Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is there potential for a landslide?

Yes. There is potential.

I'll quickly summarize why I think there IS potential, then give a much lengthier reason why it may not occur.

OK the first doubt that should come to mind, with anyone paying attention in the polls; is that the candidates are essentially still tied, with Obama MAYBE leading by 5-10 points (which is not insignificant).

By, we dont go by the popular vote, unfortunately, so what counts are electoral votes. So it all goes state by state.

Now if we assume the current, average polls are accurate (and I cannot emphasize enough the fact that they can be greatly OFF), but if we assume they are accurate, then Obama right now has leads in enough states to clearly pull a win (which is 270 or more electoral votes.) But that is not a landslide.

But where it gets interesting, really interesting, are the "toss up" states:

I know the writing is small on this (sorry) but basically the key says: DARK BLUE is solidly Obama, LIGHT BLUE is leaning Obama, similarly, DARK RED is solidly McCain and LIGHT RED is leaning McCain. GREEN is a toss up.

THE GOAL is to get to 270. If you add up all the BLUE, Obama has 260. If you add up all the RED McCain has 158.

THe obviously conclusion, Obama only really needs to win ONE or TWO green states to win. I mean Florida is fucking 27 electoral votes, Obama only needs 10. So, big advantage. McCain needs to win almost all of them.

So why is there potential for landslide?

There is a lot of speculation that the polls may be overstating Obama's lead; for one thing he had a huge lead going into the NH primary, then lost; for another there is a so-called racial bias that makes it look like a black candidate is higher than he actually is.

But what if the polls are understating his lead? Here is what I think may be the underlying cause for a potential landslide:

1. HE GOT GAME - The #1 reason Obama may have a landslide is he has what appears to be the best ground operation in history. Because when you poll someone, you assume they are going to vote. But not everyone votes, not everyone who says they are going to vote will vote. So it comes down to who will get their people to the polls. And people seem to be saying McCain has a really shitty ground game; but Obama's is amazing.

2. THE YOUTH - This is always overstated, but you never know. A - Most young people have cell phones as their primary contact, and pollsters call Land Lines. B - As a former pollster myself, we usually get a list of registered voters from the PREVIOUS election, meaning all new voters are not counted. We know Obama has a sizable lead among young voters; but all Democrats do, whats the difference?

1. HE GOT GAME - Obama has a weird cult of personality that is especially prevalent among young Americans. Dont ask me why, I dont really get it, but he's no John Kerry. Young people go crazy for him and they just may come out and rock it.

So look back at this map:

A remote, tiny possibility; is that Obama wins all the blue states and most if not all the Green States. 380 electoral votes. That may not be a landslide, but its a LOT.

But here is why he may not; the following is a summary of landslides (electoral and by popular vote). I think the odds are against Obama as an African-American and just as a Democrat.

The largest electoral landslide was in 1984, in which Reagan won 58% of the vote, and lost only 1 state (Minnesota) and the District of Columbia.

Could Obama win in a landslide when its so close? Maybe, maybe not. TO understand best, its good to look at 5 recent so-called landslides, three of them what might be called "Realignment" elections.

FDR was election in 1932; and began enacting the New Deal. It was so wildly popular that he was re-elected in a shattering landslide, losing only two states (Maine and Vermont) but garning an astonishin 60.8% of the vote.

Its important to note this landslide was a RE-ELECTION, which most are.

The next big landslide was in 1964. Johnson was elected Vice-President in 1960, but the President (Jack Kennedy) was murdered in 1963, elevating Johnson to the Presidency. The Republicans happen to elect a radical named Barry Goldwater.

As McCain says incessantly; MY FRIENDS, this was and is today the largest election landslide in American history, measured by the popular vote. Johnson pull away with over 61% of the vote.

But it changed everything. EVERYTHING. AND we are still feeling it today.

The Solid South was solidly Democrat from Reconstruction to 1964 because it was the party of White Power in the South. After his election in 1964 Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and remarked to Billy Moyers that this may cost the Democrats the south for a "generation."

