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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Remark of the Week

Posted by erweinstein on April 26, 2009

One of Andrew Sullivan‘s readers writes:

The idea that eradicating the drugs will solve the drug problem is the lie at the root of the War on Drugs. Drug addiction is never about the drug, it’s about people coming to grips with the pain of existence.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Remark of the Week

Remark of the Week

Posted by erweinstein on February 22, 2009

This week’s Remark of the Week is from Mark Thompson:

By treating any and all social safety nets as irreversible steps on the Road to Serfdom, we [libertarians] allow liberals and progressives to shape those policies in ways that are inefficient, ineffective, and overbroad – even though Adam Smith, Hayek himself, and Friedman each advocated for a form of social safety net, demonstrating that social safety nets can be consistent with libertarianism.

Part of a continuing conversation about the future of libertarianism that includes, among others, Virginia PostrelWill Wilkinson and Ross Douthat.

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The former governor of Illinois

Posted by erweinstein on February 21, 2009

At the end of last month, Rod Blagojevich, then the governor of the US State of Illinois, was removed from office by the Illinois State Senate. Earlier in January, Blagojevich had been impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives following his arrest in December on federal corruption charges.

I have previously criticized Blagojevich, who earned the lowest ever approval ratings of any public official even before his arrest, and I am glad that my home state now has a new governor, Pat Quinn. In addition to his corrupt dealings (which memorably included soliciting bribes from those interested in being named Barack Obama’s replacement in the US Senate), Blagojevich paralyzed the Illinois state government with his fiercely ideological governing style. In particular, he refused to compromise on substantive tax increases or major government service reductions even as the state faced a massive budget crisis and ran out of money to pay for its mass transit system. The situation was made all the more tragicomic because Blagojevich was a Democrat, the Democrats control both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, and the Illinois Republican Party has been too dysfunctional to offer up any real alternatives (Blagojevich was reelected in 2006 by over 1.5 million votes).

Although the vote to remove Blagojevich from office was unanimous, Jonathan Rauch believes that the impeachment and conviction process was flawed and that “too many corners were cut”. Marc Ambinder offers up a rebuttal written by Rich Miller.

I largely take Miller’s side, noting that just because Blagojevich turned Illinois into a national laughingstock doesn’t automatically mean his removal was justified. But the former governor, as Miller notes, played fast-and-loose with the state constitution for years and was only arrested by the FBI after declaring on tape his intention to swap a US Senate seat for money and other political favors. Solicitation to bribery is a serious crime, but it is only the beginning of Blagojevich’s troubles.  The former governor had a history of shady dealings, as his current mess comes after former Blagojevich fundraisers Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine were indicted and convicted of exchanging kickbacks for state business contracts. The federal indictment also lists the former governor’s attempts to bribe the Chicago Tribune into firing editors critical of him, and to extort money (in the form of campaign contributions) from a Chicago children’s hospital. It is for his earlier small abuses of power as well as for his more recent shockingly corrupt schemes that Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office.

Now a private citizen, Blagojevich still faces federal criminal charges. The federal prosecutor bringing the charges is Patrick Fitzgerald, a scrupulously honest US Attorney. Fitzgerald, while appointed by Republicans, has notably indicted and earned convictions of George Ryan (Blagojevich’s Republican predecessor as governor), “Scooter” Libby (Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff), and Conrad Black (a British Conservative politician and media tycoon). This record suggests that former governor Blagojevich will face a tough fight to beat the rap once his formal indictment begins later this year.

While it has sometimes been amusing to poke fun at Blagojevich’s pompous personality and to listen to the tape recordings of his brazen (and profanity-laden) criminal plans, it is hard to look back on his earlier years and try to find some small good that he brought to Illinois. The record is decidedly mixed. I am somewhat saddened to admit that I originally supported Blagojevich over his two rivals in the Democratic governor’s primary election of 2002, believing that he would be a moderate like his mentor Bill Clinton and that he would keep his promises to bring honesty and ethics reform to Illinois. Despite his two election victories, the people aren’t stupid (or at least can’t be fooled forever, to paraphrase Lincoln), and Blagojevich’s record-breaking low poll numbers  reflected a profound desire to see him leave the governor’s mansion (which he rarely used, preferring a townhouse in Chicago and making the taxpayers foot the bill for private jet flights between Chicago and Springfield). Unfortunatley, Blagojevich leaves behind a legacy of taking political corruption to new heights–a legacy that has now ensnared Roland Burris, the new occupant of Obama’s former Senate seat. Fortunately, the people of Illinois–a state thrust into the spotlight by the election of its junior Senator to the Presidency and its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games–won’t have old Blago to kick around anymore.

