preload

Elections & Politics (U.S.)

Nov 08

Jonathan Sickinger of South Hadley, MA, a Democrat and Obama supporter who started following me due to my Pajamas Media Weather Nerd blog coverage of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, appears to have won the 3rd quadrennial Living Room Times Electoral College Contest with 538 points and a perfect prediction map.

electoral-map-final

This “call” of the contest winner — “RIGHT NOW!” as Wolf Blitzer would say — assumes that Barack Obama wins Florida, which has not officially been announced yet, but appears inevitable. Continue reading »

Bookmark and Share  |  No Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Nov 07

Best. Election. Ever.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 11:41 am Mountain Time

Untitled

Barack Obama re-elected, and by a comfortable margin both electorally and popularly. Nate Silver, and the concept of objective facts, vindicated against the Right’s ritual denialists. The Democratic Senate majority, which seemed doomed a year ago, expanded. Marijuana legalized in Colorado. Gay marriage legalized at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland and Washington (and an anti-gay marriage amendment defeated in Minnesota). The GOP caucus in the Colorado State Assembly, which egregiously contorted legislative procedures — completely shutting down the people’s business at the eleventh hour — to prevent passage of a civil unions bill that had the votes to pass, kicked out of the majority. A local school bond issue, which will fund the construction of our girls’ eventual high school in our rapidly growing neighborhood, passed. Wingnut senatorial candidates defeated in Missouri and Indiana (the latter by a Notre Dame Law School alum, no less). Crackpot Congressman Allen West ousted. Really, last night couldn’t have gone any better from my perspective.

Well, okay, Michele Bachmann could have lost, too, as she almost did. But that would’ve been just an embarrassment of riches.

The best part of the night, though, was watching it all unfold with Loyette and Loyacita, and engaging them in the process. They were very much into updating their puzzle (above) and their Giant Electoral College Thermometers (below), among other things. Even Loyabelle got into the action at one point, practically chasing me around the living room with a marker she found on the floor, wanting to draw on an electoral map. Heh.

photo.JPG

Loyette, who became a huge Mitt Romney fan (“because he’s handsome”) during the GOP primaries when we would watch parts of the debates, and maintained that fandom into the general election — even getting to shake his hand at a rally that I took her to just before the Denver debate — would ultimately be disappointed by the result, of course. But she didn’t know about it until this morning, and in fact, she was pretty excited last night, as Romney led in the electoral count for most of the evening.

Because it was Election Night, we kept the older girls up past their usual ~7:00-7:30 PM bedtime, but finally put them to bed around 8:30 PM — about 45 minutes before this happened:

Romney, in fact, was still leading — just barely — on the thermometers when the girls last updated them before bedtime, as you can see in the earlier photo. But I pretty much knew he was going to lose, based on the way things were going in Florida and elsewhere, so I tried to prepare Loyette for that eventuality. (Loyacita preferred Obama, though she wasn’t nearly as invested either way in the outcome as her big sister.) Just before our goodnight hugs and kisses, I explained to Loyette that, even though Mitt Romney was winning, “I think he might lose,” and she shouldn’t be “shocked” if she finds out in the morning that he did. She announced that she would be very sad and would cry if that happened, but she also asked me to leave her a “note” outside her door telling her the result, so she could find out immediately upon waking up, and not be “shocked.” I did that, and as expected, there were some tears this morning — “Daddy, I’m really sad Mitt Romney lost. I really wanted him to win.” — but she avoided a total meltdown, at least thus far. (As Jim Kelly quipped on Facebook: “Sounds like she handled it better than Dick Morris or Karl Rove then.” Heh.) We’ll see how it goes this evening, when I’ve promised the girls they can finish their thermometers and their puzzle…

Anyway, my election liveblog is technically still active; I’ll probably shut it down later tonight, but I wanted to wait until a few final races are “called” and I can come as close as possible to finality on the Electoral College Contest. Speaking of which, I’ll post an update here about that later, again probably tonight. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m already thinking about how to make the midterm elections engaging for the girls, who will be almost 3 1/2, almost 5 1/2, and almost 7 by the time November 2014 rolls around…

Nov 05

Election Night Liveblog & Livechat!

