Monday, January 28, 2008


I put money on the Intrade Prediction Market about a month ago. I've traded exclusively political contracts. The number above represents the return on my initial investment. A good stock broker will get a return of what, 15%? Yes, I am gloating.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What is an ideologue?

I have my own definition. An ideologue is an intellectual coward. These are the people who join a movement, but check their free thought at the door. One of the things that I love most about this 2008 Election is that it exposes the ideologues for the group-thinkers that they are.

In the last month, we've seen Hillary Clinton turn nasty in this election. Her tactics have been despicable. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out, they've done the math and the Clintons know that if they can divide the electorate on race, gender, etc, then they'll get the nomination. They've belittled Obama's accomplishments, blatantly lied about his positions, and probably are behind malicious "anonymous" emails that claim Obama is a Jew-hating Muslim.

Couple this Karl Rove-style campaign with the fact that Obama is clearly the better candidate anyways, a person would think that many Democrat blogs would be supporting Obama or at least questioning Clinton's methods. This person would, however, be wrong.

The Daily Kos is one great example of this. It is undeniably the most prominent Democrat blog on the internet, and is probably the most influential blog on the internet. Until very recently, I had not seen one iota of criticism of Hillary. Their daily posts continued to be focused on the evils of the republicans and the failures of George Bush. As if we still need a reminder that he is an abject failure. Not only did they refrain from criticizing Hillary and Bill, they actually forbade it, with this quote:

The other night there was a recommended Diary, I think it was called "Bye". The gist was that if you didn’t fully support Senator Clinton after she wins the nomination you had to leave Daily Kos and the progressive movement.

Translation: "THERE WILL BE NO DISSENT. DO NOT DEVIATE. GET IN LINE. STAND QUIETLY - WE WILL DO YOUR THINKING FOR YOU." Its hard for me to even believe that sort of crap. Coming from a community that pretends to be full of enlightened free-thinkers? Its pathetic, and it exposes most of the Kossites for what they are - ideologues; intellectual cowards. The original post of the Kossite deviant can be found here; its a good one.

Another prominent lefty blogger, one of my favorites despite his failings, is Matthew Yglesias. Matt had, until recently, given the Clintons a pass to lie. He claimed that it didn't bother him because it was "politics", and that the Democrats will need to be seasoned in the tactics of dirty politics when they go up against the GOP in the general election. I don't buy that, not for one second. If a politician is going to lie to get elected, then they'll lie when they are in office. It certainly hasn't been acceptable to these people when Bush has lied, so why the double standard? And certainly there is a continuum scale of the severity of lies. There are distortions, which happen all of the time. And then there are blatant, outright falsities, like Bill Clinton's claim that Obama supported the war in Iraq.

At any rate, Yglesias has finally caved as of late. The hideous monster that is the Clintons has finally reared its ugly head for all to see, and it is undeniably nasty. It frustrates me that it took lefties so long to start to turn on Clinton, though. It might prove to be too little, too late. However, while it bothers me, it doesn't surprise me. I spend time on blogs that range from right to left and everywhere in between. Say what you want about the right, there is not even close to the level of group-think in conservative circles as there are in liberal circles. This phenomenon explains oddities like continued opposition to nuclear power among the left. The concerns are all bogus and the benefits overwhelming, and yet changing liberal dogma to accept nuclear energy has thus far been an impossible task. Every few months, some prominent environmentalist will brave the criticism and change sides to support nuclear power. Invariably, said person will be condemned as an apostate by the entire movement.

Its ironic that a month ago, I didn't mind Hillary Clinton. I didn't love her, but certainly didn't hate her. That all has changed. I would rather see the Patriots go undefeated for the next decade than see Hillary win this election. Fortunately, I don't think she will. I believe Obama will beat her in the primary. And even if he doesn't, John McCain will pick her off in the general election. Make no mistake, I'd rather have Obama than McCain, and I'm very confident Obama could beat McCain. But if the Democrats unwisely force the nation to pick between Hillary and McCain, we're going to have another Republican president for the next four years.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bill Clinton

During his campaign for a third term, we should keep in mind that his foreign policy was an abject failure by all objective measures:

-He embarrassed the US and the Western world in Somalia, a nation which remains one of the world's poorest failed states today.