Posted in Law, Politics | 2 Comments »

William Shatner on politics

Posted by erweinstein on January 17, 2009

In an interview with Glenn Beck on May 16, 2008 the inimitable actor William Shatner made many thoughtful if offbeat remarks about politics.

Early in the interview, Beck asked the former Captain Kirk about the zany obstreperousness of Star Trek fans. Shatner responded, “I mean, it was a fantasy, wasn’t it? It was just a television show.”

When pressed, Shatner assented to holding the belief that “almost every problem we have right now is due to overpopulation”. Shatner said that  “…nature eventually will take care of that problem like they did, like nature does with animals.” He elaborated,

…how do we stop the overpopulation? I guess it’s by education and saying you’ve got to have less children, you can’t have all the children you want anymore. There’s a difference in the world now. Or nature will take care of it.

Shatner ascribes his views on the subject to a reading (40 years ago) of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts and literature, Politics | 3 Comments »

The Five Presidents

Posted by erweinstein on January 7, 2009

Like a Doctor Who special, the three living former presidents of the United States reunited to hold a lunch meeting with the current president and the president-elect. George W. Bush hosted President-elect Barack Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the White House earlier today.

Obama said he received “advice, good counsel, and fellowship” from this rare gathering of presidents, which culminated in a cool photo-op.

The BBC has the story and video here.

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More from Scott Adams

Posted by erweinstein on December 31, 2008

Scott Adams, cartoonist and humorist best known as the creator of Dilbert, commissioned a survey of economists’ attitudes on current US political issues. The results came in just before the election (also see this CNN piece about the survey and Tyler Cowen’s quick summary and comment), and they don’t surprise me, but I am more interested in Adams’ continued small revelations about what he really believes (as opposed to irony or devil’s advocacy, tools he uses frequently). Here’s his personal view, also written shortly before the election:

I should pause here and confess my personal biases, since the messenger is part of the story. On social issues, I lean Libertarian, minus the crazy stuff.

Moneywise, I can’t support a candidate who promises to tax the bejeezus out of my bracket, give the windfall to a bunch of clowns with a 14 percent approval rating (Congress), and hope they spend it wisely.

Unfortunately, the alternative to the guy who promises to pillage my wallet is a lukewarm cadaver. I’m in trouble either way.

I wonder if Adams is pleased with the outcome of the election…

Posted in Economics, Politics | Comments Off on More from Scott Adams

All Eyes on America

Posted by erweinstein on November 5, 2008

Yesterday, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America.

Congratulations to President-elect Obama, to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, and to their campaign staff and volunteers on their victory, and for running the most disciplined, organized, and efficient political campaign in national history.

Congratulations as well to John McCain for persevering in this hard-fought contest, which featured a remarkable comeback in the primary elections, and a difficult campaign trail where McCain was often at odds with his own supporters.

As the eyes of the world turned to America last night, our country was admirably represented by McCain and Obama as they delivered, respectively, the best concession speech and the best victory speech of the modern era.

For better or for worse, we will soon close the book on the era of President George W. Bush. The people of the United States, be they Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, or None-of-the-Aboves, will be judged by our peers abroad (and by our descendants) not for the vagaries of the campaign, but for what is accomplished from this day forward. As former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, Sr. said in a rare joint charity appearance, “No one can change what happened. But we can all change what happens next.” Now the real work begins.

