Election Postmortem

The outcome of this election, just like the last one, was almost a foregone conclusion. In 2008 Obama succeeded marvellously at branding himself as the candidate of hope and change. He framed the messaging so eloquently that there was essentially no way for anyone to run against him. If you were against Obama, you were against hope and change, and who wants to vote against hope and change?

Then the Democratic Party proceeded to shit on its base, delivering almost none of the promised hope and change, and many of the changes delivered weren't changes anyone who voted for them actually wanted. As loathsome as Bush was, he never publicly defended the government's right to assassinate its own citizens. Obama not only has done so, but even after the election has continued to do so. This is after installing what was effectively Bill Clinton's economic team and selecting a series of D.C. insiders to continue enacting D.C. politics as usual.

Sure, we got a health care reform bill. But it's virtually identical to the reform bill proposed by the Republicans in 1994 as a counter to Bill Clinton's failed attempt at reform. Any of a number of useful addenda to the bill with large swaths of public support were thrown out even before negotiations began because, oh no, Joe Lieberman threatened to filibuster it. So no public option (55 to 70% public support), no Medicare buy-ins for people 55 and older (75% support), no government negotiation of drug prices (85% support). Are you fucking kidding?

Wall Street reform was similarly watered down, and so were any of a number of other bills that were purportedly major breakthroughs. We got no repeal of DOMA, the administration still hasn't repealed DADT, and foreign policy remains indistinguishable from that of the previous administration. The problem is simple: When you concede ground to your opponents, who have no interest in negotiating with you, even before negotiation starts, you look insincere. You're not standing up for your convictions; you're not standing up for anything, in fact. If the Republicans had actually been forced to stand up there and filibuster any of a number of points the public supported, it would have cut into their support so massively that people would be raging in town halls against them, not against Obama's health care proposals. But none of that happened, and Obama looked weak.

So the base was dispirited. And it's no surprise that turnout among Obama-leaning independents was low. Polls show that even though more independents who voted for McCain than for Obama showed up, moderates still trended towards the Dems. But the base itself was demoralised and disgruntled, and with a president who ordered the assassination of U.S. citizens badmouthing the left of this country, who could blame them for not wanting to vote for Democrats? People felt betrayed and angry. And unfortunately, the only mass movement offering any sort of outlet for that rage was the Tea Party.

That said, the media narratives about this election have been tremendously overstated. For all the hype about the Tea Party, only around 32% of its candidates won. The Tea Party almost certainly cost the Republicans Senate seats in Alaska, Delaware, Colorado, Nevada and West Virginia, and very likely diverted funding from other races that could have flipped additional seats towards the Republicans' favour.

Along similar lines, much has been noted about the loss of Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson's seats, which are certainly big losses for progressives, but only five percent of the Progressive Caucus failed to win re-election. That's as opposed to fifty-three percent of Blue Dogs who were ousted. Rather than viewing this election as a rejection of liberalism, one would perhaps be better off reading the results as suggesting that Democratic voters can only be motivated to turn up to vote for candidates who actually represent Democratic values. As a consequence, the Progressive Caucus now represents the majority of Democratic representation in the House.

Furthermore, even though voters voted for Republicans, that doesn't mean voters like Republicans. In point of fact, they didn't. Via Kos, we can take away the three following facts about the American electorate (Kos's summary):
  1. Republicans are more unpopular than Democrats, yet they still voted GOP;
  2. 35 percent believed Wall Street was to blame for the terrible economy, yet they still voted for the GOP. (56-42, to be exact).
  3. 31 percent of voters wanted the new health care law expanded, yet 14 percent of them voted Republican. 30% want the law kept the same as it is now, and 30% of them voted Republican.
The big lesson to be taken away here is that the Democrats failed to distance themselves from the Wall Street bailout. In fact, they failed to deliver much of any message at all. In the 2008 campaign cycle Obama was noted for being a brilliant communicator, but we've barely seen that side of him at all since he came into office. He has a mailing list of millions that he used to engage all the time during the campaign. Since then, nary a word. Obama had plenty of opportunities, and he squandered nearly them all.

