28 November 2012

Lincoln -- messy politics and moral ambiguity

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is the must-see movie in theaters right now, and not only because Daniel Day-Lewis's portrayal of the great war President is unlikely ever to be surpassed.  The movie is worthy of its daunting subject matter -- some of the most pivotal events and people of our country's history.  And it's a profound antidote to the simplistic moral certainties often found in movies (and politics), showing us the messiness and compromise of real-world politics and the ambiguity and uncertainty of serious moral questions.

To make sure we never forget the reality of the Civil War, the film opens with a battle scene, an ugly, bloody, grunting, hand-to-hand affair of desperate men struggling in mud while trying to bayonet each other to death.  The role of black soldiers in the Union war effort is repeatedly emphasized.  Black Americans were not mere passive beneficiaries of the abolitionists' work; these men, strongly motivated for obvious reasons, did much of the fighting that saved the country.

The movie actually covers just the last four months of Lincoln's life, and focuses on his effort to pass the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery.  Somewhat jarringly, the party labels attached to progressives and reactionaries at that time were the reverse of today -- Lincoln and the abolitionists were Republicans, while the conservatives and fervent opponents of black freedom were Democrats.

As the story opens, the Senate has already passed the Amendment, but reaching the needed two-thirds majority in the House promises to be a struggle.  To win the necessary Democratic votes, Lincoln authorizes any tactic necessary.  Sleazy men are engaged as go-betweens; lucrative patronage jobs are offered to lame-duck Congressmen who will soon need employment; money changes hands under shady circumstances.  Lincoln personally goes to great lengths to suppress news of a Confederate peace overture, a development which could undermine support for the Amendment.  It's all underhanded and dirty, a perversion of democracy.  Today we're comfortable asserting that no political cause, no matter how righteous, could justify such tactics -- but what if that cause were the abolition of slavery?

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones is a joy to watch in the role) faces a moral dilemma familiar to progressives today.  Not only an abolitionist, he believes in full equality of the races -- in those days, a radical position few people would entertain.  The Amendment cannot afford to be associated with such an "extremist" stance; it would lose in a landslide if Congress believed it would lead not only to the end of slavery but eventually to full equality for blacks.  Stevens is eventually persuaded to repudiate his true beliefs on the House floor, for the greater good of passing the Amendment.  Today we know he was right, and his sudden "moderation" sticks in our throats as much as in his, especially since we know it took another century for effective civil and voting rights for black Americans to be won.  Yet if Stevens had insisted on speaking out for what we all now know to be truth and justice, the Amendment might well have failed, and an achievable milestone been lost.

The risk of the perfect being the enemy of the good comes up again and again.  During one raucous House debate, a conservative Congressman invokes the slippery slope -- if slavery is abolished, what else may follow?  Votes for blacks?  Intermarriage?  One cannot avoid thinking of the slippery-slope arguments raised today by opponents of gay equality.

Lincoln himself is at times genuinely torn over the Confederate offer of a negotiated peace.  End the war and its horrible slaughter now (at that point the Civil War had already cost more than 150 times as many American lives as the whole Iraq war), or press on for total victory and get the Amendment passed, at the cost of even more lives, but winning results that would at least make the sacrifice worthwhile?

Lincoln's conflict with his wife and elder son over the latter's desire to enlist in the army is a mere sub-plot here, but brings out enough emotion and moral struggle for a whole movie of its own.

The film's look draws us effortlessly into the world of 1865.  Everything is brown and sepia and murky; cigars are smoked constantly and almost everyone over 30 looks unhealthy; the fussy over-complicated drab clothing and the variegated and spectacularly ugly beards evoke the dawn of the dreary Victorian age.  You are there, you are in 1865.

The script is a triumph and will make you want to see the movie again just to make sure you didn't miss anything.  So many movies these days spend millions on special effects, only to be sunk by weak writing; here, the spoken word gets its proper priority.

Performances are flawless across-the-board, and Day-Lewis is already considered a strong Oscar candidate.  Lincoln apparently had a penchant for lengthy metaphors and anecdotes which sometimes baffled his listeners, and he could be quick to anger when provoked.  You get the real Lincoln here, good and bad.

The question of whether Lincoln was gay, as some real evidence suggests, is not raised.  In this film, it would have been a distraction.  Those who are aware of the possibility will see the irony that he fought for the liberation of one brutalized part of the American people, at a time when the liberation of his own was unimaginable and would remain so for a century.

