A Word About Pennsylvania (Again)

The Romney campaign has decided to make a last minute push into Pennsylvania and the political scribes are now spinning the story that Pennsylvania, long considered to be leaning Obama, may suddenly be in play since the polls have tightened. This has a number of Democrats nervous. I’m not buying it.

This is what I wrote four years ago when John McCain made a similar late play for Pennsylvania (much of the poll analysis in that post remains true this time around):

So, stop the nail biting.

As to why McCain decided to go after Pennsylvania, what choice did he have? He is trailing badly in the Southwest and is likely losing Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. He cannot win without carrying Pennsylvania, while holding Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana (not to mention North Dakota, Montana, Georgia and Arizona). A look at the electoral map makes clear that he had no choice but to go after Pennsylvania. McCain’s Pennsylvania gambit is a sign of weakness, not strength.

Now, you can make the argument that the polls are inaccurate. Perhaps. But, the polls are the best evidence we have right now of the state of the race. I am more comfortable judging the race based on the polls than on some nebulous “gut feeling”. I refuse to go into a fetal position because of a “gut feeling” or because of McCain campaign spin. And you shouldn’t either.

This is no time to become complacent, but it is also not a time to succumb to fear on the cusp of success. Until the polls close next Tuesday, leave the worry aside, work hard to get the vote out and make sure you vote.

Romney is in Pennsylvania because he is in trouble in Ohio, just like McCain was in 2008. Like McCain, Romney has barely broken 45% in the poll composites. Like McCain, Romney’s Pennsylvania gambit is a sign of weakness, not strength. You can’t win Pennsylvania if you can’t poll much higher than 45%, period.

So, go vote tomorrow and re-elect the President. All indications are that Pennsylvanians should keep Pennsylvania blue once again.

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My Election Prediction

President Obama, President Clinton and Gov. Tim Kaine

President Obama with Bill Clinton and Tim Kaine at Bristow, VA yesterday

It has been a long long time since I’ve written a blog post. However, it’s time to make election predictions. So here goes mine.

I predict that this Tuesday President Barack Obama will be re-elected for a second term. I predict a national popular vote margin of 51.5% to 48.5% for Barack Obama. I predict an electoral college win of 332 to 206 for Barack Obama.

Here are my state-by-state battleground predictions (excluding third party candidates):

Obama will win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Romney will win North Carolina.

Colorado: Obama 51%, Romney 49%

Florida: Obama 50.5%, Romney 49.5%

Iowa: Obama 52%, Romney 48%

Nevada: Obama 53%, Romney 47%

Ohio: Obama 51.5%, Romney 48.5%

Michigan: Obama 53%, Romney 47%

New Hampshire: Obama 51%, Romney 49%

North Carolina: Romney 50.5%, Obama 49.5%

Pennsylvania: Obama 53%, Romney 47%

Virginia: Obama 51.7%, Romney 48.3%

Wisconsin: Obama 51.5%, Romney 48.5%

So, why will Obama win and Romney lose? I think the American people seldom, if ever, elect a candidate if that candidate’s campaign is essentially a bet against America. Romney’s bet was that the American economy would tank – he bet wrong. We are left now with a flailing Romney campaign that looks at positive jobs numbers and tries to spin them as something bad for America. I think the collective wisdom of the electorate can see that for what it is: a bet against America. That bet translates into a failed campaign for the presidency.

President Obama is pulling America out of an economic mess left him by the previous administration. The steady turn from losing 800,000 jobs a month when he took office to gaining over 170,000 a month as of this month is positive for America. Denying that reality was never a winning strategy for Romney. I think Tuesday will bear that out in an Obama win.

Now all that remains is for the American people to vote and make history once again. So, go vote.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech Liveblog

8:58:24 PM: There is a reason Afghanistan is referred to as the graveyard of foreign armies.

9:00:48 PM: Obama gettting ready to thread the needle on Afghan policy.