Well a man named Dick Nixon picked up on it and used whats called the Southern Strategy; meaning he ran in the south proclaiming a love of States Rights, against Affirmative Action, and other racial topics. This eeked him to victory in 1968 but vaulted him to what became the biggest ELECTORAL landslide in American history (to that date) when he won EVERY SINGLE STATE EXCEPT.... Massachusetts :-)

Oh yeah and he lost the District of Columbia too. But thats not a state...

Anyway Nixon fucked up bad and had to resign. Ford took over in 1974, ran for election in his own right in 1976 and lost to Jimmy Carter. It was a close election and not a landslide. And the South actually largely went for Carter, he being a Southern himself, positioned as a moderate Democrat.

Yes Reagan won one vote.

Well Carter had a tricky term which we wont get into, but a B list actor who's previous jobs included being a corporate spokesman for General Electric and making speeches paid by the American Medical Association claiming that Medicare will lead to Communism; and he was former governor of CA; ran for President.

BUT its funny to see how Reagan started his campaign. "STATE'S RIGHTS" had been a rallying cry to Southern States to continue slavery; and it was a rallying cry for Southern States to continue Jim Crow and Segregation laws. When the federal government attempted to pass civil rights legislation, the Southern States cried it was violating "STATE'S RIGHTS".

In 1964, the same year of Johnson's landslide, the same year of that famous Civil Rights Act that lost the South for the Democrats; was also the year of one of the most famous civil rights murders in American history. Three men, one black and two white, were in Philadelphia, Mississippi registering blacks to vote. The Ku Klux Klan got to them, beat them, shot them, and burned the bodies. (This was not, unfortunately, an isolated incident, but happen to garner national press attention.)

In 1980 Ronald Reagan came to Philadelphia, Mississippi, now famous for the lynchings, to launch his presidential campaign; making a speech centered around his desire to protect state's rights. But I digress...

Here is the 1980 electoral map:

Yes he won big, and it wasnt even a re-election.

I wont say much more on Reagan except created whats called the Reagan Coalition; which is.... Big Business, evangelicals, southern racists, white, and working class people who think "liberals" only care about minorities and are going to take all their money (the so-called Reagan Democrat.)

In 1984 Reagan managed to pull off what is still today the largest ELECTORAL landslide in American history (thought he did not beat Johnson in the popular vote, getting 58% to Johnson's 61%)

AND WE end really here because since then we have been living in the age of Reagan.

That is to say, there are Blue States (the North East, the Great Lakes States, and the West Coast) and the Red States (The Solid South and Midwest) with only a few states here and there switching, the so-called "Swing States"

TO exemplify here are the electoral maps of 1996, 2000 and 2004:

So obviously, even if Obama wins, it would be hard to change all those red states to Blue. Perhaps it will happen in his re-election, perhaps not.

But... you never know

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Studying for a mid-term and was reading some Hans Morganthau, thought this (his 5th of Six Principles of Political Realism, from his book Politics Among Nations):

"All nations are tempted – and few have been able to resist the temptation for long – to clothe their own particular aspirations and actions in the moral purposes of the universe. To know that nations are subject to the moral law is one thing, while to pretend to know with certainty what is good and evil in the relations among nations is quite another. There is a world of difference between the belief that all nations stand under the judgment of God, inscrutable to the human mind, and the blasphemous conviction that God is always on one’s side and that what one wills oneself cannot fail to be willed by God also.

The lighthearted equation between a particular nationalism and the counsels of Providence is morally indefensible, for it is that very sin of pride against which the Greek tragedians and the Biblical prophets have warned rulers and ruled.

That equation is also politically pernicious, for it is liable to engender the distortion in judgment which, in the blindness of crusading frenzy, destroys nations and civilizations -- in the name of moral principle, ideal, or God himself."

What does that remind me of! The sad thing is that the Bush Administration is not the entire embodiment of this concept; but merely an extreme manifestation of something that has prevailed since the Republic was founded. Ben Franklin once said,

"If a sparrow can fall to the ground without His notice,
it is likely that an empire can rise without His help?"

Which the Cheneys found so delightful they put it on their annual Christmas Card in 2003 (the first Christmas after invading Iraq.) How delightful...

