Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Unusual Topics To Raise at the Presidential Debate

Who among us doesn't yearn to ask questions at the presidential fora?  Poking at both candidates, shaking the routine of canned talking points and practiced answers?  Sure, I have a firm preference. But separately, How I wish that I could ask the following:

1) Mr. President and Governor Romney. There is a crime afoot that's been committed by politicians of both parties against the voters in almost every state, disenfranchising millions and distorting elections while giving partisan radicals  the upper hand over moderate liberals and moderate conservatives.  That crime is called gerrymandering -- the deliberate twisting of voting districts in order to create safe seats, a job security scam for politicians.

Everyone knows gerrymandering is dishonest and destructive, helping drag American politics away from negotiation and practicality toward total partisan war.

In a few states, like California, citizens have rebelled to end this dark practice, and already in that state republicans and democrats are talking to each other, like they used to, before culture war.  What would you do, as president, to bring the foul gerrymandering habit to an end, and force politicians to work for a living, representing all citizens in their districts once again?

FOLLOWUP: Everyone knows the Electoral College is absurd, distorting elections almost as much as gerrymandering.  To eliminate it would take a Constitutional Amendment and that it won't happen.  But one simple measure would ensure the Electoral College matches the popular vote.  Simply insist all states award their electors proportional to the votes cast in that state, instead of winner-takes-all.  Two states already do this. Will you commit yourself to push for that simple reform?  

2) Mr. President and Governor Romney.  Today, many Americans have narrowed their news inputs down to just one or two television channels and web sources that offer narrow, extreme views on the issues of our day. These channels -- found on both the far left and the far right -- push indignation and resentment till millions of Americans no longer consider members of the other party to be fellow citizens, only enemies in culture war.

Is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which served our country well for so many years?  If Sean Hannity or Keith Olberman get to rant at hypnotically captivated viewers for an hour, pushing one narrow perspective, shouldn't their viewers get to see serious questions or rebuttals by top level opponents? Say just one minute of response for every ten minutes Olberman or Hannity get to rant?

Look at how - right now in this debate - you are at your best, answering questions. Might just a few minutes each night, set aside for questions, shake us out of partisan stupor, arguing fairly with each other once again? 

3)  Governor Romney, why do you never mention the record of past Republican governance of the United States? The GOP held power more than the democratic party, across the last 30 years. Yet, you never speak the name of your Republican predecessor in the office you seek, even though you surround yourself with Bush officials and advisors and will put many of them back into positions of power. Can you cite for us right now any ways that America was statistically healthier in 2009 than it was in 2001? And if you can't, why should we re-hire you? 

4) President Obama, you promised a government that would be much more open to its citizens, yet you've only done a little to cut down on secrecy or to increase citizen oversight. Every year, elites of government, business, and personal wealth gather more information about American citizens while our ability to look-back decays. Yes, real government can be more complicated than a candidate's promises. But can we believe you, when you vow to get that promise back on track?

5) Mr. President and Governor Romney, do you agree with each other about anything?  Not motherhood or apple pie, or easy generalities like free enterprise or American greatness, or generalities about solving the debt, but some issue that would not win you votes?  Some hard news that we, the people, really ought to hear, that politicians find difficult to say? For example: about the 70 year War on Drugs?
Will you promise that -- before the third debate --  you'll together issue one page of joint stipulations?  Things that both of you think we need to hear, because you both agree not to attack each other for saying it? 


Okay, I try for questions that I hear nobody else asking. And I'll bet none of you have heard or seen these questions elsewhere.

As you might guess, I have tons of others that I'd love to poke at these fellows. And even more suggestions!  Some will be posted later. One can hope that the network hosts -- even the candidates -- might raise them on their own.

Ah yes, hope. Though delusional, it springs eternal.

== Other matters: "Which 47%?" ==

Amid the furor over Mitt Romney's "inelegant" remarks about the 47% of Americans who are "freeloaders" -- who pay no net federal income tax (FIT) -- many rebuttals have shown that he slagged mostly retirees, lower middle class workers (who still pay payroll and other taxes), and even our fighting men and women who get their combat pay untaxed. (Along with a darned big slab of millionaires and corporations whose accountants and lawyers get them off scot free.) Note also that the fraction who pay no FIT had its biggest increase under George W. Bush.
What's astonishing is the fact that many let him get away with a conflation of two entirely separate statistics.  The 55% of the public who support President Obama and the 47% who pay no FIT are supposed (by Romney) to completely overlap.

