Thursday, November 30, 2006

What's Up With Russia?

Surely Putin cant be behind any of this, after all Bush looked into his soul.
Yegor T. Gaidar, a former prime minister and architect of Russia’s early post-Soviet market reforms, has been hospitalized with a mysterious illness that his daughter and associates said Wednesday could have resulted from poisoning.

Mr. Gaidar, 50, fell ill in Ireland on Friday, the day after Alexander V. Litvinenko, the former Russian secret agent, died in London following an illness caused by exposure to polonium 210, a radioactive isotope. Mr. Gaidar’s spokesman, Valery A. Natarov, said Mr. Gaidar returned to Moscow on Sunday and remained in a hospital, though neither Mr. Natarov nor others would identify it.
Anatoly B. Chubais, an ally of Mr. Gaidar and chairman of Russia’s electric monopoly, said that Mr. Gaidar appeared to have escaped an attempt on his life. He said the case was linked to Mr. Litvinenko’s death and to the recent killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

“This miraculously incomplete lethal construct — Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Gaidar — would have been extremely attractive to those seeking an unconstitutional and forceful change of power in Russia,” Mr. Chubais said in televised remarks from St. Petersburg. He did not elaborate, but his words suggested he did not believe that the Russian authorities had been involved.

Still, the reaction to Mr. Gaidar’s illness underscored the sensation the London poisoning has caused, though the police in Britain have not classified Mr. Litvinenko’s death as a murder case, and the Kremlin has denied Russian officials were involved.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, on Wednesday criticized what he called the “completely unexplainable hysteria” over the cases.

Completely unexplainable. Putin has been grasping for more and more power for a couple of years now. It seems relatively clear that the Kremlin was behind Politkovskaya, probably Litvenenko, and maybe behind this. It will be interesting to see what happens when Putin terms out, if he'll seek a top position in the Duma or if he'll change the constitution to stay in power. But Bush looked in his soul, so he must be ok.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rumsfeld not Agressive Enough for Bush

President Bush was much hailed after the election for having his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resign. I never thought this was a signal for any change in policy, Bush is far too stubborn and bull headed to change his mind with a changing reality. But his replacement, Robert Gates appears to be even farther out there than was Rumsfeld.
In 1984, Robert Gates, then the No. 2 CIA official, advocated U.S. airstrikes against Nicaragua's pro-Cuban government to reverse what he described as an ineffective U.S. strategy to deal with communist advances in Central America, previously classified documents say.

Gates, President Bush's nominee to be defense secretary, said the United States could no longer justify what he described as "halfhearted" attempts to contain Nicaragua's Sandinista government, according to documents released Friday by the National Security Archive, a private research group.

In a memo to CIA Director William Casey dated Dec. 14, 1984, Gates said his proposed airstrikes would be designed "to destroy a considerable portion of Nicaragua's military buildup" and be focused on tanks and helicopters.

This man does not deserve to be Secretary of Defense, I'm not sure its a prudent time for the Democrats to attempt a filibuster of the nomination however. It really was a cynical thing for Bush to time the nomination this way and insist that he needs a Secretary of State immediately. I would venture to guess that if Bush had waited Gates would not have a prayer of confirmation in a Democratic Senate, however, it seems unwise to make our last act in the minority before the new Congress a filibuster. If a vote can be prevented before the new Congress without appearing quite as contentious as a filibuster would, that would be an excellent idea. I had no opinion on Gates until very recently, but it seems to me as though this man probably has no business being Secretary of Defense.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Lost Scandal of Enron

This weekend I watched, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." I was impressed with the movie and appalled even beyond what I expected at what went on. I knew Skilling, Lay, and Fastow were scumbags, and that Arther Andersen couldnt seem to question what was right in front of them. But what I never realized (at least if you accept the view taken by the filmmakers) the extent to which those individuals running the company were able to influence the entire corporate culture.

This comes accross in the movie as being far more than a few bad apples at the top manipulating earnings and running the company into the ground for their own gain. Skilling in particular seemed to press an attitude so concerned with "I" that it forgot about "we". Even extending to lower level employees there seemed to be an attitude that "if I have to walk over 100 people to make an extra buck I'll do that." One scene discussed Enron's retention and promotion practices in which all employees would vote on each others performance, so there was an incentive to try to force anyone out who might get in the way of individual advancement. This had the perverse incentive of sometimes driving more talented people out of the company. There was a whole series of scenes discussing Enron's manipulation of the California energy market. They were able to obtain audio conversations from the Enron offices from this time for the film, and the conversations were appalling. These people all knew what they were doing to California and Californians, and they acted like it was some funny game to watch people suffer.