Going back to Morgenthau; I think it was Thomas Aquinas who described Pride as the worst sin of them all. And he may have been quoting the messiah himself, Jesus Christ. I don't care to look it up as I have to continue studying


There he is...

Colin Powell was on Meet the Press today and officially endorsed Barack Obama. I don't know if this is significant or not, I don't particularly care as I'm not really a fan of Powell's anyway, but he did say something that I thought was very profound and almost completely missing from recent discussion of race.

There has been a whisper campaign for quite sometime (I don't believe its centrally coordinated) that Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. A Pew Research poll this July showed roughly 12% of the electorate believe him to be a Muslim (20% of Evangelicals believe this). He is repeatedly referred to by his opponents as Barack Hussein Obama. He has to explain to people, no he is not a Muslim.

At a recent McCain rally, some woman said she did not trust Obama because "he's uh...he's an Arab."McCain was praised because he corrected the woman, said Obama was not an Arab, he was a decent, family man.

HERE is what Colin Powell said, that I haven't heard anyone else say, that struck me today, regarding these inuendos and rumors that Obama is an Arab and/or Muslim:

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Finally! My God did it really have to take this long for someone of prominence to say that? The fact that this context is virtually absent from the media speaks volumes of the levels of acceptable racism in this country against Arabs and Muslims.

Picture this. We have a campaign where two white men are running for president. One of them is of Eastern European descent; and there is a rumor that he is a closet Jew and has a secret Jew agenda. And at the opponents rally's people say they can't trust the other guy because "He's a Jew,"; and the all the opponent says is "No, no, he isn't; he is a decent family man who cares about this country."

I would hope people would be outraged; that the correct response should be "What if he was? Is there something wrong with that?" The only person I have heard say this is Powell. And there is something wrong with the fact that we do not hear more of that, from both McCain AND Obama.

Pardon my speculation, but its rather obvious Obama's campaign made a conscious decision not to say "No he isn't, but what if he was? There is nothing wrong with that" lest they look like they are defending Islam. Why? If person X is racist enough to care whether or not the candidate is Muslim, the campaign likely assumes they would associate any defense against racism with being a closet Muslim; or at the very least the campaign realizes a large segment of the electorate IS racist against Muslims and therefore they don't want to upset them by defending Islam. Simply put; its a strategic political descision not to upset racist white Americans who have enough to deal with having an African-American on the ticket. Shame on them.

For those who saw Powell on Meet the Press; he referred to a picture he saw in a recent photo essay, taken at Arlington National Cemetary.

In Powell's words

"I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.

And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life."

This is the photograph he was referring to.

From Jason Linkins:

"And some people, in fact, do have it harder than Joe The Plumber."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stock slide

Today's fall in the Dow. So much for recovering losses!

From the NY Times:

“I believe this is the sound that hedge funds make when they are imploding,” T.J. Marta, a fixed income strategist at RBC Capital Markets, said, characterizing the sell-off in the last hour.

Analysts said the market was continuing to react to the same fundamental factors that drove it lower in the morning, including weakness in the manufacturing sector, the large drop in retail sales and the growing realization that there will be no quick fix to the credit crisis.

Retail sales decreased 1.2 percent last month, nearly double the 0.7 percent drop that had been expected, according to one government report, while an index of New York manufacturing hit a record low in September.

“To some degree, we’ve moved on from the old crisis to the new crisis. The credit crisis has been addressed to some extent, but now there’s the recession, unemployment, and rising manufacturing costs in the pike,” a senior index analyst at Standard & Poor’s, Howard Silverblatt, said.

Nouriel Roubini says to expect a two year recession, 9% unemployment and further drops in home value.

He also keeps saying that while the measures that the Treasury are finally taking after much delay (partial nationalization) are good; but unfreezing credit markets are not enough. I think it was an NPR interview I heard with him yesterday where he stressed the need for a Home Owners Loan Corporation and a Keynesian style fiscal stimulus bill.

Except Republicans (and it seems most Democrats these days) revere Milton Freidman and supply side economics (which, I cannot emphasize enough, just doesn't work) and turned their back on Keynes in 1980.