In our own time when politics is so clogged with absolutist and no-compromise attitudes, it's well worth being so effectively reminded that not all questions have easy answers, and that doing the right thing can sometimes be not only difficult but actually repugnant.

27 November 2012

Video of the day -- Christian hate

Found via Atheist Revolution.  Of course this is only a small sample of the vast cesspit of statements like this that these slime-buckets have vomited forth.

Update:  Here's an example of the real-life fruits of this kind of belief system.

Put Warren on the Senate banking committee!

Sign the petition here (discussion here) -- it's what the financial parasite class most fears!

25 November 2012

Link round-up for 25 November 2012

Here's the kind of underwear discussion we just saved ourselves from having for four years.

Need a gift for a conservative?  Romney campaign merchandise is available cheap.

This lady prefers a bony guy.

Here's a lot of cute baby pictures.

Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips still thinks Romney can win.

Robert the Skeptic has two interesting videos of mindless creatures running in circles.

Beware the evil sex demons.

Leave it to Beaver?  Leave it to Obama!

Yes, this is what we want.

Johnathan Montgomery of Virginia is the latest name on the long list of Americans who spent years imprisoned for crimes that didn't happen.

Rubio's blithering about the age of the Earth does matter.

This behavior is just stupid.

Dinosaurs give way to nimbler, smarter life forms (found via Squatlo Rant).

We'll be seeing more of this -- big banks go all out to keep Elizabeth Warren away from the levers of power.

Do you eat this?*

Linda McMahon's campaign is even more disdainful of its workers than Romney's was.

Denny's does damage control.

Wingnuts lie about Obama's Thanksgiving address.

Who is this hammer-and-sickle commie socialist calling for higher taxes on the rich?  (See this too).

Jim Wright calls out bigotry and gets hilarious hate mail.  Oh, and here's his view of those stupid secession petitions.

Here's what science textbooks look like in Jindal's Louisiana.  More Republicans here.

It seems impossible to reason with religious nuts (imagine trying it with this guy).

Racist thugs riot over Obama's victory (at a university).  More conservative reactions here.

Here are five important economic trends that don't get enough attention.

Here's why Romney lost -- not crazy enough.

More big companies face reality.

Christie's embrace of Obama made him a pariah among wingnuts, but New Jerseyans approve.

Religion, not race, is the Republicans' most daunting demographic problem.

Compare America's biggest employers, then and now.

Sarah Zacharias didn't vote against Romney and Ryan.

45% of Americans wish they could skip Christmas altogether.

Liberal Republicans are trying to re-emerge.  Good luck with that.

Michael Calleri lost his film-reviewing job because he wouldn't kowtow to shocking misogyny.

Here's a look at how the most and least educated states voted.

Norbrook has some advice for Republicans which they won't listen to.  Instead they'll do nothing or listen to this guy or, Satan preserve us, try this.  The teabaggers are still determined to purge moderates from the party, so let's make the best of it.

Religio-nutters freak out over atheist outreach to youth.

The CEO of Aetna is evil.

Britain's government-backed church votes against modernity and gets in trouble with the government.

Austerity policies have driven the euro-zone back into recession.

For once the EU Parliament does the right thing, taking a stand against internet censorship.

Hoo boy, that Thai Prime Minister is a hot chick!

This sign commemorates a fallen hero.*

Hamas left Israel no choice.

Indonesian Islamists hold a charming "celebration" for girls.

Be honest -- Iranian blogger Sattâr Beheshtî was murdered by the theocracy.

Atheism is on the rise in the Islamic world, even in Saudi Arabia; Egyptians are rebelling against an Islamist power grab (all three links found via Lady Atheist).

Most non-Catholic / non-Muslim countries have liberal abortion laws.

The greenest electronics company is -- India's Wipro.

This is not a "scientific controversy".

Since the government won't invest in a modern internet infrastructure for the US, Google will have to do it.

Here's a debunking of the "we only use 10% of our brains" myth.

British scientists restore limb function in paralyzed dogs.

[*Link re-posted since the site was down much of last week.]

21 November 2012

The election -- a light-hearted look back

Now that it's finally over.....

Israel, lies, and reality

One of the more egregious of the many Republican lies about Obama during the campaign was that he would betray and abandon Israel -- that, indeed, he had already done so.  Now, as Israel goes into action against the ongoing barrage of jihadist rocket attacks from Gaza, the truth shines through clearly.

