MAKING IT A PAIN IN THE ASS TO VOTE IS THE AMERICAN WAY

Why can’t we be more like the Russians? They can vote in their fucking swim suits.
It’s hard to understand polls. Where do they get their numbers from and why are they so different? They often vary drastically from one pollster to the next, with one having Obama ahead by four percent and another having Romney up nine, all within the same state. Some polling companies are noticeably biased, others claim objectivity, and still others are clandestinely partisan. The numbers swing so frequently that anybody paying attention is sure to develop a case of the spins.
The polls take on different formats to try and glean likely outcomes for the election. Popular methods include randomized phone calls at different times of day, generally to landlines (but increasingly to cell phones). The biggest difference-maker is who and when they poll—even the littlest disparity between one poll and another could swing their results in drastically different directions. Think Dr. Malcolm’s explanation of the butterfly effect in Jurassic Park:
“A butterfly could flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”
At the moment, it looks like Obama has the slightest lead in a number of crucial states, and it appears he might be able to gather the 270 Electoral votes he needs to retain office. But what happens if he doesn’t reach the mark? What happens if neither candidate automatically wins?
Welcome to another bizarre caveat brought to you by the Electoral College. According to the 12thAmendment, if no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral vote, the case goes in front of the House of Representatives. Each state delegation receives a single vote, meaning that although California has 53 representatives and North Dakota has one, both states would effectively have a single vote to cast. If each state was a person, this could be considered straightforward democracy. But since each state has wildly disproportionate numbers of people living in them, it boils down to less individual representation than already given to us by the Electoral College.
But wait, there’s more. This is where it gets even weirder. Not to be left out, the Senate is responsible for choosing the vice president, with each senator receiving a single vote to throw into the pot. Since there is an even number of states, it’s possible that the House could wind up deadlocked at 25-25, so if no president is elected by Inauguration Day, then the Senate-elected vice president acts as president until the issue is resolved.

Continue

MAKING IT A PAIN IN THE ASS TO VOTE IS THE AMERICAN WAY

Why can’t we be more like the Russians? They can vote in their fucking swim suits.

It’s hard to understand polls. Where do they get their numbers from and why are they so different? They often vary drastically from one pollster to the next, with one having Obama ahead by four percent and another having Romney up nine, all within the same state. Some polling companies are noticeably biased, others claim objectivity, and still others are clandestinely partisan. The numbers swing so frequently that anybody paying attention is sure to develop a case of the spins.

The polls take on different formats to try and glean likely outcomes for the election. Popular methods include randomized phone calls at different times of day, generally to landlines (but increasingly to cell phones). The biggest difference-maker is who and when they poll—even the littlest disparity between one poll and another could swing their results in drastically different directions. Think Dr. Malcolm’s explanation of the butterfly effect in Jurassic Park:

“A butterfly could flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

At the moment, it looks like Obama has the slightest lead in a number of crucial states, and it appears he might be able to gather the 270 Electoral votes he needs to retain office. But what happens if he doesn’t reach the mark? What happens if neither candidate automatically wins?

Welcome to another bizarre caveat brought to you by the Electoral College. According to the 12thAmendment, if no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral vote, the case goes in front of the House of Representatives. Each state delegation receives a single vote, meaning that although California has 53 representatives and North Dakota has one, both states would effectively have a single vote to cast. If each state was a person, this could be considered straightforward democracy. But since each state has wildly disproportionate numbers of people living in them, it boils down to less individual representation than already given to us by the Electoral College.

But wait, there’s more. This is where it gets even weirder. Not to be left out, the Senate is responsible for choosing the vice president, with each senator receiving a single vote to throw into the pot. Since there is an even number of states, it’s possible that the House could wind up deadlocked at 25-25, so if no president is elected by Inauguration Day, then the Senate-elected vice president acts as president until the issue is resolved.

Continue

Canal Plus correspondent Laurence Haim joins the White House press pool (“the bubble,” as she calls it) as they follow Obama around the country in the final days of his campaign. She discusses the frustration involved in trying to explain the complex electoral college to French people, and why Ohio is so important to that process. Ohio is very divided, she says, and after talking to some Ohio residents, her claim is corroborated. Some Ohioans she meets support Romney, some support Obama, and some say they won’t vote for either, because “they aren’t worth a crap.”