They do not.  Yes, democrats still stand up for the very poor, and hence a third of the 47% do pretty much plop onto the democratic side. On the other hand it has long been the plain fact that Red America suckles in far more net tax dollars than it pays, while Blue America -- the wealth and productivity and innovation-generating areas -- pay more more in taxes than they get back… yet blue states whine about taxes much less.  See the very starkly informative graphic below:

Of course it's more complicated than that. In fact, the conservative in me feels that all Americans should be asked to pay at least a small, token tax just to feel vested in how the money gets spent. It's one of many Goldwater style suggestions that could go on the table for negotiation… if today's conservatism still bore any resemblance at all to that of Goldwater and Buckley. (Barry how we miss you.)

== Political Miscellany ==

As perfect evidence of that drift, take this nonsense that Buckley and Golwater would never have stood for: "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.  Of course Robert Reich is no conservative. But his point in this article is clear.  Lacking any facts at all to support their side, and knowing full well that they dare never mention (at all) their record at governance, the Murdochians have completed their migration.  They now say whatever they damn well please and let assertions stand in for truth. That is now the Red-Blue divide.

(When only 6% of U.S. scientists call themselves Republican, and every other clade of knowledge is under attack by Fox, this final shift can come as no surprise.)

Some of the heirs of Barry Goldwater have taken notice. Mike Lofgren, in The American Conservative  (One of the few journals of the right that today would be considered sane by Goldwater and Buckley) has penned a scathing denunciation of how today's worldwide caste of uber-wealthy appear to be seceding from the nations and peoples they increasingly control. In "Revolt of the Rich," Lofgren shows how this process - bringing us toward wealth disparities like those of 1789 France - threatens the very fabric of our western/american social contract.

"It is no coincidence that as the Supreme Court has been removing the last constraints on the legalized corruption of politicians, the American standard of living has been falling at the fastest rate in decades. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s report of June 2012, the median net worth of families plummeted almost 40 percent between 2007 and 2010."

Here is another snippet:

"If a morally acceptable American conservatism is ever to extricate itself from a pseudo-scientific inverted Marxist economic theory, it must grasp that order, tradition, and stability are not coterminous with an uncritical worship of the Almighty Dollar, nor with obeisance to the demands of the super wealthy. Conservatives need to think about the world they want: do they really desire a social Darwinist dystopia?

"The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. Those super-rich, in turn, aim to create a “tollbooth” economy, whereby more and more of our highways, bridges, libraries, parks, and beaches are possessed by private oligarchs who will extract a toll from the rest of us. Was this the vision of the Founders? Was this why they believed governments were instituted among men—that the very sinews of the state should be possessed by the wealthy in the same manner that kingdoms of the Old World were the personal property of the monarch?"

If I might add, it would not end there.  Read about Paris, 1789, and the Estates Generale.  How the artistocratic First Estate demanded everything, conceded no obligations to the people, the state or society, and justified their exemption from taxes almost literally by calling themselves the job-creators.

In retrospect, and on a purely pragmatic basis, that was a very big mistake for those lords, an obstinacy that wound up costing them everything. It makes you wonder about the intelligence of the self-flattering aristocracy of our time.

Lofgren's whole article makes compelling reading and I suggest you recite it aloud to some conservative "ostrich" who seems sane enough to listen... and possibly even to stand up to reclaim the sadly hijacked movement of Barry Goldwater.

==See more of my articles on Politics for the 21st Century


Robert said...

Good to see you got to The American Conservative on your own. "The Revolt of the Rich", in particular, is a fantastic article - could have been written in his own time by Adam Smith.

By now, I think, most of the Ostriches have made their move. A couple of days ago, even my father announced he wasn't going to vote. I let him know about Gary Johnson.

Bob Pfeiffer

Acacia H. said...

I'm going to ask a rhetorical question here, Bob. Please note, I personally feel that every person should vote, even if all they do is write up "None of the Above" in the voting space. That said...

