Monday, December 6, 2010


When I set this up a year ago, I didn't know how long it would last, and Blogger was easy. But I'm pretty unhappy with the whole platform so I'm moving. I thought I'd already done this post honestly. But so you know, you can get all your 42 Reasons goodness at now. Check it out. I've got a great new post up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Went Done Gone and Lost My (Blue) Dog Again...

It's three days after midterms! I could (and might still) spend a post (or two, or three) talking about all of the things everyone else is talking about since the elections. Mainly that's the Republican take over of the house, John Boehner crying, how Nancy Pelosi's suddenly a loser, how Obama doesn't get "it", etc. But not for now. I'm going to attempt to talk about something a little more niche, and a whole lot less talked about. The Democrats lost a lot of seats. It's true. But where did they lose them exactly, and how does that affect party unity and message in Washington? I suspect you'll find that most of the losses came from the Blue Dog Caucus and that it might have the effect of a more unified (if less powerful) Democratic Caucus.

The Blue Dog Caucus in the 111th Congress has 53 members. They're geographically diverse, ranging from West Coast to East and urban districts to rural ones. Just as examples you have members like Loretta Sanchez of the California 47th, Southern Los Angeles. It's a very urban district with a high population density and a very small area. In contrast there's Chris Carney of the Pennsylvania 10th who's largest city is Carbondale. It's Pennsylvania's third largest house district by area. So I think we can rule out that Blue Dogs suffered in this election because they all represent the same type of voter and that voter type was especially swayed by Republicans.

In looking at the data from Tuesday, of the 53 members of the Blue Dog Caucus, only 24 of them won re-election. This number includes one race the New York Times hasn't called yet but is leaning toward the incumbent and two that haven't been called but look to be losses. It also includes six members who retired resulting in the seat switching parties, and one member who himself switched parties only to lose in the primary. That seat is also in Republican hands for the 112th Congress. With only 24 members winning re-election, the Blue Dogs had a success rate of 45.28% for the 2010 Midterms. Meanwhile, of all Democrats in the 111th Congress (255 of them) 191 seats (including three still out leaning Dem.) stayed in the Party. That's a 74.90% success rate.

Obviously averages aren't everything. Blue Dogs are more likely than your average Democrat to come from districts that could be described as "purple" or indeed, given the landslide of the 2008 election, districts that are generally described as Republican. So you wouldn't expect the success rate of the Blue Dogs to match that of the Democratic Party as a whole. Still, I think the number speak for themselves. Democrats held on to 3/4 of all their house seats this cycle (really bad, in the grand scheme) but the Blue Dogs held less than half.

Blue Dog Seats Held

Blue Dog Seats Lost

Jason Altmire (PA-4)

Joe Baca (CA-43)

John Barrow (GA-12)

Sanford Bishop (GA-2)

Dan Boren (OK-2)

Leonard Boswell (IA-3)

Dennis Cardoza (CA-18)

Ben Chandler (KY-6) NYT hasn’t called. Probable hold.

Jim Cooper (TN-5)

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

Joe Donnelly (IN-2)

Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8) VERY narrow margin.

Jane Harman (CA-36)

Tim Holden (PA-17)

Jim Matheson (UT-2)

Mike McIntyre (NC-7)

Mike Michaud (ME-2)

Collin Peterson (MN-7)

Mike Ross (AR-4)

Loretta Sanchez (CA-47)

Adam Schiff (CA-29)

David Scott (GA-13)

Heath Shuler (NC-11)

Mike Thompson (CA-1)

Mike Arcuri (NY-24)

Melissa Bean (IL-8) NYT hasn’t called. Probable loss.

Marion Berry (AR-1) Retired, Dems lost seat.

Allen Boyd (FL-2)

Bobby Bright (AL-2)

Christopher Carney (PA-10)

Travis Childers (MS-1)

Jim Costa (CA-20) NYT Hasn’t called. Probable loss.

Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3)

Lincoln Davis (TN-4)

Brad Ellsworth (IN-8) Ran for Sen. Bayh’s seat. Lost to Dan Coats.

Bill Foster (IL-14)

Bart Gordon (TN-6) Retired. Dems lost seat.

Parker Griffith (AL-5) Switched Parties 2009. Lost primary. Republicans hold seat.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL), Blue Dog Co-Chair, Administration

Baron Hill (IN-9), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy

Frank Kratovil (MD-1)

Jim Marshall (GA-8)

Charlie Melancon (LA-3), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications; Ran for Sen. Vitter’s Seat. Lost. Seat goes to Republicans.