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Israeli Politics Update

Posted by erweinstein on October 27, 2008

As linked in the previous post, Israel is currently in the midst of a(nother) political upheaval. Over the summer, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to tender his resignation due to corruption investigations. Primary elections for his Kadima party, which currently heads a shaky coalition government, resulted in a victory for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was given a fixed amount of time to re-organize a governing coalition with herself as Prime Minister. The negotiations went down to the wire, but they have ended in deadlock. The centrist Kadima party reached tentative agreements with the center-left parties Labor and Meretz, but Kadima leaders were unable to gain enough parties to constitute a majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Livni has acknowledged this, putting the country on track for elections in early 2009. Olmert will continue to serve as Prime Minister until a new government is formed after the elections.

Although the coalition negotiations were complex, Livni’s failure to form a government ultimately rested on the unwillingness of two religious-affiliated parties that tenuously supported Olmert, Shas and United Torah Judaism, to join Livni’s new coalition. From my perspective, the key to their intransigence was opposition to the concessions accompanying further peace negotiations:

“…[Shas Chairman] Yishai was told as soon as the negotiations started that Livni would not accept a coalition agreement that excluded Jerusalem from the political talks with the Palestinians…”

Unfortunately, the revitalized Kadima led by the diplomatically-inclined Livni–who possesses the desire and wherewithal to press ahead with major negotiations that could complete the outlines of a two-state solution–may never get the chance to lead Israel. Elections could benefit the center-right (currently opposition) Likud party, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as easily as the informal Kadima-Labor-Meretz alliance. Likud is known to favor a reversal of the current Kadima government’s policies of removing Jewish settlers from the Palestinian Territories and offering land swaps to compensate the Palestinians for Israeli annexations. While an increased Knesset margin for Kadima and/or Labor could put peace talks back on track after the election (by March?), a Likud victory would almost certainly shut down negotiations, possibly causing military retrenchment by both Israelis and Palestinians.

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More financial crisis links

Posted by erweinstein on September 24, 2008

1. Arnold Kling offers some very astute play-by-play commentary on the developing US financial crisis, here, here, and here. He has more detailed posts on specific issues here and here.

2. Jim Manzi’s long but helpful overview.

3. Analysis from University of Chicago professors Douglas Diamond and Anil Kashyap, in “Frequently Asked Questions” format.

4. Tyler Cowen presents arguments against and for the the bailout. See also his own thoughts on the bailout proposals.

5. The Wikipedia article on credit default swaps.

Posted in Economics, Politics | 1 Comment »

A good prediction

Posted by erweinstein on June 24, 2008

On January 9, 2008, I wrote (regarding Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama):

…the two well-known and well-funded rivals have a long fight ahead to win their party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential election.

I don’t like to brag, but in hindsight that statement (and the predicted nature of the primary campaign implied by the phrase “well-known and well-funded”) sounds pretty cool, especially considering that many (including Senator Clinton) said the primaries would be finished by February.

Happy first week of summer! Only 19 weeks until Election Day!

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Department of Meta

Posted by erweinstein on May 25, 2008

Nowadays, polls are so common that a telephone poll was done recently to estimate how often individuals are surveyed (the answer was about once per year).

Written by Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman.

Also read Lance Fortnow, a Northwestern University professor of theoretical computer science, complaining about this issue and the related matter of self-selected sample bias.

Meta-curiosities aside, Gelman’s statement is part of a very interesting blog post (and follow-up) about whether or not it is rational to vote given the low probability of one vote being decisive.

Gelman and his colleagues blog at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, one of the most consistently-educational and useful academic discipline blogs. Although some of the posts discuss very specific issues in applied statistics and are not intended for lay audiences (I don’t know R, although I hope to learn one day, so I have to skip the posts about statistics coding), Gelman often links to and explains his own research. The papers analyzing voting, districting, party affiliation, and other political issues are especially interesting (and timely, considering that we’re approaching a potentially historic presidential and general election season in the US), and he also throws in posts about methodology/philosophy in statistics and social sciences for variety. A new book summarizing his applied research on US elections and voting behavior, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State (see here also), is due to be published this fall.