Talk about banality of evil, Skilling was able to create a culture that rewarded greed so heavily that everyone in the company knowingly contributed to what any reasonable sense of right and wrong should have lead them to know is unnacceptable. It reversed the moral order to where the goal was to harm people rather than to prevent harm as long as it benefitted Enron and the people carrying out its nefarious activities. It seems like the only person with enough sense to try to change anything was Sherron Watkins, the rest of Enron's employees who knew something was wrong it seemed were too afraid of some harm to themselves or too attached to the benefits Enron was bringing them at the time to make any effort to change anything. It seems that nobody bothered to, as Enron's slogan stated "Ask Why".

I thought it was a very well done and insightful documentary, if you havent seen it you should.

Earmarks Revisited

Les Aucoin commented here yesterday regarding my highly mediocre post about Congressional earmarks. I feel he horribly misinterpreted the post and am thus posting my response as a new post instead of as a comment. Here's what Frmr Rep Aucoin said:
How do you like the MAX light rail lines--from PDX to Gresham and PDX to Hillsboro? Are they cutting emissions? Gasoline usage? Are the helping guide growth?

Earmarks, pal, both of 'em. I know. I helped perpetrate the "crimes."

It's hazardous to speak (or write) in absolutes.

Les AuCoin
U.S. Congressman, D-OR 1st District (ret.)

I didnt realize I was coming accross that way, I said everyone likes them and that this is why it wouldnt change with a Democratic Congress. I do think that some projects (bridge to nowhere) are way over the top. I stated quite clearly that there was a "universal incentive" to keep the pork coming. Yes, I do like the rail lines, and the fact that they and similar projects are so widely favored by constituencies is why nothing will change. Personally I don't know how it comes accross as though I were calling them a "crime"
(your word) and as absolutist argument against pork when I said this:
The fact is that while all legislators may rail about the pork that others are getting, and all voters dislike the pork that other districts/states recieve, all legislators love their own pork projects and all voters love the pet projects in their district that their legislator delivers to them.

Everybody likes the earmarks so there's no getting rid of them even though sometimes they get rediculous, that's the only point I was attempting to make in this post and I don't understand how it came accross the way you evidently read it. Am I critical of some of the projects? Definately, but I think I made it pretty clear that legislators are rewarded for bringing it home, and you're right, a lot of these projects do a lot of good as well. The New Deal was built in large part on these kinds of pet projects as a way to create jobs. Frankly your comment confuses me because I fail to see how it came off that way, but I guess it did. You're right about the light rail lines and about a million other projects just like them, and at no point would I ever have disagreed with you in that regard, hence my point, it wont change with the Democratic Congress.

At worst that was a bad post, and perhaps I should have found better language to make the point. But I feel it was badly misinterpreted in that comment.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Earmarks in the Next Congress

Anyone who expected the amount of pork Congress doles out to change with the Democratic Congress taking office in January had unreasonable expectations. Certainly we need to be reducing the amount of local pet projects that accomplish little, but there's such a universal incentive for them that there's no getting rid of them. The New York Times today has a good discussion of pork in Congress.
Meet the new cardinals, as the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are known on Capitol Hill. Many have a lot in common with the Republicans they will succeed.

All have worked for years to climb to their posts, where the authority to grant earmarks puts them among the most powerful lawmakers in Congress. Like Mr. Inouye and Mr. Stevens, many have developed unusual bipartisan camaraderie while divvying up projects. By longstanding, informal agreement, the majority typically doles out about 60 percent of the money for earmarks and lets the minority pass out the rest. And they form a united front against limitations on the earmark process.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican’s allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, with a population of 50. It became notorious as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next,” Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be “taking a long, serious look at their projects.” Every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted against an amendment to strike the bridge, and after threats from Ms. Murray and Mr. Stevens, only 15 senators voted for the amendment. The bridge’s future is unclear.

The fact is that while all legislators may rail about the pork that others are getting, and all voters dislike the pork that other districts/states recieve, all legislators love their own pork projects and all voters love the pet projects in their district that their legislator delivers to them. It creates an overwhelming electoral incentive to spend on things like the bridge to nowhere. I don't know how you create a culture of responsibility in DC regarding that, but its clear that there is an incentive for each legislator to oppose any changes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Small Steps Towards Universal Health Care

The Oregonian ran an AP wire report today (which they appear to have not put online) about the Democrats supporting a plan to reduce medicare expenditures without reducing the number of people covered.
Under traditional Medicare, healthcare providers bill the government for the services they perform. But with ''Medicare Advantage'' managed care, the insurers get a set amount per person. Then, the insurers reimburse the people who provide the care.