Should we be encouraging Republicans who have decided they won't vote that they could throw a vote to Gary Johnson? This is not to say anything negative about Mr. Johnson... but rather a cynical viewpoint on their OTHER votes. After all, what is the point of Obama being reelected if Republicans remain in control of the House (or even worse, gain control of the Senate)?

Do we not thus want ostrich Republicans to grow so disillusioned that they don't vote at all, and thus allow Democratic-voting voters to push more Democrats into office... and maybe push some of the Tea Party and related politicians out of office and allow Democrats to regain control of Congress?

It's an iffy situation here. On one hand... everyone should vote who is legally able to. This prevents small minorities of voters from dictating who gets into office. But... do we want Republicans getting back into office knowing they'll block Obama every chance they get and do as much damage to the country that they can with "2016" in their scopes?

Rob H.

Alden said...

David, I don't think you understand the basic function of the Electoral College. Far from being a gerrymander, it is a safety valve against regionalisms taking over the national discourse. Remember, Southern votes for pro-slavery pols were at >90% levels.

While things are not so dire now, I hesitate to remove safety valves from the system just because we haven't overheated in a while.

Robert said...


This is an individual case. There is no chance whatever that my father would vote for Obama no matter what anyone says - so Gary Johnson beats nothing. And, if you look back a few posts, I'm actually following David's advice in this (not that I needed it in this case). As it is, I'm just glad my father sees through Romney. As for me, I will vote for Obama, because I think the current Republican party needs to be soundly thrashed again and again before it starts to shape up.

If was only up to me, I'd vote for Gary Johnson; his positions on the issues are closest to mine. And, if it looks like the Republicans are completely unreformable, Gary Johnson gives us a better than usual chance at launching a replacement party.

But, in fact, I'm voting for Obama, and trying to get anyone I can to do the same.

Bob Pfeiffer.

Acacia H. said...

I just had a evil thought. It was one of those delightfully beautifully evil thoughts, though I can already see one flaw in it.

What if a State's political power in the House of Representatives was based off of not its population... but the number of Registered and Verified Voters on its voting rolls? Please note, I did mention "Verified" so to try ad prevent voter fraud (as in pushing up the number of voters to increase the state's power).

The flaw of course is those people not old enough to vote which still are used to determine a state's population base... but ultimately it's a minor loss because of one reason: it is now in every State Government's best interest to ensure every legal voter to be registered to vote so to increase the State's position in the House of Representatives. Further, by requiring that the voters are verified it makes it difficult for either political party to disenfranchise certain voters just because they might vote for the Other Party.

After all, what point does Texas or Florida have to disenfranchise its Latino voters (for example) if in turn the State loses political power in the House of Representatives as a result? And seeing the voters would be pre-verified, there wouldn't be the fear of said voters that they could be declared illegal immigrants and deported just because they tried to vote... because they were already found to be legal.


Rob H.

Robert said...


Your electoral-vote plan would have been a really good idea before the Civil War. No getting your representation boosted by 3/5 of the number of your slaves there!

Bob Pfeiffer.

David Brin said...

I am glad Bob's dad has shifted. If I could pick which way for disillusioned goppers to go, I would choose "don't vote" for the simple reason that it would affect down-ticket races for state office etc. This needs a trouncing. But I feel guilty saying that. So try to get dad to vote a straight libertarian ticket!

The big second reason for Johnson is that if he were to double the LP's take, he would become HUGELY influential in the party and shift it from Randroids and Rothbardists toward reasonable adulthood.

Ian said...

Here's a good idea put forward by the Romney camp that mgiht be worthy of "stipulation":


"Offering deficit-cutting ideas before his first debate with President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney says he might be willing to reduce income tax deductions used by millions of families for home mortgage interest and health care costs.

He suggested the changes could be part of a plan that includes a 20 percent cut in tax rates across the board, continuation of upper income tax cuts that Obama wants to end and a comprehensive tax overhaul plan that the Republican presidential contender has so far declined to flesh out in detail. Romney says his overall plans would invigorate the slowly recovering U.S. economy."

Julian Maytum said...

Perhaps it's the political parties themselves that are the problem? As many (including founding fathers) warned direly about!

Patrick said...

MR. Brin -

I believe each of Nebraska’s Electoral votes goes to each Congressional district. So it goes back to your gerrymander question. Don't know if Maine does the same.

Big fan of all your work by the way.

Anonymous said...