P.S.: Thanks to Eli for pointing out in an unrelated conversation a few months ago that meta is Greek for “after”.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts, Science | 2 Comments »

Agreement with Me and Gintis RE: Krugman

Posted by erweinstein on May 18, 2008

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers wrote:

Obama is an historic opportunity for the Dems of FDR proportions, a chance to remake the political landscape for a generation or more. And people like Krugman and his proxy Hillary, who want only political war, narrow short term score settling, are the alternative. If the Dems don’t nominate Obama, and go for Hillary…they will have shown themselves to be as corrupt, opportunistic, hypocritical, and small minded as the Republicans.

I say this as a life long Democrat who in 40 years of voting has only voted once for a Republican (who was running against Phil Gramm for congress)… [emphasis added]

Compare this with what I wrote about UMass professor Herbert Gintis, discussing Gintis’ critical review of Paul Krugman’s latest book:

[In contrast to Krugman, Gintis] is however, an insightful and fair-minded thinker who has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t care about developing good rhetorical points for political debates, but rather about studying social problems such as poverty and poor schooling so that these problems can actually be ameliorated.

Posted in Economics, Politics | 1 Comment »

Remark of Two Weeks Ago

Posted by erweinstein on April 20, 2008

Sorry for the unscheduled absence. I took a vacation at the end of March, but since I’ve been back in Hyde Park, I haven’t been feeling well. I think I had some sort of stomach flu…

Here’s the CAJ Remark of the Week for the week of April 7, 2008:

In deciding how to vote, I ignore purely theological issues (e.g., whether the Mitt Romney’s LDS view of the afterlife is more plausible or less plausible than John Kerry’s Roman Catholic view), but I consider the extent to which the candidate’s religious philosophy may (like any other part of the candidate’s worldview) influence his or her public policy decisions.

That’s David Kopel at the Volokh Conspiracy, discussing the recent scrutiny of religious leaders who support or endorse the presidential candidates. The ideas in the above section are very similar to my own views (indeed, friends and relatives may have heard me use similar words when discussing Mitt Romney’s religion speech). Kopel continues,

In my view, it is relevant that a candidate has chosen spiritual mentors who are bigots or who are hostile to constitutional rights. Senator Obama’s close relationship with Rev. Pfleger makes me less confident that a President Obama would be a strong defender of the entire Bill of Rights and of civic tolerance.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts, Religion | 1 Comment »

Mississippi Matters ?!?

Posted by erweinstein on March 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are neck-and-neck in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, so the 33 pledged delegates at stake in today’s Mississippi primary are crucial. Unless Hillary can hold Obama to a small lead (i.e., he wins <5 delegates more than she does), she will lose some of the momentum from her strong showing last week, it will be that much harder for her to rally her supporters for the six weeks of campaigning until the huge Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

I don’t want to predict who will win the Democrat’s nomination, because-despite the affirmations of Obama supporters (and Andrew Sullivan)-Hillary can still pull through and take the nomination at the convention, especially if she keeps her lead in Pennsylvania and finishes the primaries with a higher popular vote.

One thing is certain-anyone who nine (or even six) months ago said or thought that the Mississippi primary would receive wall-to-wall media coverage (in between tidbits from the Spitzer story) was smoking something.

Speaking of which, here’s the first really good song about Mississippi I could think of (it’s a pretty snazzy tune):

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No Hiding Place

Posted by erweinstein on March 11, 2008

…for Eliot Spitzer. The egotistical, posturing, thuggish, tax-cheating, power-mad Governor of New York State is facing impeachment and federal indictment after being caught frequenting an expensive prostitution service. The story broke yesterday in the New York Times, and rocketed its way through the rest of the media and the politics world. So far, Governor Spitzer (a Democrat and major supporter of NY Senator Hillary Clinton) has pulled a Larry Craig and refused to resign, but soon he will have no choice. He may also be disbarred (lose his license to practice law), the same fate that befell Mike Nifong.

