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Bobby Jindal and Why I’m Not Worried about 2012

February 25th, 2009

Last night President Obama gave a speech to a joint session of Congress on the economy. It was great. I won’t bore you with why it was great… if you saw it, you already know that, if you didn’t watch it. Also, like, every political pundit and poll says it was great too. So, like, yeah… it was great.

But for those who hung on for a few minutes after the President’s speech you got the opportunity to see the great Republican hope give their… rebuttal? refutation? response? It was, in my political opinion, a train wreck. On this point I am also not alone. Bobby Jindal is the Republican Governor of Louisiana and seen by many as the Republican’s best shot at retaking the White House in 2012. Which isn’t saying much to begin with. But, if this is the best they’ve got, well… I think the Democrats have nothing to fear in 2012. Read more…

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Washington State is Making a Comeback

February 23rd, 2009

Back in the late 70s Washington State had a powerhouse of a Senate delegation in the combined forces of Sen. Warren Magnuson and Sen. Henry Jackson. To quote wikipedia directly:

one of the most effective delegations in the history of the United States Senate in terms of “bringing home the bacon” for their home state. Washington State received nearly one sixth of public works appropriations, even though it ranked 23rd in population.

But just as Texas is in decline now, so too did Washington’s political clout wane. It was under a Speaker of the House from Washington State, Rep. Tom Foley that the Republican Revolution of 1994 took place, and since then Washington hasn’t had much going for it on the national scene. Read more…

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Economic Adjustment

February 17th, 2009

For the past several months, Sarah has been making noise everytime a new labor statistic comes out showing new job loses… and every time I reminder her to look at the unemployment levels from 1982, numbers we still haven’t exceeded. My argument essentially boiled down to, “Yes, things are bad, but they have been much worse and this country is, if nothing else, a country of survivors.” I liked my argument for its simplicity and optimism. It seemed like the right thing to believe in the Obama era. Recently, I’m not so sure I’m buying it anymore… and it’s got me worried. Read more…

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Thoughts on Stimulus

February 9th, 2009

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has a piece in the Washington Post this morning entitled, Why I Support the Stimulus. Beside the rather boring title, I think — in general — I agree. There has been much machination about how the Obama administration failed to play this properly, but I think that’s wrong… both in function and form.

Functionally, this is a stimulus bill (though, I prefer the term recovery bill, not sure why that language isn’t used more frequently) whose primary purpose is to get the economy moving through a large scale injection of government spending. Period, full stop. It is not a green energy bill, or a universal health care bill, or an education reform bill. Those partisans who saw the stimulus as an opportunity to attach their personal pet project, regardless of how meretricious the idea might be, are guilty of the same sin as when the Republicans used September 11th to push through only tangentially related policy objectives through a hurried congressional approval process.

Specter, a moderate Republican, has joined with other Senate moderates to trim many of these programs. The folks over at Think Progress’ Wonk Room would have you believe the sky is falling and that these Senators oppose the programs they are either eliminating or reducing. But there is little evidence of that, and Specter admits that many of the programs being cut are “worthy in themselves.” But his point is that we have an appropriations process for this sort of thing, and with that process comes deliberation, transparency, and accountability. Just as anti-war activists were angered by the Bush Administration’s refusal to fund the Iraq War through the normal appropriations in an effort to hide the real cost, so too should we be angry when any other administration tries to go through the back door.

Which brings us to form. This isn’t a game! Do you hear me Nate Silver. Obama did not run — and he did not win — on the argument that he was going to get his way every time. He was elected on the premise that government is broken because we treat it like a game. There is this great story, which I can’t seem to find online now, that I first heard reported on the Daily Show. Leading up to the 2006 midterm elections, where the polls suggested the Democrats where going to seize power in the House (the Senate was still too close to call), a White House official was asked how Bush was going to work together with the new Democratic Committee Chairs. The official responded with a glib response about how, “we are playing this game to win it,” implying the Administration wasn’t going to entertain the idea that the Republicans would lose their majority. Then, in a moment of absolute political honesty, a reporter gave a follow up… “It isn’t a game. The American people want to know how you are going to govern.”