PAUL RYAN: WHAT STUPID PEOPLE THINK A SMART GUY SOUNDS LIKE
By Bhaskar Sunkara

At its core, Paul Ryan’s appeal is simple: He’s what stupid people think smart people sound like. 
MSNBC’s commentary after the vice presidential debate in October captured the narrative pretty well: “It was Scranton Joe vs. Think Tank Ryan. Heart vs. head.” And that reputation has helped Ryan hustle his way from unimpressive legislative aide to brains of the Republican Party in a decade’s time.
His popularity among voters isn’t much of a surprise. Ryan’s good-looking and articulate. Most importantly, he can convince people there’s intellectual gravitas behind his words. It’s sort of like the Ross Perot phenomenon, a man for whom 20 million people voted in 1992. Since Perot talked like a dweeb, people assumed he had crafty, intelligent plans for the country. Plus he whipped out bar graphs from time-to-time.
And who doesn’t love a good bar graph?
Ryan likes bar graphs, too. Nevermind that his are upside down and backward and layered in shit, like his gross overstating of Medicare’s crisis and his quest to privatize the program. Whatever problems that system has can be solved by expanding the subscriber pool to include the healthy and unhealthy—not by allowing private companies to run the program for profit, which is essentially Ryan’s plan. A plan that, it should be said, isn’t based in the realities of the program, but in Ryan’s rigid adherence to free-market economic dogma.
But what’s more bizarre is Ryan’s popularity among the liberal commentariat, who have helped develop his reputation as a serious thinker worthy of sustained engagement.
Continue

PAUL RYAN: WHAT STUPID PEOPLE THINK A SMART GUY SOUNDS LIKE

By Bhaskar Sunkara

At its core, Paul Ryan’s appeal is simple: He’s what stupid people think smart people sound like. 

MSNBC’s commentary after the vice presidential debate in October captured the narrative pretty well: “It was Scranton Joe vs. Think Tank Ryan. Heart vs. head.” And that reputation has helped Ryan hustle his way from unimpressive legislative aide to brains of the Republican Party in a decade’s time.

His popularity among voters isn’t much of a surprise. Ryan’s good-looking and articulate. Most importantly, he can convince people there’s intellectual gravitas behind his words. It’s sort of like the Ross Perot phenomenon, a man for whom 20 million people voted in 1992. Since Perot talked like a dweeb, people assumed he had crafty, intelligent plans for the country. Plus he whipped out bar graphs from time-to-time.

And who doesn’t love a good bar graph?

Ryan likes bar graphs, too. Nevermind that his are upside down and backward and layered in shit, like his gross overstating of Medicare’s crisis and his quest to privatize the program. Whatever problems that system has can be solved by expanding the subscriber pool to include the healthy and unhealthy—not by allowing private companies to run the program for profit, which is essentially Ryan’s plan. A plan that, it should be said, isn’t based in the realities of the program, but in Ryan’s rigid adherence to free-market economic dogma.

But what’s more bizarre is Ryan’s popularity among the liberal commentariat, who have helped develop his reputation as a serious thinker worthy of sustained engagement.

"As memorable pre-election moments go, Chris Berman laugh-shouting a question about the Atlanta Falcons to Mitt Romney, and Romney giving an answer about teacher’s unions isn’t one any person would want. But it does, in retrospect, seem to be the one we’ve been working towards for some time now.

Every politician lies—but not as much as Mitt Romney. Here’s why that matters.

Every politician lies—but not as much as Mitt Romney. Here’s why that matters.

How Mitt Romney’s potential repeal of Obamacare would affect the future of HIV/AIDS care

How Mitt Romney’s potential repeal of Obamacare would affect the future of HIV/AIDS care

Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February
Cornel West is special. Hes rocks the best afro, has impeccable taste in music, and boasts the unique ability to communicate complex political ideas, as Sly Stone said, “everyday people.” As an activist, author, and public speaker, West has transcended academia to become the moral compass for a country teetering on the political, spiritual, and economic bankruptcy. How can you knock a guy who was the first professor at Yale to be arrested on campus while protesting against apartheid in South Africa? We love him, even if we don’t always agree with him, because he doesn’t bite his tongue for anybody—not even the Commander in Chief.In an interview with Truthdig back in 2011, West infamously described the president as, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”With the election suddenly up for grabs since President Obama’s sluggish performance in Denver against Mitt Romney, we hit up the famed professor to uncover his thoughts on the prospect of a Romney presidency, the second debate, and whether he and Tavis Smiley will ever announce a bid for the White House..

