Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Early voting done

FV did his civic duty this morning and moseyed down to the Records Building to cast a ballot for Obama. It was fairly busy for early voting. There was a short but growing line. I heard several people ask for Democratic ballots but none asking for Republican ballots. Wife of FV heard the opposite at the early polling location closer to Lake Highlands. I read somewhere that Dems are outpacing Reps by 3 to 1 (which makes sense considering the Republican nomination is all but locked up).

And I got a thin strip of yellow paper saying that I had voted and was therefore eligible to attend the caucus in my precinct next week. That's step two of the Texas 2-step, which will help choose 1/3 of the Democratic delegates. The Dallas Morning News added a third step in their editorial the other day, which I think is appropriate: write your party officials and tell them to simplify the process.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Texas hogs spotlight

There is so much to discuss about the campaign moving to Texas I don’t know where to begin. I did not take the morning off to attend the Obama rally on Wednesday. Some speculated that it must have been the largest political rally in the history of Dallas. People began lining up as early as 5 AM and hundreds were turned away as the event got underway. I did get to drive by while it was going on and of course the parking lots were packed, but that’s the only real personal observation I have of the event.

I thought both candidates came off very well in the Austin debate last night. The only gaffe I think was Hillary’s ill-considered line that Obama’s “plagiarism” wasn’t change you could believe in but change you could Xerox. Oops, should have put that in quotes; I’ll probably get in trouble for plagiarizing now. Obama’s response was perfect: this is silly to discuss. We should be discussing the real issues. It shows how desperate the Clinton campaign has become. They’re also accusing Obama of stealing their economic policy ideas.

But all in all it was a good debate. I just came away from it hoping that somebody bows out before the convention. The party will not be well served by a battle over super-delegates and whether or not to seat Florida and Michigan. Hopefully Obama will have enough momentum if he can win Texas or Ohio to make it obvious that he is going to be the Democratic nominee. If he wins both states I think we’re done.

There are Obama house parties in the neighborhood tomorrow. It’s not looking like I’ll be able to get out to one. The one I am drawn to is “Brewskis for Obama.” That one sounds like fun. But I do plan to try to attend the caucus on March 4 and I will report back if anything interesting goes down. Judging by the Iowa caucus it could be pretty boring.

Wife of FV was driving downtown this morning when she noticed some emergency vehicles. I’m pretty sure she was witnessing the aftermath of the death of Senior Cpl. Victor Lozada of the Dallas PD, whose motorcycle struck a retaining wall as he was leading Sen. Clinton’s motorcade. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Texas Democratic Primacaucus

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic has an analysis of the Texas primary system, which is kind of a hybrid between a primary and a caucus. (Props to Frontburner for linking to this.)

It's a little confusing, but the upshot is don't write off Texas just because we have a large Latino population that should favor Clinton. Apparently the way the delegates are doled out has to do with previous election turnout, which might benefit Obama.

Oh, and forget what I said about Austin blindly falling into Hillary's arms. The Burnt Orange Report has endorsed Obama (I'm guessing they have a large student readership, so that makes sense). The party leadership in Texas seems lined up behind Clinton, but that might not make much difference in a state where the party is so weak.

We shall see. But we know who has "the big mo'" after sweeping the Potomac primaries yesterday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About that Obama personality cult

A lot of folks are cynical and put off by what is increasingly being referred to as a cult of personality around Barack Obama. I understand that reticence. But I wonder: isn’t this a natural byproduct of having a potentially transformational candidate at a time when the country desperately needs it? That’s what Obama’s running on. Whether he can deliver this transformation or not is another question. But when was the last time we had this much excitement about a presidential candidate? (My three year old even loves his name.)

Anyhow, I’m not concerned about the euphoria around Obama. He’s just a man, but maybe he has the chance to do something different and special. Perhaps that’s naïve, but permit a man some hope. We just won’t know until he’s sitting in the Oval Office.

I can understand the Clinton camp’s exasperation at his relative lack of experience but check out some of the important legislation he’s sponsored (often bipartisan bills). And his experience at the state level and in community organizing is relevant and positive. And as an online acquaintance put it he’s smart, thoughtful, and comes across as a human being.

As for the experience that really matters in the general election campaign, Clinton knows what it means to fend off mean-spirited political mud from the überconservatives and emerge victorious. She really is battle tested. But that’s not going to be enough to get her the nomination.

I have a theory about why Obama’s message is resonating in Middle America, while Hillary seems to be winning the big traditionally blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. We here in red state America know how vilified Hillary Clinton is. We know that this emotional response isn’t fair and doesn’t make logical sense, but there it is. I’m not sure that the people in the blue states get that. I don’t even think the frail Democratic Party down in Austin gets it.