Monday, November 5, 2012 at 10:25 am Mountain Time

My Election Day live-blog, live-chat & live results page is online and underway!

Alternatively, you can view a less “conversational” version of the page — not “chat,” no @mentions, just Becky’s and my tweets & RTs. That’s the “live-tweeting only” page.

Both pages will have live Electoral College Contest results alongside the live blog/chat window, like 4 years ago, assuming I can keep the spreadsheet going throughout the night.

After the jump, for posterity, the “live-tweeting only” window, then the “live blog/chat” window:

Continue reading »

Bookmark and Share  |  1 Comment  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Oct 23

Summing up the debates

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 8:49 am Mountain Time

P.S. On another note, Nate Silver says Ohio now has a 50-50 chance of deciding the election. Compare that to the #2 through #9 ranked “tipping point” states: Wisconsin 10%, Virginia 10%, Nevada 9%, Iowa 7%, Colorado 5%, Pennsylvania 3%, New Hampshire 3%, Florida 2%. Put another way:

We are now running about 40,000 Electoral College simulations each day. In the simulations that we ran on Monday, the candidate who won Ohio won the election roughly 38,000 times, or in about 95 percent of the cases. (Mr. Romney won in about 1,400 simulations despite losing Ohio, while Mr. Obama did so roughly 550 times.)

To which I say:

roflbot

(That’s a photo of our new red state/blue state puzzle, which is awesome. And no, this is not my official prediction for the Electoral College Contest. I’m waiting for more data to make my picks at the last minute, but if I were predicting today, I would probably flip Colorado and New Hampshire from what this map shows. That said, it doesn’t matter — either candidate could win both CO and NH, or they could split the states in either direction, and Ohio would still be decisive on this map.)

Bookmark and Share  |  11 Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Oct 19

Obama’s Midwestern Firewall

Friday, October 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm Mountain Time

This is fascinating. Obama’s re-election next month is guaranteed if he can hold on and win the five contiguous states outlined in orange below, all of which, even after his precipitous decline since the Denver debate, he still leads by between 2.4% and 5.0% in the Real Clear Politics averages:

firewall-corrected

That map gives Obama exactly 270 electoral votes. It assumes that Romney wins Virginia (currently tied) and Colorado (Mitt by 0.2%), as well as North Carolina and Florida (which I’ve always felt would be in Romney’s column in a close election). The map also posits Romney comebacks in Nevada, where Obama currently leads by 3.0% in the RCP average (and where there’s some reason to believe the polls may be understating Obama’s support) and New Hampshire, where Obama leads by 0.8%. The map even gives Romney the sparsely-polled rural 2nd Congressional District of Maine, which became about 0.8% less Democratic after redistricting, bringing it slightly closer to New Hampshire (it has ranged between 1.5% and 4.5% more Democratic than New Hampshire in recent presidential elections) and thus making it potentially more competitive — if still a bit of a reach for Romney. Yet even though we’re generously giving Romney all of those swing states (and one swing district), Obama would still win, 270-268, because of the Midwestern firewall.

The current poll averages in the “firewall” states? Obama is up by 2.4% in Ohio, by 2.8% in Wisconsin, by 3.3% in Iowa, and by 5.0% in both Pennsylvania and Michigan. Those aren’t exactly landslide margins, but they’re robust enough that you’ve got to take this potential firewall seriously, at least for the moment.

Because of their geographic proximity and rough similarity, these five states are likely to move somewhat in sync with one another in the polling. It would be surprising, for instance, to see Obama stay at +3% in Wisconsin, but suddenly sink to -3% in Iowa. Thus, while it’s entirely possible that Romney’s overall standing will improve enough that he sweeps the Midwestern bloc — or at least its three closest states (Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio) — it’s harder to see him micro-targeting and “picking off” just one specific Midwestern state without moving the polls in the other. Put another way, he needs to generally get 2-3 points better in the Midwest to have a real shot.

