Sunday, December 21, 2008


Obama's director of speechwriting Jon Favreau (on the left) came under fire this week when this facebook picture of him groping a cardboard cutout of the secretary of state-elect was leaked to the press. The picture was only up for about 2 hours before it got taken down, but unfortunately it was too late.

Judgment fail? I think yes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom Matzzie, You Were One of Us!


My fellow Co-President was digging through some old emails that were stored on our webmail account. The oldest mail was dated April 19, 1996! Curious, we checked the name and found that the author was none other than former Notre Dame College Democrat Tom Matzzie.

Tom Matzzie, manager of Accountable America and former Washington Director of, was a student at our beloved University. He has been one of the strongest voices against the war in Iraq while heading up Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. To every College Democrat who aspires to join the ranks of progressive operatives, Matzzie is your man. And for your reading pleasure, I have included the text of the email below. Take note of the use of the term "Neo-conservative Whackos." That gave me a laugh. Enjoy:

----- Forwarded message from Tom Matzzie > ----- Date: Fri, 19 Apr 96 02:30:38 0600 From: Tom Matzzie Reply-To: Tom Matzzie Subject: (no subject) To: Hey guys- My name is Tom Matzzie and I am the guy who has thus far preserved the College Dems phone tree at Student Government. Could somebody contact me, we may have to move it elsewhere. By the way, the homepage looks awesome! You may get a phonecall from Student Activities about your color manipulation of the leprechaun. Its copyrighted and the administration is run by neo-conservative whackos who won't let small things slide. In addition, I am the Notre Dame contact for Union Summer. Union Summer is the AFL-CIO's initiative to put hundreds of college students working for the labor movement this summer. Call me and I'll do a presentation if you want. I'm sorry that I've never attended a meeting but Student Government has kept me busy. I may be able to help out next year. Take care- Tom Matzzie 631-4556

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ND Alum to challenge Boehner

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner better watch out: he's in the sights of a Notre Dame Grad. That's right! ND alumnus Dan Lungren of California plans to challenge Mr. Boehner for the top Republican post in the House. Although considered a darkhorse by most, Mr. Lungren may prove to be a formidable opponent.

The talking heads are cautious about predicting a mutiny in the Republican Caucus because public criticism of Mr. Boehner has been so muted. Meanwhile, the Ohio congressman has been working strategically behind the scenes to ensure that no serious challengers come out of the woodwork. Indeed, he successfully neutralized the threat posed by Indiana Congressman Mike Pence earlier this month. You may recall that Mr. Pence unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Boehner for the leadership in 2006.

Mr. Lungren presents an interesting choice for House Republicans looking for new direction. A former attorney general of California, he appeals to the more conservative wing of the party while remaining tenable to the moderates. Conventional wisdom would say not to change horses in the middle of a race, mainly because Boehner did the best he could. Yet, in the search for a new face for the Republican Party, Mr. Lungren may be just what the doctor ordered. He is media savy and certainly appears much less of an insider than Mr. Boehner or his Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell.

Anything goes behind the closed doors of the Republican Caucus, and that's why I think that this is one darkhorse who should not be ruled out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Said Obama to Emanuel, "I can give you House...White House, that is!"

Rahm Emanuel, the Congressional Democrats' loveable pit bull, has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to be White House Chief of Staff. This is old news. But was it a smart choice? Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, have criticized Mr. Obama's choice as being hypocritical given the president-elect's bi-partisan rhetoric on the campaign trail.

For those of you who don't know, Mr. Emanuel led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to victory during the midterm elections of 2006; the Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House. Before that, he served as a senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. Emanuel then served as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton.

His take-no-prisoners reputation has left his own side in awe and the other side jealous that they don't have such an astute political operative in their ranks. Emanuel is said to have mailed a rotten fish to a former coworker after the two parted ways and was given the nickname "Rahm-bo."

Yet, rather than being a liability, Mr. Emmanuel's signature combative style and take-no-prisoners reputation will be an essential weapon of the arsenal Mr. Obama will need to keep Congressional Democrats--House and Senate--in line if the president-elect's ambitious legislative agenda is to have any hope of passing in his first term. To paraphrase Grand Moff Tarkin in StarWars, "Fear will keep rebelious members in line. Fear of Rahm Emanuel."

Indeed, keeping the Democratic caucus and conference in line with the Obama Administration will be much more important than reaching across the aisle in light of the spanking Congressional Republicans just suffered. The unity of the Democratic juggernaut in Congress, more than needless compromise, will make what few centrist Republicans remain more likely to break rank with their increasingly conservative leadership. Thus, Mr. Obama's choice showcases the two personality traits that has served him so well through the long campaign season--ruthless efficiency and clever pragmatism.

