, he doesn't go quite that far. In making his case, however, he cites the fact she supported the resolution by Dennis Kucinich to impeach Dick Cheney last week as an example of an "extremist" position.
Polling results from just this month indicate 43% of voters feel Cheney should be impeached. A further 9% feel he has committed impeachable offenses, but should not be impeached. Let's see ... 43+9 = 52. Hey, what do you know - a majority of voters in this country think Cheney has committed impeachable offenses. For the record, that's far more than ever felt that way about Clinton, which didn't stop Republicans from, you know, actually impeaching him.
In all fairness, TR was against impeaching Clinton, so he's consistent at least.
However, this does bring up the matter of what qualifies as "extremist". I mean, when your position is actually in line with the majority view it certainly can't be labeled as "extreme", but must, at least, be labeled as "mainstream". I don't see how this can even be quibbled with, debated, or even "agree to disagree" - when your view is the majority view, labeling it "extreme" is simply ... well ... wrong.
Still, is there some metric to be applied? Without any real thought at all, it seems to me that I tend to (unconsciously) use the following metrics:
If there is a matter where one position garners more than 50% support, then any view which has less than 25% support is "extreme". Any view with less than 10% support is "fringe".
That seems pretty crude, though, and I am sure if I thought about it long enough I could come up with counter-examples from my past which disprove it. It does seem like an accurate rough guide to my thought process, though.
In the end, I may disagree with TR's views regarding Cheney impeachment, but his opinion is, by no means, extremist. After all, 48% of voters don't think Cheney should be impeached.
This is a great step forward as, if the approach is ultimately found to be successful, it removes any real ethical concern to embryonic stem cell research.
Still, it unsurprisingly a spawn of ignorant posts and associated comments from certain parts of the blogosphere such as this one.
The author, who links to the same Time piece, is wrong in her very first sentence: "And once again, the news has nothing to do with embryonic stem cell research:"
I fact, the breakthrough has everything to do with embryonic stem cell research. The two groups are claiming to be able to create cells with the same properties as embryonic stem cells, just via a method which uses skin cells as the starting point rather than blastocysts.
The comment that really gets to me though, is the statement (oft-repeated by those opposed to embryonic stem cell research) "... to date, there have been no “cures” developed on the embryonic stem cell research front. Not a single one."
She's correct of course, but is intentionally obfuscating the matter by not discussing why there are no cures. It's a straw man claim. She knows that, she just doesn't care, which is generally true of most any pundit who makes a similar statement.
Cures or treatments don't just magically appear, they are developed over the span of years. It's been less than ten years (as a comparison, research in adult stem cells has been going on for decades, since the early 60's) since the seminal paper describing how embryonic stem cells could be isolated and developed (and thus viable for research purposes) was written (1998).
After that, you have to do the initial basic research and get it published and reviewed. Then you need to get approval for animal trials, get those results analyzed and published, then apply for permission for human trials, do those, analyze and publish again ... and only then, if the results seem promising, can you actually talk about developing a formal cure or treatment approach.
This is a 12-15 year process minimum. We're in year nine. It's like asking a 12-year-old why they haven't finished their college degree yet. Saying they haven't finished their degree may be factually true, but lies by inferring it's a failure on their part rather than just a function of the process.
In comments to that same post, some moron says: "Now we have one less reason to kill babies. Expect the leftards to get angry."
No baby has ever been killed to further embryonic stem cell research. Some number of embryos have been destroyed .... however, those embryos were going to be destroyed anyway, stem cell research or no. The embryos used for these purposes were among those headed for the incinerator. Even if one is among those who think a simple blastocyst is a human being, it doesn't change the fact those blastocysts were to be destroyed with or without stem cell research being involved. That being the case, what possible rational argument can be made against their destruction possibly being used to generate some good in the end?
Monday, November 19, 2007
In discussing the various factors involved, the 11th paragraph begins: "Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, has ordered his militiamen to stand down."
If one only read this article, one might think this was a recent development. As in, "things are going sooooooo well, even al-Sadr thought it was safe enough to stand down his militia."
