Why you might want to make phone calls for Hillary

If you’re like me, the main outcome of the upcoming election you want is to prevent the election of Donald Trump. To give myself a productive activity to work to defeat Trump, I've been making lots of phone calls
for Hillary via https://hillaryclinton.com/calls/. Right now, we're focused on recruiting other volunteers. Soon enough, we'll be focused on GOTV (get out the vote) activities.

This is something you can do from anywhere you have internet access and phone access and is made up of lots of discrete tasks. It's even fun and inspiring at times, when you connect with other people in the country wanting to contribute to our society. (Most of the time, no one picks up the phone, which I used to see as frustrating but now I see as relaxing in a funny way.)

I encourage you to join me in phone banking for Hillary. I'd be very happy to talk to anyone interested in learning more or phone banking with you folks. (You can also find events in which other people will be making calls. Sometimes it's easiest to get started while surrounded
by others making calls too.)

Congress: help us think about Syrian intervention

I usually call my elected representatives to advocate for specific policy stances.  I'm torn about whether Congress should vote to intervene militarily in Syria.  (My heart and gut say no but I'm not totally sure.)  So instead of advocating against military intervention,  I currently plan to say to my Congressional representatives:  put away the usual game playing, the stuff of day-to-day politics, and embrace fully the sobering task you have before you in deciding which potentially world-altering and calamitous actions to enact.  Please help lead this country and me, your constituent, in this serious work of prayerful and thoughtful consideration.

Is Jon Stewart’s “Trickle Up” Economics proposal being taken seriously?

I was intrigued by Jon Stewart's "trickle up" proposal in yesterday's interview with Lawrence Lindsey: instead of bailing out the banks, help individuals get free from their consumer and mortgage debts (by, for instance, enabling people to refinance mortgages at a lower rate, one that presumably will keep people in their homes.)  Is this approach being seriously considered?  It seems to make sense to a layperson like me -- so what's the problem with this approach?

Understanding the Issues: Now and Months from Now

This fall, I came to see how little I understood the major issues of the American federal election. I'd like to figure out a long term strategy for learning about the world and keeping informed about the relevant issues in politics. I compiled a lot of sources to use in following the election, but once the election is over, we're going to be facing different short term challenges from those months before the election. I'll come back to sort through my list a month or two from now once the dust settles a bit.

Show me that you are up for being president

Over the last couple weeks, it has become my morning routine to watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Show while eating breakfast and drinking tea. I not only get a lot of laughs out of these shows but learn a lot about having a proper perspective on the issues. Not so much who is right and wrong necessarily but whether the stuff the country is talking about is really that important in the first place.  While chuckling at skillful deconstruction of last week's vice presidential debate by Stewart and Colbert, I had the sinking feeling that the one of the fools in the whole equation was myself for having spent much time at all worrying about whether Palin or Biden would end up making the first gaffes -- instead of devoting my time to educating myself and others about the truly important issues.

So tonight, I plan to tune in to overnight on how Obama and McCain will take up the issues rather than engage in further character assassination. I suspect that we won't be here to totally avoid negative campaigning tonight, given how the McCain campaign has already promised to focus on questioning Obama's character and Obama's determined response to not become swiftboated (à la Kerry). however one can still hope that the two candidates will actually have serious answers to serious questions.

Of course this realization will stop me from watching Comedy Central – the shows are entertainment after all!

I was right, more or less

I went out on a limb (sort of) and made some predictions about yesterday's vice presidential debate. This morning, I am now prepared to claim that I was basically right about my predictions: that Joe Biden won't say anything really silly, that Sarah Palin would do well in the debate (by not making any big gaffes), and that overall the debate won't shift things too much for the two tickets. It might be too early to declare victory but I can say that James Fallows would (more or less) agree with me: James Fallows (October 02, 2008) - Your VP debate wrapup in four bullet points (Politics)

Learning as an amateur pundit

Although I always suspected that I was a political junkie, I only had unmistakable confirmation of my obsession these last couple weeks. Laura knows how much like to talk about politics. One of the fascinating aspects about political culture is that everyone seems to have an opinion, whether it is well-founded or not. I also have opinions, some of which are based on deep thinking and care for the reality of the world -- and others that are probably just unexamined prejudices. I do tend to be reticent about expressing my opinions about things that I've not through very carefully. Overall, I'm pleased with my disposition towards careful, thoughtful expression.

The downside though is that you can learn a lot by actually just saying what you believe, without worrying primarily about whether you have all the facts and reasoning straighten out. I find it difficult to say what I feel in my gut to be true if I haven't had a chance to carefully think everything through. The problem is that some matters are so complicated that it's difficult, if not impossible, to reason everything through Before saying anything at all. The end result would be confused silence.

The upshot of this musing: make a prediction on something relatively minor and then to see how my prediction bears out. OK -- I'm pretty keen to watch tonight's vice presidential debate, wondering how it will affect public perception of Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin. Let me guess what will happen:

  • I don't believe that Sarah Palin is adequately prepared for the job of vice-president, as evidenced by her weak answers during her interview with Katie Couric. However, I think she'll do quite well in tonight's debate. She'll be able to come across as very personable in her prepared remarks, and I think she'll be successful in staying vague in areas she doesn't know much about. I expect her to be well prepared. I think that Joe Biden, in trying to exercise restraint in not indulging his trademark loquacious, won't be able to put Palin in a bad light. I also don't think the moderators of the debate will be too effective in highlighting Palin's shortcomings.
  • I don't expect Joe Biden to say anything really silly. In fact, I'm concerned that item will be to restrained because he might get dinged for appearing to be overbearing (too knowledgeable???)
  • It's too bad that we are wondering about matters (such as whether Biden or Palin will slip up), stuff that really shouldn't be the focus of our attention. I don't know much about Joe Biden, but was deeply impressed with him when I heard him on Sept 11, 2001, urging the country to remain calm and exercise restraint.
  • Overall I don't think this debate will shift things too much in terms of the public perception of the two tickets, though some think it might.