Obama has a few options from here. He can try to cooperate with Republicans, but I don't think that's going to work: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already threatening to make the U.S. default on its debt, and has stated elsewhere that his primary goal is to make Obama a one-term president. As much as D.C. pundits love to masturbate themselves about bipartisanship, it's not going to solve anything. Grover Norquist once said, "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." And consider the kind of nefarious bullshit that usually results from bipartisanship: illegal occupations of hapless Middle Eastern countries, assassinations of U.S. citizens, "globalisation," welfare "reform," union-busting, immunisation of corporations from prosecution for warrantless wiretapping, Social Security privatisation, list goes on and on. Fuck bipartisanship.

The other option is for him to do what he was elected to do: to fight for the values of the people who elected him. I realise that as a politician he might not actually have any values of his own left anymore, but the least he can do is try to pretend. He did a decent enough job of pretending while he was running for office. I realise it's much easier to be a liberal or a libertarian while in opposition than while in office, but from what most of us out here can see, it looks like he didn't even try. The departure of Rahm Emmanuel is a welcome sign. Maybe this time he'll choose someone with a clue.

One other bright point, already alluded to, is the unexpected defeat of Sharron Angle in Nevada. This occurred partially because Latinos turned out to vote in much larger numbers than expected, but it also occurred partially due to a resurgent union movement which organised to turn out the vote for Harry Reid. In this day of ever-increasing corporatism (after all, individuals have a cap on the amount they can donate to a political campaign, but corporations do not), the resurgence of the labour movement can only be a good thing for America.

For some more takes on the election, I recommend Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and David Sirota.

I'll have some more optimistic news later, but I don't want to flood everyone with too much reading.

Rally to Restore Sanity

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There were a bunch of other awesome signs we didn't manage to get photos of, but my cousin wrote many of them down. Unfortunately I don't have them right now. I'll update this entry later.

I had plans to meet up with a bunch of people but all of them fell through due to shitty cell phone service. If I'd thought about it for a moment I would've realised that with that many people gathering in one place reception was bound to be shitty.

Also, make sure you get out and vote, if you haven't already. If only so we can keep the crazies out of Congress.

(no subject)

So I stayed up all night again, even though I have work in slightly over ten hours (I'll be heading off to bed shortly). Mostly this was because I've been editing audio files. I've been going through poorly mastered CDs (which these days seems to be most of them) and correcting the various flaws to the best of my ability. The free audio editor Audacity has a wonderful feature called Clip Fix which is designed to restore dynamic range to records which lost range due to clipping, and you'd be amazed how many records have this. My investigation of major-label releases throughout the past decade has revealed two records that don't have clipping: Muse's Origin of Symmetry and Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. The latter of these was still a victim of the loudness war, although it was less atrociously so than most CDs these days, but there's little I can do with a record that was compressed via other means. At least decent compression sounds a lot better than clipping.

The rest of the major label discs I've examined though? All the other Muse discs, every Mars Volta release, every Moonsorrow release, every Reverend Bizarre disc I've looked at, Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and quite a few others I'm probably forgetting had clipping on all or most of their tracks. (Though it's worth noting that whether Reverend Bizarre and Moonsorrow count as "major label" acts is a matter of debate, as Spikefarm is owned by a major label but operated independently). Even minor labels' track records aren't that much better these days, unfortunately. So I've been reducing the volume of clipped records and cleaning them up to give them a more natural and organic sound. Unfortunately, Clip Fix seems to overcompensate at times to an extent that makes the bass drum hits overpowered, so I often actually end up putting some compression back. (Compression isn't always used for evil, see). However, it's pretty minimal.

Other than that I've been revamping the wiki on Fool's Gold (which a number of you should probably join or post more at) and working on a number of other projects. There is quite a lot of political news and I plan to comment on some of it, but my attempts at cohering my thoughts on the economy have proven rather unsatisfactory. Briefly put: it's shit, and because neither party seems particularly interested in supporting constructive solutions, there's little chance of it getting better, unless people wake up and start standing up for themselves again. Which obviously isn't going to happen anytime soon. However, there's a lot more to it than that.