One would be wrong. In fact, al-Sadr called for the militia stand down at the end of August.
Let's connect some dots. The surge began in January of this year. Throughout the year, as US troops levels increased there was no indication they were having any clear effect in decreasing violence. Each month, US casualties were higher than the corresponding month in 2006 (which was already a high-casualty year). As late as August, Iraqi civilian casualties were high, but September saw a significant drop, which apparently continued last month.
Through the summer there were comments about the lethality of explosively formed penetrators, supposedly provided by Iran ... which most certainly was not providing them to primarily Sunni groups, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, but rather to Shi'ite organizations, such as, just to pick a random example, al-Sadr's militia brigades.
So which is the bigger factor, the surge or al-Sadr's proclamation? There will, of course, be a spate of articles, talking heads comments, blog posts, etc., which claim the former, but the numbers don't bear that out. The surge occurred over a period of months during which violence and casualties were extremely high. Al-Sadr opens his mouth, and immediately violence and casualties drop spectacularly.
Sometimes the timely words of a self-interested lunatic mean more than a few 10's of thousands of American soldiers. Unfortunately, he could open his mouth again and reverse the trend nearly as quickly.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
* * *
As part of the same rambling conversation, my friend mentioned the electricity situation in Gaza. For those who are unaware, an Israeli air strike in the summer of 2006 knocked out the only power plant within the Gaza strip. Since then, Gaza has been largely reliant on fuel for generators and Israeli sources for its electricity.
However, fuel supplies are running dry, and the Israeli government recently indicated it planned to stop sending electricity to Gaza, although those plans were at least temporarily placed on hold last week by a ruling from Israel's Supreme Court.
"It's not as simple as not having lights or air conditioners," my friend said. "It's all the things you never think of, you take for granted. People in hospitals will die. Medicine which needs refrigeration will spoil. Almost all of the water in Gaza comes from the ocean. Without electricity, the desalination plant can't run, there will be no water."
She also discussed her frustrations with the situation.
She felt she had been in her position long enough she was no longer effective in it - that as she became acclimated to the day-to-day problems thrown in her way they no longer outraged her, and without that outrage her effectiveness decreased.
She gave an example of a colleague of hers arriving recently in Jerusalem, and on arrival being asked why he was there. As soon as he mentioned he hoped to work to further peace between Israelis and Palestinians he was sent back to the US and told he was not welcome to return for a 10-year period.
"When I first began, I'd have been furious," she said. "This time, I just divied up the extra work among everyone and we all continued on."
She talked about the difficulties of making treks to Gaza. Israel doesn't allow people to cross into Gaza unless they have some powerful reason for doing so, such as overseeing what money a group has sent to Gaza is being spent on. To go on a certain day she has to apply long in advance to be placed on a list. On the specified day she has to arrive at the checkpoint and go through a two-hour process to get clearance to pass through, and a similar process coming back. Any approval is only for a single day, so just getting through the border takes up a big chunk of your allotted time.
She discussed how blase she had become about having guns pointed at her. I've had guns pointed at me a handful of times in my life, and can vividly recall each of them. She clearly has lost count.
"I think I can do one more year, then it will be time to move on to another lost cause," she told me. "Maybe immigration issues here."
I'm of two minds about this. In the abstract, my friend is exactly the person I would want in Jerusalem working on such matters. She is bright, caring, driven, tactful, trustworthy, dedicated ... name a trait you would want in an individual working on the ground to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and she has it in spades. I can't think of anyone else I would prefer in that position ... in the abstract.
In reality, she's my friend, and I'll be glad when she and her family are back in the states, and she (hopefully) no longer has guns pointed at her on a regular basis.
* * *
In part I my friend mentioned her belief that, if elections were held again Palestinians would never vote for Hamas, but Hamas will never allow more elections because they also know they would lose. Certainly, events like this just support that view.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
There is some other interesting stuff in there - supposedly everyone likes classical music, which helps explain why there are so many classical stations on FM radio.
Unfortunately, other than the overview on the linked page above and the press release the page links to, there is nothing more about the data underling the conclusions.
