Sunday, August 26, 2012

Election Analysis

Let’s take a look at the Electoral College forecast. From the states that are not seriously being contested, Obama gets 226 votes, [fn. 1] and Romney gets 183. [fn. 2] There are 133 votes from states that can be called toss-ups. Although toss-ups by definition are states where the popular vote is close, Nate Silver is able to calculate the odds of a state going one way or the other.  Of the so-called toss-up states, consider only the ones where Nate Silver gives Obama a better than 2-1 chance of winning.

Here they are with their electoral votes: New Hampshire (4), Nevada (6), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10) for a total of 58 electoral votes. When added to his safe votes, he has a total of 284, fourteen more than necessary for a victory. In other words, he must win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and either Wisconsin or Nevada

To deny him victory, Romney needs to  take North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes and he has a 70% chance of doing so. He also needs to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes. He is has a little better than 50-50 chance of winning there: 51-49.   But Florida and North Carolina only bring him to 226 Electoral Votes. 

To get the other 44 needed to win he has to pick up votes in other states where Obama is predicted to win but with a less than 2:1 probability. Here are the three with their Electoral Votes and the odds of an Obama win: Colorado, (6; 63-37), Iowa (6; 65-35), and Virginia (13; 64-36). That will get him part of the way there, but still 16 votes short of a victory. Turning Wisconsin – Paul Ryan’s home state  and New Hampshire won’t do the trick. So, again, if he can’t win Wisconsin, and Nevada, he has to beat the odds and win either Ohio (68-33 for Obama) or Pennsylvania (89-12 for Obama).

And thats why I am not scared out of my mind about the prospect of a Romney presidency. But it only works if Democrats go to the polls.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

[1] CA 55, CT 7, DE 3, HI 4, IL 20, MA 11, MD 10, Me 4, MI 10, MN 10, NJ 14, NM 5, NY 29, OR 7, RI 4, SC 9, VT 3, WA 12, DC 3.

[2] AL 9, AK 3, AR 6, AZ 11, GA 16, ID 4, IN 11, KS 6, KY 8, LA 8, MO 10, MS 6, MT 3, ND 3, NE 5, OK 7, SD 3, TN 11, TX 38, UT 6, WV 5, WY 3.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thank you, Rep. Todd Akin for the insight into the Republican mindset

In 2007, in the United States, approximately 93,000 women were victims of forcible rape as defined by the F.B.I . viz.., “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”  That definition leaves out 248,300 instances of anal, oral and statutory rape; incest; rape with an object, finger or fist, and rape of men. Most rapes do not fall into this narrow definition. 

The probability that a woman who is forcibly raped will become pregnant is 1 in 20, exactly the same as the probability of pregnancy in the cases of unprotected sex. Simple math tells us that the forcible rapes resulted in 4,650 pregnancies. Another significant number of pregnancies were the result of non-forcible rape, e.g. statutory rape and incest. That someone would refer to the forcible rapes as defined by the F.B.I as “legitimate” is shocking, and it leaves me scratching my head as I contemplate what he would call the rape of a intellectually challenged 14 year old who is tricked into having sex. According to a 1996 article  in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”

By now, everyone knows that Missouri candidate for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Todd Akin has said that doctors have told him that cases of forcible rape rarely result in pregnancy.  “If it’s a legitimate rape, says he "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”  Republicans are running away from this statement with a passion. Andrea Saul, a Romney-Ryan spokesperson said on Sunday that her candidates “disagree” with Akin and “would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” This gave the candidates time to stick their finger in the wind, and by Monday they determined that they needed to condemn the language in stronger terms. Romney told the National Review Online that “Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong. Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

As usual, the analysis offered by the mass media will be truncated to fit the demands of the news cycle and an audience that is largely affected by A.D.D. But beyond the fact that Akin is a boorish ignoramus, there is more to the outrageous comment he made. First, let’s give him credit for trying to walk back his comments. Unfortunately, he failed. He claims that he misspoke. The word “misspoke” means you said one thing but meant another, i.e. a slip of the tongue. It may reveal a lot about the subconscious thinking of the speaker, though in my opinion, usually not as much as pop-psychologists would have you believe. Be that as it may, it is not misspeaking when you meant what you said and said what you meant and, even though later it may be brought to your attention that what you meant and said was impolitic. That’s exactly what happened to Akin though the fact that he didn’t realize beforehand that what he was saying was stupid speaks to us about how far out of the mainstream this Republican representative is.