And the dude was absolutely right. I’ve been in politics, I know it’s easy to treat the whole thing like a game, with pieces you move around the board and objectives achieved. But this is real life, it has real consequences, and developing strategies based on the philosophy that this is a game, and not governing, is exactly what Obama ran against. He is governing, best he knows how, and helping forge a stimulus bill he believes will get America moving again. The rest of the Congress, they are governing too, in their own way and with their own priorities. But we shouldn’t treat this as a game, and we shouldn’t say anyone played anything right or wrong. It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about the our lives.

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A Bad Day for American Health Care Reform?

February 3rd, 2009

Today Sen. Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota, asked President Obama to withdraw his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services. I will admit that when Daschle was first nominated, I was very excited. I thought, here was a man who knows the Senate better than most, is a passionate advocate for change in health care, and may be the one guy who can shepherd universal health care through the Congress. I honestly don’t know how he would perform as an administrator, but you can solve that with a good Deputy Secretary. But this guy, this guy was going to make the politics happen.

However, I cannot agree with Sen. Kerry’s comment following today’s announcement.

I wish Tom Daschle had not decided to withdraw his nomination… While Tom’s decision is a reminder of his loyalty to President Obama and his determination not to be a distraction, this was no ordinary appointment and today is not a good day for the cause of health care reform.

With all due respect to Sen. Kerry, today is not the bad day for the cause of health care reform. The bad day was when Sen. Daschle, a man who served on the Finance Committee of the United State Senate (they write the tax code), failed in his basic obligation to pay his taxes. This isn’t the sort of difficult to understand tax situation, like with Sec. Geithner, this is an obvious case of either gross negligence or willful evasion.

If you had asked me before last year’s tax season, I might have had a different feeling. Last year I fretted extensively about my taxes because so much of my income was as an independent contractor. As I had failed to make quarterly installments, I had a significant tax burden to pay… and I had to save and scrimp for months to come up with the money by April 15. I didn’t have to do that — a lot of what I earned never got reported as 1099 income — but I reported it anyway because the law is clear. The law was equally clear for Sen. Daschle, as it is for rest American upper class who seems to be engaging in massive and widespread tax fraud. I wonder, how many people making over a million dollars annually in this country would pass through this kind of scrutiny? It sort of make sense, if you think about it… try and skim off as much off your taxes as you can and bet that if you do get caught, you’ll get the mess cleared up through lawyers. It’s a win-win… unless you are the average tax payer who can’t afford tax lawyers and whose only real option is to pay to the best of their ability and pray they aren’t audited.

Yes, I too wish Sen. Daschle could have served as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, but I wish even more that he had shown a basic level of respect to his fellow citizens and the law and shouldered his share of the burden, instead of trying to get away with tax evasion until suddenly it became a political issue.

It’s just like John Stewart said on the Daily Show…. “pay your f*cking taxes.”

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Frost/Nixon

January 26th, 2009

This afternoon Sarah and I took in a matinée at the local two screen cineplex, finally seeing Frost/Nixon. If you are a fan of political biographies, I highly recommend it. The movie centers around a series of interviews between David Frost, a British talk show personality, and Richard M. Nixon, the 37th President of the United States.

Two things really struck me about the movie…

First, what would it take for a modern day politician to agree to a series of interviews on such a broad range of subjects with no editorial control? Where are the interviews with Roland Regan, George H. W. Bush, or Bill Clinton? Sure, they have memoirs — tightly controller spin jobs designed to white-wash the record for the sake of legacy — but where is the inquisitor? Who forces our political leaders to see beyond their own self-image and face the facts of their administration? Say what you will about Richard Nixon, but it took guts to agree to that interview, and it showed a nature of his character you don’t often see.