Walt Minnick (ID-1)

Dennis Moore (KS-3) Retired. Wife lost race to Republican.

Patrick Murphy (PA-8)

Glenn Nye (VA-2)

Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL)

John Salazar (CO-3)

Zack Space (OH-18)

John Tanner (TN-8) Retired. Dems lost seat. Large margin.

Gene Taylor (MS-4)

Charlie Wilson (OH-6)

Total: 24

Total: 29

At a glance, a few things about who won and who didn't in the Blue Dog Caucus do stand out to me. The first is that, like every other Democrat in California, they did just fine. Plenty has been made of the virtual sweep the Democrats pulled off in California while everyone else was trending to the right. Every Blue Dog hailing from a California House District won, with the exception of Jim Costa in the California 20th. And that race was so close it hasn't actually been called yet. With a sufficiently motivated Democratic base, Blue Dogs win, even in this red election cycle. The other major thing I noticed was all three of the Blue Dogs' leaders lost. Stephanie Sandlin of the South Dakota At-Large District lost by 3%. She was the Blue Dogs' Co-Chair for Administration. The Co-Chair for Policy, Baron Hill of the Indiana 9th lost by 10%. And Charlie Melancon, the Co-Chair for Communications vacated his seat to run against Louisiana Senator David Vitter. He lost, and the party lost his Louisiana 3rd by more than 25%. Ouch. So not only is the Blue Dog Caucus of the 112th Congress much smaller, they'll need new people to step into leadership positions.

Let's look at some policy stuff then. It's fairly clear that for a Democrat (even a Blue Dog) to hold their own in a district that's purple or red they need waves of support from enthused Democratic voters. That enthusiasm was in short supply all around the country this year to be sure. But I suspect that it had an effect on the outcome in races like Rep. Bobby Bright's in the Alabama 2nd where he lost by 2% and 5,000 votes in a way that it didn't in a race like Rep. Earl Blumenauer's in the Oregon 3rd where he won by 45% and 120,000 votes. What I'm arguing is, if the Blue Dog's had spent more time sticking to the Democratic plan, working with the Obama Administration, and passing progressive legislation then Bobby Bright might have found the 5,001 votes he needed to win in the Alabama 2nd. Or Charlie Wilson might have found the 10,000 votes he needed to win in the Ohio 6th.

The people are dissatisfied with the Health Care Reform. That's just one piece of legislation, but let's run with it. The final legislation is deeply unpopular. Republicans ran against it during the election and even some Democrats did. Just ask Joe Manchin. On the other hand, polls have consistently shown the Public Option to be very popular. The Public Option didn't pass in the Senate, and only a very weak version passed in the house. In short, if the Democrats had had more votes then a bill containing a strong Public Option (which the general public supports) could have been possible. Where were these votes missing from? Not the Republican Party. You guessed it. The conservative Blue Dog Caucus is full of House members (and their friends on the Senate side) who opposed a strong Public Option. This is about division within the Democratic party as much as it is about the two parties not getting along and agreeing.

The same rings true for Financial Reform. The Blue Dogs specifically label themselves as the "fiscally conservative" wing of the Democratic party. These guys are, in many ways, socially liberal Republicans. They couldn't bring themselves to vote on things like ending Too Big to Failm reigning in Wall Street, or demanding that derivatives be traded on the open market like everything else. They're the Democratic friends of the Big Banks that means the Party has no muscle and no guts for doing the dirty work that needs to be done. Consequently, as they tracked ever to the right in an attempt to appear palatable to the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in their districts, they ensured that the Democrats they did have, would be so uninterested in backing them up that they were virtually guaranteed to lose close elections in a Republican leaning midterm year.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I've fallen down on my responsibilities recently. The elections are (coming) up and so I thought I'd take a few moments and add in my own thoughts. I'm going out on a limb and broadly going to suggest that things won't be as ugly for Democrats as all the writing around the blogosphere suggests it will. Check out this piece from Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight. That's a hypothetical, and yes, he did write it as a devil's advocate. Yes, there is another piece from a few days earlier, written in the same style, about how Republicans could pick up 70 or 80 seats in the House rather than the widely predicted 50 or 55. As Nate has talked about a lot recently, the actual margin (statistically speaking) is really wide this year. Polls suggest anything from a Republican gain in the mid 20s up to the low 80s as possible. But I'm a liberal blogger and so what am I going to do but come down on the side of Democrats? I'm inclined to believe that it won't be any worse than 55, and could very well be much better than that. But that's not statistical, that's my gut feeling. Let's examine the issues.

The Enthusiasm Gap
Much political hay has been made out of the so-called "Enthusiasm Gap" this cycle. Republicans and Tea Partiers are fired up and Democrats have just stopped caring. My evidence against this is anecdotal, yes. But I've spent some time actually making phone calls and knocking on doors this cycle for state and national Democrats and have seen plenty of Dems who are ready and eager to go to the polls and make clear that, even if we aren't 100% happy with the work the Obama White House and the Pelosi/Reid Congress has done, we don't think a Congress lead by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner will be doing us any favors. Democrats view this contest as the lesser of two evils, yes. But the current Congress is clearly the lesser. The devil you know, as they say.

Voter Turnout
Voter Turnout is really closely linked to the Enthusiasm Gap. If you're not enthused, you don't turn out, right? But there are other issues to bring to bear here. Democrats still have a registration advantage over Republicans, thanks in large part to the Obama Campaign and it's post inauguration sibling Organizing for America. Democrats nationally have a better turnout machine than Republicans. I'm counting on that machine to counter and Enthusiasm Gap that might present its ugly head tomorrow.

The Democratic Record
It's become obvious over the last six months that most national and even state level Dems are attempting to run campaigns that, to put it kindly, don't talk about their accomplishments in Washington since the beginning of the 111th Congress. Nowhere has this been taken to such a visible extreme as Joe Manchin's ad in which he shoots the Cap and Trade Bill. That's an extreme example, and Manchin is clearly anti-Cap and Trade because West Virginia relies so heavily on it's coal industry. But there are Democrats all over the place talking about killing "ObamaCare", keeping the Bush Tax Cuts, and generally trying to run away from what Congress has done. Call me crazy, but I think the Democrats would be having a better year if they ran actively and forcefully on their record.

Let's get more specific. As we've covered, the Dems are losing the House. This is essentially a foregone conclusion and all the quibbling has been over how many seats we can expect the Republicans to pick up. My bet, 35. This is quite low and I could be totally off.

The Senate is a bit easier. I'd bet money that the Dems keep the Senate even if only by a slim margin. Here, I'm in complete agreement with Five Thirty Eight. The Republicans look to pick up 4 to 9 seats depending on what kind of night they have. Their chances at picking up the Senate went down the drain when Christine O'Donnell won the nomination in Delaware. If that didn't seal the deal then the increasing leads that Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray have over their opponents in California and Washington definitely will.

I'm going to take a moment to look at some individual races now. Some I'm pretty bullish on, others not so much. Starting in no particular order we have...Nevada.

Before the primaries were done in Nevada, Harry Reid was sunk. He was down 20 points versus the generic Republican candidate. He's not charismatic, and not many people in Nevada like him all that much. Then the GOP nominated Sharron Angle. She thinks Flouride is a communist plot, Social Security should be personalprivatized, and refuses to answer questions from reporters. In fact, Mrs. Angle's craziness is the ONLY thing keeping Mr. Reid in the race. That said, Mr. Reid has about as finely tuned a turnout machine as has ever existed. Numbers from early voting suggest that registered Dems are turning out at a little under 3% more than registered Republicans. Couple that with Mrs. Angle's clearly racist, anti-Latino ads and I call this one for Mr. Reid by a hair.

Barbara Boxer has made some serious inroads into the numbers that Carly Fiorina has been putting up. She's showing a solid lead of 2 to 3 points now. Couple that with the momentum that Jerry Brown has made against Meg Whitman and I suggest that California will stay blue this year.

This could be the race to watch as far as the Senate this year. Republican Dino Rossi has been giving Democrat Patty Murray a run for her money all year and it could come down to some seriously late night (early morning) counting before this one is called. Murray has been pulling away just a little bit as of late so this one could really be indicative of how the Republicans do over all. If they have a wave night, count on seeing Senator Rossi in Washington. If the Democrats outperform their number, Murray will hold on.

The three way race in Alaska has only gotten more interesting in the last week. Republican (and Tea Party fav) Joe Miller has appeared to be losing ground to incumbent and Write-In candidate Lisa Murkowski. What makes this that much more interesting is that the way Write-In votes are counted could end up handing the election to Democrat Scott McAdams if he can top Mr. Miller. Expect this one to run long (as in days and weeks after tomorrow). Alaska is one of the last states to close the polls and counting all those Write-Ins is technically challenging. I'm less bullish on this one. I'll give it to Mrs. Murkowski, though I'd love to see McAdams pull an upset.