Medicare is already far more efficient than health insurance companies spending far less on administrative costs. This would limit those administrative costs even more, proving that the private insurance industry cannot adequately supply health care to the American people. This might be able to get through Congress but Bush will veto it, and that's ok, its a good proactive step to show the American people that Democrats are serious about fixing health care in this country without jeopardizing the policy of universal health care at a time when we clearly cannot pass it. 2009 is my target date for something to be done, when the Democrats (warning, wishful thinking) pick up 2 more seats in the Senate, hold their House majority and gain the Presidency. Right now, small steps like this are a good policy for the Democrats to take, things that can make a big difference, that the Democrats can unite behind and the Republicans will oppose. This may well be a futile effort because of Bush's presence in the White House holding the veto pen, but it can send a clear message to the American people that Democrats are interested in solving this crisis where Republicans are not. I don't think the debate over universal health care should begin until we have the structural advantage to pass it, we cant risk losing the debate again when we know from the start that we lack the means to pass the program. I think this is something Democrats should be campaigning on, but we need to have some patience and wait for the moment when we can get it done before pushing legislation for universal health care.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Get back to where you once belonged

In much of the rural United States people have rightly taken offence to the stereotype that they are all a bunch of illiterate, gun toting, dirty, racist, and dumb individuals. Its a viscious stereotype that they are right to take offence at. However, crap like this does not help the cause.
Ordinance 208, passed by the City Council last week, asks Greenleaf's residents who do not object on religious or other grounds to keep a gun in the home.
Jett, a former Canyon County deputy sheriff, said citizens should be armed in case Greenleaf, which sits on high ground, is overrun by refugees in a Katrina-like flood.

The town, about 35 miles west of Boise near the Oregon border, is surrounded by three reservoirs and an earthen dam, Jett said. Plus, Idaho could experience a major earthquake, he said.

"This is not an 'it'll never happen here kind of thing,' " Jett said. "We could get refugees."

Because other Americans fleeing a disaster area are such a threat to Greenleaf. Right. What ever happened to respecting other people? Particularly when you're all citizens of the same damn Country. What is wrong with these people? Is this the lasting legacy of the minute men on the US-Mexico border? That we're all licensed to shoot anyone different who is "invading" our nice quiet town? This is apalling, and the next time the citizens of Greenleaf complain that the rest of the country doesnt respect their values or that they're unfairly stereotyped they deserve to be laughed out of town. I had hoped that the lasting legacy of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco would be a restoration of our social bonds with one another, a renewed sense of community. And maybe it is, maybe Greenleaf is just one little spot in the country that is bucking a larger trend, but this is very disconcerting to me. One of the most horrific stories last September was that police in a town next to New Orleans blocked the bridge that connected the two cities and with guns in their hands turned their fellow Americans back, into that watery grave that was New Orleans, and one would have hoped that Americans everywhere would look at that in disgust and say "No! We're better than that, we wouldnt turn away our fellow Americans in their time of greatest need!" And commit ourselves to reaching out to one another to make sure that our brothers and sisters do not suffer. One would hope that the horrors of Katrina would renew our sense of responsibility towards one another. But I guess not, at least not in Greenleaf Idaho. Disgusting.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanks Bush

I'm certainly not an economist, but this looks ugly.
U.S. home construction plunged in October to its lowest level in more than six years, according to government data, sending a chill through the slumping housing market.

The Commerce Department reported today that construction of homes and apartments dropped to an annual rate of 1.486 million units last month, down 14.6 percent from the September level.

The sharpest drop came in the South, where construction fell by 26.4 percent. That region includes the Washington area.

Construction was down 11.7 percent in the Midwest and 2.1 percent in the West. The only region to show gains was the Northeast, where construction grew by 31 percent.