The flip side of this point: if Obama starts showing vulnerability — in the poll average, not just in an individual outlier poll or two — within the Midwestern firewall, that’ll mean it’s time for Democrats to really start to #PANIC. My guess is that the firewall will either hold completely, or crumble completely.

Exit question: Why on earth did Romney write an editorial titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” back in November 2008? I’m not addressing the substance of it, just the politics. He wasn’t a member of Congress; he wasn’t the governor of an affected state; he didn’t have to decisively weigh in, vote “Yes” or “No,” or otherwise take a firm stance. He could have vacillated, waited to see which way the wind blew, and taken a position after-the-fact, as he and so many other politicians have done on so many issues. Instead — to his credit, in a certain respect — he came out and took a stand. And that stand might cost him the presidency. If Obama’s Midwestern firewall holds, the candidates’ respective positions on the auto bailout will surely be a key reason why.

P.S. An earlier version of this post, containing various elaborate scenarios regarding New Hampshire, Maine and Nevada, was erroneous because I made a critical error in composing the map. In flipping states from 2004, I forgot to give New Mexico to Obama. So the post, as originally written, was totally wrong. Oops.

Bookmark and Share  |  14 Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Oct 19

One of the greatest American political traditions took place last night: the Al Smith Dinner, at which both presidential candidates roast one another — and themselves — in front of an audience of wealthy coastal elites in New York City. Both Obama and Romney were hilarious. Here they are:

I’d encourage you to watch both videos, but if you don’t have time, some of the candidates’ best lines are quoted after the jump.

Continue reading »

Bookmark and Share  |  No Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Oct 18

[NOTE: In addition to entering the contest, please bookmark my Liveblog, Livechat & Live Results page, then come back Tuesday for election results and contest results!]

With less than three weeks until the presidential election, the polls are open for my quadrennial blog contest to see who can best predict the Electoral College outcomes! It’s time to start playing with the red & blue map, like Loyette and Loyacita:

In 2004, Mike Wiser had a perfect map; in 2008, Kevin Curran missed only Missouri, edging out the competition because he correctly predicted Obama’s surprise win in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.

Who will join Wiser and Curran and earn eternal glory (and possibly a CafePress mug of your electoral map) this year? Will it be you?

269-269-PANIC

Click here to enter the contest!

The entry deadline is Election Eve — Monday, November 5 — at 7:00 PM Mountain Time (9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific). Feel free to enter early, and then re-enter later if you change your mind; I will assume that the last entry I receive is the final one, and will discard any earlier entries, unless you tell me otherwise. If you have any questions, or just want to make a minor change to your entry, e-mail me at irishtrojan [at] gmail.com.

Contest Rules:

* Each contestants will receive between 0 and 538 points, depending on how close they come to a “perfect map.” For each correctly-predicted state/district, the contestant receives as many points as the state/district has electoral votes. So, for instance, it’s better to get both Iowa (6) and Nevada (6) wrong, and everything else right, than to get just Ohio (18) wrong. The map that missed only IA & NV would get 526 points; the map that missed only OH, 520.

* I will abide by the final popular-vote result in each state/district as certified by the relevant governing authority in that jurisdiction; “faithless electors” will not be taken into account. A winner will be declared as soon as the state-by-state election results are sufficiently complete that such a declaration is possible, whether that’s on election night or weeks later. I will use my best judgment to fairly determine the operative winner for contest purposes in the event of any disputed state results.

* There is no requirement that the contest winner must necessarily have predicted the correct overall winner in the election (although that is a tiebreaker, as you’ll see). The object of the game is to predict each state correctly. If you only get, say, New Hampshire wrong, even if that one error happens to change the national winner, you’ll still beat someone who had the right national winner but picked Florida wrong, for instance.