A "popular-electoral" vote would allow third parties to flourish, since they'd actually get some electoral votes for a change.

Which means that in tight elections, such as this one appears to be, we would often see no candidate getting a majority.

Which means the House of Representatives gets to decide.

Guess who'd win if that happened this year?

Still sure it's a good idea?

Acacia H. said...

Yup. Because in two years the Democrats would sweep the House and Senate with such large majorities that they could override any veto by Romney. They'd then undo the damage Republicans did in those two years.

Trust me. If the House ignored the majority vote of the population, the outcry would be far greater than with the Supreme Court. It would literally be seen as a stolen election. Romney's ONLY hope would be for another 9/11. And if one happened, you can bet Democrats would be all over the Republicans' asses claiming that the moment Republicans took over, they lowered their guard and let the terrorists in.

Republicans would never recover. Within eight years Libertarians would be taking their place as a significant political party.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Besides, isn't it the NEW house that decides?

Anyway, you completely miss the point. If Gary Johnson had thirty electors and Obama needed one to win, and had the popular, then Johnson would offer to negotiate and we'd get to be a teeny bit more sensibly european...

And you will love this ... I mean it. You will!

rewinn said...

"...the basic function of the Electoral College. Far from being a gerrymander, it is a safety valve against regionalisms taking over the national discourse..."

... is false in two ways.

First, the intended function of the Electoral College was to keep We The People from selecting a president. At most, we were supposed to vote for "Electors", wisely men who would sagely decide among themselves who might be the best to preside over the government. This that never happens doesn't detract from the historical fact that that was the design.

Second, the Electoral College is no defense against regional interests; to the contrary, it encourages the development of "Battleground States" permitting candidates to ignore the entire West coast and much of the Confederacy in favor of the Midwest and Florida. A straightforward popular vote ensures that every region has its interests looked after in proportion to its population; it would once again be worth a candidate's time to ask the residents of American Samoa and of Montgomery Alabama what their interests may be.

rewinn said...

Question for Obama:
Would you agree Governor Romney has the executive and business experience sufficient to make him a worth Secretary of Commerce or Special Trade Representative?

Question for Romney:
Would you agree President Obama has sufficient foreign policy successes to name him United Nations Ambassador or Special Trade Representative?

To both:
If you lose to the other guy, and he asked you to serve our nation, would you do it?

David Brin said...

Rewinn.... heh!

Douglas said...

There has been many times in American history when the two sides of the political spectrum didn’t talk to each other each other. Just looking at the number of fistfights that occurred on the House and Senate floor in times past gives you an idea of how strong passions where in the beginning and middle of the 19th century. There was even a murder over the slavery issue. In 1856 Senator Charles Sumer of Massachusetts was beaten to death with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks from South Carolina in the Senate Chamber. However the general pattern is that after several years the elected officials gradually came back to the middle and cooperate again and I believe the same thing will happen again. It is the essential strength of American democracy. Eventually the electors get sick of the useless infighting and vote out of office the worst offenders. I don’t mean that this comes without effort. I mean that a countervailing reaction inevitably sets in as I see it beginning to happen today and this reaction must be nurtured and reinforced. Essentially I am saying (to paraphrase Marx) the march of history is on our side and the middle will win.
As for the French Revolution, I live in France and the all the governments since then have been deathly afraid of the same thing happening again and looking at current events in Europe it just might well happen. Unfortunately their solution is to create a hugely bloated public sector that sucks all the wealth and creativity out of the private sector in their fear of the “street”. It’s clear that we are in the new “Robber Baron” Era. The very wealthy sometime seem to be on the same road to self-destruction as was the First Estate. They believe that capital will always be easily transferred to tax havens at will. It is an illusion. What they don’t realize is that these havens exist only because governments allow them to exist. They are fragile and if they cause too many problems governments will quickly destroy. In your excellent book Earth you envisioned an actual war on Switzerland. A war is not needed to destroy Switzerland. Simply cut all financial transactions and institute an air and land blockade. After all they can’t eat gold or bits in their banks’ computers. The same thing goes for the Cayman Islands and the others.
Please let me say that I love your books and have been enjoying them ever since you published the first one. And I must say your blogs are just as good. You have made my life richer. Thank you!

Tim H. said...