Fortunately for Oregon there's not much change in the west, and things look really good in the Northeast, but this is not promising. Home construction declines and I think we see big repercussions throughout the rest of the economy. Certainly when I talk to econ professors at Linfield housing prices get cited as a reason that we're probably heading towards a recession. Now that the popping of the housing bubble seems to be materializing in a decline in home construction I think the picture looks ugly. Looks to me like we might be headed for a big downturn just as the Democratic congress is sworn in. Which will be precisely the time that we want to deficit spend. But thanks to Bush's love affair with tax cuts, and his lunatic war we're already running huge deficits. I think the Democratic Congress has its work cut out for it, hopefully this can be managed, but its going to be tough. Getting out of Iraq I think would help a ton just by freeing up a lot of money. That's my amature prognosis, if you've got a good reason why I'm wrong please weigh in, since I'm a political science person, not an economics person.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Injustice in Oregon's Courts

Back at the end of September the NYT exposed the rotton state of justice in small town New York where undertrained and underpaid judges make important decisions regarding fines, warrants, issues of protection, and jail time without any real knowledge or respect for the law. A key passage from the Times article that gives a hint into the behavior of these judges who usually lack a law degree and oftentimes lack even a college education.
A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, “Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.”

I know this article was a while ago and I'm late jumping on board covering it, but I found it interesting and started doing some research. I was interested in the claim made by the New York Times that 30 States have courts just like New York's. It was when I looked through the Oregon State Code that I discovered that Oregon is one of the 30. What I find interesting is how extraordinarily abusive the Courts appeared in the New York Times article contrasted with how little you hear about this issue. So I present two questions. 1) Should town judges be required to be lawyers? and 2) Have you had any experience with a Justice Court in Oregon that is worth telling?

I'm also curious if enough people even read this for me to get a real response here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Tomorrows Majority Leader Vote

Talking Points Memo discusses Murtha's comments regarding ethics reform.
A Roll Call article today quoted Murtha saying of a Democratic ethics reform package, "Even though I think it’s total crap, I’ll vote for it and pass it because that’s what Nancy wants."

With Matthews, Murtha sounded a call for openness as the antidote to corruption. "Transparency. I think that’s the only way to stop it," said the 34-year House veteran, who earlier this year worked to help kill Democratic lobby reform efforts. "And I think the regulations that Nancy’s in favor of were very important. I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t."

Someone at Blue Oregon yesterday made a comment that made a lot of sense to me, that this was going to be Pelosi's House and Pelosi's agenda, unlike the House under Tom DeLay where Hastert was nothing but a tool for the majority leader. Almost the opposite will be true here, Pelosi will set the agenda, and the Majority Leader will be her right hand man in carrying it out. I think that's what Murtha's comments support here, that Murtha will work for Pelosi's agenda, while I've heard speculation that Hoyer and Pelosi have bashed heads in the past and that Hoyer may subvert Pelosi's agenda. I think Murtha's the right choice, but at the end of the day I agree with Earl Blumenauer.
The next 48 hours are going to be a significant test regardless of the outcome. Will Democrats be able to conduct a decision on leadership in a way that is constructive with a minimum of rancor? Will we get the pieces right for the team and be able to make sure that we emerge stronger rather than weaker?

Jack and Steny are going to be fine regardless of what happens. At a minimum each are going to play key roles in an Appropriations Committee that will be energized under the leadership of Dave Obey and key new members. They both will chair critical subcommittees that will deal with important spending priorities. They will both be very powerful voices in our caucus with a devoted following of people who are their friends, admirers, and supporters.

I'm more interested in this as a test for Democrats than for the leadership position itself. Will people have the ability to deal with the selection and then move on in a way that will be the most constructive for our Caucus? Will we find a way to mute and avoid the tendency in close, hard fought contest to make it personal and make it public? I may well be the only person in the caucus who is not trying to persuade people one way or another. Indeed, I may be the only one who is still thinking about my choice and what it represents.

The recent attacks upon Murtha's history regarding ethics bode ill for Blumenauer's hopes, if Murtha wins this I just hope that Hoyer's supporters don't start undermining Murtha and Pelosi, Murtha will fight for ethics reform, the ethics story is old and not a story. Lets see how the vote comes out tomorrow and get to work whoever wins.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Now is the Time to Go After Smith

DailyKos brought me this insight regarding Norm Coleman in Minnesota.
One of the keys to taking out Conrad Burns in Montana was early efforts by Montana Democrats (using DSCC money) to soften up Burns in 2005.

There's no need to give 2008 Republican incumbents any respite. Hit them hard, hit them early. And in Minnesota, DFLers are chomping at the bit to take out Norm Coleman.
With the wind at their backs, Minnesota Democrats are quickly making Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman their next target.

Following Amy Klobuchar's overwhelming Senate victory last week, Democrats are expected to line up soon in hopes of winning support for a 2008 run at Coleman, a stout backer of President Bush.