VICE: What did you think of Tuesday’s debate?I said a prayer for brother Barack Obama the first time and the prayer did not kick in. I said a prayer the second time and it did kick in. He was much stronger. I was glad to see him defending himself.
Brother Mitt Romney has a sense of entitlement. With Candy Crowley and the others, he doesn’t listen—he just takes off. Barack really made sure to respond to the actual questions. I thought he did a much better job, but it looks as if the polls are still tight. Regardless, I was glad to see Barack much being more forthright.
Which Obama was more authentic—Obama in debate one or Obama in debate two?I think that Barack Obama is a shy man. He does not like to be aggressive. The only moment he became angry was when he was accused of using American soldiers, precious human beings, as pawns for politics. You could see the anger in his face. He was very upset. But generally speaking, Obama is reconciliatory. That’s just who he is. When it comes time to fighting in the muck and mire, that’s just not his terrain.
After the polls swung in Romney’s favor after the first debate, did you reconsidered your criticism of President Obama?We have to prevent a Romney takeover of the White House. No doubt about that. It would be very dangerous in terms of actual lives and actual deaths of the elderly and the poor. Those people who are dependent on various programs would have to deal with the ugly damage of the further redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the well to off.
Right. But doesn’t criticizing Obama make all that bad stuff you just said more likely to happen?I’m strategic. We have to tell that truth about a system that’s corrupt—both parties are poisoned by big money and tied to big banks and corporations. Speaking on that is a matter of intellectual integrity. American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscious—if I voted my moral conscious it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it’s strategic in terms of what the actual possibilities and real options there are for poor and working people.
Continue Reading

Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February

Cornel West is special. Hes rocks the best afro, has impeccable taste in music, and boasts the unique ability to communicate complex political ideas, as Sly Stone said, “everyday people.” As an activist, author, and public speaker, West has transcended academia to become the moral compass for a country teetering on the political, spiritual, and economic bankruptcy. How can you knock a guy who was the first professor at Yale to be arrested on campus while protesting against apartheid in South Africa? We love him, even if we don’t always agree with him, because he doesn’t bite his tongue for anybody—not even the Commander in Chief.

In an interview with Truthdig back in 2011, West infamously described the president as, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”With the election suddenly up for grabs since President Obama’s sluggish performance in Denver against Mitt Romney, we hit up the famed professor to uncover his thoughts on the prospect of a Romney presidency, the second debate, and whether he and Tavis Smiley will ever announce a bid for the White House..

VICE: What did you think of Tuesday’s debate?
I said a prayer for brother Barack Obama the first time and the prayer did not kick in. I said a prayer the second time and it did kick in. He was much stronger. I was glad to see him defending himself.

Brother Mitt Romney has a sense of entitlement. With Candy Crowley and the others, he doesn’t listen—he just takes off. Barack really made sure to respond to the actual questions. I thought he did a much better job, but it looks as if the polls are still tight. Regardless, I was glad to see Barack much being more forthright.

Which Obama was more authentic—Obama in debate one or Obama in debate two?
I think that Barack Obama is a shy man. He does not like to be aggressive. The only moment he became angry was when he was accused of using American soldiers, precious human beings, as pawns for politics. You could see the anger in his face. He was very upset. But generally speaking, Obama is reconciliatory. That’s just who he is. When it comes time to fighting in the muck and mire, that’s just not his terrain.

After the polls swung in Romney’s favor after the first debate, did you reconsidered your criticism of President Obama?
We have to prevent a Romney takeover of the White House. No doubt about that. It would be very dangerous in terms of actual lives and actual deaths of the elderly and the poor. Those people who are dependent on various programs would have to deal with the ugly damage of the further redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the well to off.

Right. But doesn’t criticizing Obama make all that bad stuff you just said more likely to happen?
I’m strategic. We have to tell that truth about a system that’s corrupt—both parties are poisoned by big money and tied to big banks and corporations. Speaking on that is a matter of intellectual integrity. American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscious—if I voted my moral conscious it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it’s strategic in terms of what the actual possibilities and real options there are for poor and working people.

