bookmark_borderI Blame The Discovery Channel

Even discounting for asshole poll respondents and people who like to get liberals all riled up (not mutually exclusive groups), these are scary poll numbers. Demonic possession? Ghosts? These are not things a rational, developed society believes.

Tim Minchin put it best: “The appropriate reaction to people who believe in […the supernatural…] is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.”

With attitudes like these and what Paul Krugman described last weekend, we aren’t in danger of becoming Greece; we’re in danger of becoming Argentina.

bookmark_borderThe Afghanistan of GOP Campaigns

Every GOP Presidential candidate since 1992 has tried to kick the football:

In 2008, John McCain visited Pennsylvania the Sunday before the election, but Obama won the state.

In 2004, George W. Bush visited Pennsylvania the day before the election, but John Kerry won the state.

In 1996, Bob Dole visited Pennsylvania the Friday before the election, but Bill Clinton won the state.

In 1992, George H.W. Bush visited Pennsylvania the day of the election, but Bill Clinton won the state.

Pennsylvania is where GOP candidates go when they get desperate. We always leave them disappointed.

bookmark_borderRomney Could Win Florida?

Romney could win Florida. Let that sink in a bit. The Republican candidate, whose running mate advocates turning Medicare into a voucher system, is essentially tied with President Obama in Florida. How? He’s closed the gap on Medicare.

It is easy to see how.

I posit that older Americans are more selfish than the general population. Romney’s divide-and-conquer plan – promising that his drastic changes to medicare will only hurt those under age 55 – reassures older voters that they can continue with their excellent healthcare. This essentially takes Medicare off the table as an issue. They’re then free to vote their other concerns (and prejudices).

I’d like to think today’s 55-plus crowd would care enough about their children and grandchildren to consider the impact of changes in Federal earned benefit programs on the next generation, but they’ll mostly be dead and gone by the time the rest of us are ready to collect. Sadly, pulling up the ladder behind you is something of a dark and deadly tradition. These poll numbers unfortunately bear out my thesis: older Americans are a selfish lot.

bookmark_borderWe’re All The Middle Class Now

In a long piece in today’s The Guardian (UK), Gary Younge explores a topic near and dear to our heart here at MPH: why do working class voters support Republican candidates?

The key point is buried a third of the way in:

Americans are particularly reluctant to describe themselves as even working class let alone poor. A Pew survey in 2008 revealed that 91% believe they are either middle class, upper-middle class or lower-middle class. Relatively few claim to be working class or upper class, intimating more of a cultural aspiration than an economic relationship. Amy Pezzani, the executive director of the Larimer county food bank in Colorado, explained that politicians are reluctant to refer to “the poor” and “poverty” because it turns low-income voters off. “People who find themselves in these situations don’t want to consider themselves poor. They’re more likely to refer to themselves as the ‘struggling middle class’.

We still want and need to believe in the American Dream. Social mobility is the reason many of us get up in the morning. The dream of a better life is still attainable, or so we tell ourselves. But do we even know how the world works anymore? The quintessential anecdote about this disconnect is the senior citizen yelling at the legislator in a town hall, demanding that the legislator “keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

bookmark_borderFine! Don’t take my advice!

Earlier today I proposed a plan for the Romney/Ryan campaign: donate to the Red Cross.

Specifically, I suggested they pull their advertising for the remainder of the week and donate their entire advertising budget to the Red Cross. Call on the SuperPACs to do the same, and challenge the Obama/Biden canpaign to follow suit. I didn’t expect them to do it, but they’re clearly flailing around, looking for a way to capitalize on Sandy politically. So why not get some good publicity the old-fashioned way: buy it?

Romney has a huge hole to dig himself out of. He’s on record advocating the privatization of FEMA:

And his performance as Governor of Massachusetts during the Green River flood in 2005 was less than stellar..

Instead, the R/R camp has done the opposite. They’ve doubled down on the “Jeep is leaving Ohio for China” lie Romney first voiced in a speech and later made into an ad. They’re spending $100k to run a radio version of it in the Toledo market.

It is so bad, Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne felt compelled to respond.

They’re also starting to air commercials attacking Obama for the closure of coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania:

Here in PA, we have a love/hate relationship with coal. The mines have been good to us employment-wise, and the power plants have been a cheap source of electricity for decades, but we also have a history of mine fires, Black Lung, and acid rain.* Fortunately, the recent boom in natural gas is allowing us to replace our coal-fired electricity generation capacity with cleaner-burning natural gas plants.

Like I said, I never expected R/R to take my advice. But just about anything would be better than this: Mitt Romney attends storm relief event. In Ohio. Sponsored by his campaign. You can’t make this stuff up!