* Tiebreakers are similar to, but slightly different from, last time around. They are as follows, in order:

1. In the event of a tie in points, a contestant who correctly predicts the overall national electoral vote winner (again, going by the popular-vote results in each state, ignoring “faithless electors”) prevails over a contestant who predicts the wrong national winner. NOTE: For purposes of this rule, a 269-269 map is regarded as predicting an Romney victory, and a 269-269 result is considered a Romney victory (because the Republicans have a mortal lock on a majority of the House delegations in more than 25 states, so Romney would become president in any 269-269 scenario, unless a number of House Republicans defect and vote for Obama, which seems inconceivable to me).

2. Among still-tied contestants, whoever gets the fewest number of states wrong prevails. So, for instance, all other things being equal, it’s better to get Wisconsin wrong (10 EVs) than to get both Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4) wrong. For purposes of this rule, the District of Columbia counts as a “state.” As for Maine and Nebraska, if a contestant gets the at-large result right, but a congressional district or two wrong — or vice-versa — this will be counted as a “half-state” wrong.

3. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting President Obama’s electoral vote total prevails. This rule rewards “offsetting” errors when two maps otherwise contain the same number of mistakes. So, for instance, suppose Obama wins Iowa (6) and Wisconsin (10), but Romney wins Nevada (6). Now support Map #1 gets Iowa and Wisconsin wrong, giving Romney both states. Map #2 gets Wisconsin wrong, giving it to Romney, and also gets Nevada wrong, giving it to Obama. Both maps are off by 16 EVs, and by 2 states. But Map #1 gives Obama 16 fewer electoral votes than he actually received, while Map #2 comes within 4 electoral votes of Obama’s actual total. Map #2 therefore wins this tiebreaker.

4. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many Senate seats the Republicans will win, prevails. The result will be based on election results only; any post-election party switches (or surprise Angus King caucusing decisions) will not be considered.

5. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many House seats the Republicans will win, prevails. Again, the result will be based on election results only; any post-election party switches will not be considered.

6. Among still-tied contestants, anyone who correctly predicted the state with the closest popular-vote margin (in percentage terms) defeats anyone who failed to do so.

7. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Obama’s national popular-vote margin of victory/defeat, prevails. (All Romney & Obama popular-vote predictions are rounded to the nearest tenth of percent.)

8. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Gary Johnson’s national popular-vote total, prevails. (All Johnson popular-vote predictions are rounded to the nearest hundredth of percent.)

9. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Obama’s raw vote total in Colorado, prevails. (Contestants are encouraged to give an exact total, down to the individual vote, in order to prevent ties.)

10. In the unlikely event that a tie remains, whoever entered the contest earlier, prevails. (Any changes to one’s prediction resets their prediction time to the date and time of the last change.)

Again, click here to enter! And then check back here, and on my Twitter feed, for contest results on Election Night. [UPDATE: Liveblog link!]

Good luck!

P.S. A big hat tip to Unlikely Voter, whose nifty, easy-to-use, Maine-and-Nebraska-including, informative-URL-encoding electoral prediction map I used to power my contest.

Oct 03

It’s Debate Day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 12:51 am Mountain Time

The first presidential debate is upon us, and the political world has temporarily descended on my city, Denver, and specifically on the university — indeed, the very arena — where I’ve spent so much blogging about basketball these last few years, the University of Denver’s Magness Arena. I don’t have credentials to attend the main event, but I did manage to get inside to check out the debate hall and the preparations on Debate Eve. Photos here, including this ridiculous bit of epic Mid-Majority win:

IMG_0138

Yes, that would be DU Bally and Mile High Bally, a.k.a. the Brotherz Ballz, on the very podiums where Obama and Romney will stand during the debate. The story of how they got there is pretty damn hilarious.