Second, I think my young age takes me out of the target demo for this movie. Viewers are supposed to be rooting against Nixon, or at least rooting for his eventual admission… which is not to saw I wasn’t. But I found I was doing it more out of a desire for a NASCAR crash than for some sort of political reckoning. Perhaps if I were of the Watergate generation, I would feel an attachment… but Nixon was so long ago for me that the movie could have just as easily been about Ulysses S. Grant. Which begs the question: what will future generations think of our rage towards the Bush Administration?

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Reflections on the new Administration

January 21st, 2009

As I watch the Obamas dance in, what I am told, is their fifth ball of the evening, I can’t help but pen some thoughts on the new Administration and what it means to me. CNN reports a crowd of 2.2 million were on hand to see the speech in person and there were predictions that the TV viewership would surpass any other TV event in history. Polling indicates that President Obama enjoys higher approval ratings than any incoming President. Globally… well, all I can is my Aunt — my Aunt who lives in Nicaragua and has more or less dedicated her life to fighting U.S. policy in Latin America — is genuinely proud of her country’s President, and may even, one day, call him her President.

Obama is now at the Western Ball, which includes not only my home state of Washington, but my adopted state of California. Seems like a good time to think about what this all means for me. I already wrote a few words about transitioning from the Loyal Opposition to the Party in Power. But there are other personal implications. For example, this is the very first time I have voted for a winning presidential candidate. It’s also the first time I gave any serious money to a candidate… like, got fancy high donor letters thanking me sort of serious. It’s the first time I feel like I contributed, both morally and materially, to a campaign that mattered.

It’s also a great honor to know people who are preparing to join the White House staff. For the first time my generation is in a position to contribute in a very direct way to our nation. They may not be the most high level jobs ever, but they are in the halls of power and they begin the process of training to, one day, run the nation. My hat is off to them, for their sacrifice (those jobs don’t pay well, or offer much in the way of rest and relaxation) and for accepting the heavy burden that comes with being the future. I hope some day I can join them.

To the Administration as a whole, I have but a few words. I told one of my friends who is starting a new White House job that they will have the unique opportunity to make the world a better place, and not just in the metaphorical sense… they could actually go into the office in the morning, and thanks to their work, come out that evening the world would actually be a better place. After saying it, I realized I had transfered my unrealistic expectations of Obama onto his team… which I suppose is only natural, if a tad unfair.

My words then, are this… it’s okay to fail in meeting our soaring expectations. But it is not okay to fail alone. The government of America is powerful and can do great things, but the people of America are more powerful yet and we are your greatest resource. If you try to carry the burden alone, and fail, you will not only have squandered an opportunity, you will have turned against the ideals of the campaign you work for. Have enough humility to understand your limitations and seek the wisdom of your fellow countrymen as you seek to fulfill our greatest destiny.

With that I say, good luck America. We’ve done a great thing today but much remains to be done. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

probonogeek Personal, Politics

No Longer the Loyal Opposition

November 19th, 2008

Obama won… yay! But wait, wasn’t that like two weeks ago? Why am I just posting this now? Well, in part because I had wanted to wait until we had a solid electoral count against which I could compare my predictions, and silly Missouri is too close to call and the Obama campaign won’t just concede it, so folks who call things things are unwilling to put their ass on the line. Which is fine, except there are other things I want to write about, but not before my loyal opposition piece I’ve been writing in my head the past two weeks. So, here we are…

First, predictions. Let us first assume that Obama will not win Missouri, because the vote count is heading that way and it hasn’t changed since election night. Which gives McCain 173 electoral votes and Obama a whopping 365. I had predicted a 355/183 split, so I was only off by 10 votes… also known as Indiana. Silly Lake County broke more for Obama then I had expected. It was actually very surreal, after Ohio was called for Obama and the race was essentially over, that I started rooting for McCain in Indiana, because that was the one state that my prediction was heading the wrong direction. But, I suppose if I have to be wrong on a state, I prefer to be wrong in the way that gets more votes for my guy. Also, bonus points for having called the electoral vote coming out of Omaha, Nebraska for Obama.

Next, a little ethnographic film about that fateful moment when the polls on the west coast closed and the election was called.