Spitzer, who was once praised by New York Democrats and their media allies as the possible first Jewish President of the United States (shudder), made his name as “the sheriff of Wall Street”, prosecuting or threatening to prosecute companies in the wake of the 2000-2001 financial scandals from his post as the Attorney General of New York State. He earned this reputation serving as NY AG for 6 years, where he popularized the (barely constitutional) technique of indicting entire corporations over the wrongdoing of individual corrupt, fraudulent, or larcenous managers. This technique was developed by Spitzer’s ostensible political rivals (and Bush Administration Republicans) Michael Chertoff and John Ashcroft, who first deployed it against Arthur Andersen. That company’s conviction was later overturned by the US Supreme Court, but not until after the company was barred from conducting auditing work, leading to its collapse and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and the savings/pensions of many employees. Spitzer used the same tactics to enforce his apparently puritanical code of financial morals, as the mere threat of a company-wide indictment forced many corporations to pay huge settlements regardless of their alleged wrongdoing. No American in recent history (whose name isn’t Sarbanes or Oxley) has done more to damage the business competitiveness of the United States vis-à-vis other developed nations.

Here is an excellent litany of Spitzer’s sins, including hypocrisy, as the former Attorney General was a leading crusader against (wait for it…) high-class “escort services”. More recently, Spitzer abused his control over the NY state police to leak classified embarrassing documents about a political opponent to the media. (He also has the temerity to spell his first name the least common way-with one “L” and one “T”- just like I do.)

I am sorry for the humiliation and emotional distress that are being or will be inflicted upon Spitzer’s wife and daughters. However, in the grand scheme of things this scandal couldn’t possibly have fallen upon a more deserving man.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

Remark of Two Weeks Ago

Posted by erweinstein on February 11, 2008

Many people are holding out the hope that the government can somehow substitute for the pharmas, bolstered by the ludicrous claim that the government really discovers all the drugs. This is arrant nonsense; government-funded research discovers targets that might someday turn into drugs, if the Big Pharma chemists can: find a molecule synthesis can be economically mass produced; keep the molecule from killing rats, mice, dogs, or humans; get the molecule into a form that does not have to be directly injected into the bloodstream; tweak the molecule so that the liver doesn’t immediately chew it into pieces that no longer affect your target; and shepherd the entire thing through years of clinical trials. That’s just off the top of my head; research chemists will undoubtedly have more.

Megan McArdle, as part of her excellent continuing series on pharmaceutical companies and US policy regarding them.

Posted in Economics, Politics, Random Thoughts | 1 Comment »

McCain wins Florida Primary

Posted by erweinstein on January 30, 2008

As the votes came in last night from the highly-contested Republican Primary election in Florida, it was clear around an hour after the last polls closed that Senator John McCain won this crucial vote. McCain earned 36% to Mitt Romney’s 31%, a decisive margin in a state where over 1.8 million Republicans voted (and where the closed primary prevents registered Independents, allegedly McCain’s strongest supporters, from voting). Rudy Giuliani came in 3rd with 15%, edging out Mike Huckabee’s 14% by 22,000 votes. The 57 delegates awarded to McCain for his victory under Florida’s winner-take-all system catapult him into 1st place in the delegate count, where he previously trailed Romney and Huckabee.

My take: In next weeks “Super/Mega/Ultra Tuesday” primaries, McCain can win Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey, as he led in the polls in these state before yesterday’s victory. McCain’s prospects in these states as well as in the closer states of Connecticut, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma will probably be better once voters and pollsters react to Giuliani’s decision to leave the race and endorse McCain. After McCain’s good-but-not-great performance in tonight’s Republican California debate,  all major news bureaus are reporting that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain tomorrow. It looks like McCain will come out of February 5th with a substantial lead in pledged delegates if not a plurality. McCain is also ahead in the later-primary but delegate-rich states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, and Ohio. Even if many in Republican Party establishment refuse to back McCain due to his frequent breaks with the party on high-profile issues (such as climate change, campaign finance reform, stem cell research, torture of terrorist suspects, and immigration reform) his support from delegates and voters makes it increasingly unlikely that Romney can edge him out for the nomination.

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Runner up for the Remark of Last Week

Posted by erweinstein on January 23, 2008

This, by the way, is why things like personality and leadership style are relevant to voting decisions (and are tough to capture in surveys). A candidate’s policy positions are not the only thing that matter. The way in which the candidate will try to implement these policies matters too. I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who shared my precise policy positions but decided to implement them by constitutionally questionable methods, for example. Process matters just as much as substance.