Finally, we have the other three way this year between Marko Rubio, Charlie Crist, and Kendrick Meek. This is one where I have no faith in the Democratic nominee. Mr. Meek has denied that Democrats as high up as President Clinton have asked him to drop out and endorse Mr. Crist. Essentially, Mr. Rubio (who the Tea Party loves) is running away with this one. Having everyone who's against him splitting their vote between Governor Crist and Mr. Meek will give this seat away. Say hello to Senator Rubio.

I could write about a lot of other races, but these are by far the closest and most interesting. I have skipped West Virginia because I don't feel as qualified to talk about it, but in fact, it may be the first bellwether you get along with some of the races in Ohio.

Friday, October 15, 2010

If you Build it, They will Come

Please forgive me, both for the cliche title and the attempt to blog away my insomnia. I promise I do have an excellent (if long) post for you if you keep reading. You might want to grab a chair.

I want to take a moment to talk about something that has been both derided as a waste of public money and hyped as the sexiest word in American Politics. I'm talking of course about Infrastructure. My education is in a design field that is allied with fields like Architecture, Art, and Engineering. I'm going to try to both make the case for infrastructure as well as talk about what people mean when they use that word. When we talk about spending on infrastructure, what sorts of projects are we discussing? When the President, the other week, announced $50 billion for the jump starting of a National Infrastructure Bank (known from here on out as the NIB) what sorts of things did he have (or should have) in mind?

Let's look at things as they now stand first. America's infrastructure is old. How old? It varies to be sure. But suffice it to say that many important projects in this country were built in the 1950s with the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act under President Eisenhower. Yes. A Republican. Infrastructure investment shouldn't be an anathema to Republican and Republican leaning lawmakers. Much of the infrastructure is even older than that. Much of it is in dire need of servicing as well. States have been putting off maintenance on important bits of this mystical infrastructure for years, citing a lack of money. In reality it's usually more a lack of will, though the country's general blindness to the state of it's infrastructure is certainly not making money for that sort of work easy to come by.

And now I've said another magic word! Work! That's right. Pretty much anything that falls under the definition of infrastructure needs to be built and maintained. And what is one thing this country has in abundance right now? That's right. Unemployed people. Especially unemployed people in the construction industry. This link to a press release from the Associated General Contractors of America (who I suspect know a thing or two about building) cited the unemployment rate in the construction industry as 27.1%. I'm fairly certain the number has changed little in the six months since that report was released. This is point number one. We have lots of unemployed people that could be put back to work through public and private investment in infrastructure right now. The housing market is flooded with houses that no one is buying and it's going to be a long time before all of these unemployed construction workers are putting up suburbs again. I'd wager it'll be never for the suburbs, but that that's a different post. This brings me to point number two. Investment.

Check out this Op-Ed Paul Krugman wrote for the New York Times earlier this month. It does deal with a specific project (the Arc Tunnel under the Hudson from New Jersey to Manhattan) but he hits on points that are relevant to all sorts of infrastructure spending right now. Specifically, I want to highlight this:
the price is right: with interest rates on federal debt at near-record lows, there has never been a better time to borrow for long-term investment.
That's the main point of his Op-Ed besides the unemployed construction workers which we've now covered as well. Borrowing money when the National Debt is approaching $14 Trillion may not look appealing. But if we're borrowing for tangible things that are going to make our country more productive in the long run it's worth it. If we can increase GDP we both get out of this recession and make the job of paying down the National Debt that much easier. And infrastructure of almost all types will increase GDP beyond just the people working and getting paid to build it. That tunnel that Governor Christie has killed would ensure the smooth flow of traffic from New Jersey to Manhattan, one of the largest financial and business centers in the world. And just check out what's doing the job right now. One tunnel, two tracks, built almost a hundred years ago. If that's not word for word a description of the state of our infrastructure as it stands now, I don't know what is.

So now that we've talked about why infrastructure spending (and by extension the NIB) is a good thing let's take a minute to look at what kind of projects we're talking about. In my view, infrastructure can be part of three broad groups (though many projects overlap, and a few will defy definition). In general you're looking at projects that deal with Building and Space, Transportation, or Energy and Communications. All of these areas are sadly not up to snuff currently in America. In addition I would describe each project regardless of which group it's in as also being either Monumental or Diffuse. Let's take a look at each category and then some real life projects that would be part of that group.

Building and Space
These projects are, as you might imagine, either buildings, public open spaces, or a combination of the two. This is often the area where it's easiest to convince private money to take part or fund something entirely. Sure, plenty of buildings are nondescript, but some would also be classified as Monumental. When I say Monumental, I mean that the work exists in a specific place, is well constructed and designed, and either is or has the potential to be a monument. We're talking tourists here. For constructed works I'm thinking, the Space Needle, the Flat Iron Building, Sears Tower and the like as well as Central Park, The Presidio, and other famous open spaces. Under way already? Try the construction under way for both buildings and open space in Lower Manhattan at Ground Zero. That link is worth it just for the photos and architectural renderings by the way. That's just a taste.

Transportation projects are fairly obviously about moving people or goods from place to place. In that sense, many of them are going to be Diffuse as opposed to Monumental, but not all. These projects could range from the already discussed Arc Tunnel from New Jersey to New York, to construction and additions to subways, busses, and light rail like the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan or the planned Orange Line addition to Portland's MAX Light Rail. These are all Diffuse or otherwise unviewable (meaning under the Hudson) by the public. In this section though you can also include projects like the new bridge near Hoover Dam that Rachel Maddow covered it last night. I'd call that Monumental. Wouldn't you agree?

This section would be remiss to leave out the continuing discussion about High Speed Rail (HSR) that has started in this country. This article at Infrastructurist (a fabulous blog) makes it clear why this is a liberal issue. Republicans view all this infrastructure spending as borrowing that the government can't sustain. There's also this post which highlights all the HSR lines that are receiving federal funding as of January. That map is pretty spectacular to me. And you can see where building even further in the future would go. An HSR backbone down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles? Who wouldn't want to make that trip in a matter of hours? Also, a connection through the heart of the country making Coast to Coast HSR travel possible isn't out of the long term question. They did it in the 1800s, why not now? I think we could find another Golden Spike.

Energy and Communications
Finally we have Energy and Communications which are, almost by definition, Diffuse. They're networks of transmission lines, computers, and the like. While they may not be as flashy as Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere, they're very important. In this section we not only have the opportunity to update our aging electrical and communications grids, we have the opportunity to build them afresh with technologies in mind like the Internet, mobile web surfing, and green energy production. If you think the electrical grid is fine the way it is, check out this piece from Joel Achenbach at National Geographic. It's fabulous. Not only do we need to update the transmission wires themselves though, we also have an opportunity to update how we get the electrons that run though those wires. That's where projects which the likes of Google have been supporting come in. In specific we have suggestions for an East Coast Wind Backbone, placing very large wind turbines off the coast and out of sight, as well as Geothermal in West Virginia Coal Country. Now if that can't break West Virginia's (and indeed the whole country's) dirty habit, I don't know what will.

Almost as an aside, I think there is room here too for collaboration on something with a little less function like Mount Rushmore between the future NIB and the National Endowment for the Arts. That's right, I said the NEA.

So what's the big picture? Most of the projects I've linked to have price tags running into the billions. But investment now, when we have every resource and financing trick on our side, can make the cost a bit less. Construction materials haven't been as cheap in decades. In closing, we, as America, have a choice. We can stand up and fix what is very rapidly breaking in this country and invest in the future. Or we can stand aside and let other countries (chief among them China) do what we are known for doing for over a century. If we do not choose to step up now, we can later. But it's going to be harder and come at a higher cost. If we make the investment now, we set the stage for another century of American greatness as well as begin to solve our problems right here, right now. Ranging from current unemployment and economic malaise to the desperate need to transition to energy sources other than oil and coal, the opportunity is now. I'll leave you with this scary chart from the Washington Post to think about.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Age in the Age of the Tea Party

We all have opinions and ideas about the Tea Party by now. Some of us think we know what they stand for. We've seen who they nominate for elections of all stripes and we've seen how they run those elections. So, my question at this point is this.

Does the Tea Party care what happens to young people long term?

I think they don't. I don't believe that the Tea Party as an entity cares one bit about what the country will look like for those of us in our 20s and 30s when we're in our 50s and 60s. You want proof, right? Okay. Let's look at the facts.

The Huffington Post has an article up here that suggests that the Tea Party is disproportionately elderly. The relevant section says this.
the demographics of the movement seemingly align with those who traditionally vote for the conservative candidate as well. Fifty-six percent of Tea Party respondents are male; 22 percent are over the age of 65 (compared with just 14 percent who are between the ages of 18 and 34)
Compare that to 12% (as of 2004) and rising for the whole country. There's no doubt that the Tea Party is more elderly than the country on average. The Huffington Post article also notes that 14% of the Tea Party is 18-34. Compare that to roughly the same number for all Americans who are in that same age bracket. So that's the Tea Party. But what about their candidates and positions. Do they espouse positions that benefit older Americans at the expense of those of us who've lived less? Check out what Rand Paul, Tea Party candidate for Senate in Kentucky has to say. That's from the conservative Washington Post. Rand Paul wants to raise the retirement age for "younger workers" (he's not specific on who that is) in order to pay for things like an extension of the Bush tax cuts on those making $250,000 or more per year. And we all know that those of us in the 18-34 bracket are much less likely to be in that group. That's how the corporate ladder works. You hit the jackpot once you've been on the job for a long time and proved your worth. And it probably should work that way. But, the point here is that we're not getting bonuses now for a raised retirement age. We're getting screwed in order to pay for bonuses for old corporate VPs like the guys at Goldman Sachs. To be fair, that WaPo article suggests that the Democratic nominee in Kentucky also wants to extend all the tax cuts. Good job there Mr. Conway.

Then there's Sharron Angle. Check out how she feels about Healthcare Reform. Just the other week on September 23rd it banned denying children coverage because of pre-existing conditions. This bill is good for young people. It's good for young people because the jobs that we increasingly hold, hourly jobs with no benefits, allow us to stay on our parents healthcare until the age of 26. That also went into effect on the 23rd. And it creates a system where healthcare may just become affordable one day. Most older people have healthcare though their work. We aren't like that. Just check it out here. She says there is "nothing good in this law." Also, for nerds out there like me, they set that ad to the theme music for Battlestar Galactica. Win.

Those are just two of a litany of examples, but I think my point is proven when I say that the Tea Party has no interest in protecting younger people in America. Vote at your own risk.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Republicans have a Tea Problem

This isn't new news. But it is important news. It's been ramping up for quite a while now as we move through the Primary season. It started with Sharron Angle. It continued with Joe Miller's defeat of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. And now, we're looking at Carl Paladino and Christine O'Donnell. Those are the highlights, but you can bet that there are others out there who are a little less wackadoodle but no less unelectable. The Tea Party may yet play Ralph Nader to the Republican Party's Al Gore. Weird analogy, I know. To be sure, as a liberal commentator one of the things I'm going to do is try to be optimistic about Democratic chances in ANY upcoming election. Check out Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight for the statistics. He still gives the Republicans a 2 to 1 shot at winning the House. Get ready for Speaker Boehner, but cross your fingers you won't ever see it. 

The Senate looked much better last week. But, in a rare bright spot, in the last week, Democratic chances of holding at least 51 seats there have gone up. Again, Nate hits the nail on the head when checking out the statistics in this article about the primaries in Deleware the other evening. But in short, we can thank Christine O'Donnell. For those of you who haven't gotten the memo about her yet, here's the short version. She just defeated nine time Congressman Mike Castle for the Republican nomination in Deleware. She now faces Chris Coons. Coons is a strong pick. There are only three counties in Delaware (I know, right?) and as a leader in one of them he has made tough choices to balance their budget and pay back their debt. The have a AAA financial rating. He's honest and upstanding and really about as squeeky clean as you can ask a candidate to be. That said, he had been written off as having little chance while everyone assumed he'd be challenging Mike Castle. But he's not. His challenger is Christine O'Donnell. She has run for several times before, with the most recent instance in 2008 when she tried to upset VP Joe Biden. Even while spending almost all of his energy helping the President with that race, Biden defeated Mrs. O'Donnell soundly. Her 2008 Campaign manager ran robocalls against her candidacy before the primary on tuesday, and though they did not work, to me that says something about how badly the Republican Party doesn't want to have to deal with her. Among other things, this Campaign manager has accused Mrs. O'Donnell of using campaign money to pay personal expenses including rent. She has touted herself as a college graduate for a long time, but only recently received her degree after having finally paid her school what she owed them. And this is one of the people the Tea Party wants to send to the Senate to fix our financial troubles? 