Concerning Romney's business experience, expecting him to fix the economy would be like taking an automobile to the scrapyard for a tune up. But a second Obama administration would seem much more likely to employ republicans than a hypothetical Romney administration would be to retain democrats.

Ian said...

"There was even a murder over the slavery issue. In 1856 Senator Charles Sumer of Massachusetts was beaten to death with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks from South Carolina in the Senate Chamber."

Sumner survived and even returnrd to the senate after a lengthy convalensnce He was one of the leading Radical Republicans during the Civil War and Reconsruction.

Acacia H. said...

Sounds like he had all the sense beaten out of him. ;) (But then again, he was a Massachusetts liberal (as Republicans were Liberals back then) so the "radical" aspect is easily handwaved away with those three tar-smearing words of "He's from Massachusetts" - and yes, I realize that tar is dripping on me. ^^)

Rob H.

sociotard said...

I'm not sure what to feel about this.

Time Warner, AT&T want Kansas City to give them Google Fiber-style deal

Rob said...

I think of the electoral college the way the Federalist explained it, as nothing more than a low-grade advantage to smaller states as a brake against tyranny by bare majorities, in order to keep them in the Union.

I think it still serves that function, and that the only reform needed is to move to proportional allocation of electors.

Tacitus said...

Only a minor point on a posting that contains much common sense.

The bit about fact checkers not dictating a campaign is taken a little out of context.

There has been a proliferation of "Fact Checking" this electoral cycle. It is not all even handed, much of it stray away from useful double checking of numbers and off into the intent of the speaker.

Political speech does not lend itself well to this sort of thing, and at least on the Conservative side there is the sense that outfits like the WaPo and Factcheck.org are subject to bias, although there are differing views on whether it is intentional or just ingrained thought patterns.

I guess I will have to watch the debates although I am pretty sick and tired of the whole political circus right now.


Anonymous said...

"you completely miss the point. If Gary Johnson had thirty electors and Obama needed one to win, and had the popular, then Johnson would offer to negotiate"

That point doesn't exist in your original post, making it easy to miss.

So you're now saying that a third party candidate could convince electors pledged to him/her to change their vote to another candidate, in return for concessions from that candidate.

I have no problem with that - but some states prohibit it, but if Johnson did as you suggest, Red states would prohibit it by the next election, probably many Blue states, likely eventually all - and they'd claim they were doing it in the name of "defending the popular vote".

And if the situation were the same, but the Dems held the House, would you be OK if Johnson threw his support to the Repubs for even bigger concessions?

BTW - the President has no power to insist all states appoint electors in any particular way. He could use the bully pulpit to encourage states to change, but enforcing this would require a Constitutional Ammendment to take away the states' privilege of deciding how to choose electors.

David Brin said...

Tacitus and anonymous (this particular anonymous) and Rob you are right on all counts.

Nevertheless: it is natural for today's right to suspect bias on the part of fact checkers, the way Fox considers all non-Fox (except Limbaugh) journalists to be rabid left wingers.

Today "electors" serve a ceremonial role, but they COULD be top minds and sage eminences from each state, freed to deliberate together and even negotiate. It would take MIGHT pulpit pounding and jaw-boning and negotiation in some kind of interstate council to get that to be part of the list of reforms (including proportional or district allocation of electors and an end to gerrymandering...

...but it is NOT impossible.

Tacitus said...

Well, yes, the fact is that the "right" suspects media bias. So do independents and probably more than a few progressives.

As to whether bias objectively exists, that is another and only somewhat related issue.

I try to only quote sources that are beyond reproach from the other side of the aisle, so to speak.


Opensecrets.org is a great compilation of donation stats. At the above link you see that since 1990 the TV/movie/music industry has skewed 71% D in putting their money where their loyalties lie.

They do not break out journalists specifically in current stats, but in the past they have noted that contributions from these folks trend 80% blue.

Ah, but there is the old "Reality has a Liberal bias" chestnut. Or, perhaps something else is going on.

is a New York Times discussion of bias in Social Science research.

And on an anecdotal level about six months ago I encouraged regulars here to peruse Yahoo.com a typical new media outlet. I perceived a tendency to use favorable words when discussing Democrats (Urges, Plans, etc) and the opposite when dealing with R (Slams, Attacks).