Continue Reading

On October 3, Barack Obama gave a performance at the first 2012 Presidential Debate that many perceived as inferior, uninspired, and lacking in energy. The next day, a scattering of stationery notes was found in Mr. Obama’s hotel room by cleaning staff:




CONTINUE

On October 3, Barack Obama gave a performance at the first 2012 Presidential Debate that many perceived as inferior, uninspired, and lacking in energy. The next day, a scattering of stationery notes was found in Mr. Obama’s hotel room by cleaning staff:

CONTINUE

Meet the real winner of the first debate.

Meet the real winner of the first debate.

On the Road with Obama and Romney, Part 1
9:05 AM
Louisville, Kentucky
I’d been traveling on the Greyhound bus for a full 24 hours, and I’d just left a nice apartment in New Orleans that I shared with a nice girl, because it wasn’t working and because I’d quite nearly run out of money. I’d spent half of my remaining $173 on a bus ticket home to Cincinnati, where I was about to show up as a grown 25-year-old with no home but the one my parents raised me in, and—lacking better options—I had accepted a frankly exploitive offer from VICE to file dispatches from a handful of states that I happen to know well (Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina) and that happen to be particularly important to the outcome of this election. To get the thing rolling VICE arranged for me to cover a Romney event at the little airport outside Dayton, Ohio. And, because I badly needed the money, I’d agreed to a sleepless night on the bus.
These are the politics of my personal discontent—which I thought might be worth sharing just because we’re so frequently reminded that the challenge in this election has been to win the hopes of the discontented voters, and because we’re so infrequently reminded that discontent, for all the ways we’ve found to count it up, has always been singular in its inward expression. 
Because now it was becoming clear, at nine in the morning, that I was going to be late for the event. Three detectives from the Louisville Police Department, with two leashed Belgian Malamuts between them, were holding up the bus. Two of the detectives, with one of the dogs, had pulled our luggage out of the undercarriage and were inspecting it. One had come over to mingle with us in the smoking area, 25 yards away. He was sly: He came over with the dog and said “Hey, anyone want to pet him? He’s friendly,” but the dog wasn’t interested in being petted, and the detective seemed mostly interested in those of us who moved away when he came over. I had some pills—legally prescribed, but not prescribed to me—and I couldn’t remember what I’d done with them, and I wasn’t sure whether or not drug-sniffing dogs are trained to look for pills, and I was trying to look quickly through my bag. The dog came over. I glared at the detective.
Over by the bus they were searching an old black man, on his way home to Michigan from Clarksdale, Mississippi, where—he told us smokers at a stop in Bowling Green—he’d gone to bury his younger brother, the youngest of nine. He was protesting that he held a medical marijuana card given to him by the State of Michigan, and that they couldn’t arrest him even if they did find anything in his bags. The smokers watching discussed whether or not this was true. The detectives opened his suitcase.
The Malamut stuck his nose in my crotch and I asked the detective to move him away. He asked where I was headed. I said I was going to cover the election. He looked incredulous. He directed the dog to my bag.
The problem with a politics of discontent is that pure discontent is so personal that politics can’t really be expected to address it. But in this moment it occurred to me that the highest purpose of anyone running for president of this country ought to be to eliminate bullshit like this from the lives of his constituents. Not the dogs, so much, or these brutes with guns and crew cuts, because there’s no reason to expect they’re going anywhere. But none of us there would have been on the Greyhound at all, in the position of being forced to consent to this ridiculous search, if we had any other travel option. And it does seem at least possible to create a country where people are less likely to need to use this transport of last resort. Or, for that matter, where they’re less likely to shop at the retail outlets of last resort, or to rely on the emergency room, or on any of the other points of public interface of last resort where we’ve come to expect maltreatment and suspicion. Or even where—and this is hardly our biggest problem, just one I’m thinking about—where kids like me are less likely to fall back, as a last resort, on the security of our parents’ already-diminished retirement accounts. It seemed suddenly reasonable to ask for a country where people feel like they’re treated better. I suppose I’ll be voting with that country in mind.
The dog passed on. They didn’t find anything on the man with the medical marijuana card, the one who’d just buried his brother. The smokers around me murmured their surprise and pleasure, and we got back on the bus.
2:30 PM
Vandalia, Ohio
So now there I was, half an hour late for an event at the Dayton International Airport, and if I have a thesis on this campaign it’s that very few of the issues we’ve been told to watch have much at all to do with the discontent that’s driving this campaign. This thesis would be quickly, if only partially, confirmed.
At the edge of the field closest to the road there was a fat little man in a windbreaker selling stickers, five dollars apiece. I told him that seemed a little steep, for a sticker. I asked what it said. He handed me one. It read: “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.”
CONTINUE