Anyway, I’m taking a long-planned day off work Wednesday, and will be tweeting — first from Marco Rubio’s morning rally, then from some portion of DU’s “DebateFest,” then probably from our family “debate watch” at home, and perhaps even from a Green Party rally afterward — and I’ll be using CoverItLive to collect, publish and archive it all. Becky’s tweets, too. Here goes:

Sep 17

In 2009, my first full year working as an attorney, I was supporting a family of four on a single income. Because of the child tax credit, the mortgage and student loan deductions, and various other credits and deductions for which Becky and I qualified, I ultimately did not pay any federal income tax that year. I received a refund of my entire federal income-tax withholding, and then some. This means I was part of “the 47%” of non-taxpayers.

According to Mitt Romney, it also means I have an “entitlement” mentality; I believe I am a “victim”; I believe the “government has a responsibility to care for me”; and he’ll never be able to convince me that I should “take personal responsibility and care for my life.” Mitt Romney literally said that about the 47% of adults who don’t pay federal income taxes.

“The 47%” is a concept that’s been widely discussed in online conservative circles, a shorthand to refer to the Randian fear that an increasingly large percentage of the population has no “skin in the game” and are basically a bunch of moochers and parasites. In reality, however, the 47% of non-taxpayers is a diverse group that’s made up partly of people like me in 2009 (middle-class working folks who qualify for lots of credits and deductions); partly of elderly people who worked their entire lives and now depend on Social Security; and partly of poor people, both working and non-working — some of whom, yes, receive various forms of government assistance. It also includes various other groups who don’t pay federal income taxes for specific reasons, such as active duty combat troops (!). Mitt Romney thinks the 47% are all a bunch of welfare queens and food-stamp recipients, he thinks this group shares a lifestyle that he can reasonably denounce as lacking personal responsibility and betraying an entitlement mentality, but he’s just categorically wrong. This is a matter of fact, not opinion. The 47% is a vastly different group than he apparently imagines it to be.

Although I am a Democrat, I have defended Romney when he’s been criticized for previous “gaffes” that were really harmless statements taken out of context, like “corporations are people too,” “I like being able to fire people,” and “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” Those were poorly worded statements, but — much like Obama’s “you didn’t build that” — the actual context was clear, and relatively inoffensive. This, though, is different. Romney said precisely what he meant, and it’s completely indefensible in every respect. The context makes it worse, not better.

(The only remotely equivalent comment that Obama has ever made, to my knowledge, is his infamous “bitter clingers” remark in 2008. That was pretty bad — I think @polarscribe is right that it wasn’t quite as bad as this, but it was genuinely bad, and I criticized him for it at the time. To this day, I think he’s lucky it wasn’t fatal to his campaign, largely due to good timing: it happened late enough that it couldn’t meaningfully help Hillary Clinton, who was already hopelessly behind, but early enough that Hillary used it extensively and made it “old news” long before the general election, so McCain couldn’t get as much mileage out of it as he could’ve if it had emerged in, oh I dunno, let’s say mid-September. Romney may not be so lucky.)

Romney wasn’t going to get my vote anyway; my decision is between President Obama and Gary Johnson. But this outrageous statement by Romney really cements my disdain for him. A man so ignorant of the basic nature of our tax code, so callously indifferent to the needless divisiveness of his own words, and so willing to engage in sweeping generalizations about other people’s “beliefs” — thereby insulting the character of millions of his fellow Americans based solely on their tax status — is unfit to be President of the United States.

UPDATE: I thought I’d put my feelings in photo form, a la those 1% / 99% photos that were all the rage last year:

photo.JPG

David Brooks’s column today on this issue is a must-read:

In 1960, government transfers to individuals totaled $24 billion. By 2010, that total was 100 times as large. Even after adjusting for inflation, entitlement transfers to individuals have grown by more than 700 percent over the last 50 years. This spending surge…has increased faster under Republican administrations than Democratic ones.

There are sensible conclusions to be drawn from these facts. You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country. You could also say that America is spending way too much on health care for the elderly and way too little on young families and investments in the future.