Notice that the chief politcal correspondent for Yahoo got caught in a real open mic moment at the R convention? Something about Romney enjoying a party while black people were in the path of a hurricane, although it was said less nicely than that.

It was so egregious he was fired that day.

So I can already see tomorrow's "headlines", heck they are likely already written.

Romney "Gaffes" raise Serious Questions as Fact Checkers give him Four Pinnochios (Wapo) and a Pants on Fire (fact check).


Anonymous said...

But why would any individual state agree to change?

If a state is consistently Red, they'd be giving votes to Blue.

Same for vice versa.

If they're a swing state, they'd be giving up the extra attention from national parties and Presidential candidates.

This may be a case where an amendment is the only political possibility.

Obama, as a potential second term President and so somewhat independent of his own party, might be able to advocate this where Romney could not.

With 80% of the public in favor of reforming the Electoral College, this could be a big draw for independent voters, who often feel disenfranchised by the EC.

Ian said...

I suggest people taek a minute from the debate coverage and follow the latest news from Syria and Iran.

- Syrian government shelling killed 5 people in southern Turkey. This follows earlier acts by Syria including the shooting down of a Turkish fighter and the reported execution of its crew.

Turkey is sending additional troops to the Syrian border and has invoked the NATO treaty. (Chapter 5 of the Treaty obliges the whole organization to respond to an attack on any single member. So far Turkey has only invoked chpater 4 which merely provides for consultation.)

Details are still coming in but Tureye has apparently retaliated with artillery strikes on Syrian government positions in Idlib province.

That's signficant because Idlib province is several hundred miles away from Al Raqqan where the Turkish civilians were killed. Idlib is largely controlled by the Syrian rebels with the excpetion of Idlib city and a series of garrisons at key points from which the government has been shelling rebel-held towns. An attack on the airfields and army bases still held by the Syrian government in Idlib province could turn the whole course of the civil war.

- Protests in Iran over the economy and specifically the collapse in the value of the Rial have turned political with deamdns for democracy and for an end to support for the Syrian government. (There are beleived to be thousadns of Iranian troops fighting in Syria.)

rewinn said...

"But why would any individual state agree to change?"

A fair question.

One motivation is that most states are irrelevant to the process. California, Texas, Hawaii, Alaska ... when was the last time they were contested and their voters courted for anything but money?

Another motivation might be weariness with gamesmanship. The Dems might still be mad that George W Bush got fewer popular votes in 2000. The GOP might be worried that the Dems are effectively redrawing the Electoral College map in their favor.

I appreciate that neither argument may be dispositive; politics is not necessarily a rational process. And even if it were, the people who profit by the current system might not want to let it go.

Alfred Differ said...

Deeper Turkish involvement will also have an impact in Iran. If Turkey decides to flex its muscles the balance of power could shift against Iran. From what I read at Stratfor that appears to be in the short term interests of the US.

LarryHart said...


Political speech does not lend itself well to this sort of thing, and at least on the Conservative side there is the sense that outfits like the WaPo and Factcheck.org are subject to bias, although there are differing views on whether it is intentional or just ingrained thought patterns.

Ate you sure that's not because reality has a liberal bias?

LarryHart said...


So I can already see tomorrow's "headlines", heck they are likely already written.

Romney "Gaffes" raise Serious Questions as Fact Checkers give him Four Pinnochios (Wapo) and a Pants on Fire (fact check).

See, I'm thinking it will be the other way around. The press is just itching to write about the Romney Recovery and have the race look even again.

That's not liberal or conservative bias, by the way. It's self-interest on the part of media outlets who benefit from a nail-biter all the way up to election night.

Acacia H. said...

Actually, from how Huffypost is going on, it sounds like a moderate victory for Romney. Obama scored some good points in a couple of areas, but Romney mostly dominated the moderator and hammered Obama on not focusing on jobs and instead going for health care reform.

But I must say, our Libertarian Candidate had the best statement in response to the debate. And he's dead on on this. Seeing that Obama's got Massachusetts in the bag, I may very well vote Libertarian. Which will undoubtedly amuse my conservative friends to no end seeing that I'm pro-Obama when talking politics to them. ;)

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Although I must say I rather enjoyed this Yahoo News article on the debate which outright refused to state who won. I suspect when we get a deeper look into the debate tomorrow, it might be closer than first glimpse... and very likely a minor win for Romney if not a draw.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus. By now it would be no surprise that there's a statistical skew in places of intellect and/or accomplishment. Among scientists it is 95% non republican. Does that make all scientists condemnable as "biased?" Or does it reflect the fact that they are pan-spectrum and mostly logical folks who cannot abide the bias of the Reds?

