Monday, September 25, 2006

Werewolves Support Victoria Wulsin

Last week I posted the results of some Congressional shopping I've been doing. I've been looking for competitive Congressional races that aren't awash in money, so my meager donations will have more of an impact. I'd rather give to House races than Senate races, because we're a lot closer to taking over the House in 2006 and controlling a chamber allows all sorts of awesomeness like committee control and subpoena power. Trouble is, you have to look hard to find competitive liberals in inexpensive House races.

On that note, let me introduce you to Dr. Victoria Wulsin. I've always wanted to give money to candidates who would someday guide the distribution of humanitarian aid to poor countries, and that's Victoria's specialty. Before running for Congress, she directed a 5-year, $30 million program to improve women's health in five countries in Asia and Africa. She has also helped USAID with reconstruction in Rwanda after the genocide. Most recently, she founded an organization to fight AIDS in Africa.

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She's very impressive on issues closer to home, too. It's rare that I see something that really strikes me on a candidate's issues page (mostly, people have boilerplate rhetoric that I could recite in my sleep), but here's what Victoria has to say about abortion:

I have practiced medicine in countries such as El Salvador, Venezuela, and Kenya, where abortion is not legal, and I have witnessed the death of women – and girls – who I could not save because their self-inflicted bleeding or infections were too far-advanced. Criminalizing abortion will not stop it but does endanger the lives of both mother and child.

Throughout my career I have worked to reduce abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies through the proven methods of education and family planning. As the mother of four sons, I know the decision to have a child is the biggest decision a woman ever makes. That’s why it should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, not by the government.

Now, if you're like me, you're thinking "Okay, I definitely want this woman in Congress. But can she win?"

I know of two polls in this race -- a Wulsin internal poll that had the candidates tied, and now an independent SUSA poll that has Jean Schmidt leading her 45-42. I've emailed a Wulsin staffer I know who says they haven't done any other internals, so it's not like there's some bad poll with Schmidt up 18 that's not being released. On Wednesday, the Swing State Project had a rundown on all the trouble Schmidt has got herself into over the last couple months. (Since then, a mini-scandal has broken about Schmidt plagiarizing a press release by Rep. Deborah Pryce to write an editorial. See for yourself -- here's the Pryce press release from July 10, here's the Schmidt editorial from Sept. 13.)

I was originally worried about this race -- if Paul Hackett couldn't win on OH-2, who could? But back when she was running against Hackett, Schmidt hadn't damaged herself by insulting John Murtha on the House floor and getting in all sorts of other trouble. And as always, any tactical theories I have are subject to the mercies of the polls, which show Wulsin doing surprisingly well. When Markos came to Austin on Thursday, his explanation was that Hackett's aggressive promotion of the Democratic brand had paid off. Back when I gave money to Hackett, that was one of my hopes, but I didn't expect things to go so well so fast.

The fundraising data we have is pretty stale -- it's from the end of June -- but it shows Wulsin at $25K and Schmidt at $18K. This blew me away. A race with ten times that money at the end of June is cheap! This is a US House race that's priced like a state House race. I'm sort of rubbing my eyes to see if this is real. But I've already given a little money, and if things look the same a couple mornings hence, I'll realize that I wasn't dreaming and drop more cash into this one. You, as always, are warmly invited to piggyback on my race-shopping efforts and contribute through my werewolf-themed ActBlue page.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Iowa Poll: More Reasons To Pick Edwards

There's some interesting new 2008 presidential polling today. All the data comes from a sample of Iowa voters, so take it with a grain of whatever seasoning you like on corn.

The pollsters took 4 Democratic candidates (Hillary, Edwards, Vilsack, and Kerry) and 4 Republican candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Frist, and Romney), and asked voters who they would choose in each of the 16 possible head-to-head matchups. Unsurprisingly, Giuliani came out as the most electable Republican candidate, beating Edwards by 8 and beating all the other Democrats by 13 or more. McCain was next -- he leads Edwards by a mere 1% margin, and no other Democrat is anywhere close. Kerry falls to McCain by 14, Vilsack by 15, and Hillary by 17. Overall, Edwards is easily the best Democratic candidate against all Republicans, beating Romney and Frist by double-digit margins. The other Democrats have single-digit leads at best. Hillary loses to everybody.

They also asked people which candidates they had favorable impressions of. This is one of the rare polls where any Democrat has a higher net favorability rating than Edwards, but here it's just a matter of home-field advantage -- Iowa Governor Vilsack's favorable-unfavorables run at 63-35, while Edwards runs at 54-30. Edwards does top all Democrats in the "Very Favorable" category, with 22% of all voters professing intense Johnny love. Favorability numbers were collected for lesser-known candidates too -- Feingold stands at 19-14, Bayh at 17-11, and Warner at 15-7.