On the Road with Obama and Romney, Part 1

9:05 AM

Louisville, Kentucky

I’d been traveling on the Greyhound bus for a full 24 hours, and I’d just left a nice apartment in New Orleans that I shared with a nice girl, because it wasn’t working and because I’d quite nearly run out of money. I’d spent half of my remaining $173 on a bus ticket home to Cincinnati, where I was about to show up as a grown 25-year-old with no home but the one my parents raised me in, and—lacking better options—I had accepted a frankly exploitive offer from VICE to file dispatches from a handful of states that I happen to know well (Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina) and that happen to be particularly important to the outcome of this election. To get the thing rolling VICE arranged for me to cover a Romney event at the little airport outside Dayton, Ohio. And, because I badly needed the money, I’d agreed to a sleepless night on the bus.

These are the politics of my personal discontent—which I thought might be worth sharing just because we’re so frequently reminded that the challenge in this election has been to win the hopes of the discontented voters, and because we’re so infrequently reminded that discontent, for all the ways we’ve found to count it up, has always been singular in its inward expression. 

Because now it was becoming clear, at nine in the morning, that I was going to be late for the event. Three detectives from the Louisville Police Department, with two leashed Belgian Malamuts between them, were holding up the bus. Two of the detectives, with one of the dogs, had pulled our luggage out of the undercarriage and were inspecting it. One had come over to mingle with us in the smoking area, 25 yards away. He was sly: He came over with the dog and said “Hey, anyone want to pet him? He’s friendly,” but the dog wasn’t interested in being petted, and the detective seemed mostly interested in those of us who moved away when he came over. I had some pills—legally prescribed, but not prescribed to me—and I couldn’t remember what I’d done with them, and I wasn’t sure whether or not drug-sniffing dogs are trained to look for pills, and I was trying to look quickly through my bag. The dog came over. I glared at the detective.

Over by the bus they were searching an old black man, on his way home to Michigan from Clarksdale, Mississippi, where—he told us smokers at a stop in Bowling Green—he’d gone to bury his younger brother, the youngest of nine. He was protesting that he held a medical marijuana card given to him by the State of Michigan, and that they couldn’t arrest him even if they did find anything in his bags. The smokers watching discussed whether or not this was true. The detectives opened his suitcase.

The Malamut stuck his nose in my crotch and I asked the detective to move him away. He asked where I was headed. I said I was going to cover the election. He looked incredulous. He directed the dog to my bag.

The problem with a politics of discontent is that pure discontent is so personal that politics can’t really be expected to address it. But in this moment it occurred to me that the highest purpose of anyone running for president of this country ought to be to eliminate bullshit like this from the lives of his constituents. Not the dogs, so much, or these brutes with guns and crew cuts, because there’s no reason to expect they’re going anywhere. But none of us there would have been on the Greyhound at all, in the position of being forced to consent to this ridiculous search, if we had any other travel option. And it does seem at least possible to create a country where people are less likely to need to use this transport of last resort. Or, for that matter, where they’re less likely to shop at the retail outlets of last resort, or to rely on the emergency room, or on any of the other points of public interface of last resort where we’ve come to expect maltreatment and suspicion. Or even where—and this is hardly our biggest problem, just one I’m thinking about—where kids like me are less likely to fall back, as a last resort, on the security of our parents’ already-diminished retirement accounts. It seemed suddenly reasonable to ask for a country where people feel like they’re treated better. I suppose I’ll be voting with that country in mind.

The dog passed on. They didn’t find anything on the man with the medical marijuana card, the one who’d just buried his brother. The smokers around me murmured their surprise and pleasure, and we got back on the bus.


2:30 PM

Vandalia, Ohio

So now there I was, half an hour late for an event at the Dayton International Airport, and if I have a thesis on this campaign it’s that very few of the issues we’ve been told to watch have much at all to do with the discontent that’s driving this campaign. This thesis would be quickly, if only partially, confirmed.

At the edge of the field closest to the road there was a fat little man in a windbreaker selling stickers, five dollars apiece. I told him that seemed a little steep, for a sticker. I asked what it said. He handed me one. It read: “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.”

CONTINUE

← Older
Page 1 of 2