Rewinn is right. If California signed a deal with Texas and Indiana and Alabama, that all would end winner takes all at the same time... then the political/election effect would cancel out, but ALL FOUR would get more attention from campaign money.

Rob H, parse it carefully... Tell some Indep or ostrich in a swing state you THINK ABOUT (wink) voting Johnson if he will ponder (on pain of noogies) voting Obama.

RE THE DEBATE. I definitely think Romney did well. He utterly utterly lied, from top to bottom, inside/out and upside down. But we've been wondering when he'd have his Etch a Sketch Moment and this was it. He reversed everything he ever promised the GOP base and denied all the things he said before...

...and I think it was very very effective.

Above all, the fact that Obama failed to bring up the GOP's record at governance was stunning to me. Perhaps they decided to give that to Biden.

Robert C said...

Romney won the debate hands down. He lied his ass off and shook that etch a sketch until it broke. He was aggressive and in control and Obama let him do it. I have never seen someone lie with such lack of shame and having an opponent who did nothing and less than nothing. We are doomed to be ruled by that sociopath Romney.

LarryHart said...

I didn't get the sense that either side scored a decisive win, but I did get the sense that the President was totally flummoxed by how to respond to Romney's complete makeover of his stated policies.

The biggest hope for Obama supporters was that most voters weren't watching. That might also be the biggest hope for Romney supporters too, because his base wouldn't like what they heard on stage either. "Not going to lower taxes"??? Really?

Tacitus said...


I would put the highest priority on objectivity in all scientific pursuits. Social science being a bit "soft" makes all such questions harder...people are more complex than subatomic particles. And I suspect that in fields such as above the 95% D:R skew is not correct.

No, I suspect is it is 99:1 and tilted towards what you describe as the less - hmmm, grounded? - wing of the party.

But more to the point, the perception that some entities in our society, the press, the grove of academe, are biased whether knowingly or more tragically that they no longer have the ability to recognize their bias, well that is a problem for our body politic indeed.

I came away from the debate feeling more sympathy for President Obama. He has a difficult record to defend. And is this really the first time in his life that he has faced a potent adversary?

One commentor of the conservative stripe said "Thanks main stream media, for going so easy on Obama his entire career that he has become soft and ineffectual"

As to facts I heard lots of them from both men. Most are good examples of the short comings of "fact checkers". Trillions of Magic Unicorn Dollars swirling about like one of those "grab all you can in a minute" booths at a casino.

btw, I am still an undecided voter in a swing state. Better be nice to me...


Larry C. Lyons said...


As a former social scientist (experimental and cognitive psych), our approach has been to be even more rigorous than in most of the harder sciences.

But I'll bite - you make a whole series of sweeping statements, lets see some support for those statements. 3 references from well respected scientific journals would do.

That said, one thing I have noticed is that the determination of who won the debates appears to be more related to the person's political leanings - confirmation bias in other words (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias).

Acacia H. said...

Hey Tacticus, if you vote Obama I'll vote for the Libertarian candidate... ;)

On the debate, I have to wonder if this is ultimately going to bite Romney in the ass. Think about it. He just took that etch-a-sketch and shook it for all it's worth. Now think about what a canny politician (as Obama is) could do with this to dishearten Romney's base: During the Republican Primary, Mitt Romney said he was going to repeal all of Obamacare. He was going to cut taxes 20% across the board. He was going to [insert whatever is pertinent here]. And now? [insert clips of Romney repudiating everything he promised] [insert "etch-a-sketch comment here]. Mitt Romney: can we trust anything he says?"

All at once you take a strong debate and slap Romney in the face with it by revealing his lies for what they are. Republicans will listen because Romney spat on his promises to them which got him the primary bid. Independents may listen because it shows he is saying whatever it takes to get elected (don't call it a flip-flop but instead call it an out-and-out lie).