So go out there and vote for liberal democrats! They are supposedly working on a massive infrastructure spending bill that will serve the purpose proposed by Keynes and Roubini.


Headline for the Financial Times when I logged on at 4:30EST.

"Stocks slide on mounting recession fears"

Really? They didn't assume a recession was coming one way or the other? Wasn't that a fundamental agreement by all parties on all sides of the spectrum, that whether or not this bailout works we are facing or are already in a recession? I very much doubt investors just kind of realized this.

Must avoid those two consecutive quarters of negative growth!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Its the end of the world as we know it!

I am hoping after the elections, that Obama wins, and he can jet set the G-7 to Bretton Woods and try again.

Terrific commentary
by Noam Chomsky on the topic. The economic liberalization that the US initiated in 1980 with Reagan (and Thatcher abroad), which was embraced by democrats and the moderate republican Bill Clinton; was really begun with Nixon when the original Bretton Woods system was destroyed.

Bit of background:

After the first collapse of global capitalism in the 1930's, each country had a go at it alone approach. Then toward the end of WWII all the major players, including the great John M Keynes took off to New Hampshire and settled down at a ski resort known as Bretton Woods; to establish a sound, common global capitalist system.

What Chomsky highlights, and is crucial I believe; is the need stressed to prevent capitalism from overruning democracy. They put checks on capital flight and had currencies pegged, instead of free floating. Why does this matter? One minute.

Vietnam was draining on the dollar and Nixon decided to rip of Bretton Woods to help the US. Instead of pegging the dollar to gold, the dollar was now pegged to nothing. So fell the house of cards. Currencies could float freely now. More on this later...

About this time Milton Friedman and his band of thugs were off promoting what would in the 80s be called the "Washington Consensus"; or in the 90's "Neoliberalism"; or "market reform" or "economic liberalization". Many names.

The premise was this: Capital and corporations should have no constraints whatsoever. And because the only way people CAN control them is through government, it was decided government was awful and must be destroyed. Everything must be privatized, regulations must be torn down, so-called free trade (which isnt free but thats another topic) was promoted.

But no one liked this in rich countries; so instead it was experimented in South America where the US installed right wing dictators who enacted Friedman's reforms in exchange for tactical support (see Naomi Klein for more on this).

These economic "reforms" were disaterous and eventually the dictators across Latin America were overthrown and replaced with democracy. But here's the kicker. Although the economic policies were hated by the people, the Western Corporations said they must stay. And if they do not? Capital flight and currency attack. They could destroy these countries. And in many cases did (see Argentina).

Then these reforms came to the US ala Ronald Reagan (and Britain ala Thatcher) where they kept railing that government is awful and must be destroyed, it cannot interfere with business. Being two democracies, the government is the public, and they were essentially arguing that democratic governments are awful, they should stand back and let corporations rule. The public should not have an opinion. "Government is the problem"

So for 30 years this was embraced by the US and England and pushed on much of the rest of the world. The result has been that for the vast majority of the American people, their incomes have either stagnated or declined for the last 30 years; despite economic growth and substantial gains for the top 5%

In fact its the first time in american (or world) HISTORY that we have had steady economic growth for years, with virtually no gain for the vast majority of the population. About this time credit and debt became very popular. So now for the past few years the US has had a negative savings rate for the first time since the Depression.

Anyway, here we are in 2008. For 90% of American's, their incomes were higher in 2000 then today. For 10% of Americans the last 8 years have been a dream come true.

But now the global economy is collapsing.

Now I'll just add this. From 1945-1970 was the most egalitarian and biggest growth for the majority of American people. What that means is we had economic growth, and that translated into income and wealth growth for the ENTIRE POPULATION.

Then stagflation and reaganism. Now we have had economic growth, but that translates to income decline or stagnation for most americans and wealth growth for the top 10% (and wild growth for the top 1%).

So when we consider the new system we will build (if they do) I hope they rely more on Keynes and Bretton Woods then Friedman and Reaganomics.