However, the page does provide a link to this PDF file which provides some interesting information about the demographics involved in the study. In particular, I found the following through-provoking:
* It's within the margin of error, but more moderates agreed with the statement "Security is more important than liberties" than agreed with "Liberties are more important than security".
* I was similarly surprised to see most moderates agreed with the statement "The American Dream is for those who help themselves".
* I knew "An abortion is a private decision between a woman and her doctor" would be favored over "Abortion is murder", but not by such crushing margins. Even 25% of conservatives agree with the former statement.
* I was surprised at the margin by which moderates favored the statement "Government it too involved in regulating morality".
* I was shocked to see moderates favor privatizing social security by a 5% margin.
* I was shocked and dismayed to see 61% of moderates favored "It's important to teach evolution side-by-side with other theories on the origin of man".
* Conservatives continue to skew older.
Anyhow, I suspect just about anyone can find something which will surprise them in the demographic data. It's worth spending a little time looking through.
She is married to an Israeli citizen, lives in Israel, and has spent a number of years working for a Palestinian-affiliated group hoping to promote the peace process, so I was very interested in her take on the current state of affairs. Not surprisingly, she wasn't optimistic.
We discussed the elections which brought Hamas to power, and she had a different take on matters. I am presenting her comments as quotes, but they should be taken as reasonably accurate recollections of what she said, rather than a verbatim word-for-word recounting.
"(Tip O'Neill) said 'all politics are local', and that's what the election was. People, especially in their first election, don't consider foreign relations in casting their votes, they worry about who will do best filling the potholes in the roads outside their homes."
"They knew Fatah was corrupt, they knew what Fatah was, they knew Fatah left the potholes. They'd had years of Fatah. They hoped Hamas might do more to make things better locally. They didn't think of the election, their first election ever, as a referendum, on their foreign policy views."
"Now, if there were a vote again, and Hamas won again, then I think the international community would have a legitimate concern ... but if an election were held again, Hamas would never win. Which is why Hamas won't allow more elections."
I have to confess, I hadn't considered the notion the Palestinians wouldn't realize the international significance of their choice when casting their votes ... and I still think, on some level, most of them were aware of it. The stated goals of Hamas are not exactly secret. Still, faced with two bad choices between:
* A corrupt group with some international legitimacy, or
* A (possibly) less corrupt group which has made serious efforts to help local citizens, but which had little (if any) international legitimacy,
it's not so unreasonable they might have opted for the devil they didn't know and hoped for the best.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
How desperate must party feel about it's chances to place it's best hope not on the strength of its own candidates but rather on the perceived lack of viability of the leading opposition candidate - "Yeah, all our choices suck, but if you nominate Hillary we can still win! Boo-Ya!"
Still, two years ago they might have been right. These days, not so much.
You still hear pundits, on TV, in the newspaper and in the blogosphere harping on "Hillary's negatives", how high they are, how they make her unelectable, etc., completely ignoring clear trends showing those numbers dropping steadily over the last 12 to 18 months.
In hypothetical head-to-head matchups as far back as 2005, McCain led Clinton 43-41 Quinnipiac University poll. Last December, McCain led 50-36 according to Bloomberg. In a Dec. 2004 Quinnipiac University poll, Giuliani led Clinton 45-43. Last April, Giuliani led 48-42 via Bloomberg.
In polling taken the middle of last month, Bloomberg shows Clinton leading Giuliani 47-41, leading McCain 48-38.
In fact, a CNN poll from last week shows Hillary with the second lowest set of negatives, only Barack Obama scoring lower by one percentage point. Every major Republican candidate scores higher - Giuliani 1% more, McCain 6% more, Thompson 13% more, Romney 16% more.
The next time we here a TV talking head discussing, say, the teeming masses of John McCain haters who will turn out to vote against him should he win the Republican nomination next year will be the first time we hear about it.