I hope everyone had a good Labor Day. I'll be off for now, I guess.

so here's an update

It's amazing how easily people get distracted by completely fact-free hysteria these days. It goes without saying, of course, that the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is not at Ground Zero - in fact, it's not even visible from Ground Zero - and it's also not a mosque. It's not even distinguishable from the local surroundings, in fact:

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(It's the building with the off-white fire escape. See what I mean about not being distinguishable?) It takes two whole minutes to walk from Ground Zero to the mosque. The imam leading the project is a moderate Sufi who has repeatedly denounced terrorism and has assisted with FBI counterterrorism investigations, and moderate mosques proven to be deterrents to terrorism (again, though, this isn't even a mosque).

And yet more than half of Americans apparently oppose the constitutional right to exercise one's freedom of religion on private property. This should be a slam-dunk for right-wingers to support property rights (at least Ron Paul gets it). This outrage isn't making us look good on the international stage, either; Newsweek is reporting that the Taliban are using it to recruit new members. They wouldn't have to focus on the Cordoba House, though; between all the terrorism against Muslims lately (actually, not just lately), plus the fact that plenty of mosques nowhere near allegedly "sacred ground" are being protested, they'd have plenty of material with which to convert new recruits.

And let's not forget that several dozen Muslims died as a result of 9/11. And a bunch of 9/11 victims' families have spoken up saying that they support the building of the Cordoba House.

Oh, and there's already an actual mosque eight hundred feet from Ground Zero.

Obviously the purpose of this completely manufactured controversy is to distract from the fact that the economy is in the shit can and neither Republicans nor Democrats appear to be capable of presenting any substantive ideas on how to improve it. And unfortunately, it's working.

Incidentally, I would be remiss if I failed to link to The Onion in this entry.

(no subject)

I intend to start posting regularly again sometime in the near future. I graduated, and since then have been working close to full-time and doing a bunch of maintenance work for various sites I'm involved with. I intended to write up a long post-electoral analysis, but somehow I never got around to it.

In the mean time I'll leave you with this very well written editorial about Michael Phelps' alleged marijuana use. It's directed at parents specifically, but there's no reason others won't find it interesting and provocative as well.

(no subject)

I'm far too busy as of late to write up an entry of my own, so via vulgarlad:

Final Gallup poll: Obama 53%, McCain 11-point margin (among likely voters). Split the undecideds equally and it becomes 55/44, Obama. Give McCain ALL of the undecideds, and it's still Obama by 51%.

Final Wall Street Journal/NBC poll: Obama 51%, McCain McCain 43%. McCain's support among white men & hispanics is significantly lower than that of Dubya's in 2004.

Time magazine's GOP kiss-ass, Mark Halperin: For McCain, the Numbers Aren't Adding Up

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

Of course, none of this matters if you don't get out & vote. Need some additional motivation (above & beyond putting an end to 8 years worth of fascist GOP rule) to do so?

-Starbucks is giving out free coffee to people who vote.

-Ben & Jerry's is giving out free ice cream to people who vote.

-Krispy Kreme is giving out free donuts to people who vote.

-Baltimore can stop by Todd Conner's Pub for a free beer if you vote!

-Seattle people...I've heard that Cupcake Royale is giving out free cupcakes...but I haven't been able to confirm that yet (confirmed! free cupcakes!)

-some Chick-fil-A establishments are giving away free chicken sandwiches. Then again, their food sucks & they're run by creepy uber-zealot maybe avoid this one...or keep going back and get so many free sandwiches that you bankrupt them. mwahahahaha!

and the best one of all...

-Babeland is giving out free sex toys. Help save the United States AND get's a win-win situation!
I'll resume responding to comments after the election is over.
  • Current Music
    Fairport Convention - Matty Groves

(no subject)

I may have been wrong about the al-Qaeda story being this election's October Surprise. The Beltway types mostly seem to be ignoring it, despite the McCain camp's tremendously feeble response to it. There's acutally another story which is drawing even more outrage, from Republicans, because it cuts through Sarah Palin's Everywoman persona and reveals actions by the McCain camp which are quite possibly illegal by the very law that bears his name. The details:

PoliticoThe Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment on Monday, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs.

Spokeswoman Maria Comella declined to answer specific questions about the expenditures, including whether it was necessary to spend that much and whether it amounted to one early investment in Palin or if shopping for the vice presidential nominee was ongoing.