"I think the list of Democratic hopefuls for the 2008 U.S. Senate race has just grown exponentially,'' said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs. "The reality of Klobuchar's smashing victory is so enticing. It's like honey for bees.''

If we're going to knock off the fake moderate Gordon Smith in 2008 now is the time to really start going after him hard. If we wait until early 2008 to start working hard to expose the fact that he's not really a moderate then it will likely be too late. So I propose a program accross the Oregon lefty blogosphere to start hammering Smith as often as possible over the course of the next two years starting today and doing whatever we can to bring strong smart Democrats like Blumenauer or Kitzhaber into a 2008 showdown with Smith.

Setting the Democratic Congressional Agenda

Kari Chisholm made the following comment in response to my Lieberman post yesterday.
I'm not sure I agree that they need to work in a bipartisan fashion. Certainly not in the US House. They need to punch out a rapid-fire set of progressive policies.

Then, Bush can either sign or veto. If he signs, we win now. If he vetoes, we win later.

I think this holds true on a few issues, Iraq, minimum wage, and tax policy. But I don't think that this is a particularly bright approach for Democrats to take regarding thier 2006 agenda. It is precisely the mistake that the Republicans made that set the stage for our landslide victory this year. This country needs a return to good pragmatic government, and that means not acting like the Republicans have acted for the last 12 years. I wrote a diary at DailyKos last night which is effectively my response to Kari.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What a Moron

Joe Lieberman is truly out of touch. Instead of dwelling on reponding to this bullshit, I'll just direct you to my previous post.

In at least as great a tidal wave election as 1994 Joe Lieberman can get up there and declare that "this was not a realignment election," is amazing. In every such tidal wave the losing party has picked up something, and in 2006 that didnt happen, I predicted that GA-12, but it appears that even that didnt happen, the Republicans were so thoroughly beaten this year that they couldnt even pick up a single house seat from a Democrat, yet Joe Lieberman can get up there and say "voters are equally frustrated with both parties." That's not to say that Democrats dont need to work hard in a bipartison fashion to prove to voters that they can govern effectively between now and 2008 to retain their majorities, but the voters sent a clear message on Tuesday and Joe Lieberman is in lalaland if he can't see that.

Finally, I know I'm a liar, I said I wouldnt go into why Lieberman is a moron, but as the post developed I realized I couldnt restrain myself.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just How Big was the 2006 Tidal Wave?

While much of the discussions about this years elections have centered on the idea of the "sixth year itch" and the undeniable fact that the President's Party almost always loses seats in midterms generally, but sixth year elections in particular, I would contend that this year was a truly huge tidal wave election of impressive magnitude. After the counting is done in the remaining districts it is likely that the Democrats will control 231-232 seats in the House of Representatives. That means that one or two more districts voted for Democrats than in the 1994 Republican Revolution. Yes, Republicans came from a larger deficit to do that, but this is due to fewer gerrymandered seats. The fact is that more Americans are now represented by Democrats in the House than were represented by Republicans in 1994. The gains were short of 1994 levels only because of the makeup and representation of Congressional districts. It took a larger burst for Democrats to win 30 seats this year than it did for the Republicans to win 54 in 1994. Consider this:
Rarely have we had a president so unpopular going into a midterm; when we have, it has led to massive congressional turnover. Moreover, while Democrats have expanded our advantage on key domestic issues, Republicans’ once vast lead on national security has been largely neutralized.
One measure of political instability: the number of Republicans holding seats that vote Democratic for president and vice versa. When big political waves hit, that is precisely where much of the action is. In the two prior presidential elections, Bush (the father) or Reagan had won 30 of the 34 seats Democratic incumbents lost in ’94. Similarly, two-thirds of the Republican incumbents who lost in ’82 were running in districts presidential Democrats had won just previously.

Today, though, there are fewer mismatched seats than at any point in recent history. Going into 1994, 53 Democrats held seats won by Bush in 1992. Today just 18 Republicans hold seats won by Kerry. So, while forces in the political environment push strongly in a Democratic direction, they are acting on a relatively stable structure: Hence the test.