Yes, that’s me in the white shirt and the American Flag tie. Exact same outfit as 2004. I think we have the start of a good little tradition.

And now, a special comment. I realized the day after the election that my relationship with my government had radically changed. Since my political inception, there has either been a Republican President or a Republican Congress… and for five years we had both! (And one crazy year we had a Republican President and a Republican House with a Democratic Senate.) This is the first time when my party is truly, and unapologetically in power.

That really changes how you relate to what’s going on in Washington. Until now, if something bad happened it was all too easy to say, yup, that’s bad… silly Republicans. It also meant that ideals I supported were generally in opposition to the majority ideals. In such instances you take up the mantle of the loyal opposition. You may object to the outcome, but as a loyal American you recognize the political process for what it is. Obama’s election and growth of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate change everything.

Now it’s not enough to just say, “silly Republicans”, because they aren’t the ones doing the bad things. It’s going to be us. And don’t give me the line about the Senate filibuster… by the time Alaska and Minnesota are resolved, I fully expect a 59 vote majority in the Senate. Even if we fail to pickup the runoff in GA, as I expect will be the case, it should be trivial to pick up a single republican vote on all manner of issues, assuming we have unity among the caucus.

And that’s the whole issue. Now that the Democrats are in charge, will be have unity? I’m not talking about the sort of unity where we all go jump off a bridge together, but the kind of unity where members vote as a governing coalition for the betterment of America, not just their own personal political prospects. What of us rank and file Democrats? Are we going to become the ditto heads of the Democratic party, walking around as if our newly elected leaders can do no wrong? Maybe we’ll swing the other way, and demonstrate that liberals really are never satisfied.

I honestly don’t know what happens next. I’m excited for change and I’m excited to have a voice that matters. But there’s a lot of scary stuff out there, and it will take more than just a really smart president (though that’s certainly a prerequisite). I don’t doubt Obama will rise to the task… but will we?

probonogeek Politics

Predictions: 37 Hours Out

November 3rd, 2008

Just spent some time on the Washington Post “Pick Your President” tool and put together my final predictions for tomorrow. Final tally: 354 for Obama / 184 for McCain.

<p><strong>><a href='http://projects.washingtonpost.com/2008/pick-your-president/'>2008 Election Contest: Pick Your President</a></strong> &#8211; Predict the winner of the 2008 presidential election.</p> <p>

Should be a fun night of watching the results come in.

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These Voters

October 11th, 2008

During the end of the Democratic Primary, as Obama was narrowly loosing states to Hillary Clinton after a series of victories that put him so far in the lead it was virtually impossible for Clinton to catch up, the talking heads had a lot of fun declaring Obama was having difficulties with these voters. These voters were generally poor working white voters in West Virgina, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, but sometimes these voters referred to women, seemingly, in general. The “proof” behind these assertions was that Clinton had done better in those demographics, often by as much as 10 whole points! And so the conventional wisdom went that someone who supported Clinton must not like Obama… and thus electoral doom awaited him come the general election.

Here we are, less than a month away from November 4th, and Obama is leading nearly every contested state and in every demographic–except racists and the deeply conservative–and is on his way to an electoral landslide of 340+. Obviously all these voters didn’t end up having as many reservations about Obama as original prognosticated. Could it have been these voters just generally liked Clinton more, but in a race between Obama and McCain there really is no contest? Did anyone actually expect those traditional democratic voters to switch party? Honestly?

What strikes me is that for all the punditry’s willingness to advise the Obama campaign about these voters, you don’t ever hear similar advice directed at the McCain campaign? Where are the commentators mentioning that Obama has a mortal lock on voters with a college education and that McCain just isn’t connecting with smart people? Or that Obama has a huge lead among those worried about the economy, implying McCain doesn’t resonate with working people? How about his inability to persuade those who live by major bodies of water? (McCain’s message just isn’t hitting home with people who understand what it means to be really wet!) Why isn’t anyone being so blatantly condescending to McCain as was so in vogue with Obama just three months ago?

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