On the Republican side, Giuliani is destroying everybody at 71-18. McCain sits pretty at 59-24. But not that pretty -- his 59% are divided between 14% with "Very Favorable" impressions and a whopping 45% with "Mostly Favorable" impressions.

If you want to see the raw results yourself, they're tucked away at the bottom left of the page under a lot of other stuff.

What George Allen Feared

Ever since Mark Schmitt first told me about him, George Allen has always seemed to me like a man with a deep understanding of exactly one thing -- the power of a good-ol-boy image in winning political office. From the football metaphors to the chewing tobacco to the cowboy boots, he's built himself exactly the kind of persona that's been winning elections in America from William Henry Harrison's "Log Cabin" campaign of 1840 to Bush's two recent election victories. Of course, all of these identities were largely fabricated. Harrison was born on a plantation, not in a log cabin. Bush was a president's son and a Senator's grandson who only bought his ranch in 1999 as a backdrop for his presidential campaign. Allen himself was born and raised in California, not in the rural South.

Allen's awareness of the importance of his persona, I think, is what explains Allen's furious response to the bizarre question that he was asked in this week's debate with Jim Webb. Confronted with his Jewish ancestry, Allen angrily attacked the questioner for "making aspersions" about his ethnic background.

I don't see this as evidence that Allen was ashamed to be descended from Tunisian Jews. What Allen saw in the question, I think, was a threat to his carefully cultivated good-ol-boy persona. Jewish stereotypes and rural Southern stereotypes are about as far apart as any pair of stereotypes in America, and it's hard to fit them together in any sort of natural-looking way. (Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman has a Jewish cowboy shtick, complete with Lone Star flags where the star is the Star of David. That's comedy, and its effect relies on how unnatural the fusion is.) If your political career depends on out-good-ol-boying other people, you're going to be really worried when someone presents you with information that disrupts that persona or threatens to reveal how artificial it is.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Power of Kindness

I really liked this letter to Andrew Sullivan from a Gulf War veteran who remembers how Iraqi soldiers gave up without firing any shots. They knew that if you surrendered to Americans, you'd be fed well, treated kindly, and not tortured.

Looking back, I think that one of the main drivers in these men's heads was that they knew, absolutely, that they'd get fair treatment from us, the Americans. We were the good guys. The Iraqis on the lineknew they had an out, they had hope, so they could just walk away. (A few did piss themselves when someone told them we were Marines. Go figure.) Still, they knew Americans would be fair, and we were.

Thinking hard on what I now know of history, psychology, and the meanness of politics, that reputation for fairness was damn near unique in world history. Can you tell me of any major military power that had it? Ever? France? No. Think Algeria. The UK? Sorry, Northern Ireland, the Boxer Rebellion in China... China or Russia. I don't think so. But America had it. If those men had even put up token resistance, some of us would not have come back. But they didn't even bother, and surrendered at least in part because of our reputation. Our two hundred year old reputation for being fair and humane and decent. All the way back to George Washington, and from President George H.W. Bush all the way down to a lance-corporal jarhead at the front.

Its gone now, even from me. I can't get past that image of the Iraqi, in the hood with the wires and I'm not what you'd call a sensitive type. You know the picture. And now we have a total bust-out in the White House, and a bunch of rubber-stamps in the House, trying to make it so that half-drowning people isn't torture. That hypothermia isn't torture. That degradation isn't torture. We don't have that reputation for fairness anymore. Just the opposite, I think. And the next real enemy we face will fight like only the cornered and desperate fight. How many Marines' lives will be lost in the war ahead just because of this asshole who never once risked anything for this country?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Werewolf Picks 2006

With the 2006 elections approaching, I thought I'd lay out the Democratic House campaigns I've been giving money to. So far this year I've only given money in House races, partly because Million Buck Chuck has won us a huge fundraising advantage in the Senate. If you'd like to donate through my humorously named ActBlue page, I'd be quite pleased!

The candidate I've given the most money to is Gary Trauner, who's running for the at-large seat in Wyoming against Barbara Cubin. Now I can see you're thinking -- Wyoming? The second-reddest state in the country? Yeah, but the thing is that Cubin is actually quite vulnerable. In 2004, she won the state with 55% of the vote while Bush got 69%. And that was against a candidate she outspent 945K to 373K. She only got 60% of the vote in the GOP primary this year against a dude whom she outraised 25 to 1. Gary's close in the money race -- at last check, he was only down 233K to 206K in cash on hand. Very popular governor Dave Freudenthal (D), who is up for re-election this year, may also have coattails. CQ has recently changed their rating on the race to "Leans Republican", two notches from their previous "Safe Republican" rating. In May polling, Cubin led only 47-43, with a 47% disapproval rating.