Conservatives may chant their mantra as much as they like, they can close their eyes and _wish_ with all their hearts that what they hope for turns out to be true ... but the actual data doesn't care about what Republicans hope for, and the data indicates Republicans might want to look for something else to pin their hopes on.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
TR provides a link to the full audio, and summarizes Barnes' case with the following four points:
- Hispanics – instead of alienating the Haispanic vote by the recent stance on illegal immigration, the Republicans must hit the issue at hand instead of anti-Hispanic rhetoric. The Republicans need to explain the cause and effect of illegal immigration & stay off the race issue.
- Voter turnout – get out the vote & not let the base & the middle stay home. The Dems have the Soros money & the labor union workforce that is paid to GOTV, so the Republicans need to rally the troops. Hillary may do this for the GOP.
- Ohio – no President has won without Ohio. Not much we can do here from Southern AZ, but support candidates that may have great machines that could use the cash.
- Bush – Bush's approval ratings are around 35% & no party that had a sitting president with such low numbers has won the presidency. However, some presidents with high numbers have not delivered as well (Clinton & Ike).
Point 4 is incoherent - somehow the fact past sitting Presidents with high approval ratings couldn't help their party maintain control of the White House is supposed to provide optimism for a party who's leading figure possesses record-setting negatives? Huh?
Barnes is also simply wrong regarding Ohio. As just one example, Nixon won Ohio by about seven points in the 1964 campaign, but Kennedy won the election. In a more general sense, it is certainly true Ohio is likely to be a key battleground state in next year's election, but it's perfectly feasible to draw up reasonable scenarios where either party loses Ohio but still wins the election.
I agree with Barnes as to the importance to the GOP of finding some means to mend its deteriorating image among Hispanics, but I am of the opinion it will be unable to do so in time for the 2008 election. Continued bitterness over immigration policy, or vetoing of new SCHIP legislation will help ensure that. Maybe by 2010.
Finally, no matter how he tries to slice it the Republicans have had the edge in GOTV operations for most of the past two decades. Analysts from both parties have cited this advantage as being key reasons for Bush victories in both 2000 and 2004. Rove was renowned for his ability to organize in this realm, it was a large part of his purported "genius". Democrats showed in 2006 they were narrowing the gap again, but they won't close it entirely by next year.
Barnes also gets in a shot at Clinton, but here too he seems to be grasping at straws. Of course, he's not the only one who is pinning his hopes for Republican victory on an "anti-Hillary" movement rather than any actual strength of the potential Republican nominee, but I think I will save that topic to post tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Bush reached an unwelcome record. By 64%-31%, Americans disapprove of the job he is doing. For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50% say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48%, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.
Considering the original subpoenas Bolton and Miers refused to comply with were issued last summer, and the committee voted to find both in contempt on July 25, it can hardly be said matters have been rushing to a head. Still, I guess it took a while to scribe the 862-page document forwarded to the full House describing why the committee feels the two need to be charged.
Bolton and Miers each cited Executive Privilege in refusing to comply with the subpoenas. I am not a lawyer, but it does seem their case is very weak:
* The Supreme Court has found the privilege is "not absolute".
* Bill Clinton, as President, had his privilege claims overturned by the court and was forced to testify over a matter (the Lewinsky affair) which was of far less significance to the national well-being than concerns of politicization of the U.S. Attorney General's office.
* It would seem in order to assert such privilege one must, at a minimum, appear. Some questions asked may clearly not be covered by the privilege claim, in which case Bolton and Miers would be expected to answer.
I would certainly expect the full House to vote in favor of bringing contempt charges against both Bolton and Miers on a straight party-line vote ... at which point it would be the responsibility of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colombia to prosecute the case. Hmmmm ... a Bush-administration attorney responsible for prosecuting contempt charges against two former Bush aides in a matter concerning Bush's politicization of the AG department. Anyone want to guess the odds of the case actually being prosecuted?
White House press secretary Dana Perino seemed insouciant in responding to reporter's questions on the matter yesterday afternoon, predicting "It won't go anywhere."
Of course it won't - she knows the fix is in.
Assuming this scenario plays out as expected, Dems should remember this in early 2009. If a Democrat wins the Presidency a year from now, the matter can always be revisited then - and should be.