And I hope Obama is in the White House negotiating. But not with Clinton economic advisors

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vanguard of the Capitalists


David Brooks today discusses alternatives to Sec Paulson's "plan" to rescue capitalism. For those unfamiliar with Paulson's plan, it involved an emergency meeting with top congressional leaders asking them to give him between $700 billion and $1 trillion immediately, with no strings attached and the power to do whatever he wanted with it, not subject to review by any agency or court of law.

Paulson also said if this was not passed immediately, the entire US economy would face a meltdown. Then he went on four different Sunday talk shows to scare the hell out of the American people lest Congress balk.

Thankfully the Democrats are now saying not so fast, lets put some strings on this baby, lets get some power over these companies before we hand them a trillion dollars. John McCain said that no company seeking a bailout should have anyone paid more than the highest government official ($400,000); and only a few noble Republicans have stood up aghast at the final, inevitable destruction of their myth of a non-existant free market.

Back to Brooks. He proposes we set up a "financial elite" of the United States; Paulson, Volcker, Rubin, Buffett. This elite will be handed power becasuse, "These time-tested advisers, or more precisely, their acolytes, are going to make the health and survival of the financial markets their first order of business, because without that stability, the entire economy will be in danger. Beyond that, they will embrace a certain sort of governing approach."

This may more accurately be referred to as Leninism; where the masses are too dumb to govern themselves and therefore a group of elite intellectuals will manage society for them. The elites Brooks volunteers are all unelected officials who have come from Wall Street. They will manage the country for us. This is the alternative to Ceaser Paulson?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hillary Clinton is starting to piss me off

-China has been brutally cracking down on protesting Tibetans this week and last. I wonder if the Bush Administration will say anything. I doubt there will be much more than a pander to human rights activists since China holds a lot of US public debt and its not exactly the best time for the US to be rattling its creditors.

-Alan Greenspan and Paul Krugman finally agree on something, that the current US recession is likely to be the worst since WWII. This is a phrase tossed around a lot these past few days. Except it appears to be a nicer way of saying a terrible thing. The US didnt have a recession during WWII. It experienced a rather large one the decade prior to the conflict. I suspect that is what they are referring to. Its rather unsettling

-Lastly, Florida has decided it will not do a revote. Good then you will not have your delegates seated! It was a sham primary! I was never a huge Obama fan but I'm sick and tired of Clinton and her crew bitching that the Florida and Michigan delegates must be seated. Fine, they can sit, but the primaries dont count!

Florida and Michigan were told if they move their primaries, then they wont count. They moved their primaries anyways. The candidates, including Clinton, agreed the primaries should not count. They agreed not to campaign there. Obamas name wasnt even on the Michigan ballot. Amazingly some people bothered to vote anyway, and Clinton "won" Florida. She also "won" Michigan, where an astounding 40% of the people who voted cast their vote for "uncommitted." I suspect that if 40% of the voting electorate took time out of their day to cast a vote for a non-candidate, running against Hillary Clinton, in a primary that didnt even count; then I bet if Barack Obama was on the ballot he would've done pretty well.

This is Clinton's desperate attempt to win the primary, along with claiming super-delegates should vote for her and decide the election, even if Barack Obama wins more overall votes, states and delegates from the voting public.

This is a pattern of unfair actions by her. Her husband, as President, ran the party for eight years. His surrogates are largely still in place. That is a huge advantage for Clinton. Its clearly unfair. Just like claiming the Michigan win.

More and more each day I'm being pushed into the Obama camp. Although I think I may still vote Green, Hillary Clinton is starting to piss me off.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Howard Zinn

Election Madness

by Howard Zinn

There’s a man in Florida who has been writing to me for years (ten pages, handwritten) though I’ve never met him. He tells me the kinds of jobs he has held-security guard, repairman, etc. He has worked all kinds of shifts, night and day, to barely keep his family going. His letters to me have always been angry, railing against our capitalist system for its failure to assure “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” for working people.