Gary's views on issues are pretty good, especially given what you'd expect in Wyoming -- he's pro-choice, and his support of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is admirable. There are two additional things that I like about funding a Wyoming race. First, these are cheap races, so your dollar will go a long way. Second, since there's only one House seat, Congressmen have little competition to move up when a Senate seat becomes open. Gary's only 47, so if Freudenthal takes the first shot, we may still have two Democratic Senators from Wyoming in the future.

The other Mountain West Democrat I'm giving to is Larry Grant of Idaho. (Yes, the third-reddest state by 2006 standards.) His opponent, Bill Sali, seems to have some problems. Sali won the primary with 26% of the vote in a 6-way race. To quote the Republican Speaker of the House in Idaho, "That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper." I've read other accounts in which his fellow Idaho legislators argue about how high a window they'd like to throw him out of. I really don't know what's at the root of all this, but it's resulted in a bizarre little poll where Grant is ahead 22-14, with a big majority of voters undecided. Lots of the West-specific arguments I've made for Trauner apply here too -- it's a cheap race in a state with two Congressmen. The only real reason I'm reluctant to give more money here is that it might not be so bad for us if Bill Sali were loosed on the House GOP caucus. Maybe he'd give them as much trouble as he gave Idaho Republicans.

The third person I've donated to is the one with the best shot at winning -- Darcy Burner from Washington. Recent polling has her leading 49-46. She's a solid progressive from a district that went 51% for Kerry in 2004. This is probably going to be a more expensive race than the other two, though, so your money may not have as big an impact.

But part of me is absolutely thrilled at the idea of having Darcy Burner in Congress -- specifically, that part of me that gets all big and strong and hairy during the full moon. You see, she was a co-chair of the Harvard-Radciffe Science Fiction Association a couple years before I came to campus. Those are the same good folks with whom I watched Buffy and played roleplaying games and ran around campus smeared in blue body paint and howling like a wolf as a modern re-imagining of an ancient pagan ritual.* So I hope you'll understand if I send a little of my money that way.

*note to Reichert oppo researchers: I have absolutely no evidence that Darcy herself did any of these things.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Read Reagan's Lips: Not Much New Revenue

Jonah Goldberg quotes an emailer responding to Ezra's article on big-government conservatism:

Revenues undoubtedly increased in the 80's... whether the Reagan Tax Cuts maximized revenues or not is a question I suppose, but his conclusion that deficits skyrocketed and inequality shot up as a result of the tax cuts is simply not substantiated and his claim revenues did not increase dramatically is not true.

Kevin Drum had the answer to all this a while ago. Once you account for inflation and population growth (a larger population will naturally generate more revenue) you can see that revenues didn't increase dramatically in the 1980s. In the 1970s, the per capita increase in revenue over the decade was 25%. In the 1980s, it was 18%. And in Clinton's 1990s, we got a whopping 40%. Meanwhile, the deficit nearly tripled in the 3-year period surrounding Reagan's huge 1981 tax cuts, running from $74 billion in 1980 to $208 billion in 1983, while Clinton's tax increases ensured falling deficits for every year of his term.

[Cross posted at Ezra's]

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Today's terrorism posts

Today's output consists of this post on how the "Path to 9/11" documentary could be fixed, and this one on Al-Qaeda's recruiting tactics.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Me too

Mark Schmitt: "my general attitude is that if a fight breaks out involving Ezra Klein, I'm on Team Ezra."

James River blues

So I thought I'd come on out and post the lyrics to the other Old Crow Medicine Show song that I've been going nuts over. None of the online lyrics sites seem to have the lyrics right, so I suppose this is some sort of service to the community. The song is relatively fiddle-rich, which I greatly enjoy, and you can download it here.

James River blues
I just heard the awful news
I could steer around the rocks
But they're bustin' down the docks

James River blues
that train came on through
and the work's gotten slow
now where's a boatman to go?

I think I'll float on down
to Richmond town

They don't need us anymore
haulin' freight from shore to shore
that big iron hauls much more
than we ever could before

I seen good men going wrong
I've seen bad ones get it right
As that river rolls along
I'll be steppin' out tonight
on the cool flow
floatin' down, down below
the bridge to the water's edge
from the ridge to the ledge
from the hills to the sea
I'll become a memory

James River blues
James River blues
James River blues

The album, I should say, isn't perfect. There's a couple songs on there -- mostly the low-key, boringly bluesy numbers like "God's Got It" and "Down Home Girl" that don't really do much for me. But there's also a whole bunch of stuff on there that I've listened to over and over again in the last couple weeks. Listen to "New Virginia Creeper" and tell me if you can stop bouncing around to the sheer infectious silliness of the song. Or hear "My Good Gal" and tell me if your jaw doesn't drop early in the fourth minute.