But these are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.

It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.

Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?

It won’t. Republicans are (probably, barring some unexpected sea change) going to lose this highly winnable election because they chose the worst major-party nominee since either Dukakis or Mondale. Yes, despite the obvious parallels, he’s even worse than Kerry, I now believe. He’s unbelievably bad.

But back to Romney’s statement. The words he used, in the context he created, are completely indefensible. Folks who claim his statement was “accurate” because of some unjustifiably narrow reading of what he said (the 47% is an accurate number, so he was right, and let’s ignore all the ‘beliefs’ and character traits he universally ascribed to the 47%), or supposedly “meant” to say (he wasn’t referring to hard-working people, he meant the true “dependents”…and we’ll ignore that they’re a small minority of the 47%, thus completely contradicting his entire damn point), are blindly partisan apologists — period. No properly informed, intellectually honest person can defend the substance of these comments. Only the ignorant and the dishonest can or would.

“Unfit to be president” is, admittedly, on reflection, probably a bit overwrought. But what Romney said was wrong, offensive, and factually indefensible, and he needs to apologize fully and completely. But of course he can’t and won’t, because doing so would require admitting that, as Brooks says, he fundamentally doesn’t understand the nation he is asking voters to let him govern.

Bookmark and Share  |  45 Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Aug 22

Will Hurricane Isaac Occupy the RNC?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:40 am Mountain Time

It’s way too early to be certain of where Tropical Storm Isaac will go, but Republican National Convention organizers have to be pretty nervous right now. The official NHC forecast has Isaac, by then a Category 1 hurricane, making a beeline for Tampa on the first day of the RNC (next Monday), and the most recent run of the GFS computer model has a fierce-looking hurricane sitting just offshore as of next Wednesday morning:

gfs_mslp_uv10m_mex_57

(Image via the excellent Weather Bell Models by meteorologist @RyanMaue.)

Dr. Jeff Masters says, “I put the odds of an evacuation occurring during the convention in the current situation at 3%.” I’ve posted a full update at my Weather Nerd blog, and will be posting updates there as often as I can, and also on Twitter, of course.

Aug 13

Hello, Paul Ryan!

Monday, August 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm Mountain Time

paul ryan medicare

One does not simply walk into Medicare. Its red ink is guarded by more than just Democrats. There is an AARP there that does not sleep, and the Great Grandma is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with demagoguery and deception and despair. The very political discourse you crave is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand Tea Partiers could you do this. It is folly.

Bookmark and Share  |  19 Comments  |  Categories: Elections & Politics (U.S.)
Jun 01

2008, the sequel?

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm Mountain Time

Unless your name is Mitt Romney, this is terrifying.

The head of the World Bank yesterday warned that financial markets face a rerun of the Great Panic of 2008.

On the bleakest day for the global economy this year, Robert Zoellick said crisis-torn Europe was heading for the ‘danger zone’.

Mr Zoellick, who stands down at the end of the month after five years in charge of the watchdog, said it was ‘far from clear that eurozone leaders have steeled themselves’ for the looming catastrophe amid fears of a Greek exit from the single currency and meltdown in Spain.

The flow of money into so-called ‘safe havens’ such as UK, German and US government debt turned into a stampede yesterday.

In Berlin the two-year government bond yield fell below zero for the first time, with the bizarre result that jittery international investors are now paying – rather than being paid – for lending to Germany.

There was a raft of dismal economic news from around the world, with manufacturing output falling in Britain and Europe, unemployment jumping in the eurozone and America, and fast-emerging economies such as Brazil and China showing signs of running out of steam. …

Mr Zoellick warned that the coming months could be as bad as the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

He said: ‘Events in Greece could trigger financial fright in Spain, Italy and across the eurozone. The summer of 2012 offers an eerie echo of 2008.

Money quote: “Eurozone leaders need to be ready. There will not be time for meetings of finance ministers to discuss the outlook and debate the politics of incrementalism. In panicked markets, investors flee to safe assets, sparking other flames.”