Just today, a letter came. To my relief it was not handwritten because he is now using e-mail: “Well, I’m writing to you today because there is a wretched situation in this country that I cannot abide and must say something about. I am so enraged about this mortgage crisis. That the majority of Americans must live their lives in perpetual debt, and so many are sinking beneath the load, has me so steamed. Damn, that makes me so mad, I can’t tell you. . . . I did a security guard job today that involved watching over a house that had been foreclosed on and was up for auction. They held an open house, and I was there to watch over the place during this event. There were three of the guards doing the same thing in three other homes in this same community. I was sitting there during the quiet moments and wondering about who those people were who had been evicted and where they were now.”

On the same day I received this letter, there was a front-page story in the Boston Globe, with the headline “Thousands in Mass. Foreclosed on in ‘07.”

The subhead was “7,563 homes were seized, nearly 3 times the ‘06 rate.”

A few nights before, CBS television reported that 750,000 people with disabilities have been waiting for years for their Social Security benefits because the system is underfunded and there are not enough personnel to handle all the requests, even desperate ones.

Stories like these may be reported in the media, but they are gone in a flash. What’s not gone, what occupies the press day after day, impossible to ignore, is the election frenzy.

This seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. It is a multiple choice test so narrow, so specious, that no self-respecting teacher would give it to students.

And sad to say, the Presidential contest has mesmerized liberals and radicals alike. We are all vulnerable.

Is it possible to get together with friends these days and avoid the subject of the Presidential elections?

The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of clich├ęs with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry.

Even in the so-called left periodicals, we must admit there is an exorbitant amount of attention given to minutely examining the major candidates. An occasional bone is thrown to the minor candidates, though everyone knows our marvelous democratic political system won’t allow them in.

No, I’m not taking some ultra-left position that elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity. Yes, there are candidates who are somewhat better than others, and at certain times of national crisis (the Thirties, for instance, or right now) where even a slight difference between the two parties may be a matter of life and death.

I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.

Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.

The unprecedented policies of the New Deal-Social Security, unemployment insurance, job creation, minimum wage, subsidized housing-were not simply the result of FDR’s progressivism. The Roosevelt Administration, coming into office, faced a nation in turmoil. The last year of the Hoover Administration had experienced the rebellion of the Bonus Army-thousands of veterans of the First World War descending on Washington to demand help from Congress as their families were going hungry. There were disturbances of the unemployed in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle.

In 1934, early in the Roosevelt Presidency, strikes broke out all over the country, including a general strike in Minneapolis, a general strike in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands on strike in the textile mills of the South. Unemployed councils formed all over the country. Desperate people were taking action on their own, defying the police to put back the furniture of evicted tenants, and creating self-help organizations with hundreds of thousands of members.

Without a national crisis-economic destitution and rebellion-it is not likely the Roosevelt Administration would have instituted the bold reforms that it did.

Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.

They offer no radical change from the status quo.

They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.

They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live.

None of this should surprise us. The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties. We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.

So we need to free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left.

Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For instance, the mortgage foreclosures that are driving millions from their homes-they should remind us of a similar situation after the Revolutionary War, when small farmers, many of them war veterans (like so many of our homeless today), could not afford to pay their taxes and were threatened with the loss of the land, their homes. They gathered by the thousands around courthouses and refused to allow the auctions to take place.

The evictions today of people who cannot pay their rents should remind us of what people did in the Thirties when they organized and put the belongings of the evicted families back in their apartments, in defiance of the authorities.

Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.
Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.

Howard Zinn is the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” “Voices of a People’s History” (with Anthony Arnove), and most recently, “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.”

Winter's Days Are Numbered

33 Degrees!

Its finally above freezing today in Chicago. Its also sunny!

After a bitter cold December, January and February... it feels as though winter is beginning to thaw. In fact the 10 day forecast gives us a lowest low of 14 on Tuesday. The high (the lowest high) that day is 22. Thats fantastic because most of this winter we haven't gone 10 days without subzero temperatures. No wonder people in the Midwest are (stereotypically) so fat. Its necessary!

The freezing temperatures may or may not have contributed to a burst pipe in my building that cause a near collapse of one of my ceiling panels, which has been removed and is now just a large square hole.

Yes the days are getting longer and the sun shines brighter. In less than a month we will be celebrating the Vernal Equinox; twelve great hours of daylight matched with an equally significant twelve great hours of night. From then until the autumnal equinox, daylight will be on the winning side of the equation. Fucking fantastic!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Blog is Back

The Blog is Back, again!