The myth that rape doesn’t result in pregnancy is a mainstay of the lunatic anti-abortion maniacs. For a more complete discussion, see, “That’s Not ‘Mispoke’” on Talking Points Memo.    Indeed, this ignorant justification for anti-abortion legislation has a long history as documented in The Atlantic,  “The canard that will not die; ‘legitimate’ rape doesn’t cause pregnancy.” 

What I found disturbing is the fact that in describing the results of a rape-induced pregnancy the wannabe Senator said, “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” This is wrong on many levels.

First, a zygote is not a child. Congressman Akin, as well as Mr. Romney and Rep. Ryan have all supported a “personhood amendment” that would redefine a person to include a fertilized egg, but it has not become law anywhere. In fact, the voters of Mississippi have voted down a similar amendment last November, and Mississippi voters are not known as a liberal bunch. In Ohio, an attempt to get the measure on the ballot failed last month. Todd Akin and Paul Ryan co-sponsored a “personhood” amendment in the House of Representatives. The so called, “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” declares that a fertilized egg “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” This would outlaw abortion, including in cases of rape and incest as well as some forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization. Mitt Romney has said that he would support a “personhood amendment,” when talking to his base on the Mike Huckabee show, but, as with so many issues, including a woman’s right to choose, he has said the exact opposite on other occasions. Give Mr. Romney credit for consistency in this: He invariably will profess to be on both sides of any issue.

Second, I find it noteworthy that in the case of rape, the first response of Mr Akin is to say, “there should be some punishment.” It is hardly a feat of political bravery to say that rapists should be punished, and I know of no one who advocates otherwise. But should punishment be the first response? Shouldn’t the immediate concern be for the woman so horribly victimized? Shouldn’t our instincts direct us to react with caring compassion for a woman whose life is changed by an actual invasion of her body and a complete theft of her autonomy?

This may seem like a quibble to some but it is not. The authoritarian personality has been well studied in the wake of the Holocaust as social scientists and psychologists struggled to understand how humans can collectively act with such cruelty. And what has been found is that the authoritarian personality can be diagnosed using standard tests that measure the F (for fascistic) scale.

Characteristics of the authoritarian personality include a cynical view of mankind and a need for power and toughness, as well as perceived lapses in society’s conventional norms. Other characteristics of this personality type are a general tendency to focus upon those who violate conventional values and act harshly towards them (authoritarian aggression), and an exaggerated concern with promiscuity. Notice how is so few words, Rep. Akin revealed these traits, giving us strong evidence that he has an authoritarian personality.

That Rep. Akin would focus on punishment as a first response is, as I have said, significant, but notice also, how in discussing the issue, he avoids any mention of the woman who has been brutalized. It is as if to him the dichotomy is between the rapist and the child, and the woman is just a vessel for forcible implanted sperm and the resulting zygote, not even worthy of mention. Is it any wonder that voters feel that there is a war on women?

The hostility towards women and abortion is a common feature of authoritarian personalities. Women do not represent to them the thing they value most, namely, “power and toughness.” Indeed, studies of fascist states have found that the governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution. Here we have further evidence that Akin and Ryan, and, depending upon whom he is talking to, Romney, have the authoritarian personality that can be so destructive to democracy.