Anyone out there think Eurozone leaders are ready, or have any reasonable prospect of becoming ready? Or that our policymakers are, for that matter?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

#PANIC!

May 29

Occupy my ‘hood

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 10:49 am Mountain Time

The “Occupy Denver” folks — in coordination with the SEIU, seemingly — protested outside Wells Fargo in downtown Denver this morning, about a block from my office. Naturally, I couldn’t resist checking out the scene.

Untitled

Untitled

Note the tie-wearing 1 Percenters on the right, greedily sipping their Starbucks coffee, which no doubt contains ground-up $100 bills as a garnish. ;)

After the jump, my Storify story with more photos and my live-tweeting of the festivities.

Continue reading »

May 22

Win the Big East, win the White House

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm Mountain Time

As if you need any further evidence that conference realignment has gotten way out of hand, Andy Glockner, Mike Greiner and NU Hoops Fan made a brilliant observation on Twitter just now: if a presidential candidate were to win every state with a current or incoming member of the Big East Conference, they would get 291 electoral votes — enough to capture the presidency, based on one league alone.

Big East electoral map

Heh. Andy suggests we rename the Big East the #ElectoralConference.

P.S. And then there’s this.

May 08

Colorado to pass civil unions tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 11:40 am Mountain Time

Today could be an historic day for freedom and equality in Becky’s and my adopted home state of Colorado, as a bill establishing civil unions for gays & lesbians is on the verge of passing into law.

Untitled

Even as North Carolina goes down a reactionary road (fueled in large part by ignorance of the facts), the former “Hate State” of Colorado could become another beacon of hope for those of us who believe the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

I said “could.” Nothing is certain yet. The bill has already passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, then eked through two GOP-majority House committees late last week, each time thanks to a single Republican dissenter — Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland (a former aide to right-wing congresswoman and Federal Marriage Amendment co-sponsor Marilyn Musgrave) in the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Bloomfield, in the Finance Committee — and it is expected to pass the Appropriations Committee this afternoon, thanks to the declared support of Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen. What happens after that is less clear:

GOP leadership will decide whether to call it up [to the House floor] and hear the measure. The bill must be debated today because the official vote has to be taken on another day as the debate, and Wednesday is the last day of the session. …

House leadership — Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, but particularly House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument — will decide when and if it will be heard. Both oppose civil unions. Only one GOP vote is needed to pass the measure. At least five Republicans are expected to vote with Democrats. If approved, the bill goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he will sign it.

So the question is whether McNulty and Stephens allow a floor debate [UPDATE: and initial voice vote] today. If they do, the bill will ultimately become law; if they don’t, it will die, unless Hickenlooper calls a special session, as the Denver Post has urged him to do if necessary. (He has called such talk “premature,” but hasn’t ruled it out.)

[UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Eli Stokols explains the procedural requirements:

If [the bill passes the Appropriations Committee], the measure would still need to be approved by the full House on an initial voice vote by Tuesday at midnight.

That’s because bill’s must pass second- and third-reading votes on separate days; so if the House doesn’t do an initial vote by Tuesday night, there wouldn’t be time to hold a final vote on Wednesday.

Knock on wood, but I don’t think McNulty and Stephens will prevent a vote. Perhaps they’ll try to extract some sort of concession in exchange for allowing it, but in the end, I think their vague threats to prevent a vote are mostly posturing. If the GOP had the stomach for this fight, they would have stalled the bill already. They could have done so by delaying the committee report out of Judiciary, or by refusing to schedule a Finance or Appropriations committee hearing, all of which were discussed and threatened and fretted over. But ultimately, the relevant GOP leaders have caved at all of those critical junctures over the last few days. And McNulty and Stephens haven’t even clearly stated an intent to stop the bill. I think the state GOP leadership has made a judgment that, with a majority of the House supporting the bill, and an even larger majority of the public supporting it, this isn’t a hill to die on.