This is what I think will happen, though I'm far from confident that I'll be correct. I may have to eat my words! I'm struck by how much my expectations for this debate -- and my whole framing -- have been strongly influenced by media coverage and analysis. The interesting thing for me will be to compare the predictions with what actually happens and analyze where and how I predicted correctly and where I didn't. (The outcome of tonight's debate isn't necessarily the most important thing for me to be pondering today but it was the first thing I reached for as the subject of my amateur punditry.) I hope that this process of making predictions and seeing how I do will help me become a more insightful -- and humble -- analyst of the world.

P.S. I'll have to compare my views with something like Cue The Comeback:

    So, my advice to Governor Palin is to stop letting your fussy handlers freak you out. You're going to do just fine. You won't be on that stage alone. Biden is bound to open himself up for at least a couple of good scoldings. The media is poised to write your comeback story. Your base is going to love you no matter what. And if things do happen to go badly, you can always claim that Ifill wanted to take you out as a way to sell more books. All things considered, there's really no way you can lose. Unless this Ifill book dust-up compels the debate commission to replace her with Katie Couric tomorrow night. Then you're pretty much screwed.

Summarizing where the presidential candidates stand on the issues

Although I am an Obama supporter and have some sense of where he and his opponents stand on various issues, I haven't worked to make my understanding systematic. In addition to reading widely and compiling my findings, I figure that I could get a jumpstart by first studying the Wikipedia article Comparison of United States presidential candidates, 2008. One thing that you immediately learn at a glance from the article is that there are people other than McCain and Obama running for President. I like most people tend to ignore those minor candidates because they have very little practical chance of winning. However, their advocacy for other positions serve to critique and illuminate the mainline candidates' positions. It's all too easy to confine ourselves unnecessarily to the relatively narrow spectrum of thinking represented by Democrats and Republicans.

Following the financial crisis these last two days

I've been reading tons about the proposed plan to bail out Wall Street (and save us all?) What I twittered this morning ("I'm seriously worried that the Bush admin is trying to pull another fast one with the Paulson plan -- time to call my congressional reps.") is still pretty much how I feel tonight.

I wish I could just summarize for you this complicated situation. Instead, I'll just list some of the articles I've read and let you draw your own conclusions. (I am proud to say that I did call the office of my local congressman (Mike Doyle) to express my concerns.)

  1. “The Wall Street Bailout Plan, Explained - Question - NYTimes.com,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21qanda.html?em.
  2. Brian Knowlton and David M. Herszenhorn, “Bipartisan Support for Wall St. Rescue Plan Emerges,” The New York Times, September 22, 2008, sec. Business, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/business/22talkshow.html?hp.
  3. “Fair Game - Your Money at Work, Fixing Others’ Mistakes - NYTimes.com,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21gret.html?em.
  4. “Foreign Banks Hope Bailout Will Be Global - NYTimes.com,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/business/22global.html?hp=&pagewanted=all.
  5. Thomas L. Friedman, “No Laughing Matter,” The New York Times, September 21, 2008, sec. Opinion, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/opinion/21friedman.html?em.
  6. “Few Limits Proposed for Treasury - WSJ.com,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122204156493561237.html?mod=article-outset-box.
  7. “Banks Rush to Shape Rescue Plan - WSJ.com,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122204115528161189.html?mod=article-outset-box#articleTabs%3Darticle.
  8. “No deal - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog,” http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/20/no-deal/.
  9. “U.S. Bailout Plan Calms Markets, But Struggle Looms Over Details - WSJ.com,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122191819568460053.html#articleTabs%3Darticle.
  10. “Paulson Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle,” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081006/greider.
  11. “Mixed reviews of relief plan sent to Congress,” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/20/MN28131DBP.DTL.
  12. “Powell Memo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell_Memo.
  13. “A Fair Plan to Pay for Economic Recovery,” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081006/collins.
  14. “Democrats Begin to Set Own Bailout Terms - NYTimes.com,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/business/22paulson.html?hp=&pagewanted=all.
  15. John Harwood and Michael Cooper, “2 Candidates Back Bailout, With Caveats,” The New York Times, September 22, 2008, sec. U.S. / Politics, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/us/politics/22campaign.html?pagewanted=all.
  16. “High Anxiety,” http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=15590&R=13C1A13C72.
  17. “Busch: The Political Process And The Plan - CNBC Guest Blog - CNBC.com,” http://www.cnbc.com/id/26835648/print/1/displaymode/1098/.
  18. “The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan,” http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/trust-us.html#more.
  19. “Democrats want pay limits, loan aid in bailout,” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/09/22/national/w091157D44.DTL&tsp=1.
  20. “John Steele Gordon on the Financial Mess: Greed, Stupidity, Delusion and Some More Greed - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog,” http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/john-steele-gordon-on-the-financial-mess-greed-stupidity-delusion-and-some-more-greed/.
  21. “News Analysis - In Bailout, Seeing a Need for a Penalty - News Analysis - NYTimes.com,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/business/23skeptics.html?hp=&pagewanted=all.

following the predictions for Obama vs. McCain

The American presidential election has become quite a horse race. As a political junky, I like the follow the latest predictions of who will win and why. Websites that I have found helpful for this purpose include: