mm245: Obama – the pundits are still marveling

January 6, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

A news story that just won’t go away: Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee winning the Iowa caucuses; our post, including a distressingly poor quality but nevertheless inspiring video, is here.

The always refreshingly incisive Steve Chapman sheds some light:

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test

Steve Chapman | January 6, 2008 | Chicago Tribune

Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton talked a lot about building “a bridge to the 21st Century.” Right now, his wife looks like an unappealing detour back to the 20th.

Having him stand behind her as she addressed supporters after her third-place finish in Iowa didn’t help. She might as well have invited Fleetwood Mac to provide the music. Nostalgia isn’t everything.

The Iowa caucuses, it should be noted, are rarely as decisive as they may appear. Since 1976, only one candidate has won Iowa on the way to becoming president—George W. Bush in 2000. But if you can’t win the election in Iowa, you can certainly put yourself in a solid position to lose it, which is what Clinton and John Edwards accomplished Thursday evening.

Steve Chapman The evening was full of surprises. I would not have guessed that Barack Obama would reprise a German slogan chanted upon the fall of the Berlin Wall: “We are one people.” But it was appropriate, since the polarization of the last 15 years has featured everything short of an Iron Curtain between the red states and the blue.

Regarding Huckabee, Chapman warns that a win for an evangelical darling” in Iowa may not translate in the rest of the U.S.:

His victory was one for “none of the above.” Once voters get to know the newcomer better, he may look worse than the other options.

And as for Romney and Clinton, he believes that their smooth politician’s pandering became transparent to Iowa’s caucusers.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test —

Faithful reader should know by now what side of the political spectrum yr (justifiably) humble svt usually finds himself, not for nothing is this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© is called Left-Handed Complement.

And readers of Steve Chapman, in the Tribune as well as Reason have every reason (as it were) to believe they know on which side of the aisle he feels most comfortable.

Yet, both of us are (perhaps unexpectedly, or in spite of our selves) impressed by Obama’s victory this past Thursday night.

The key question remains regarding every candidate: can s(he) govern?

This jury is still out. But, this endless presidential election campaign has certainly become a great deal more compelling.

And our increasing concerns about the dirtiest dirty tricks of all in American politics, outright election fraud, will become a great deal more compelling as Obama’s sizable contingent of young and minority voters find roadblocks to casting their ballots.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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mm243: Iowa! Obama! Huckabee! What gives?

January 4, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

So we spent the past few days denigrating the Iowa caucuses (here and here). Could this be why? Mainstream media trying to explain away in advance how conventional wisdom got turned on its ear last night?


The Two Earthquakes

By DAVID BROOKS | Published: January 4, 2008
Ottumwa, Iowa

I’ve been through election nights that brought a political earthquake to the country. I’ve never been through an election night that brought two.

Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.…

On the Republican side, my message is: Be not afraid. Some people are going to tell you that Mike Huckabee’s victory last night in Iowa represents a triumph for the creationist crusaders. Wrong.

Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize. First, evangelicals have changed. Huckabee is the first ironic evangelical on the national stage. He’s funny, campy (see his Chuck Norris fixation) and he’s not at war with modern culture.

yr (justifiably) humble svt dares not pretend to be very much a political analyst, merely a more or less attentive observer.

Boy am I fascinated!

Both of last night’s winners have been denigrated by many as unelectable; this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© characterized Obama that way many months ago. And Arkansas Huck is a joke, right?

Not so fast, Conventional Wisdom!

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Two Earthquakes – New York Times

Anybody who spends one microsecond thinking about the ramifications of the Iowa caucuses quickly turns her attention to New Hampshire, in just a few short days, as have the candidates.

Folks, we have ourselves some interesting times ahead; and perhaps the prospect that the result of this messy and expensive process we call presidential elections might lead to some genuine changes.

And, not to totally abandon the phantom Bloomberg Bandwagon, should the result of these primaries, including what Salon called “Tsunami Tuesday,” the February 5 colossal primary day, be as polarizing as Obama and Huckabee (or, let’s face it, any Republican), then there would be ample space in the middle ground for an accomplished technocrat running on a third party ticket.

Boy am I fascinated.