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Tufts Fletcher School (formerly an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Department of Political Science) and high-profile academic blogger. He is discussing the Electoral Compass, a below-average-quality online political quiz that purports to tell you which candidate’s positions are closest to your own.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Runner up for the Remark of Last Week

Michigan Primary Results

Posted by erweinstein on January 16, 2008

The votes from yesterday’s Michigan primary elections have been fully counted, but the results are a bit confusing.

Hillary Clinton won the Michigan Democratic Primary election, beating “uncommitted” 55% to 40%.

Over the summer, the Michigan Democratic Party and Michigan Republican Party authorities decided to move their primaries earlier to have more influence, against the wishes of their respective parent organizations, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC). In retaliation for disobeying instructions (and for escalating a timing race between New Hampshire and Michigan, as New Hampshire state law requires its primary to be a certain number of days before any other primary), the DNC stripped the Michigan Democratic Primary of all delegates to the Democratic Party nominating convention this summer, making that primary meaningless. Barack Obama and John Edwards removed their names from the Michigan primary ballot in solidarity with the DNC, so Hillary’s “victory” is very unusual.

The RNC punished the Michigan Republican party by removing one-half of Michigan’s delegates to the Republican Party’s nominating convention. The Michigan Republican Primary still affects the race for their party’s nomination, as with 30 total delegates allocated by the primary Michigan has more Republican delegates than New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican Primary with 39% of the vote to John McCain’s 30%. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee won 16%, followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 6%. Romney was born in Detroit, and his father George W. Romney was one of the most popular politicians in Michigan state history (serving three terms as the governor of Michigan before being appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Richard Nixon). Mitt Romney faced a “must-win” in Michigan, and his victory there ensures that he will not have to abandon his bid for the presidential nomination.

John McCain’s second place finish in Michigan ensures that he and Romney will split the state’s delegates, with Romney receiving around 20 delegates and McCain earning around 5. The current delegate count places Romney in first with 52, Huckabee in second with 22 (depending on how you count Iowa’s delegates), and McCain in third with 15. Each of the three men has won a major competitive contest, and no one has gained clear command of the race. They now move on the South Carolina, with a primary this Saturday, and Florida’s January 29th primary. Fred Thompson (who has won 6 delegates) and Rudy Giuliani (whose strategy involves skipping the early primaries and caucuses) respectively are essentially making their last stands in those two states, so it is very difficult to predict which Republican will be riding a wave of popularity into February 5th’s “Super Tuesday”. On that day, the majority of the delegates for both parties will be in contention across 24 states (including Illinois, New York, and California). For the Democrats, Super Tuesday will almost certainly be a slugfest between Obama and Clinton, with the overall tone of the race determined by whoever seizes the mantle of national front runner via the upcoming Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida Democratic contests.

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(Politically Incorrect) Remark of the Week

Posted by erweinstein on January 13, 2008

The exit poll split makes it pretty clear that large numbers of Democratic women voted for her because she has ovaries.

Megan McArdle, explaining why Hillary Clinton upset the pollsters and won the New Hampshire primary, while criticizing the “identity”-centric view of choosing one’s candidate.

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Primary Election Results (and background info)

Posted by erweinstein on January 9, 2008

After the somewhat unexpected victories of the young, “paradigm-shifting” candidates Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama in the Iowa Caucuses, last night’s New Hampshire Primary results have changed the tenor of the primary elections.

Hillary Clinton, New York Senator and wife of the 42nd President of the United States, narrowly beat Illinois Senator Barack Obama 39% to 37% in yesterday’s election. Although the two Democratic Senators will split the state’s delegates about evenly, polls predicted an Obama victory. Former Senator John Edwards finished in a distant 3rd place. After delivering a highly-regarded New Hampshire concession speech, Obama has received more than $500,000 in donations over the past 20 hours (Hilary is trying to beat that total), while the top news headlines often failed to note how close the final vote totals were (and the fact that a few weeks ago, Senator Clinton held a commanding lead). Obama and his campaign representatives assert that they are preparing to adjust their strategy in the weeks ahead. Moreover, Hillary’s victory has reversed the seemingly-unstoppable momentum granted to Obama by his Iowa win, suggesting that the two well-known and well-funded rivals have a long fight ahead to win their party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential election.