A lot of people who would consider voting for a Democrat (and there are lots of these folks) will not consider putting another Clinton in office. We are ready for a change, a clean break. No Bushes or Clintons in the White House for a while. It’s been a dismal time. People think the country is on the wrong track and they’re ready to feel good about America again. Obama gives voice to that hope. That’s what this movement is about.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

They're campaigning down in Texas

Who'd a thunk it? Super Tuesday is over and we still have a race. The Morning News says it's been "decades" and the first time in a generation that the Texas primary has mattered to the outcome of the nominating contests. It certainly hasn't happened in my memory or probably in my lifetime. Let's bring it on and get out the vote!

I have an unsettling feeling though that the Democratic nominee will still be undecided after all the primaries and it will fall to the superdelegates to call a winner. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes We Can

Memo from the Scooter Libby Chair in Political Ethics

SMU is planning for the eventual George W. Bush presidential library and public policy institute. The Orwellian-monickered "Freedom Institute" has raised much resistance among SMU and Methodist types concerned with the complete lack of university oversight this partisan "think tank" will have. Here is a great Unfair Park blog post about Rev. Andrew Weaver, SMU Perkins School of Theology grad and opponent of the Bush Institute at SMU. Someone posted some stuff from Weaver in the comments section that is worth a read. Here is the petition, which I will sign directly as an alumnus. It may already be too late, but there is a possibility that Weaver can force a vote on this by the South Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church.

Here's my position: a presidential library managed by the National Archives (assuming everything isn't shredded and classified) is an asset to any university. This is the place where scholars will come to study the documents and help write the history. A school of public service and even a non-partisan policy institute would likewise be assets to SMU. But a partisan policy institute associated with this administration and with zero oversight by the university should be rejected out of hand by SMU, the Methodist Church, and SMU's stakeholders - faculty, alumni, etc. The Bush administration should not get to use SMU's good name to further their cause.

The rest of the country is ready to move on from this administration. Are we going to be stuck with him here forever?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The peak oil scenario

Check out this fascinating article by Mimi Swartz in the new Texas Monthly. It’s about investment banker Matthew Simmons and his contention that a diminishing supply of oil will clash with soaring demand (especially form China and India) to paint a bleak future. The idea is called “peak oil” and it has several adherents, including oilman T. Boone Pickens. In typical magazine style, Swartz describes their meal and the fancy Houston Coronado Club, just to let you know that she dined in style for this assignment. Here’s a quick description of peak oil:

Slashing through his entrée, barely stopping for breath, he describes a bleak future, in which demand for oil will always surpass supply, the price will continue to rise—“so fast your head will spin”—and all sorts of problems in our carbon-dependent world will ensue. As fuel shortfalls complicate global delivery routes and leave farmers unable to run their tractors, we will face massive food shortages. Products made with petroleum, from asphalt and plastic to fabrics and computer chips, will also become scarcer and scarcer. Standards of living will fall, and people will not be able to pay their debts. Lending will tighten, and eventually there will be major defaults. Growth will cease, and hoarding will set in as oil becomes increasingly rare. Then, according to Simmons, the wars will begin. That is the peak oil scenario.

Sounds like fun, no? Just reading that makes one realize just how dependent we are on oil. So what kind of timeline are we on for reaching peak oil?

Simmons believes that the worldwide peak was reached in 2005. He estimates the rate of decline for all oil production at somewhere north of 5 percent a year. At the same time, the global need for oil is expanding exponentially, particularly as China and India claim their places on the world stage. In India energy needs are expected to grow 72 percent by 2025; China’s are expected to roughly double during the same time frame. In seventeen years the world’s demand for oil may well be more than 50 percent greater than it is today, while production capacity may well sink to 1985 levels.

Of course there are lots of industry experts who disagree with Simmons. He dismisses them as wishful thinkers. He claims their optimism that we will find new oil fields or that technology will curb our need for so much oil or the idea that high prices will tamp down demand as “faith-based.”

Just this week we’ve learned that Saudi Arabia and OPEC won’t be turning up the oil spigot to help ease a recession in the U.S. Is it because they won’t or because they can’t? I suppose we’ll see.

A few modest proposals from Simmons and others interviewed for the article: invest in education to prepare for a knowledge-based economy rather than one dependent on natural resources. Stop the 9 to 5 grind – office workers should work remotely rather than commute. Cut out the ridiculous food distribution system whereby we get out of season foods from distant lands.

I would argue that we also need to consider the costs of transporting goods every which way in order to get the lowest labor costs. That would suggest that manufacturing may experience resurgence in the U.S.

One thing about it, if we think 9/11 changed everything, a peak oil scenario will show us what happens when everything really changes.