Finally, if you haven’t seen this, spend a few minutes with an eloquent man.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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mm242: Campaigns and Lightweight Laptops

January 3, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Hi, Neighbors! Time for a new installment in our ongoing series…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Found several stories of interest today; while folks are Deciding in Iowa they’ve apparently sucked all the decision-making positrons out of the atmosphere, so we’ll sample all three…

First, Gail Collins writing in today’s NYTimes seconds the emotions expressed in Slate (and highlighted here) the other day by Christopher Hitchens.


The Slice of the Sliver Speaks

By GAIL COLLINS | Published: January 3, 2008

As the presidential candidates tell them every single day, Iowans deserve to be the nation’s kingmakers because they are exceptional citizens who take their responsibilities very, very seriously. So tonight, even though it’s very cold — even though it’s Hokies vs. Jayhawks in the Orange Bowl — the sturdy Iowa voters will pull on their parkas and go out to fulfill their historic destiny. Perhaps as many as 15 percent of them!

“Money will become irrelevant once somebody wins the Iowa caucus,” said John (I Currently Have No Money) Edwards. “The winner of the Iowa caucus is going to have huge amounts of money pouring in.” Edwards, the Democratic third-runner, has spent more time in Iowa than many Iowans, who have a tendency to flee to Florida in the winter.

She says, People, ignore whatever happens here.”

Tonight, the Iowa Deciders will divide into 1,781 local caucuses. Past history suggests that a few of these gatherings may not draw any attendees whatsoever and that several others will consist entirely of a guy named Carl. Attendance has no effect on the number of delegates involved, and we hardly need mention that the whole thing is weighted to give rural residents an advantage. Iowans in politically active neighborhoods where 100 people show up may find their vote is worth only 1 percent as much as, say, Carl’s. This gives them the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a New Yorker or Californian all year round.

Have to admit I never paid much attention to Iowa’s banana republic” (Hitchens-ism) caucus process but in 2008, attention must be paid. And then, as Gail Collins advises, ignored.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Slice of the Sliver Speaks – New York Times

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Always readable Steve Chapman shows up today in MUDGE’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, with this interesting perspective.


Think positive about negative campaigning

Steve Chapman | January 3, 2008

Negative campaigning has a bad reputation, routinely being disparaged as juvenile taunting that serves only to degrade public discourse. A New York Times headline the other day noted “bickering and negative ads in countdown to caucuses,” as though these were the moral equivalent of an old married couple grousing about that mess in the kitchen.

Even devoted practitioners feel the duty to deplore negative campaigning. After commissioning an ad accusing Mitt Romney of grievous departures from conservative wisdom, Mike Huckabee was so remorseful that he refused to run it — though he managed to disseminate his charges in a news conference where he sorrowfully screened the spot for the news media. Explaining his newfound magnanimity, Huckabee asserted, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

But what was so terrible about the ad? It merely said that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney raised taxes, left a budget deficit, provided abortion coverage in his universal health-care program, and failed to carry out a single execution — all of which appear to be grounded in fact, and any of which a few voters would find interesting.

The spot thus passes the only two tests voters should apply to any campaign attack: Is it true, and is it important? Accusing Romney of having devil’s horns would be unacceptable because, though significant, it’s not true. Accusing him of owning too many sweaters, though true, would be over the line because it doesn’t matter.

Chapman believes that all information is good information, either informing voters of facts they hadn’t been aware of, or, often, informing voters about the poor judgement of the nasty guys hired by the candidate spreading that news.

It’s all good.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Think positive about negative campaigning —

shortattention_thumb2 ©

And now for something completely technological…

We’ve spent much time writing about small laptop PCs over the past several months; our emphasis has been on the wonderful One Laptop Per Child program [click here for the most recent entry in the series, which includes links to previous posts].

But there are other small, quite inexpensive laptops in the space, meant for business (or at least non-developing-world education) use. The ASUS Eee is one of the newest, and Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post took it out for a spin.


Two Pounds of Efficiency

By Rob Pegoraro | Thursday, January 3, 2008; Page D01

The first time I took Asus‘s Eee PC laptop on a flight, the security screener assumed it was a portable DVD player.

That’s an easy mistake to make. This tiny, two-pound machine is barely bigger or heavier and not much more expensive, at $399 for one I tested and $299 for the cheapest model.