-His failure to intervene in Rwanda is the greatest humiliation of humanity since WW2.

-His response to the genocide of Muslims in Yugoslavia was limited and weak, according to relatives who lived through it.

-He made no ground on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

-He allowed the Taliban to take power in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda built up during his watch. The warning signs were there - even a UN report in 1998 detailed the Taliban's anti-American activities.

-He made no positive progress in Iraq, except periodic air strikes conveniently timed to take the heat off of himself during the Lewinsky scandal.

Many people might wonder what Hillary Clinton's foreign policy would look like. I have two words for them: Status Quo. The same old shit, the same old textbook responses. Don't stick your neck out, make the politically safe play. Arguably, it is a better strategy than Bush took. Bill didn't make anything *worse*, after all. However, he certainly didn't make anything better.

America, and the world, deserves more than that. Barack Obama is a drastic departure from any sort of status quo. His understanding of world issues dwarfs that of Hillary. His charisma is light years beyond what hers could ever be. Obama's race, being of African descent, would make it possible for him to reach out to African nations and make progress there like never before. Even his middle name, Hussein, would send a message to Muslims everywhere that America doesn't hate them, their culture, or their religion. It just hates their extremists. I'll finish this post with one of Andrew Sullivan's best advocacies for Obama that I've read:

"Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can."

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm not sure Thompson is finished.

He looked like it for a while. However, Romney and Guliani just keep falling. Huckabee is clearly not intelligent enough to win an election. And the GOP base absolutely despises McCain. I'm not sure they're going to let him get it. Thompson is still their only realistic alternative.

...and right now, Thompson to win the GOP nomination on Intrade is worth about 0.8. In other words, you'll get 120:1 odds on Thompson if you buy now. I've mentioned before, intrade is not about picking winners or losers. Its about recognizing when a contract is undervalued or overvalued and trading accordingly.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Of Nightmares becoming Realities

Clinton did beat Barack in the NH Primary. It was an amazing upset. In my nightmare, it was because all of the independents voted for McCain. I do not believe that is the main reason why she won (although it may have had some effect). She won because initially, she was only supposed to get 2% more votes from women than Obama. Instead, she ended up hoarding 14% more votes from women than Barack was able to muster.

Why was there a massive shift from women? Hillary's emotional breakdown comes to mind. Perhaps women felt sorry for her. I for one did not. I have zero sympathy for the emotions of any person running for a public office, let alone the President of the United States. She knew what she was getting into when her ambitions drove her to run for president. She shouldn't be in the race if she can't handle the heat.

Meanwhile, her husband may have also played some role in Obama's defeat. Bill let loose a scathing attack on Obama, where he calls Barack's anti-war record the biggest fairy tale ever. Well let me tell you what. Bill Clinton is absolutely full of shit. The Clintonian record on Iraq is wrong, and has been wrong since the end of the 1st Gulf War. I remember distinctly around 1998, when I woke up one day and Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq, because Saddam wasn't cooperating with inspectors. Coincidentally, and perhaps too conveniently, this was precisely around the time that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had broke.

Meanwhile, if you want to see Obama's record on the Iraq war, look no further than this interview in 2002. Here are a few choice quotes from Obama in that interview:

(Obama) "The debate will be about, what is our long-term commitment there (Iraq). How much is it going to cost. What does it mean for us to rebuild Iraq. How do we ensure the country doesn't splinter into factions between the Shias, Kurds, and Sunnis."

(Interviewer) "How would you have voted on the Iraq war powers resolution? Would you have voted yay or nay if you could have voted?"
(Obama) "I would have voted nay."

There it is: Barack Obama, on the record, saying that he would have voted against the Iraq war when it was extremely politically risky to do so. Meanwhile, in a short two minute interview he brought up four questions that were almost prophetic about our future struggles in Iraq. Barack Obama in 2002 had an understanding of the complications of the Iraq war that I have yet to see matched by ANYONE. No politician, nor pundit, including self professed middle eastern "experts" like Juan Cole (who assumed the invasion would ultimately be worth it). While proving himself to be far more informed than Clinton, Obama showed he had the courage to follow his convictions, despite the political consequences.