The American people too, I'm happy to say, "get it".  According to a CNN/ORC survey on the conflict released Monday, Americans' sympathies are overwhelmingly with Israel, by 60% to 14%.  Not only that, but every sub-category of people surveyed favor Israel, including Democrats (51% to 16%) and liberals (37% to 27%).  The same held true on the question of whether Israel's current military action is justified; Americans as a whole, and every sub-category surveyed, agree that it is.

We've seen the usual outrage from those who are always quick to condemn Israel no matter how carefully it tries to avoid civilian casualties, but who were never heard from during Hamas's indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli towns.  We've seen the usual hand-wringing from that odd tribe of bloggers who claim to be supporters of Israel but never seem able to support any actual, specific action that Israel takes to defend itself.  We've seen the usual picking over the details of every tragic but unavoidable civilian death in Gaza from those who never said a word about the horrific atrocities of the Ayatollahs, the Taliban, etc. against their own people (unless they could somehow find an angle to blame these on the West).  But they're in the minority, no matter how you slice it.

And no liberal worthy of the name would take sides against a basically secular society in a fight with this guy.  Yes, Israel has its Jewish religious extremists with medieval attitudes about women and gays, who are a small fraction of the population with too much political influence -- but that basically parallels the situation with the Christian Right here in the US; and as here, in Israel the general culture is secular.  The Islamists make Santorum and Robertson and Akin look like liberals.

More on the overall conflict here.

18 November 2012

Link round-up for 18 November 2012

Today is Occult Day (found via Mendip).

We never should have let that kind of people into the military.


Vintage comics were inadvertently steamy.

Obama wins.....this.

Rich people have plenty of silly things to spend money on (found via Mendip).

Now that the election's over, celebrate with these fine whines from the wingnutosphere.  Green Eagle has more gloat fodder including this final prediction from "Unskewed Polls".

Donate to Wal-Mart workers' strike fund.

Since the election, Daily Kos's hate mail is funnier than ever.

Bryan Fischer explains why we haven't had a major terrorist attack since 2011.

It's a perfect picture of love.

Are Republicans really this desperate?

Gin and Tacos amusingly dissects Eric Dondero's notorious "shun Democrats" post.

FFRF is suing the IRS over those tax-exempt, blatantly-political churches (found via Republic of Gilead).

Tom Tomorrow looks at bipartisanship.

UPS quits funding the discriminatory Boy Scouts.

The new Congress has plenty of firsts (found via Squatlo Rant).

This may be the stupidest movie ever.

Republicans go through the five stages of grief.

Ranch Chimp looks at the most anti-Obama county in the US.

The wingnutosphere is still gamely trying to make a "scandal" out of Benghazi.

Do you eat this?

Historically, Republican VP nominees are the dregs.

Gay marriage and marijuana fit the Bible.

Gerrymandered House seats are a real problem.

Did Romney lose the slut vote?

The Atheist Camel thanks a few right-wingers.

"Dozens, dozens of black people" -- the Republican gaffe machine keeps churning on (read the comments too).

Rebuilding the bubble will take some work.

Secession?  Bah.  Tony Perkins predicts revolution.  The Christian Right may need one.

People like a winner.

Here's what a government based on the Bible would actually look like (found via Republic of Gilead).

David Freedlander reports from the Romney victory party.  Here's a much better party.

Big money lost big this election.

Gingrich has some sensible advice for Republicans.

NRO slaps down secessionist nonsense.

The gender gap was about far more than just Akin and his ilk.

Vote-suppression efforts backfired, helping motivate black voters to turn out.

The forces of evil in our country have been mortally wounded.

Obama looks ready to get tough on taxes.

Jonathan Martin has a must-read essay on the conservative alternate-reality bubble.

Ari Fleischer reassures fundies that the Republican party will never join the modern world.

Revenue-wise, the Creation Museum is turkeying out.

Why are Asian-Americans abandoning the Republicans?  Religion.

Little Green Footballs debunks Jindal's silly CNN op-ed.

Republicans aren't doing so well with white voters outside the South.  Obama did better with whites than Romney did with non-whites.  Here's a message from one white voter.

The BBC is mired in scandal.

A bigoted bus driver in Yorkshire causes a minor ruckus (found via Republic of Gilead).

