Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some voters count more than others

The number of Democrats (in thousands) who voted in each caucus or primary, so far. Voters in the red columns don't count according to DNC rules.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Clinton accuses Obama of working with a slumlord

This seems like an incredibly stupid accusation for the junior Senator from New York to throw around:
CLINTON: ... I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Resco, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.
OBAMA: ... I was an associate at a law firm that represented a church group that had partnered with this individual to do a project and I did about five hours worth of work on this joint project. That's what she's referring to.
That's a pretty cheap shot from Hillary, who should know from personal experience that a candidate can't always vet every contributor that supports a campaign. After all, this was pretty big news a few months back:
A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Norman Hsu, a top Democratic fundraiser accused of cheating investors of at least $20 million and using some of the money to make illegal donations to political campaigns.
There's also this:
A Pakistani immigrant who hosted fundraisers in Southern California for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is being sought by the FBI on charges that he funneled illegal contributions to Clinton’s political action committee and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s 2004 reelection campaign. Authorities say Northridge businessman Abdul Rehman Jinnah, 56, fled the country after an indictment accused him of engineering more than $50,000 in illegal donations to the Democratic committees. A business associate charged as a co-conspirator has entered a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced in Los Angeles next week.
And some people might think she should have had better control over her own staff:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's former finance director has been indicted on charges of filing fictitious reports that misstated contributions for a Hollywood fund-raising gala for the senator, the Justice Department said Friday.
Of course, her husband's administration was occasionally associated with unsavory characters as well:
A Federal grand jury today indicted a Thai businesswoman who worked as a Washington lobbyist on charges that she and her family funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to the Democratic Party to gain access for her clients to President Clinton and members of the Administration.
She's bound to remember this:
President Clinton's eleventh-hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich has sparked a firestorm of controversy, launching investigations in both houses of Congress and igniting fierce protest from both Democrats and Republicans.

[F]ederal prosecutors in New York officially opened a criminal investigation into whether Rich did indeed buy his pardon with his ex-wife Denise's pointed largesse to the First Couple and the Democratic party.
As for actually working for clients who were later indicted, Hillary fought off these accusations for the entire 8 years her husband was in the Oval Office:
Ms. Clinton and her attorney have stated publicly that the billing records confirm that, as an attorney at the Rose Firm in the mid-80's, she was not significantly involved in the representation of Jim McDougal's savings and loan, Madison Guaranty.

According to the Rose records, Hillary Clinton billed Madison for 60 hours of work over a 15 month period. Ms. Clinton's attorney argues that this represents a de minimus amount of work and includes billings for work performed by Rose Finn lawyers working for Hillary Clinton at the time.
That was the trigger for the investigation that led to Bill's impeachment in 1998.

Hillary may be gambling that Barack won't retaliate with dirt of his own. But Republicans will definitely remember during the general election. It'd be better if she didn't legitimize their attacks herself.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Messenger at Mercury

NASA's Messenger spacecraft passes over the horizon of Mercury (January 2008).
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Three Mercury flybys, each followed about two months later by a course correction maneuver, put MESSENGER in position to enter Mercury orbit in March 2011. During the flybys – set for January 2008, October 2008 and September 2009 – MESSENGER will map nearly the entire planet in color, image most of the areas unseen by Mariner 10, and measure the composition of the surface, atmosphere and magnetosphere. It will be the first new data from Mercury in more than 30 years – and invaluable for planning MESSENGER’s yearlong orbital mission.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Barack Obama and the bankruptcy bill of 2005

Denver, August 28th, 2008:
"Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses, and the time to protect Social Security for future generations."

From Senator Obama's floor statement on the Bankruptcy Abuse and Prevention Act of 2005 (S.256):
[T]his bill would take us from a system where judges weed out the abusers from the honest to a system where all the honest are presumed to be abusers. Where declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy is made prohibitively expensive for people who already have suffered financial devastation. With this bill, it doesn't matter if you ran up your debt on a trip to Vegas or a trip to the Emergency Room, you're still treated the same under the law and you still face the possibility that you'll never get the chance to start over.