The moral of the story, in 1994 the political system was instable, there were a lot of Democratic seats begging to fall. Not the case with Republican seats in 2006. By my count the Democrats knocked off 8 Republican incumbents in the House this year, and all Senate pickups were against incumbents. The only Republican held Senate seat that was open was Tennessee where Harold Ford nearly shocked the world to win in deep red Tennessee. The Democrats on the other hand had an uphill battle in the Senate. They had to defend open seats in Maryland and Minnesota, the Republicans ran their best possible candidates in both districts, and expected to pick up at least one in Minnesota before this election had materialized. Further, red State Democrats were in potential jeopardy, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, and Kent Conrad were all considered shaky incumbents at the early stages of this election. So the Democrats had to pick up six seats in the Senate from incumbents with only one potentially coming from an opening while defending 2 open races and several at risk incumbent Democrats. Compare that to 5 Democrats retiring in the Senate in 1994. The Democrats had potential turf to defend this year, Republicans in 2006 had only one open seat to defend.

Finally, at the State level Democrats won the majority of governorships as well as controlling at least one legislative chamber of 39 States (Nebraska has no parties). Democrats have single party rule in 15 States now, Republicans in 10. The State-level Democratic gains show that this election was not purely an Iraq protest vote. Americans in most facets of policy do not like the way Republicans have been governing, and that is reflected by the large turnarround at the State level. 275 seats nationwide in State legislatures were won by Democrats last night.

In short, the tidal wave of 2006 should not have happened, the Republicans had all the structural advantages to prevent the massive losses that they experienced. The Republicans had far more advantages in 1994. The 1994 Republicans had open seats to pick off in the Senate, they were defending 1 open seat in 2006 to the 5 that the Democrats were defending in 1994. Districts in 1994 were often represented by members of the opposite Party as the Presidential candidate that they voted for, not the case in 2006. Finally, more Americans will be represented by a Democrat in 2006 than in 2004, the difference in gains only represents a difference in the number of seats held prior to the election. This tidal wave was not small, it was huge, as big as the 1994 tidal wave if not bigger.

American voters gave Democrats a chance on Tuesday all accross the nation. They want change, not just on Iraq policy but accross the policy agenda, and they made themselves quite clear about it. Now is the time for Democrats to govern and prove to voters they can do better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Exit Poll Number Crunch

Some observations from the exit polls via CNN. I'll probably post this again into some conclusion, right now I just want to get some of the data I found interesting out there. These are based on the House information because House of Representatives was the one office that everyone who voted would have had on the ballot. These are in no particular order, just the order that I noticed them when I looked through the exit polling.

1) The media talking point has been that this election was all about Iraq-however, those who said that Iraq was "not at all important" to their vote went more strongly Democratic than any other response. Admittedly only 10% of the electorate said Iraq was unimportant, but Democrats were very strong amongst those whom Iraq had no effect on.

2) Evangelical voters, who had been rumored to be unlikely to turn out comprised 34% of the electorate. Up 1% from their 2004 electoral share, so evangelical voters were no different than the rest of the electorate in terms of sitting this one out.

3) Voters in 2006 self identified as 2% less conservative, 1% less liberal and 3% more moderate than in 2004.

4) The more important terrorism was the more likely voters were to vote Republican.

5) There was no substantive difference between voters who said that local issues were more important and those who said national issues were more important.

6) Those who disaproved of GOP handling of the page scandal went heavily Democratic, though not very much more than those who dissaproved of Congress in general.

7) Voters with a union member in their household voted 5% more strongly for Democrats than they did in 2004 and comprised a nearly identical share of the electorate.

8) Just as in 2004 there is a clear level by level correlation between income and vote. The wealthier you are the more likely you are to vote Republican, this holds at every income level.

9) Those who attent church weekly voted far less Republican in 2006 than in 2004.

10) A plurality of 2006 voters voted for Bush in 2004. Democrats won the votes of 15% of them

11) Those who said the economy was "extremely important" to their vote voted strongly Democratic, those who said the economy was "not important at all" comprised almost no share of the electorate but voted Democratic.

12) The more important corruption was, the more likely a voter was to vote for a Democrat.

13) Those to whom the Saddam Hussein verdict was "extremely important" were won by a small margin by Republicans and were a surprisingly large portion of the electorate at 18%.

14) The less you approved of the war in Iraq the more likely you were to vote Democratic.

15) Those who wanted troop withdrawels from Iraq voted heavily Democratic, those who did not voted heavily Republican.

16) 59% of the electorate said the war in Iraq did not make the United States safer and that 77% of them voted Democratic.

17) Most of the electorate thought that "most illegal immigrants should be offered legal status" and voted strongly Democratic.

18) Any gains made by Republicans amongst hispanics in 2004 were lost in 2006 as hispanics voted heavily Democratic. However, hispanics represent 14% of the US population and only comprised 8% of the electorate.