The death of Savita Halappanavar stirs protest against Ireland's brutal anti-abortion law.

The Putin regime threatens to censor the internet.  Russian Wikipedia goes dark in protest.

A religion-focused political party threatens Turkey's secular heritage (found via Lady Atheist) -- another warning of what could happen to the US if the Republicans win power.

This marker commemorates a fallen hero.

Sign here to nominate Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize.

There's a geographical angle to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Palin's world?  A whole planet goes rogue.

16 November 2012

Video of the day -- the religious menace

A reminder that the religious menace is global in scope.  This video is a couple of years old, but perhaps more topical than ever in view of the recent Malala Yousafzai shooting.

And don't let anyone use the barbarism of Islam to obfuscate the fact that Christianity too is lethally malignant when it's still taken seriously, as the Savita Halappanavar case shows -- this is the kind of thing Republican policies would bring about here.  Western culture is superior not because it's Christian (it isn't, and hasn't been for generations) but because it's secular.

13 November 2012

Video of the day -- the view at night

As seen from the International Space Station.

Kyrsten Sinema wins

It took until Monday to call the race, but Kyrsten Sinema has been elected as the first openly-bisexual member of Congress, and one of the still-few open atheists -- from Arizona, yet.

Speaking of Congress, here's a point which has received too little attention:  The Republicans are taking comfort from the fact that they kept their House majority, but in fact, half a million more votes were cast for Democratic House candidates than for Republican ones.  The only reason we failed to get a majority of seats was gerrymandering.  Based on the popular vote we would have won the whole federal government in a clean sweep.

11 November 2012

Link round-up for 11 November 2012

Same election result, different reactions (found via Squatlo Rant).

A conservative blogger entertainingly laments the fiasco of project ORCA, Romney's get-out-the-vote effort.  More here and here.

Will 2014 see beauty vs. the blobfish in Kentucky?

Enjoy some Fox News facial expressions from Tuesday (found via The Reaction).

Yikes, it's a mass extinction of political dinosaurs -- more here.

Team rape lost big.

Dan Savage salutes the straight allies who made Tuesday's gay-marriage victories possible.

In a final spasm of Romney-ness, the losing campaign canceled staffers' official credit cards literally before they got home Tuesday night.  Obama's campaign ended on a different note.

The election was above all a defeat for the Christian Right -- see discussion by IPS, Hrafnkell Haraldsson, Capital Public Radio, Reason Being, and CNN (links found via Republic of Gilead, whose own assessment is here).  The God-hates-fags crowd is especially freaked out.

Mourdock turned to prayer to help him win (found via Lady Atheist, who has more election links).

It wasn't "the takers" who re-elected Obama.

Here's what the country just escaped.

Gosh, why would anyone think this person was racist?

Texas Republican Peter Morrison is a traitor and a disgrace.

Gun sales surge after Obama's re-election.

In a rapidly-secularizing America, the Christian Right sees its influence collapsing.

The right-wing "media" dismally failed their conservative audience.  Even Romney and his team didn't know what was coming.  Hot Air admits the polls were right; some of the comments here also acknowledge the information-bubble problem.  Gin and Tacos looks at "unskewed polls"; Jon Stewart looks at Fox's implosion; Frank Rich looks at reality-denial more broadly.

Obama's popular-vote margin will probably exceed 3%.

Liberal America is here to stay.

The Republican failure gives us some comforting signs about the country.

The People's View looks at the Republican meltdown and civil warThis comment thread shows right-wingers acknowledging the need for change, but divided as to what kind.  Booman Tribune looks at the freak-out.

Obama campaigned on a clear platform and thus now has a mandate.

Moderate Republicans won't be taken seriously until they take the party back from the crazies.

Revenge is sweet -- and needed.

Apparently this is the Republican field for the 2016 Presidential race (Brownback?  Santorum???).

Heather Mac Donald debunks the myth of Hispanics as a potential Republican constituency.

Want to follow the Bible?  Read the whole thing (found via Republic of Gilead).

68% of Americans now recognize the threat of global warming.

Tommykey recounts withstanding the onslaught of hurricane Sandy.

Rosa Rubicondior welcomes those newly freed from religion.

Burr Deming has a huge link round-up.

A prosecutor has some interesting insights into criminalizing abortion (found via Parsley's Pics).

Britain leads resistance to a centralized EU banking authority.