Now, it would be one thing if most people were abusing the system and falling into bankruptcy because they were irresponsible with their finances. But we know that's not the case. We know that most people fall into bankruptcy as a result of bad luck. And we know that a recent Harvard study showed that nearly half of all bankruptcies occur because of an illness that ends up sticking families with medical bills they just can't keep up with.

Take the case of Suzanne Gibbons. A few years back, Suzanne had a good job as a nurse and a home on Chicago's Northwest Side. Then she suffered a stroke that left her hospitalized for five-days. And even though she had health insurance through her job, it only covered $4,000 of her $53,000 hospital bill.

Because of her illness, she was soon forced to leave her full-time nursing job and take a temp job that paid less and didn't offer health insurance. Then the collection agencies started coming after her for hospital bills that she just couldn't keep up with. She lost her retirement savings, she lost her house, and eventually, she was forced to declare bankruptcy.

If this bill passes as written, Suzanne would be treated by the law the same as any scam artist who cheats the system. The decision about whether or not she can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy would never take into account the fact that she fell into financial despair because of her illness. With all that debt, she would have had to hire a lawyer and pay hundreds of dollars more in increased paperwork. And after all that, she still may have been told that she was ineligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

And so, as much as we'd like to believe that the face of this bankruptcy crisis is credit card addicts who spend their way into debt, the truth is that it's the face of people like Suzanne Gibbons. It's the face of middle-class America.

S.256 passed the Senate 74-25.

The Republicans (including John McCain) were unanimous in their support for the bill. 18 Democrats and Independent Jim Jeffords voted with the majority. (Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter voted for the House version).

25 Democrats, including Barack Obama, voted against the bill.

Hillary Clinton was absent (on the day of Bill Clinton's heart surgery). However, she fought against it's passage in the days before the final vote.

"Success" in Iraq: de-de-Baathification

The Iraqi Parliament has finally done something that the Bush administration, and many others, considered essential to political progress in Iraq: it passed a law intended to open government jobs to former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. What should have been heralded as an accomplishment, however, may only serve to further reinforce the bumbling nature of President Bush’s ill-conceived adventure in Iraq.
Let's remember that the only reason the Iraqis have to pass an anti-anti-Baathification law in the first place is to undo the anti-Baathification law originally passed by Paul Bremer with the blessing of the Bush administration.
In an act that many saw as the original sin that led to Iraq's current turmoil, Bremer crippled Iraq's institutions of governance and security and created half a million angry and jobless people in the process. He has since said that there were legitimate grievances about the order but that it was necessary to bring oppressed Shiite Muslims and ethnic Kurds into the government.

Bremer's order affected 400,000 members of the armed forces and all civil servants and officials above the Baath Party's lowest rank-and-file level, a number estimated at 32,000 to 85,000.
Bremer now blames the Iraqis for screwing up his brilliant plan.
We then turned over the implementation of this carefully focused policy to Iraq's politicians. I was wrong here. The Iraqi leaders, many of them resentful of the old Sunni regime, broadened the decree's impact far beyond our original design. That led to such unintended results as the firing of several thousand teachers for being Baath Party members. We eventually fixed those excesses, but I should have made implementation the job of a judicial body, not a political one.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

If at first you don't succeed...

... Just change the names.

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz proves that just because you're perpetually wrong, you don't have to stop speculating.

January 3, 2008: Obama may have to quit after Iowa
The only race that could (end in Iowa) is in the Democratic Party and only if Hillary Clinton wins a big victory. Iowa has proved resistant to the Clinton brand, and she has struggled there throughout the year. But her final days of campaigning have been solid, and a victory, no matter how narrow, would be a big boost for her.
January 7, 2008: Clinton may have to quit after New Hampshire
Obama's freight train for change has overrun the Clinton campaign. Top officials inside her campaign and alarmed allies outside are braced for a defeat on Tuesday. Five days is not enough, they have argued, to slow and reverse the momentum Obama has developed since Iowa.

For these Clinton loyalists, the hope is that the real campaign turnaround can begin after New Hampshire. "Whatever happens tomorrow, we're going on," Clinton told CBS's Harry Smith Monday morning. "And we're going to keep going until the end of the process on February 5th. But I've always felt that this is going to be a very tough, hard-fought election, and I'm ready for that."