Will Akin drop out of the race for Senator Claire McCaskill’s seat? I wouldn’t count on it. If he stays in, he is a seriously wounded candidate and the Karl Rove super-PAC has pulled out of his race. But this little peak into the ideology of the extreme right – of which Ryan, and increasingly Romney are a part – should set off alarm bells for any and all who love American democracy.

For this insight, we should thank Rep. Akin, 

“... and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I say Mitt Romney is the biggest liar of all time

Today, I came across this compendium of the works of Mendacious Mitt, written in the comments section to the Five Thirty Eight blog, posted by someone who goes by the nom de plume, Barking Pumpkin. I wish I could take credit for it.

If this is, as Romney claims, a "time for truths," why does he keep lying? 

1. At an impromptu event in South Carolina yesterday, Romney said on Medicare policy, "Our plan [has] no change for current seniors and those 55 and older."

That's plainly false. Romney's plan eliminates all new benefits for seniors under the Affordable Care Act, which necessarily means higher prescription drug costs for seniors, and more expensive preventive care.

2. At the same event, Romney argued, "Under the president's plan, [Medicare] goes bankrupt... Under the plan I propose, it is solvent."

That's the exact opposite of reality. Obama's policy strengthens Medicare's finances, and under Romney's plan, the system would be closer to insolvency faster.

3. In Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney said that under Obama, "We've got lower economic growth."

Actually, we got higher economic growth.

4. In the same speech, Romney said that under Obama, "We've got higher unemployment."

Actually, we got lower unemployment.

5. He went on to say the annual budget deficit has hit the $1 trillion mark under Obama for the "first time the history of our country."

Not true. The first time in the history of our country that the deficit hit $1 trillion was George W. Bush's last year in office, when the annual shortfall was $1.3 trillion.

6. Romney added that Obama promised "he'd get the unemployment down to under 5.6 percent today if we pass that $1 trillion stimulus package."

That's actually two falsehoods wrapped as one. For one thing, the stimulus wasn't $1 trillion (Romney's off by over $200 billion, and that's real money). For another, that's not what Obama promised.

7. Romney added, "You see unlike President Obama, I won't raise taxes on small business."

Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on small businesses -- by some counts, 18 times -- and if given a second term, his tax plan would have no effect on 97% of small businesses.

8. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Romney said the president's stimulus measures "have not put Americans back to work."

Yes they have.

9. In the same interview, Romney said he would create jobs by "taking advantage of America's energy resources, particularly natural gas, as well as coal, oil, nuclear, solar, and wind."

Much of this is contradicted by Romney's own agenda. He opposes the wind production tax credit, no matter how many jobs it costs the nation, and has vowed to cut off investments in renewable energy programs (Romney has said wind and solar do not constitute "real energy.")

10. Romney went on to say, "A nation which is a highly productive nation as we are benefits by trade with others... The Obama administration has negotiated no new [trade] agreements."

Did Romney not hear about the trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.

11. Romney added, "We have to cut the deficit and get America on track to a balanced budget in order to convince investors that America is a good place to invest long term.... The president has done virtually nothing other than to propose a series of tax increases."

Actually, Obama proposed a massive, $4 trillion "grand bargain," most of which was made up of spending cuts. Congressional Republicans turned it down anyway.

12. Romney also said, "We're at a 30-year low in new business startups."

Still not true.

13. Romney went on to say, "I indicated as I announced my tax plan that the key principles included the following. First, that high-income people would continue to pay the same share of the tax burden that they do today."

At a minimum, this is ridiculously misleading. Under Romney's plan, high-income people would get an enormous tax break.

14. Romney added, "Obamacare is a tax. It's been so determined by the Supreme Court, and it falls predominantly on the middle class."

He's referring to an individual mandate that would apply to 1% of the population. And if President Obama's health care policy "raised taxes on the middle class," then Mitt Romney raised taxes on the middle class. [Only one Justice said it was a tax – Big Mitch]

15. Romney also said, "President Obama raises taxes on the middle class. I will under no circumstances raise taxes on the middle class."