I haven't written the blog in a while but for several reasons am bringing it back. One of which is that I am taking a Creative Writing class at the "Chicago Free School". The classes at this school are, as the name implies, free. I believe they are taught at a commune too, which should be fun. When I called the instructor to sign up for it (first class is Thursday) she informed me that I was the second person who had called thus far. If my friend Renee comes, that makes three.

So that is one of the reasons that I am writing the blog again. I must come up with a creative writing sample to bring to class on Thursday. So I need to get back into writing. Whatever creative writing work I come up with, I may or may not post on the blog, depending on how I feel about it.

I also am applying to grad schools now and must write essays for that. So once again, it helps to write the blog for writing exercises. I may or may not post those as well. We will see. We will see.


Op-Ed Columnist

Clinton, Obama, Insurance

Published: February 4, 2008

The principal policy division between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama involves health care. It’s a division that can seem technical and obscure — and I’ve read many assertions that only the most wonkish care about the fine print of their proposals.

Paul Krugman.

But as I’ve tried to explain in previous columns, there really is a big difference between the candidates’ approaches. And new research, just released, confirms what I’ve been saying: the difference between the plans could well be the difference between achieving universal health coverage — a key progressive goal — and falling far short.

Specifically, new estimates say that a plan resembling Mrs. Clinton’s would cover almost twice as many of those now uninsured as a plan resembling Mr. Obama’s — at only slightly higher cost.

Let’s talk about how the plans compare.

Both plans require that private insurers offer policies to everyone, regardless of medical history. Both also allow people to buy into government-offered insurance instead.

And both plans seek to make insurance affordable to lower-income Americans. The Clinton plan is, however, more explicit about affordability, promising to limit insurance costs as a percentage of family income. And it also seems to include more funds for subsidies.

But the big difference is mandates: the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn’t.

Mr. Obama claims that people will buy insurance if it becomes affordable. Unfortunately, the evidence says otherwise.

After all, we already have programs that make health insurance free or very cheap to many low-income Americans, without requiring that they sign up. And many of those eligible fail, for whatever reason, to enroll.

An Obama-type plan would also face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else. Mr. Obama, contradicting his earlier assertions that affordability is the only bar to coverage, is now talking about penalizing those who delay signing up — but it’s not clear how this would work.

So the Obama plan would leave more people uninsured than the Clinton plan. How big is the difference?

To answer this question you need to make a detailed analysis of health care decisions. That’s what Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T., one of America’s leading health care economists, does in a new paper.

Mr. Gruber finds that a plan without mandates, broadly resembling the Obama plan, would cover 23 million of those currently uninsured, at a taxpayer cost of $102 billion per year. An otherwise identical plan with mandates would cover 45 million of the uninsured — essentially everyone — at a taxpayer cost of $124 billion. Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700.

That doesn’t look like a trivial difference to me. One plan achieves more or less universal coverage; the other, although it costs more than 80 percent as much, covers only about half of those currently uninsured.

As with any economic analysis, Mr. Gruber’s results are only as good as his model. But they’re consistent with the results of other analyses, such as a 2003 study, commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that compared health reform plans and found that mandates made a big difference both to success in covering the uninsured and to cost-effectiveness.

And that’s why many health care experts like Mr. Gruber strongly support mandates.

Now, some might argue that none of this matters, because the legislation presidents actually manage to get enacted often bears little resemblance to their campaign proposals. And there is, indeed, no guarantee that Mrs. Clinton would, if elected, be able to pass anything like her current health care plan.

But while it’s easy to see how the Clinton plan could end up being eviscerated, it’s hard to see how the hole in the Obama plan can be repaired. Why? Because Mr. Obama’s campaigning on the health care issue has sabotaged his own prospects.

You see, the Obama campaign has demonized the idea of mandates — most recently in a scare-tactics mailer sent to voters that bears a striking resemblance to the “Harry and Louise” ads run by the insurance lobby in 1993, ads that helped undermine our last chance at getting universal health care.

If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates — but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.

If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities, here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.