“The campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent," she said.
But hours after the story was posted on Politico's website and legal issues were raised, the campaign issued a new statement.

"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

The business of primping and dressing on the campaign trail has become fraught with political risk in recent years as voters increasingly see an elite Washington out of touch with their values and lifestyles.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore took heat for changing his clothing hues. And in 2006, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was ribbed for two hair styling sessions that cost about $3,000.

Then, there was Democrat John Edwards’ $400 hair cuts in 2007 and Republican McCain’s $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes this year.

A review of similar records for the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee turned up no similar spending.

But all the spending by other candidates pales in comparison to the GOP outlay for the Alaska governor whose expensive, designer outfits have been the topic of fashion pages and magazines.

What hasn’t been apparent is where the clothes came from – her closet back in Wasilla or from the campaign coffers in Washington.

The answer can be found inside the RNC’s September monthly financial disclosure report under “itemized coordinated expenditures.”

It’s a report that typically records expenses for direct mail, telephone calls and advertising. Those expenses do show up, but the report also has a new category of spending: “campaign accessories.”

September payments were also made to Barney’s New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale’s New York ($5,102.71).

Macy’s in Minneapolis, another store fortunate enough to be situated in the Twin Cities that hosted last summer’s Republican National Convention, received three separate payments totaling $9,447.71.

The entries also show two purchases at Pacifier, a top-notch baby store, suggesting $196 was spent to accommodate the littlest Palin to join the campaign trail.

An additional $4,902.45 was spent in early September at Atelier, a high-class shopping destination for men.
Marc Ambinder
McCain-Palin spokesperson Tracey Schmitt on this Politico storyWith all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.
There is already an attempt to blame the media -- as in, the liberal media would have looked askance at Palin if she wasn't clad in Neiman Marcus, but this won't wash. Republicans, RNC donors and at least one RNC staff member have e-mailed me tonight to share their utter (and not-for-attribution) disgust at the expenditures.

This sort of spending is without precedent -- the closest approximation for any campaign I've ever covered is make-up expenses for television interviews and commercial shoots -- , and Schmitt's weakly defensive response tonight indicates that the campaign is deeply embarrassed by it and has nothing to say in their defense. Spokespeople have clammed up, a sure sign that they're trying to figure out who authorized the expenses and who knew about them. Did Palin wear all of the clothing? Where is it kept?

The Democrats are going to have a lot more fun with this than is prudent, but the heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid ... particularly (and, it must be said, viewed etroactively) during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession.
Viewer reactions on MSNBC's Morning Joe:

This is from Pat in Ohio. She says, "Mika, I'm a woman and for Sarah Palin to say she's an average everyday woman like me while she's wearing $12,000 suits is utter nonesense and pure B.S. And for you to sit there and say there is nothing wrong with the campaign spending $150,000 on wardrobe for three months is truly offensive. What, they couldn't spend $300 for a nice suit? Maybe you need to come down to earth and realize that the majority of women don't make $150,000 a year and we resent it when you tell us our $300 suits aren't professional enough."
MSNBCThe 2002 campaign finance law that bears McCain's name specifically barred any funds that "are donated for the purpose of supporting the activities of a federal or state office holder" from being used for personal expenses including clothing. (emphasis mine)
The Atlantic on the person responsible for doing Palin's shoppingLarson is the Karl Rove protégé who’s a principal in the robocalling firm of FLS Connect (the “FLS” stands for Tony Feather, Jeff Larson, and Tom Syndhorst, all veteran Republican political operatives). Larson’s firm is the same one that launched the scurrilous robocalls against John McCain in 2000, and that McCain has now hired to make robocalls connecting Barack Obama to Bill Ayers. He’s also well known in Minnesota for leasing his basement apartment at a steeply discounted rate to embattled Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Evidently, Larson also has quite the eye for women’s fashion.
Every time I think I've seen the full extent of the McCain campaign's stupidity, they surprise me. Even with a good campaign, they'd be struggling, but the huge margins Obama has managed to open up aren't entirely due to the tarnished Republican brand.

Don't get complacent, though. Get out and vote. Early voting is open in most states now. I'll be voting on Friday.