Hillary Clinton never polarized me like she did other people. I didn't buy into all of the hype or condemnation; she is a politician and I placed her in that category with the rest of them. However, with each passing day I am coming to despise Clinton more. It is a combination of fear of the power that her name wields, disgust at her inclination to pursue any means necessary to gain power, and anger that she is standing in the way of a true leader, Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton has the entire Democratic political establishment at her back, while Barack has only the people. He is going to need our help in the next few weeks. I implore all to do their fullest to help him defeat the Clinton Machine.

My one consolation is that McCain won the New Hampshire primary among republicans. It seems likely now that he will get the GOP nomination. At least if Hillary does win the democratic nomination, I'll get to watch McCain trounce her in the general election. The 2008 election is going to be an ugly thing with Hillary Clinton in the running, that is for sure.

The Clintonian melt-down

First Hillary chokes up while essentially patronizing the decision of American citizens to seek Obama to lead this country. Then Bill becomes quite angry about the whole situation. They behave as if Hillary was owed the Presidency. Actually, I sometimes wonder whether they really believe that.

What really scares me is how entrenched power in America has become. A "political aristocracy" has been formed (not my phrase). The Bush family is obviously the first that comes to mind; fortunately I suspect their fortunes are over. But consider the Clinton family. Hillary was essentially a lock for this nomination. There was no serious challenger to her, until Obama showed up. Imagine if Obama didn't exist. Hillary Clinton would have steamrolled though to get the nomination, and then probably would have won the presidency as well. She would have done so not because she would be a far better president than anyone else - its because she is a Clinton. The power in that family is incredible. It makes one realize how amazing it is that Obama was ever able to challenge that.

What saddens me is that a phenom like Obama is so rare. This sort of thing should be happening all of the time, to shatter the death-grip that the political elites have on what goes on in this country. I don't forget Ron Paul, too. He would be a powerful contender for the GOP nomination if he was a little bit less crazy about certain things. I suspect that central to it all is the internet and its power to get a message across. The internet has become the great equalizer, leveling the playing field between candidates with little money (ie, Ron Paul, Obama) and those with plenty of money and powerful political backing (Clinton, Romney).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My nightmare.

Literally, I had it last night:

Obama lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary because all of the independents voted for McCain and not Barack. I was quite agitated when I woke up, but then I realized the NH primary is still a couple of days away.

The bad news is that this scenario is not unrealistic. Both McCain and Obama rely heavily on independents to win. If the independent vote was split, Barack may be the loser (it would also hurt McCain, but I don't think Romney is as much of a threat to him in NH as HRC is to Obama).

If Barack loses in NH, Hillary will steamroll over him to get the nomination. Her performance in the debate last night eases my concerns to some extent, however. She seemed angry and extremely aggressive. Maybe she should be; but it was almost uncomfortable to watch her.

On a related note, think about how angry and vicious a Clinton vs Guliani 2008 election would be. It makes me shudder to think about it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Where the Independents went

From Andrew Sullivan:

Among independents, Clinton came a poor third: 17 percent to Obama's 41. And McCain lost out to Paul: 23 percent to 29. The (two) men with the most support among independents - the people you need to win a general election - are the most despised by the Republican base (McCain and Paul).

I'm beginning to feel that the theme of this 2008 election is a rejection of the establishment. HRC was the inevitable Democrat candidate; the political machine backing her may be the most powerful ever. And yet she is being beaten by a black man, when so many people said that Americans were too racist for Obama to win.

Meanwhile, the GOP had murdered McCain months ago and left him for dead; his campaign nearly bankrupt. From day one, Fox News has been sabotaging the campaign of Ron Paul. However, independents are capable of thinking for themselves and will make up their own minds. They have rallied around Paul and McCain. They are rejecting the cookie-cutter status quo candidates being thrown at them by the GOP establishment (Guliani, Romney).