9:01:19 PM: Any Afghan policy that ignores the Pak military’s incubation of Islamists is destined for failure.

9:02:25 PM: Obama takes the stage at West Point. Here we go…

9:03:37 PM: Obama: “We did not ask for this fight.”

9:04:43 PM: Obama: “Al Qaeda…distorted and destroyed Islam…one of the world’s great religions.”

9:05:20 PM: Obama: Congressional approval to act against Al Qaeda is still in force today.

9:06:08 PM: Obama: We attacked Afghanistan after Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.

9:06:59 PM: Obama: Iraq war pulled resources away from Afghanistan. We are now bringing Iraq war to a close.

9:07:44 PM: Obama building rationale – legal and otherwise – for escalating in Afghanistan.

9:08:18 PM: Obama: “Taliban maintains ‘common cause’ with Al Qaeda”

9:08:57 PM: Big mistake to conflate Taliban with Al Qaeda. That’s a recipe for a quagmire in Afghanistan.

9:10:19 PM: Obama makes weak argument for the current Afghan government. He says election marred by fraud but government is legitimate. WEAK.

9:11:13 PM: Obama: owe troops “a mission that is clearly defined”. Easier said than done.

9:12:24 PM: No serious person would fault Obama for taking his time making his decision. No need for him to defend deliberation time here. Ignore Cheney

9:14:03 PM: Is Obama LBJ or FDR? Still up in the air.

9:15:20 PM: Obama: “I am convinced our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The most important line of the speech so far – crucial point.

9:16:49 PM: When Obama says “it is from here new attacks are being plotted”, he is referring to Afghanistan AND Pakistan. Nicely done.

9:17:49 PM: Obama: recently extremists were sent here from the “border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan” to commit new acts of terror.

9:18:44 PM: Obama speaking of “partners” in the region. He means Karzai and the Pak military. Both bad bets.

9:19:39 PM: Obama: goal is to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Good goal, but perhaps, bad plan.

9:20:55 PM: Hmm: Obama says “to meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives WITHIN Afghanistan”. What happened to Pakistan?

9:22:17 PM: Obama’s plan: 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to roll back Taliban and prop up Karzai. Doomed to failure.

9:23:57 PM: Flashback to Soviet withdrawal: Afghan prime minister and defence minister shell each other over skies in Kabul. I see a repeat whn US out.

9:24:52 PM: Hard to get support from Afghan people with food while there are boots on the ground killing civilians – however inadvertantly.

9:26:06 PM: The “cancer” in Pakistan is not limited to the “border regions”. Once again, American misdiagnosis of Pakistan. Same old, same old.

9:27:07 PM: Obama needs to study up on Pakistani military doctrine. Study 1971 and use of Islamist paramilitaries by Pak army. That has not changed.

9:28:05 PM: Obama says “there are a range of concerns” about Obama’s plan.

9:28:44 PM: Obama says Afghanistan is not Vietnam. He is right, but Afghanistan IS Afghanistan – and there lies the rub.

9:29:49 PM: Obama does not want to “muddle through” with current troop levels. Again, he is right. But, that again is not, and never has been, an option

9:30:36 PM: Obama rejects open-ended commitment. That is of course a good thing. But this is also why occupations are doomed in Afghanistan.

9:32:59 PM: The speech is winding down. It has been an extremely disappointing speech. In a sense, Obama punted. Disappointing.

9:35:03 PM: This is Obama trying to dig himself out of the mess GWB left him. It is not a long term strategy for South and Central Asia. Opp missed.

9:38:56 PM: Obama’s plan in a nutshell: prop up Karzai + prop up Pak army + insert 30,000 US troops = success. Plan ignores history and reality.

9:40:02 PM: Obama’s plan ignores root causes of instability in that region. Fails to excise al Qaeda from Afghanistan and stem unchecked Islamism in Pak

9:45:41 PM: Success vs al Qaeda required separating them from Taliban and creating rift between al Qaeda and their Afghan hosts. This plan does reverse.