For some time, it has been possible to buy laptops for less than $500. But the ones you see in most stores, such as a $450 Compaq, either weigh too much or can barely run Windows.

The Eee (the Asus site says the name stands for “Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play”) is different. It’s lighter than any super-cheap laptop and cheaper than any ultralight laptop, and it can do Web work about as well as other computers.

The ASUS Eee gets its tiny size and commensurate price by paring typical PC components down to nearly nil: Linux operating system; flash memory (no hard drive); reduced size screen and keyboard.

But after spending a few weeks using the $399(!) Eee (a step up in memory from the base $299 model!), Pegoraro says, it does get the job done, with some caveats.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Rob Pegoraro – Two Pounds of Efficiency –

With MUDGE’s delicate eyesight and indelicate fingers the ASUS Eee would be a challenge. But, 2-lbs.; 3+ hours battery time; tiny form factor… were MUDGE a road warrior, the Eee would certainly be worth a hard examination.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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mm240: Iowa – a wonderful state, except every four years around this time…

January 1, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

When he’s right, he’s 100% correct. Christopher Hitchens, a true lightning rod for controversy, struck again in as he put into scathing words and concrete concepts the vague unease we’ve always felt regarding Iowa’s caucuses.

Not only are the caucuses influential far out of proportion to the significance of its population (this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© put it this way the other day: how do you feel about the reality of those tiny states with their tiny populations of single-issue largely rural [or in N.H.’s case, refugees from urban life] overwhelmingly homogenous Caucasians usurping your opportunity to influence the election process?”), but the process is, as Hitchens explains, flawed to the point of corruption:


The Iowa Scam

The undemocratic caucuses are a terrible way to choose a presidential candidate.

By Christopher Hitchens | Posted Monday, Dec. 31, 2007, at 12:02 PM ET

It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption—and the flagrantly anti-democratic character—of the Iowa caucuses. It’s not enough that we have to read of inducements openly offered to potential supporters—I almost said “voters”—even if these mini-bribes only take the form of “platters of sandwiches” and “novelty items” (I am quoting from Sunday’s New York Times). It’s also that campaign aides are showing up at Iowan homes “with DVD’s that [explain]  how the caucuses work.” Nobody needs a DVD to understand one-person-one-vote, a level playing field, and a secret ballot. The DVD and the other gifts and goodies (Sen. Barack Obama is promising free baby-sitting on Thursday) are required precisely because none of those conditions applies in Iowa. In a genuine democratic process, these Tammany tactics would long ago have been declared illegal. But this is not a democratic process, and besides, as my old friend Michael Kinsley used to say about Washington, the scandal is never about what’s illegal. It’s about what’s legal.

As far as Hitchens is concerned, the caucuses have achieved the outlandish importance they maintain due to the connivance of the media (only a little tempted to use the MSM pejorative of some of my colleagues here in the ‘Sphere).

… the avalanche of tripe coverage that is provided by a mass media that (never forget) is the direct beneficiary of the huge outlays of money the candidates make…

The horrible result is that a tiny fraction of voters in this tiny state can provide a grotesquely outsize win to distinctly unqualified candidates, and has done so quite frequently.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Iowa’s undemocratic caucuses are no way to choose a presidential candidate. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

And the result: by the time super-duper Tuesday February 5 rolls around, a huge segment of voters will once again, despite the amazingly early primary date, find themselves disenfranchised by Iowa and New Hampshire.

Hitchen’s conclusion bears repeating:

It is an absolutely terrible way in which to select candidates for the presidency, and it makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.

Thus the context with which the results from January 3’s tragic comedy should be understood.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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mm115: Barack Obama’s Republican edge

August 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Startling! Take a look:


Barack Obama’s Republican edge

If he can win the Democratic primary, will his fans from the opposing party help take him all the way to the White House?

By Michael Scherer

Aug. 24, 2007 | It was sort of like finding a Christmas tree in a cornfield. In late July and early August, Iowa Republican voters were asked to name their choice for president in a University of Iowa poll. Mitt Romney, who leads most Iowa surveys, got 22 percent of the total. Rudy Giuliani came in second with 10 percent. But third place went to a Democrat, Barack Obama, who got nearly 7 percent — more than Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Sam Brownback combined.