This election, independents are loudly reminding the Republican and Democratic party bosses that the people call the shots in this country, not political elites.

Post Iowa Caucus Update

There is good news for fellow anti-Huckabeans out there. Even though Huckabee won the Iowa caucus, according to Intrade the victory didn't really help him all that much. His prospects for winning the GOP nomination as a whole only rose a modest 5%; contrast that to Obama, who gained ~20% from his Iowa victory. Clearly, people are betting that Huckabee's long term prospects are still poor.

It turns out that the most significant impact of Huckabee's victory is that it weakened Romney and Guliani, while strengthening McCain. I was wondering why McCain was boosted, even though he lost in Iowa, too. I can only guess that the New Hampshire Primary has something to do with this phenomenon. The NH primary has been very close between McCain and Romney up till now. However, unlike McCain, Romney was expected to win in Iowa and held the lead for a long time. Thus a Huckabee victory damages Romney, but not McCain, since he was never expected to win Iowa. Thus McCain has a boost in the NH primary, which suggests he may gain the momentum to win the whole thing. People must be wondering when Guliani plans on making a showing at all...

Meanwhile, HRC and Obama *were* neck and neck in NH. As I wrote below, I am betting (literally) that Obama's Iowa victory will give him the momentum to win in NH. The Intrade markets seem to agree. Obama's prospects for winning the Dem nomination jumped from about 25% to 45%, while Hillary's dropped from 65% to 50%. What an exciting race. Thank god I'm still on Christmas break.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

John McCain now GOP frontrunner

The latest numbers from Intrade, regarding the GOP nomination:

McCain - 28%
Guliani - 24%
Romney - 23%
Huckabee - 13%
Paul - 7%
Thompson - 3%

It is still a very close race. McCain has momentum on his side, however. Just a few weeks ago, McCain was only 8% while Guliani was 47%. Meanwhile, Romney looks stronger on paper than in reality. He seems to be on the verge of losing Iowa to Huckabee; meanwhile, McCain has surged and looks to steal New Hampshire away from Romney as well.

Here are the Intrade numbers for the Democrat Presidential nomination:

Clinton - 63%
Obama - 31%
Edwards - 5%

Not much has changed. Clinton is still a 2:1 favorite over Obama, and Edwards is the only other Dem even on the radar. However, its an interesting situation. I don't really understand all of the implications of the caucus system, but things aren't as clear cut as they look. Obama is poised to win Iowa. Obama and HRC are almost dead even in New Hampshire. I wonder if a win in Iowa could give Obama the momentum to win in NH? Obama already has a lead in South Carolina, so its very possible, perhaps even likely, that Obama will win the first three contests. And yet, the Intrade numbers strongly favor Clinton. There is probably quite a bit that I do not understand about this system.

I'll finish by copy/pasting an old post regarding the election:

Making predictions 1.5 years out: The straight-talk express, John McCain, gets the republican ticket. McCain beats Hillary if she gets the dem ticket. McCain loses to Obama if he gets the dem ticket. If the race came down to McCain vs Obama, I wouldn't need to vote. Well lets face it, I'm from Indiana so I dont *need* to vote anyway.

Recent polls have indeed shown that McCain beats HRC and loses to Obama.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Evil, subversive, anti-democratic bastards.

No, I'm not speaking of dictators or terrorists. I am speaking of the people who call the shots at Fox News. There is a debate coming up in New Hampshire, and they have excluded Ron Paul. They have refused to invite him to the debate, despite the fact that he has raised more money and is polling higher than many candidates that have been invited to the debate.

I've written about Fox New's hatred of Paul before; my previous post on this issue is short and is located here. This is another blatant attempt to subvert democracy. Its absolutely outrageous. Other GOP candidates should take a stand in defense of Paul and refuse to attend the debate unless all viable candidates are invited. Since most of the GOP candidates are slimebags and would do no such principled act, we'll have to hope that those that are not slimebags (ie, John McCain) will do so alone.

Here is a more detailed roundup of the situation.