But like Penn's memo from Saturday, that may be more wish than reality.
January 12, 2008: Edwards may have to quit after South Carolina
"I want to be absolutely clear to all of you who have been devoted to this cause," he said Tuesday night, "and I want to be clear to the 99 percent of Americans who have not yet had the chance to have their voices heard, that I am in this race to the convention, that I intend to be the nominee of my party."

That pledge notwithstanding, Edwards has two weeks to think about the future. He is certainly in the race through Nevada and South Carolina
I'm not suggesting you should put your money on Edwards in S.C., but so far betting against this guy's gut instinct is a better gamble than betting on the favorite in the election markets.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Voinovich accuses Obama of being inexperienced - like Bush

This is a funny criticism coming from a man who's rubber stamped every foreign policy initiative of the current president.
Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, a key moderate Republican in the Senate chamber and influential member of the Foreign Relations Committee, scoffed Tuesday when asked if Sen. Barack Obama has the foreign policy chops to be the next president.

It was bad management that got President Bush into trouble, said the Ohio senator, who at one point blocked confirmation of John Bolton, Bush's choice to become ambassador to the United Nations .

"People thought he'd be a much better manager than he was," Voinovich said of the president. "Even though he's dedicated himself to management, I think some of the screw-ups that have occurred have really hurt him. A lot of Republicans are disappointed because they frankly thought he'd be a better manager."
For all his complaints about George Bush's Iraq war strategy, and his fleeting opposition to John Bolton, Senator Voinovich apparently never took the president aside, explained just how he was jeopardizing the nation's defense and used his experience as a distinguished Republican Senator to keep us on the right path. In fact, Bush probably took Voinovich's repeated votes protecting him from oversight as a big thumbs up.

Note to the Senator: You're not a spectator. You helped get us into the mess we're in today. Put up, or shut up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The polls were just wrong

Before everybody gets carried away trying to explain Barack Obama's loss to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, just remember, there's a rule in science that says the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. And the simplest explanation is this:

There was no Iowa bounce for Obama and Clinton never rallied. The polls were just wrong.

Forget the Wilder effect. Forget the Bradley effect. Forget trying to explain the results as a women's revolt after Chris Matthews' condescending comments. The polls taken in the lead-up to the New Hampshire vote were all over the place. Zogby had Obama at 42. Fox had him at 32. And 20 other polls filled every point in between.

People scratching their heads questioning how Hillary won are basically asserting that all of those polls were correct. That Obama literally had a double-digit post Iowa surge and then Clinton rallied from behind - all in 5 days. The only way to believe that argument is to believe that the polls were measuring dynamic changes in support over a very short time period. Despite the fact that many of the polls were taken concurrently over several days, yet still didn't agree with one another.

This was true in the lead-up to the Iowa vote as well, though nobody seemed to notice. On election day, Zogby predicted Obama would win Iowa by 7, while ARG predicted he'd lose to Clinton by 9.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I guess some groups are more important than others

From CNN's political ticker:

Obama leads Clinton among key groups as returns come in

Mind you, this wasn't one of the pre-election polls that predicted a double-digit victory for Obama in NH. This was an exit poll. And it predicted a tie.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hubble Captures Full View of Uranus's Rings on Edge.
Image courtesy NASA, ESA, SETI (M. Showalter)

Until Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in January 1986, the rings were only known from the way they temporarily blocked the light of stars passing behind the planet. Hubble provided some of the first images of the ring system as viewed from Earth's distance of approximately 2 billion miles. The advent of adaptive optics gave ground-based observers using large telescopes comparatively sharp views.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

But they keep telling me Ron Paul is a bigot

From the January 5th debate:

Ron Paul's comments challenging the idea that we're in a war against the Muslim world - (and particularly Rudy Giuliani's inability to utter the word terrorist without the prefix Islamic.)

REP. PAUL: ...I'm as concerned about the nature of the threat of terrorism as anybody, if not more so. But they don't attack us because we're free and prosperous. And there are radicals in all elements in all religions that will resort to violence.

REP. PAUL: You paint all Islamics the same way.

REP. PAUL: What you're doing is damaging our relationship by destroying our relationship with all Muslims. That's what you're doing.