Mrs. O'Donnell has spent most of her pre-campaign days as the founder and organizer of SALT, or Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth. A creepy name for an organization if there ever was one, it gives you no idea what the organization's main goal is. Video exists of Mrs. O'Donnell explaining this so it's not just me making things up.

YouTube doesn't want to embed, but you can check out the video here.

Yes, that was the theme song from Joan of Arcadia, and yes, aside from the 90s hair we all had, that is Christine O'Donnell really telling you you can't masturbate because of the bible. Really. And now she wants to be the senator from Delaware.

In short, many of these candidates including Mrs. O'Donnell and Mrs. Angle may prove to be short lived victories. Yes, the Tea Party got them nominated. But can they actually put them into Congress, or will they do poorly in the general election because of the far right wing values they espouse? I imagine the latter is the answer and Chris Coons and Harry Reid are all to glad for that to be the case.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't Remember

This might get kinda long. I had something I wanted to say and now I have more after being out all day.

I spent all day at work today. I guess I haven't gone into much detail about myself on this thing yet so here it is. I work at an amusement park for an unamusing amount of money per hour. I've just graduated and moved to a liberal city on the west coast. I'm about as far from ground zero right now as you can get and still be in the Lower 48.

I regularly see people at work that I assume are Muslim. Mostly women wearing the hijab (headscarves). Sometimes a bit more covered up than that. Nothing too out of the ordinary. It's not often that I see as many presumed Muslims as I did at work today. I have no problem with this. In fact, I saw women wearing the full burqa/niqab combo along with the hijab for the first time today. Still no problem. One of the (many) points of America is that people are allowed to practice all their freedoms here including speech, religion, and right to assembly. It's fabulous really.

I heard the most disgusting things coming out of the mouths of some of my fellow Americans today. Mostly out of my fellow white Americans. I've never been so ashamed of people of my race in general. Some of the things I heard shouldn't be typed or repeated. But of some of the milder there were many scoffs of "foreigners" and a lot of talk about how we could "let them into the park on 9/11". Because clearly, since 19 men none of these people knew or agreed with doing horrible things on the other side of the continent nine years ago is a good reason to bar an entire class of people from freely going about their business.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let me talk about what I wanted to touch on originally. Segue!

Many of the kids I was helping amuse today weren't alive in 2001. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was in school. Some business class that didn't do me any good. At the time I didn't even know what the World Trade Center looked like. Sheltered southern girl. I suspect that this is very similar to people talking about how they remember what they were doing when they found out that the Challenger blew up, or Kennedy was assassinated, or Pearl Harbor was attacked. The world has changed so much in the last nine years. Much of it for the worse. I and grew up in those nine years. I came of age, started driving, voting, and drinking in those nine years. (I just got really close to telling you how old I am.) In essence, who I am as an adult has been changed by the events on 9/11/2001. I would not be the same sort of political thinker if I had come of age under an inept and awkward Bush Administration who was not armed with the political power gifted it by the events of that day. I would not be a liberal in all probability. And there are people who have never known anything else!

I know this isn't groundbreaking. I imagine the same can be said by older people than about me and the Vietnam War, the Nixon Administration, or (again) the Kennedy Assassination. But knowing how our country and our world have changed since then, I cry for the children of the post-9/11 era. Don't get me wrong, I know the world wasn't all sunshine and daisies before then. But these children are growing up in a world where the First Amendment isn't a given. You're only allowed free speech and free exercise of your religious liberties if you don't look like you might be a terrorist. They have a world where anyone who says the wrong things is looked at suspiciously by their government. Where the economic stability of the now as well as their own futures are not too high a price to pay for two ill-advised wars. And lets look at these wars for a moment.

First is the joint invasion of Afghanistan by the US, UK, and the "coalition of the willing" shortly following 9/11 in 2001. We're still there. We've been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for nine years now. That's longer than any other war America has ever fought aside from Vietnam. And we're on the way to passing that one. Believe me. Second is the even more ill-advised invasion of Iraq originally to be termed Operation Iraqi Liberation until some genius at the Pentagon realized that spelled OIL. Known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, we've been fighting there since 2003. "Combat Operations" are over now. Twice. Once for each President, natch, and we only have 50,000 more fighting men and women there.

But you all know this. In short, these kids don't remember. They have never experienced a world without these problems. And unless we get our house in order and start framing our policy around something other than a regrettable tragedy of nearly ten years they won't ever know anything else.