End result? Republicans lose faith in Romney. They realize they have no one else they can vote for, fewer of them go and vote in 2012. Thus more Democrats win House and Senate seats. And more Independents vote Obama, reelecting a canny politician who fed Romney sufficient rope to hang himself with.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

Larry Lyons

I am game, but perhaps a bit more specificity. I said a number of things in conversational mode and need to know which ones to try and defend in didactic mode...

-that Social Science trends markedly towards the Progressive end of the political spectrum?

-that political contributions from media sources go mostly to Democrats?

-that monetary contributions do or do not parallel political support?

-that some types of research, I was thinking Sociology, face a serious challenge in avoiding bias (study design, data inclusion/exclusion, sample selection, etc)?

If I might ask a boon, please give me the names of the five most respected journals in your area of expertise, I will be glad to do a little thinking on whichever of the above topics interests you, but the frenetic posting blizzard of Friend Brin will probably put any reply I might have well into another thread.



Tacitus said...


I have voted for Presidential candidates of both parties and once for a third party candidate.
Of course since my vote is being cast in Wisconsin, which could be in play, I have to ponder its import a little more than if I were "coastal".

For what it is worth, last time around I voted in the Dem primary and for Obama. WI was in some ways the big win he needed.

In the general I was prepared to vote for Obama if honest polling showed the race to be close. It did not, so I cast a vote for McCain in part to honor a good man and in part to keep folks who should really know better anyway from thinking they had a resounding mandate.....


Acacia H. said...

Which is similar to the reason why I'm thinking of voting for Johnson. My vote doesn't matter for the Presidential election. For the others? Yes. I don't like Warren... but I don't like Brown's voting record. Thus I have to weigh my personal dislike of a candidate with my philosophical dislike of the other candidate (and the fact that I seriously want to reduce the power of the Republican party).

Thus my vote for Johnson would be to tell Obama AND the Republicans "you don't own me. There's other players on the field you deliberately snub. Why don't we just point you in the direction of what we DO need politically."

As an aside, I suspect that it would be a wise move if Obama did an unexpected debate: him vs. Johnson. He can extend an invite to Romney as well for the debate and request the news networks televise it, but Romney will bow out because he doesn't want Johnson to get his own message out.

The debate would likely be far more polite and even philosophical (on the political philosophy side of things). Some important social issues may be discussed. And it would spread across YouTube.

The people who'd watch are Democrats (who'd not vote Johnson anyway) and Independents, who are still deciding between Romney and Obama. If they see a viable and palatable alternative... and decide to vote Johnson... then they ultimately are depriving Romney of votes. After all, they might decide (if they're into the libertarian aspect) to vote Romney as being marginally better than Obama. But given a TRUE libertarian? They go for him.

Sadly this won't happen. Obama doesn't like debates from the sound of things. But that and my previous suggestion (of a political ad pointing out all of the "flipflops" and "etch-a-sketch" moments in the Debate last night) would paint Romney in a poor light. Republicans who want to vote anyway could vote their conscience and give Johnson a vote instead. And it would divide the Republican ticket. Which I see as a good thing.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

I'd like to see a "minor party" debate. Setting it up shouldn't be that hard ... and it might be interesting.

Let them invite Obama and Romney too, and participate on equal footing if they accept.

My favorite debate format is "chess clocks". Give each participant X minutes, and a mike controlled by button they push. When you push your button, your mike works for at least 30 seconds, and after that for as long as it takes before someone else pushes their own button.

This ensures everyone gets equal time, and gets equal chance to rebut or question the others' statements.


Put me down as being surprised to see Mitt "win" last night's debate, but in retrospect it seems clear that a smooth-talking salesman has an advantage over a guy who stops and thinks before he talks. In the short run, the salesman is going to dominate and may win some over; we may hope that in the long run, people notice that he's flimflamming.


I would like to know (...and probably never will...) how much time otherwise available to debate prep was spent by Obama on the Turkey/Syria shootout. If Russia supports Syria and NATO adheres to the alliance, well, a reasonable President might lose sleep.

matthew said...

I know more dems that are going to vote for johnson than republicans. I sincerely believe that johnson will be a spoiler in that direction rather than pull from romney's base. I strongly support johnson, but I fear that he will give us a horrible president Mitt.

Rob said...

Dems in safe states might. But Dems in swing states know the score and probably won't, at least if the polling is at all accurate on the matter.

David Brin said...