19) Democrats won amongst big city voters, small city voters, suburban voters, and small town voters. Republicans only won rural voters who comprise 18% of the population.

20) Democrats lost in the South and won everywhere else.

21) Nearly 90% of voters voted the same way in their Senate race as in their House race if there was a Senate race.

Montana Goes to Tester

Yes! Montana goes to Tester! Virginia may be in recountville for a long time but I feel good about saying that we have a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate.

In other news, last night I posted a "Peralta wins" post, which I took down as soon as I realized my mistake. I looked at the Oregon Secretary of State page and saw Peralta 49% to Nelson 46%, the page gave no indication of how many votes had been counted and I assumed it was finished. Upon further investigation later in the night I realized that they were in fact not done counting and removed that post. If this confused anyone I apologize. Peralta is currently 200 votes down with what appears to me to be 2/3 of the votes counted.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Exit Polls

East Coast Exit Polls here. Looks really good for Democrats, surprisingly close in Arizona, close in Tennessee, ahead in all other key races in the US Senate.

The Countdown Begins

It is officially election day! Less than 3 hours until polls open on the east coast.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Mail in Voting is Genius

Here in McMinnville its been a torrential downpour all day, the last few days really, but worse today. Without mail in voting McMinnville voters would have to go through the worst conditions imaginable tomorrow in order to vote. Thanks to mail in voting only a few procrastinators must face this daunting task. Voters would need boats to get to the polls in these conditions.

2006 Election Predictions

Here are my predictions for tomorrow, US Senate, US House, Oregon Governor, and Oregon House and Senate.

US Senate:
-Democrats pick up 4 with little doubt, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Montana. Missouri and Virginia go to McCaskill and Webb respectively by tiny margins that take the whole night to finish counting. Lieberman will defeat Lamont, Cardin and Mendendez hang on in Maryland and New Jersey. The Senate will be comprised of 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

US House:
-Democrats pick up 34 seats and lose one. The new House of Representatives will be 201 Republicans to 234 Democrats. Democrats lose one seat in the Georgia 12th as Conservative Democrat John Barrow is unseated. Democrats pick up seats in the following districts:
NH-01, NY-24,NY-20, CT-05, CT-04, PA-06, PA-07, PA-08, PA-10, OH-01, OH-15, OH-18, VA-02, NC-11, FL-16, IN-02, IN-08, IN-09, KY-03, IL-06, IA-01, MN-06, TX-22, CO-04, CO-05, CO-07, NM-01, AZ-05, AZ-08, ID-01, WA-05, WA-08

Surprise wins of the night in the CO-05, WA-05, and ID-01.

In Oregon Governor Kulongoski will be reelected by a 5-7% margin as Oregon Democrats take a sigh of relief. Democrats sieze a bare majority in the State House of Representatives 31 Democrats to 29 Republicans, upset of the night, Sal Peralta unseats Donna Nelson. Democrats retain their majority in the Senate.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Health Care Crisis: Oregon Edition

Short little AP report I just found in the News Register (McMinnville) which is very upsetting.
A new study found that health care premiums in Oregon rose nearly six times faster than median earnings since 2000.

Consumer health group Families USA found that health care premiums for insurance provided through an employer rose 82 percent during the six-year period while median earnings rose 14 percent.

The average total premium in Oregon is $12,125 and median earnings are $25,537.
Nationally, the study found that premium costs outpaced earnings 6.4 times faster, on average.

Tough to find the key paragraphs in a 4 paragraph article. To some extent we should have already known this (though its nice to have hard data to back it up). The evidence is increasingly compelling that we must establish a single payer health care system in this country. It is morally right, it is in the public health interest, and will be cheaper for everyone. Yet as soon as we start to seriously discuss it again, the insurance companies will scream "No! That's socialism!" which its not, but they'll probably win with that argument. As for Oregon itself in the absense of national action, I don't know. I have mixed emotions about dramatic State-level changes. Unless health care costs are controlled nationally costs within a single State aren't likely to drop, so a single payer health insurance program would probably be too expensive for a State to maintain. In any event, this can't be sustained much longer, it is time for this to change. This shows a truly sorry state of affairs in Oregon and an even worse picture nationwide.