Arizona Senator John McCain won the New Hampshire Republican Primary with 37% of the vote to Mitt Romney‘s 31%, followed by Mike Huckabee with 11%. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani edged out Texas Congressman Ron Paul for fourth place by approximately 2,000 votes (<1.5%). McCain was predicted to win, but only by around 4-5%, and considering that his campaign has been short on supporters and money, and was declared dead by the media over the summer, the victory is significant. Many who backed McCain when he challenged George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 abandoned him for Giuliani (if socially liberal), for former Tennessee Senator/Law and Order star Fred Thompson (if socially conservative). or left the Republican party entirely (if extremely dissatisfied by the conduct of President Bush). With Giuliani and Thompson finishing poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire (both are pinning their hopes on later states where they are more popular) McCain’s campaign is attracting new recruits and donations and hoping to bank on their recent success (McCain tied with Thompson for 3rd in Iowa, despite not campaigning in that state–not to mention McCain’s strong opposition to federal ethanol subsidies, the largest beneficiaries of which are Iowa farmers and agribusinesses). McCain is now moving to compete against Romney and Huckabee in next week’s Michigan and South Carolina primaries. Romney–the son of extremely popular Michigan governor George Romney–faces a “must-win” in Michigan, while McCain won that state in 2000 and Huckabee has made inroads with the working-class socially conservative voters there (who were called “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s).

Finally, RealClearPolitics has tentative general election polls, which show that McCain is the only Republican candidate currently beating Hilary Clinton, as well as the only Republican candidate not currently losing to Obama (McCain and Obama are tied).

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

New Hampshire Primaries in Progress

Posted by erweinstein on January 8, 2008

A little less than six hours remains until the polls close in the New Hampshire Republican and Democratic Presidential Primary Elections.

As of yesterday, polls indicate that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton far outside the margin of error in the Democratic Primary, with John Edwards in third and Bill Richardson in forth.

For the Republicans, John McCain and Mitt Romney are battling for first place, followed at a distance by Mike Huckabee while another close fight pits Rudy Giuliani against Ron Paul for fourth place. Most polls have McCain going into the primary with a 4%-7% lead over Romney (slightly less than the margin of error), but Romney’s perceived good showing in Sunday’s debate may make up some of the support he has lost in New Hampshire since he embarrassingly placed second in Iowa to Huckabee.

News reports and eyewitness accounts suggest extremely (possibly historically) high voter turnout. When projected turnout is compared to the existing electoral rolls, it appears that many independents and previously-nonvoters are participating today. Based on plausible speculation about the identities of these new voters, the high turnout is good news for Obama, McCain, and possibly Ron Paul (who is eager to beat Giuliani, as Congressman Paul and the former NYC Mayor have been involved in a bitter weeks-long argument over the root causes of the 9-11 attacks).

The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder is again providing his excellent election liveblogging.

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Remark of [this past] Week

Posted by erweinstein on January 7, 2008

Let’s say that the government subsidized the price of bananas, you bought so many bananas, put them on your roof, and then the roof collapsed. Is that government failure or market failure?

Tyler Cowen, George Mason Economics professor, discussing the “housing bubble” and “subprime mortgage crisis” on his blockbuster blog Marginal Revolution.

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Iowa Caucuses Tonight

Posted by erweinstein on January 3, 2008

Happy New Year to all of my friends and readers, and Happy Iowa Caucus Day!

The 24-hour cable news networks are out in force to cover the developments.

For those who prefer a more “new media” approach, the Atlantic Monthly‘s Marc Ambinder is live-blogging Caucus news.

The Democratic Party Iowa Caucus is too close to call, with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards essentially in a three-way tie for first place, while Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are trailing in the low single-digits.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has a slight lead over Mitt Romney (barely outside the margin of error), and John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Ron Paul are within a few percentage points of each other at a close 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

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