Moreover, the worst thing they could do, politically, is to let the bill get to this point, get supporters’ hopes sky-high, and then kill it. The outrage then would be far worse than if they’d killed it earlier, like after the Judiciary vote. Now, public pressure might well force Hickenlooper’s hand into calling a special session, thus embarrassing the GOP leaders further, whereas that probably wouldn’t have been the case if they’d killed it last week. So they’ve missed their ideal window to kill this bill — which they surely realize as well. That leads me to believe they ultimately will not kill it.

But we’ll see. Supporters certainly aren’t resting easy yet. Above is a photo from a rally this morning on the State Capitol steps. More below. See these dangerous radicals, promoting the gay agenda? Don’t all you fellow heterosexuals feels like your marriages are threatened just looking at these pictures? EVERYBODY PANIC!!!

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

To proclaim our support for civil unions, Becky went out and bought a rainbow flag this afternoon, and put it up on our front-porch flagpole. It’s 2′ x 3′, not as big as our American flag or our USC flag, because that’s the biggest one they had. But it still makes the point:

Untitled

Let’s do this, Colorado!!!

P.S. We had an interesting discussion on Facebook about this issue last week, including the whole civil unions vs. gay marriage / “perfect being the enemy of the good” problem. Mike Wiser was, as always, the voice of reason:

I think that’s a complicated point. On the one hand, progress is good, even if it’s only incremental. But there is part of me that worries that such an incremental progress might stall out well short of actual equality. Those of us who such measures will directly affect are a very small minority; our only progress from a legislative end will come from convincing the much larger majority. One of the most effective ways of convincing the larger majority has been the justified moral outrage of the abuses in the current system — hospital visitation rights, next of kin status for medical and parental responsibility purposes, etc. As these terrible things are removed, it becomes harder to motivate unaffected third parties to care about smaller but still daunting issues for some couples, like access to spousal social security payments or the ability to file taxes jointly or transfer property to a spouse without incurring substantial tax penalties and the like. So I simultaneously want the most awful things taken care of as soon as possible…and worry that taking care of just the most awful things first will mean that the more moderate problems may not be taken care of for years or even generations longer than they would be in an all or nothing approach. Someone is going to lose either way.

If I had to choose, I think I’d go with the civil unions for now. Actual political change tends to happen over the course of generations; it’s less common that individuals change their minds, and more common that they are replaced by a new generation of voters who see things differently.* The generation of our grandparents, as a whole, is extremely unaccepting of homosexuality. Our parents’ generation is better; our generation is better still; the generation below us is even further along. I eagerly await the day when most people realize that the arguments against same sex marriage are virtually verbatim the same arguments previously used against interracial marriage. I think I’ll probably live to see that, but I may well be in my 60s by the time it happens. If I do find the right man, I think I’d rather risk some years of economic penalties than risk not being allowed at his bedside if he gets sick and his family isn’t OK with me. The economic penalties are more concrete and certain, but less terrible if they do happen. But the game of “pick the way in which you’d prefer to be legally screwed” is hardly a fun one.

* The main way individuals happen to change their views on this one over the course of their own lifetime is from having friends or family members members who come out of the closet. This is one of the major reasons I want as many of the adult gays as possible to come out of the closet. It would also be helpful if more of the truly bisexual people came out of the closet, though I can understand why many choose not to due to the ridiculous social stigma attached.

UPDATE: Mitt Romney is coming to Colorado tomorrow, and at least one event, he will be taking questions from local media (which he didn’t do ahead of his caucus defeat in February). Do you think he wants to answer a bunch of questions from local reporters about how the state GOP leadership torpedoed a bill the night before that has majority support in both houses of the state legislature, and 75% public support in this critical swing state?

Despite Mitt’s professed opposition to civil unions, I’m thinking Team Romney is silently rooting for McNulty and Stephens to let this bill come to a vote tonight. (Or maybe not so silently? Who knows?)