Charlie Cook's 6 Day Out Analysis

The November 1st election analysis at Cook Political Report really struck me hard. Cook tends to be on the conservative (football conservative, cautious) side of things, and the nature of his analysis really struck me hard. It seems right to me, but I tend to be optimistic about these things, I thought Kerry would beat Bush for example. Cook tends to try to avoid sticking his neck out, and at this point a few days from election day things look so bad for Republicans that Cook is predicting a massive tidal wave, which means one of two things, either for some reason Cook decided to stick his neck out when he usually doesn't, or things look so bad for the Republicans that he's not sticking his neck out at all and is following his usually cautious prognosticating pattern.
In the House, it would take a miracle for the GOP to hold onto their majority. The losses look very likely to exceed 20 seats, and a 20- to 35-seat loss is most likely, but we would not be surprised for it to exceed 35 seats. The vulnerable GOP seats are there, the wave is there, maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't.
Many have commented, quite correctly, that the biggest variables are turnout levels among independents and Republicans. If independents show up in their normal, relatively low midterm election levels, GOP losses will tend to run on the lower end of those ranges. But if there is a significant uptick in independent turnout, the losses could go much higher, as Democrats show huge leads among independents (20 points in some cases) in many races.
While the president is different, the party is different and the issues are different, this is not too dissimilar to 1994 when voters were upset about tax increases, the Clinton health plan and the crime bill (read guns), others were upset about several years of congressional scandals, the House Bank and Post Office, Jim Wright, David Durenberger, the Keating Five and Tony Coelho, to name a few. Republican turnout soared, Democratic vote plummeted, and while some credit the GOP "Contract with America," that is largely revisionist thinking. At the time voters were angry with President Clinton, Democrats and Congress, and they wanted to send a message. They wanted to throw some people out of office.

National polling continues to show a wave of at least the same magnitude of 1994, looking at right direction/wrong track, Congress and presidential job approval and the generic congressional ballot test and maybe even worse. At the same time, it is certainly true that the playing field of competitive districts is smaller, though significantly bigger than 30, 60 or 90 days ago, the number of Republican retirements is lower than average and Democrats are running, though not by design, fewer battle-tested candidates with records of winning tough races.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this election is that Republicans are having to fight and spend money in states and districts where few Democrats have dared tread in recent years, like in Idaho-01 (Butch Otter), Nebraska-03 (Tom Osborne) and Nevada-02 (Jim Gibbons). While this election started out as largely a fight in Northeastern and Midwestern suburban districts, the more recent additions to the competitive race lists have been disproportionately small town, rural and small cities, though not as many in the South but many in the West.
The bottom line is that at this stage, Republicans should consider themselves lucky if their net losses stay in the 20-25 range in the House, four or five seats in the Senate, and between five and eight governorships. It would be a tough election, losing their majorities in the House and governorships, but it would fall short of the devastating losses that are possible. But the chances of this thing going bigger -- far bigger -- still exist, and there are quite a few veteran Republican strategists, people who have done tons of races in all kinds of states and districts for many years, who are bracing themselves for that distinct possibility.

I really hope this is right, and being a cautious person Cook left himself an avenue for the lower end of what he thought possible. The moral 3 days before the election could not be clearer. We need to get Democrats and independents to the polls in big numbers. There is much work to do still to make the alleged tidal wave of 2006 a reality.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

HD 24 Debate Video

After much trial and error, and many technical difficulties the video for the Oregon House District 24 is now up on YouTube. I certainly learned a lot about video formats and youtube trying to do this, but it is now up, unfortunately YouTube would not allow me to put the whole thing up in one piece, I was limited to 10 minute segments, so I divided it into sections based on beginning of a question, the debate is in 9 parts.

A few things I forgot to mention about the debate in my previous post on the topic before I get to the video itself. It was a testiment to her inability to talk about public policy even on a most elementary level that the two questions that in my mind weren't especially useful she began her answer by saying "oh, that's a great question." One of them was "have your political views changed in the last 10 years," and the other "what would you like us to remember about you when we go to vote?" The second served as a nice way to bring the debate to a close with a question that served as a means for the candidates to make a closing statement, so it was ok even though I really don't think it was a good question. I would kind of like to say a few more things about it, and about how bad Nelson looked, but I'll ease off since she had a heart attack on Saturday, it seems kind of heartless to lay into her completely in light of that. So I shall let the video of the debate speak for itself.

Opening Statements:




Health Care:

Change in Political views (god I hated this question):

Campaign Finance:

Closing statements:

I can include the complete file (watch out its big), if anyone wants to see the whole thing uninterrupted, if you do, please say so in the comments and tell me how to do it and I will update this post to make that available.