And who is coming out looking the best in all of this? Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey. By all accounts, he’s acquitted himself quite well in the disaster. He’s praised the Federal response in general, and President Obama’s hands-on approach in particular. And he rejected the opportunity to have a photo op with Romney. (I suspect he can smell the stench of defeat on the R/R campaign and is already thinking about 2016.)

*Our acid rain problem was attributed to plants upwind from us. The stuff we burn comes back down in New England.

bookmark_borderAnd Then There Were None!

We made it, people! The 2012 Presidential Debate Death March is over! Congratulations on surviving your various drinking games, meme onslaughts, and spin room prevarications! (There will be a moment of silence at the end of this article for those who didn’t make it to the end, the lightweights.)

I think we saw one Commander-in-Chief on the stage last night. I was looking for consistency from Governor Romney, and I didn’t get it. I don’t expect him to hold the same views he’s had all his adult life, or even for the six years he’s been running for President. I recognize that people can and do change. They learn new things. Circumstances change, and we should allow for that without automatically labeling someone a “flip-flopper.” Governor Romney, unfortunately, couldn’t remain consistent through the ninety minutes he appeared on stage last night.

Not to denigrate the mentally ill, but his positions were positively schizophrenic. On one issue, he seemed eager to reassure the public he wasn’t afraid to strike first, hard, and with vigor. On others, he was trying to project calm and reasoned reflection before acting. Neither position was convincing, and I think he pretty much reversed when each was appropriate.

A lot of political hay (and memeage) will be made of the “horses and bayonets” moment, but I don’t think it was that significant. Very few voters – outside the shipyards of Virginia – are going to make their decision on how many ships the government procures over the next four years. That being said, it was a devastating take-down of an unprepared candidate by a Commander-in-Chief who clearly knows his stuff.

I was hesitant about Obama in 2008. I wasn’t sure he was ready to be President, primarily for foreign policy reasons. I’m glad to say he’s proven me wrong. I disagree with about 75%-80% of his foreign policy positions, but I can’t deny that he knows what he’s doing and that he has a vision for the future of the world and America’s role in it. I wish I could say the same about Romney. Perhaps he will grow into it, but on balance I’m not willing to take that chance.

All in all, it was a good debate. Nowhere near as good as the second one, which really was one for the ages, but still a good example of the genre. Onward to November 6th!

[insert moment of silence here]

bookmark_borderA Failed Experiment

Timothy B. Lee has a feature article up at Ars Technica today on the state of e-voting in America. It isn’t pretty.

A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.

Voter-verifiable ballot advocates may have won most of the battles, but they’re in danger of losing the war. The reason? There was plenty of money under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help counties and municipalities buy electronic voting machines, but there isn’t any money available to help those that want to go back to more secure voting systems.

bookmark_borderConspicuous in Their Absence

I didn’t realize it earlier, but the topics for tonight will be:

* America’s role in the world
* Our longest war – Afghanistan and Pakistan
* Red Lines – Israel and Iran
* The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – I
* The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – II
* The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

Conspicuously absent will be:

1) The eurozone crisis
2) Latin America
3) Russia
4) Africa
5) Foreign economic policy
6) India
7) North Korea

I really doubt this thing moves beyond the Middle East (specifically: Libya and Iran/Israel) and a smattering of “he said/he did” saber-rattling on China.
Expect no or very little mention of any of the following: the incipient civil war in Syria; extrajudicial execution via drone strikes pretty much everywhere; any discussion about Israel and the Palestinians that doesn’t involve what time of day it’d be best to nuke Iran; and the ever-absent global threat of climate change.

What don’t you expect to come up tonight?

bookmark_borderThe Most Important Issue

The Most Important Foreign Policy Issue hasn’t been discussed in the debates. And odds are it won’t be mentioned tonight.

Climate change continues to be the single most important, most pressing, and most urgent foreign policy issue facing the United States. A report out today from reinsurance company Munich Re reinforces this fact. Munich RE have no reason to lie about the details. They’re the ones who are left footing the bill as our coastal cities wash away and our inland cities blow away.

From the press release:

…[T]he study now provides new evidence for the emerging impact of climate change. For thunderstorm-related losses the analysis reveals increasing volatility and a significant long-term upward trend in the normalized figures over the last 40 years. These figures have been adjusted to account for factors such as increasing values, population growth and inflation. A detailed analysis of the time series indicates that the observed changes closely match the pattern of change in meteorological conditions necessary for the formation of large thunderstorm cells. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers. The climatic changes detected are in line with the modelled changes due to human-made climate change.

There is next to no chance climate change will come up in tonight’s third and final 2012 Presidential debate, and we will be all the poorer for its absence.

Even David Brooks agrees with me.

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