There's overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

16. Romney went on to say, "I will follow a model similar to Simpson-Bowles."

No he won't.

17. Romney also said, "I believe infrastructure is going to see very substantial investments over the coming decade."

He may believe that, but he's also endorsed a budget plan that drastically curtails infrastructure investments.

18. Romney argued, "I believe that you're going to see us having created 12 million new jobs."

If we do nothing, we're on track to create 12 million new American jobs over the next four years anyway.

19. In a televised ad, Romney said Obama "cut $716 billion dollars from Medicare ... to pay for Obamacare."

Oh, please.

20. The ad goes on to say, in reference to seniors, "So now the money you paid for your guaranteed healthcare is going to a massive new government program that's not for you."

That's plainly false. Under the Affordable Care Act, seniors pay less for prescription medication and preventive care -- meaning the policy is "for" them, too.

21. At a campaign stop in Ohio, Romney said under Obama we're not "adding jobs in the coal industry" and not "producing more coal."

Romney's lying. In reality, we're adding jobs in the coal industry and producing more coal.

22. Romney said this week that Paul Ryan reached out to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to "co-lead a piece of legislation that makes sure we can save Medicare."

According to Ron Wyden, that's ridiculously untrue.

23. In another attack ad this week, Romney once again accused Obama of "quietly ending work requirements" in the welfare law.

He's still blatantly lying.

24. In Beallsville, Ohio, Romney argued, "President said he'd cut the deficit in half. He's doubled it."

Maybe Romney doesn't know what "double" means. The deficit on Obama's first day was $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was also $1.3 trillion. This year, it's projected to be $1.1 trillion. When he says the president "more than doubled" the deficit, as he has many times, Romney's lying.

25. In the same speech, Romney added that Obama has "raided that [Medicare] trust fund."

Obama has strengthened the Medicare trust fund.

26. Romney went on to call the Affordable Care Act an "unproven federal government takeover to health care."

There is no universe in which this makes sense -- "Obamacare" relies on private insurers, not a government takeover. (Also, it's not "unproven" -- the policy works quite well in, ahem, Massachusetts.)

27. Romney also said, "My number four [goal] is to stop spending massively more than we take in to get America on track to have a balanced budget. And I'll do it."

No you won't.

Romney says his plan "can't be scored," but independent budget analysts have found his agenda would make the deficit bigger, not smaller, and add trillions to the national debt.

28. Romney went on to say, "Seventy-five percent of small businesses in this country surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce said that Obamacare makes it less likely for them to hire people."

The "survey" is a joke. The Chamber, a pro-Republican lobbying institution heavily invested in helping Romney, put up an unscientific online survey. Treating this as a legitimate poll of businesses is fundamentally dishonest. [The Chamber has criticized Romney for this distortion of the truth – Big Mitch]

29. Romney also said, "I'm going to put work back into welfare."

Work hasn't been taken out of welfare.

30. Romney went on to say, "[Obama] said if you have a business, you didn't build that. Someone else did that."

That's not even close to what the president said.

31. At an event in St. Augustine, Florida, Romney said the president "won't want to remind people of Greece because that's where he's taking our country if we don't get off the road we're on."

That's painfully untrue.

32. In the same speech Romney said of the president, "He said he'd measure progress also by whether people were able to have a good job that kept them in their home and paid their mortgage. Well, 8.5 million homes foreclosed, a record level, is not success, Mr. President."

Putting aside how dishonest it is for Romney to blame the housing crash on the President, let's also not forget that Romney intends to deliberately avoid any efforts to curtail foreclosures.

33. Romney added, "I'm going to take every government program and apply this test: Is this program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if it's not, we'll get rid of it."

This continues to be misleading. The implication here is that U.S. debt is financed by the Chinese, but this isn't true -- China only holds about 8% of the nation's debt.

_________________________ end quote _____________________

Now go onto the comments section and vote for your favorite of Mitt's lies.

... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!