The Catholic Church child-abuse scandal spreads to Australia as a priest comes forward with information on systematic cover-ups (found via Lady Atheist).

Greek unions call for protests against a new round of austerity measures.  This anti-austerity march in Portugal may command more respect -- it's by 10,000 soldiers.

Arab youth are demanding action on global warming.

Malala Yousafzai, still recovering, thanks well-wishers.

South Korea opens the world's first toilet theme park.

[Image at top found via Yellowdog Granny.]

10 November 2012

Quote for the day -- pay the price, fix the problem

"Here's the first thing the elite Republicans need to do. They need to sit down and ask themselves why they have become a party of racist assholes. Then they have to consider the possibility that it sucks to be a party of racist assholes. The Democrats discovered this forty years ago, and they did something about it. They passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts and let Nixon have the racist assholes.  LBJ knew he was giving the South away for several generations. He did the the right thing anyway. It's time for the GOP to split with its racist assholes even if that means they can't win any elections for a while."

Booman Tribune

09 November 2012

Video of the day -- back to reality?

Most of us have little awareness of just how insulated and cut off from reality the right-wing fake-alternate-reality bubble has been.  There is a whole encapsulated sub-culture out there of people who think Drudge and Limbaugh and Fox are actual news sources, and when they see something "reported" by those "sources", they think that's real.  On Tuesday the bubble was punctured by reality in a way not even the most delusional could ignore.  Will it be enough to shock the wingnuts out of their collective dream world?

Estado nuevo?

One result of Tuesday's election should perhaps be getting more attention than it is:  for the first time, Puerto Rico has voted for statehood, 54%-to-46%.

That doesn't mean it's a done deal.  House Republicans will likely obstruct the admission of a new solidly-blue state.  Puerto Rico's population is 3,700,000, slightly bigger than my own state of Oregon, so it would have seven or eight electoral votes and five or six House seats, along with two Senators.  The effect on the national party balance of power would be small but real, and that's all that the Republican establishment seems to care about these days.

I'm personally somewhat hesitant about the idea.  We haven't admitted a new state since 1959 -- the age of expansion is long past and the country's borders are now, in most people's minds, pretty much fixed.  And we've never admitted a state in which the majority native language was not English.  But this is not so out-of-left-field as, say, annexing Cuba or British Columbia.  Puerto Rico has been under American rule since 1898 and its people have been US citizens since 1917.  Its territorial status is something of an anomaly -- not foreign soil but not quite fully a normal part of the US either.  Now that the people have voted to regularize their status, the issue deserves sober consideration.

07 November 2012

V I C T O R Y ! ! !


We won -- massively, crushingly, across-the-board.

Seamus, John Lauber, Super Hit, victims of Bain Capital -- you are avenged.

Zoe Lihn, Big Bird, you are saved.

If I might briefly blow my own horn a bit, my election prediction was very close.  Every Senate race I called, I called correctly, though Wisconsin was looking iffy for a while.  The Electoral College came out as predicted except for North Carolina.  Obama's popular-vote margin was a little over 2%, not the 4% or 5% I was expecting, but well beyond the margin of dispute.

But the important thing is that the country voted for the future over the past, for progress over those who would have dragged us backward.

Not only was Obama re-elected, but we won an enlarged Senate majority including Elizabeth Warren, a voice the country desperately needs.

Tammy Baldwin has become the first openly-gay Senator.  Gay marriage won referenda in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, while an amendment against it in Minnesota was defeated -- the first time that cause has won at the ballot box, a dramatic affirmation of the sweeping shift in public attitudes toward gays over the last few years.

Marijuana-legalization initiatives passed in Colorado, Washington, and (for medical purposes) Massachusetts, although (drat it) not here in Oregon.  As usual, the public is out ahead of the politicians on that issue.

Todd Akin suffered a legitimate defeat -- I guess Missouri voters found a way to shut that whole thing down.  And it turned out Senator Mourdock was not what God intended to happen.

I feel no sense of chivalry or magnanimity whatsoever toward the defeated opposition.  They are horrible, twisted, vicious, nasty people.  They rallied round a ticket consisting of a sociopathic parasite who spent his career piling up obscene wealth by ruining the lives of others (which the Moloch he created is still doing), and a Randroid who planned to "privatize" -- that is, destroy -- Medicare and throw tens of millions of bewildered old people, clutching useless vouchers, onto the mercy of a private insurance market that doesn't want them.  Their fundamentalist base views anyone who isn't a heterosexual Christian as less than fully American, and their party platform would reduce American women to involuntary breeding stock for violent criminals.  The last time they were in power, their obstructionism cost us precious years of progress in stem-cell technology, a delay which will end up costing far more lives than the Iraq war they blundered into.  They fully deserved the stomping they just got, and far more.