Not to worry: The Obama campaign isn’t likely to join the Grand Old Party, and pollsters are convinced that Obama has exactly zero chance of winning the Republican caucus in Iowa. But something is going on. “I don’t want to make too much of it,” says David Redlawsk, the professor who commissioned the poll. “But I do think that the message Obama is putting out right now is the most likely to reach across party lines.”

There are other signs of Obama’s crossover appeal. Over the last several months, Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, has been holding focus groups for various media organizations like Fox News to find out what the public thinks of the presidential candidates. “I would ask Republicans, ‘Which Democratic candidate would you accept? Who would you consider to vote for?'” Luntz says. “Obama would get more than everybody else combined. Hillary [Clinton] and [John] Edwards have no crossover voters.”

A recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News revealed a third data point in Obama’s favor: When asked in July which Democratic candidate has the best chance to defeat a Republican in a general election, Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to pick Obama over Clinton. In fact, among Democrats, only 22 percent said Obama was the best general election candidate, while 54 percent flagged Clinton as the best in the general election. But among Republicans, 33 percent said Obama was the best candidate, and 37 percent said Hillary. In other words, Republicans were about 11 points more likely than Democrats to see Obama as the best shot for a Democratic White House.

Any political expert will tell you that polls don’t mean much five months before the first caucus. But a pattern may be emerging. In part because of Clinton’s high negatives among Republicans, it appears Obama is gaining momentum as a fresh candidate with a less divisive approach, by constantly appealing beyond the partisan lines of the last decade. His first television ad buy in Iowa included testimony from a Republican state lawmaker from Illinois talking up Obama and his ability to reach across party lines. As Obama reiterated in an appearance in Iowa last week, “The country is hungry for change. It wants something new. We want to chart a new direction for our nation.”

I find this story confounding, confusing, counterintuitive, and any other “c” word that’s appropriate.

Go ahead and take a look at the rest:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!] News | Barack Obama’s Republican edge

If I hadn’t seen this story in Salon, I might suspect it’s part of a Republican dirty tricks campaign.

It’s a paramount tactic among the Roves of the world to do all that’s necessary to see that the other party nominates the candidate easiest to defeat in the general election. This explains John Kerry.

Because I have to tell you, gals and guys, it is my firmly held belief that what people say to pollsters and what they do in the privacy of the voting booth can differ astonishingly. This explains Harry Truman’s win in 1948.

I think that it’s understood that people tend to tell pollsters an idealized version of their beliefs, or a varnished version, or an aspirational version, and then they go ahead and reelect the (mainly) guys who are, deep down, the most like themselves in all the important ways (i.e., white, male, Christian).

And, I’m ready at all times to be thrilled and impressed with the maturity and intelligence of the U.S. voting public, but I can’t help but be overwhelmed by my curMUDGEonly insistence that the electorate of 2008 will not elect a black man president, nor, to be sure, the particular woman in question.

I’m disappointed with that situation, but here’s the other problem. Whatever those Iowans say, the only chance the Republicans have of having any of their motley crew of candidates win in November 2008 is if the Democrats, whose victory in Congress seems to have led to only (bloody and bloody-minded) business as usual, nominate a candidate sure to galvanize the demoralized Republican troops into the polls in (modern) record numbers.

Call me cynical, but the prospect of staying home and letting a black man, or that woman swear the oath of office on 20-January-2009 might cause even the most dispirited Republican voters to get out and vote for Rudy or Old Man McCain.

And in my opinion, the Democratic center, for all of its brave conversation, has not yet evolved so much further than their Republican counterparts.

Whatever they all say to the pollsters, in the utter privacy of the voting booth, I just can’t see the average citizen doing the right thing.

Finally, none of the candidates have much of a record of executive accomplishment. The more months go by, Rudy’s supposed turnaround of NYC is going to tarnish. Obama and Clinton and many of the rest are lawyers, managers only of assistants and paralegals. A couple of governors might have executive experience, but of small states with tiny local challenges. And Fred Thompson, you’re no Ronald Reagan!

Michael Bloomberg, we’re ready for you!

It’s it for now. Thanks,


BTW, Patrick Smith of Salon has a new Ask the Pilot column this weekend. Patrick, I don’t want to incur any further fiscal obligations to you and, so I won’t excerpt it or comment further here, except to recommend that my fearless reader get over and check it out. Terrific as always.


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