9:51:07 PM: Closing thought on the Obama speech: The speech demonstrates a lack of vision. Clearly a product of decision by committee.

Posted in General | Tagged , | 8 Comments

House Of Representatives Makes History

The House just reached 218 votes on the final passage of the Health Care Reform bill. Congratulations Madam Speaker for pushing hard to get this done.

Final vote tally is 220-215 as the House passes HR 3962. Well done.

Posted in Human Rights | Tagged | Comments Off

Bangladesh And The Illusion Of Freedom

A funny thing happened on the way to the exhibition.

On Sunday, Bangladeshi police descended upon Drik Gallery in Dhaka to prevent the launch of a photo exhibition on Tibet. BDNews24 reports:

Dhaka, Nov 1 (bdnews24.com)—Police prevented Drik Gallery in Dhanmondi from launching an exhibition, titled ‘Into Exile: Tibet 1949 – 2009′, on Sunday.

The exhibition was organised by ‘Students for a Free Tibet’, and includes some very rare photos of the Dalai Lama’s journey into exile.

An hour before the launch, scheduled for 5pm, police shut the gates preventing public from entering the gallery, said Drik authorities.

Drik managing director Shahidul Alam said Bangladesh Police Special Branch spoke with him and asked him to stop the exhibition citing a “government order”.

Alam said, although the police officers could not produce any document of the order, they threatened to shut down the show by force if the organisers did not do so willingly.

According to DrikNEWS, representatives from the Chinese Embassy requested the the weeklong photography exhibition be cancelled.

Drik authorities said they came under pressure for last two days to close down the exhibition.

Alam told bdnews24.com, “The day before yesterday (Friday), two officers from the Chinese Embassy came and asked us to cancel the exhibition.”

“After that I also received a series of phone calls from the ministry of cultural affairs and from a number of MPs.”

“On Saturday, officers from the Special Branch of police came and exerted pressure to stop the exhibition according to a ‘government order’. I wanted a written copy of the government order but they refused to show me.”

The chief guest, who was to inaugurate the exhibition, was the chairman of Transparency International, Dr. Muzaffar Ahmed. I wonder if the government sees the irony in its police action.

This is the sad reality of Bangladesh. A country that has been ostensibly independent since 1971 uses its shock troops in the service of powerful foreign governments. The Bangladesh government has embarrassingly surrendered its sovereignty in order to appease its Chinese masters. Yet all of this is perfectly in line with the Bangladesh Constitution. Article 39 of the Bangladesh Constitution has a curious stipulation. Even though the Constitution guarantees freedom of thought and conscience, it is not so generous when it comes to freedom of speech, expression and press. Article 39 in it entirety states:

Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.

(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence- the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the press, are guaranteed.  [Emphasis added by me]

So, according to the Bangladesh Constitution, a citizen can think whatever he or she wants, but he or she dare not say it, or express it, or publish it if it goes against the interests of “friendly relations with foreign states”. Bangladeshi citizens sadly are at the mercy of powerful states like China when it comes to exercising what they believe are rights they earned in 1971 at the cost of 3 million lives.

So, I feel bad for Drik and Bangladeshis who thought they could learn something about Tibet through the medium of art. But, sadly, they are working under an illusion of freedom. My friend and prominent Bangladeshi blogger Shada Kalo has written a post chastising the Bangladesh government for failing to “protect and follow the constitution of Bangladesh” in preventing the exhibition, but Shada Kalo has also been duped by this illusion. The government is sadly not in unconstitutional territory.

The illusion is the false promise of freedom in Bangladesh’s Constitution. It is incumbent on Bangladeshi citizens to demand this travesty be corrected. If not, it will not only be photo exhibitions that suffer.

Posted in Bangladesh, Constitution, Human Rights | Tagged , , | 2 Comments