But the "more" will come.  This was their last shot, the last election in which the Republican party as presently constituted will be a viable contender.  Year by year the black / Hispanic / racially-mixed percentage of the population inches upward, while the non-religious and gay-tolerant percentage surges.  A theocratic, homophobic party which refuses to confront the barely-disguised racist element in its midst, doesn't have a future.  They already lost almost every swing state and almost every seriously-contested Senate race yesterday, and by 2016 Arizona will be a swing state, and maybe not just Arizona.  Texas is 30% Hispanic and 12% black.  Add in Austin's liberal enclave, Dallas's vibrant gay community, and millions of blue-collar white people who are definitely reachable on the basis of economic self-interest, and a determined effort over the next four years could turn the state bluish-purple -- and that's the end of the Republicans as a viable national party, unless they drastically change.

Such change would need to start with the teabaggers, who have now cost the party at least five Senate seats it could otherwise have won -- Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado in 2010, Missouri and Indiana yesterday.  Then there's the Christian Right, whose anti-gay and anti-abortion fanaticism makes it anathema to the emerging consensus culture.  But can moderates overcome those two aggressive blocs, the latter of which now actually dominates the party?  The first sign is not good:  In the inevitable right-wing finger-pointing following yesterday's defeat, I'm seeing a lot of blame directed, bizarrely, against Chris Christie, for his simple acknowledgement of Obama's help and cooperation in aiding New Jersey after the devastation of hurricane Sandy -- as if he had somehow thereby stabbed Romney in the back.  If this new Dolchstoßlegende takes root and Christie, one of the most rational and moderate Republicans left in a position of prominence, is made a pariah or drummed out of the party, it will signal that the Nutties are purging the Sanes rather than the other way around.

Remember that many Republicans believe -- or at least will vote for politicians who believe -- that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that anthropogenic global warming is a myth, that corporations are people, that rape is a form of birth control, that the reason the economy crashed in 2008 was that Clinton forced the banks to make housing loans to black people, and that the only reason anyone votes for left-wing parties is that they're on government benefits and want to keep the goodies coming.  Many of them have been saying for months that Romney was doomed because he was too moderate, and are now claiming vindication.  Don't be surprised if the Nutties win the coming Republican civil war and nominate a Palin / Santorum ticket, or something like it, in 2016.

Oh, well, that isn't my problem.

We didn't win everything.  The House is still Republican, and sweet as it would have been to see Bachmann go down, she just barely hung on.  Democrats will still have to struggle with a sluggish economic recovery in the face of bitter obstructionism (job one for the new Senate: filibuster reform).  But the Supreme Court is safe.  Roe v. Wade is safe.  Obamacare is safe, and can be built on and improved.  We dodged four years (at least) of catastrophic regression in technology and social progress.  We've got a fighting chance to actually do something about global warming.  And we know now that we can win, and win big, in spite of vote-suppression laws and Citizens United.  We can allow ourselves to celebrate.

06 November 2012


This is it.

If you don't vote, you don't count.

[Patriotic Millionaires video found via Politics Plus; "first time" video found via Frank Moraes.]

05 November 2012

Election prediction

If pressed to give my best guess as to what the election result will be, here's what I'd come up with.

First, it seems that the conflict between state polls showing Obama ahead in most swing states, and national polls showing a tie or a slight Romney lead, is being resolved in favor of the former.  The Rasmussen and Gallup national polls are shifting toward Obama.  So I feel confident that Obama will win New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, where his polls leads, small or large, have been consistent.

I feel equally confident about Nevada, and almost as much so about Colorado.  As I pointed out here (4th paragraph), there's empirical evidence that conventional polling in the Southwest undercounts Hispanics, and therefore understates Democratic support.

That leaves Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, which look too close to call according to the data we have.  However, based on the momentum being in Obama's direction in the last few days, I'm going to go out on a limb and call all three of them for Obama, though I expect his margins in those states to be narrow.

Arizona is intriguing.  It's been a red state, but the latest poll shows Obama behind by only 53%-46%, and the under-polling of Hispanics in the Southwest could mean the real gap is quite a bit narrower.  Some polls have shown the Arizona Senate race very close.  The fact that the Democratic Senate candidate is himself Hispanic could increase Hispanic turn-out.  I think Romney will still win the state, but the margin might be close enough to throw a scare into the Republicans.

So here's my prediction:

This yields an Electoral College landslide of 347-191.  Note that even if Obama loses Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida -- the three states I'm least confident about -- he would still win 290-248.  So even if Florida delivers another hanging-chad 50-50 nightmare like in 2000, the national outcome won't depend on it.

I know that 347-191 is a bigger landslide than almost any serious pundit is predicting, but this is my honest sense of where things stand.  I expect Obama's popular-vote margin to be smaller than in 2008 but still big enough to quell credible Republican claims of having been robbed or cheated in some way.

In any case, we could know the outcome pretty early tomorrow evening.  If Florida is called for Obama, it's game over -- Romney has no chance.  If Florida is called for Romney or is too close to call right away, it will take longer to know the national winner.

For the Senate, Baldwin and Warren will win in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, giving us our first openly-LGBT Senator and an intelligent, outspoken populist who fully understands the urgent problem of the financial parasite class and skyrocketing economic inequality, and isn't afraid to speak bluntly about it.  Akin and Mourdock will lose in Missouri and Indiana, despite their presumed lock on the rapist vote -- once again the teabaggers will have thrown away what should have been easy Republican wins, as they've already brought down Richard Lugar, a survivor from the old days when the right wing still produced intellectual heavyweights.  Nelson will win for us in Florida.

I don't think Kerrey can win in Nebraska, unfortunately.  He's done superbly in such a red state, but it's just too red.

Heitkamp and Tester do have a real chance in North Dakota and Montana respectively.  Heitkamp has run a great grassroots campaign and some polls have shown a tie, while the latest from Montana actually shows Tester ahead two points.  Too close to call, but if we achieve an Obama landslide, his coattails just might pull them over the top.

In Arizona, Carmona is behind by only four points; if Hispanic turn-out far exceeds expectations (see above), he might just win this one for us.

The bottom line:  Our Senate majority will increase.

I haven't been following any of the House races closely enough to say anything intelligent about them.  It sounds like we'll make gains, but not quite enough to take back the majority.  BooMan Tribune, whose opinion I respect, thinks there's a chance.

So there you have it.  Only a fool would claim certainty, and complacency would be positively dangerous, but my expectation is a big win.  In about 40 hours we should know.

Update #1:  Republican site Race42012's map looks like mine except that it gives those three toss-up states -- Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida -- to Romney, still leaving Obama with a winning 290 electoral votes.  See also this analysis of Romney's fading chances.

Update #2:  On the popular vote for President, I'm expecting to see a better margin for Obama than the consensus of polls (due to GOTV and the undercounted-Hispanic factor), but not as good as in 2008.  So, a 4% or 5% margin.

04 November 2012

Link round-up for 4 November 2012

Bored with politics?  Have some more puppies.

Believers use words differently.

Betting might help keep wingnuts at bay.

Junior exorcists are on the job -- demons beware!

There's an issue that was left out of the debates.

Compare Obama at his worst with Romney at his best.

Weapons that never existed -- looks intriguing (found via Mendip).

Storm bad because fags.

Don't set your clock back too far.  More here.

Privatizing PBS won't work.

Terrorists could use this simple trick to board any passenger flight in the US, and the TSA can't detect it. 

More Republicans believe in demonic possession than in global warming.

A short video dramatizes the slow progress of voting rights in the US (can you believe Maryland didn't let Jews vote before 1828?).

It takes a fellow New Jersey native to understand Chris Christie.

Jack Jodell has twelve (mostly economic) reasons not to vote Republican.

If you live in Prairie Village, Kansas, avoid this doctor.

Union workers power the recovery from hurricane Sandy.  Oh, and that story about crews from Alabama being turned away because they were non-union is just another Republican lie.  The hurricane shows the dangers of Republican policies, and Obama's handling of it has boosted his approval rating.

The gulf between CEO pay and worker pay in the US is now by far the largest in the world.

A potential winning coalition could sway Texas to our side someday.

The Obama campaign has registered 1,792,261 new voters in swing states.

On women's issues, Romney is more extreme than Bush.  Let's hope there are a lot of women like this.

Twelve soldiers win an $85,000,000 judgment against KBR.

Most economists agree -- Obama is right about economic recovery.

This election will bring us the first Hindu in Congress (found via Lady Atheist).

The Republicans seem to be re-embracing Akin.

Krugman weighs in on the wingnut crusade against Nate Silver.

Rosa Rubicondior has five reasons why religion is declining.

The only reason FEMA is "controversial" is the Katrina foul-up, and we all know whose fault that really was.

You can't trust self-proclaimed pro-choice Republicans.

Are you betraying a friend like this (found via The Immoral Minority).  Here's another sort of traitor.

Garance Franke-Ruta delves into primatology to expose the psychology behind Republican rape-pregnancy weirdness.  And yet another Republican has stepped in it.

Pollsters have a lot at stake in this election.

Republican radicalism approaches the mentality of terrorism (found via Crooks & Liars).

Hey goldtards, take a close look at your gold.

It's a close race in North Carolina.  Early-voting data look promising in Florida (more here).

Erick Erickson may be preparing the wingnutosphere for defeat (original post here).

How many would agree with Romney on bin Laden?

Here's a simple, effective, and beautiful counter-protest in France.

Want to reduce abortion?  Germany's socialism on steroids does it without restrictive laws.

A libertarian think tank's list of the world's top ten prosperous countries shows most are socialist (and the US does not make the cut).

For southern Europeans, the key to economic opportunity is a new language.

China's rising middle class is not politically passive.

The Arab Spring has reached Kuwait.

A major Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan takes up arms against the Taliban.

Was this wasp intelligently designed?

They really went all out for special effects back in 1549.

Medical research could be another casualty of Sandy.

03 November 2012

The fury of wingnuts scorned

I'm becoming more convinced than ever that Tuesday and Wednesday will bring the biggest meltdown since Fukushima.  Losing an election is usually disappointing, sometimes maddening -- but with modern polling, very often the side that loses at least had some awareness that defeat was coming.  This time, based on what I'm seeing on the right-wing sites I read semi-regularly (Hot Air, RedState, and Race42012), there is almost no such awareness in advance.  Republicans seem convinced that they're going to win.

How sure am I that they're wrong?  Well, nothing is certain, but most of the polls show Obama ahead in most of the swing states.  As of this morning Nate Silver puts Obama's chance of winning at 83.7%.  Polls of the Senate races suggest that our majority will actually increase.  Yes, defeat is still possible, but a lot of very surprising things would have to happen to bring it about.

But the right-wingers don't see it that way.  They think the polls are all wrong because high levels of Democratic party ID reveal some nefarious "skewing".  They think there's still a huge enthusiasm gap in their favor.  They point to Romney's lead among independents.  They think voters will turn against Obama because he mishandled the Benghazi attack (most of the alleged mishandling has been debunked, but that doesn't penetrate the sealed Drudge / Fox / Limbaugh / etc. fake-media bubble).  They think the public is finally realizing that Obama is Muslim, communist, stupid, anti-American, gay, Kenyan, or some combination of those.

In fact, if the actual result deviates from the consensus of polls, it's more likely to be in our favor.  A lot of polls don't include cell phones, and people who have only cell phones and no land lines are disproportionately young, black, and Hispanic -- groups that lean strongly Democratic.  There's evidence that polls systematically under-sample Hispanics in the Southwest, thus under-estimating Democratic support (Reid won his 2010 Nevada race by six points when polls showed him losing) -- so our party should do better than expected in Nevada and Colorado, and even Arizona may bring some surprises.  There could be an Obama / Senate landslide (in fact, with polls showing Florida back in play, an Obama Electoral-College landslide is possible even without those factors).

I've seen quite a few right-wingers salivating in anticipation of visiting liberal blogs and sites on November 7th to gloat.  They expect to see Nate Silver, most pollsters, and all the other actual experts who are predicting a Democratic win, become utterly discredited and disappear -- vindicating the wingnut fake alternate reality which they and their "media" have cobbled together around themselves.

They're in for a terrible, harsh, cold shock, and many of them aren't going to take it well.  Some of them are going to be enraged.  Some will be looking for someone or something to vent their fury at.

On Wednesday, watch your back.

02 November 2012

Videos of the day -- economic traitor

Background on Sensata here, where I found the second video.