This leaves Lefty's with only one conclusion: RAHM ROCKS THE HOUSE...BIG TIME!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tough Act To Follow

In a break from the norm, Lefty's is mixing things up with a review of the recent Bond film, which we saw together last night. Here's our take:

Bill: enjoyable, but a little bit of a let down after the glory of Casino Royale. B

Demosthenes: C+

Sebastian Lederer: I was disappointed by this continuation of the series. After Casino Royale, QoS was clearly a step back. The movie seemed to wrap up some of the leftovers of Casino Royale, but was not even successful in doing that, as Mr. White is still out there. Bond seemed bitter and angry and lacked his classic charm. Still some great chase sequences and a few good one liners made this movie average. C

Kate: B-

Henry Vasquez: As a stand alone movie, QoS would be a solid action film. But it aspired to be a true sequel, and because of its ambition, we must consider it in relation to CR. In that sense, the plot was less enthralling, the Bond girl was more attractive, and the overall presentation was a decent evolution of the Daniel Craig heros journey. B


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sarah Palin's 15 Mins of Fame, 2008-?

Like many people, I was hoping that an Obama win would put an end to Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber's 15 minutes of fame. Instead, I was wrong.

Very wrong.

Joe's rumored to have a book coming out: Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream, as well as a website, and even a country music deal. Ugh.

As for Palin, she's still taking interviews. NUMEROUS interviews.

Since last Friday, she's given interviews with her local NBC station, assembled Alaskan State Capital reporters, a CNN correspondent, Greta Van Susteren, Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer and Larry King-- to name a few.

Working to correct the evil liberal media? Possible presidential bid in 2012? More SNL skits/appearances?

Who knows, maybe she'll even sign up for her own daytime talk show or a reality TV show like "The Palins".

Sadly, it looks like we'll be seeing Palin around for a while.

All Your States Are Belong To Us!!!

Dr. Dean Has Left The Building
As DNC Chairman Howard Dean announces he will step down from his position, Lefty's reflects on the legacy of Dr. Dean and how it has shaped the election...

Many felt that Howard Dean's most lasting legacy would be his infamous scream from the 2004 Democratic Primary. However, it is becoming more apparent that Dean's 50-state strategy has paid off. Many pundits are beginning to suggest that the 50-state strategy laid the proper groundwork for the Obama campaign to step into. I tend to agree. This past summer, I was lucky enough to work for Howard Dean (albeit indirectly) at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The Chairman explained the importance of party building everywhere. It was more than winning in 2006 & 2008. It was about building lasting party identification and networks in all parts of the country. And in some way, as we have seen from the New York times map, the party has successfully penetrated almost every part of the country.

The strategy that helped shape Dean's own campaign was applied as the philosophy of the Democratic Party as a whole. When Dean said he was going to "South Carolina and Oklahoma, Arizona, North Dakota, New Mexico, California, Texas, New York, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Michigan," he really meant it. So for your farewell, Lefty's salutes the work you've done with a little treat:

Stu Rassmussen, the US's First Openly Transgendered Mayor

That's right.

Silverton, Oregon has elected Stu Rassmusen as the US's first transgendered mayor. Stu has already served twice, but this time he'll be serving in "girl mode" with breast implants, women's clothes, makeup, heels and all.

Two years ago, Stu ran as a transgender and lost, but it's nice now to see that the majority of voters accepted him for who he is. Shockingly, despite the fact that he ran in a small, conservative, rural town, "the community was very receptive and accepting, with a few exceptions."

What was interesting to me in reading about this was that even though Stu choose to get breast implants and regularly chooses to wear makeup and women's clothes, he still very much identifies as a heterosexual man.

"I am a dude", he says, "I am a heterosexual male who appears to be a female." Wouldn't that qualify him as more of a cross dresser/transvestite than a transsexual?

Regardless though, I think it's great that an openly transsexual person was elected into public office. Hell, as long as I agreed with their politics, I'd vote for a transsexual candidate any day.

More about Stu from huffington post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping Republicans, Homophobes Out of New England

New England, you kick ass!

Today, Same-sex marriages were allowed in Connecticut after an October 10th State Supreme Court decision declared that same-sex couples have the right to wed. For many this comes as a stark contrast to the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California, which outlawed same-sex marriage. Now that Chris Shays and others have lost their house seats from the recent election, there will no longer be a Republican Congressman in all of New England. No GOP, no voice for homophobes. Hmm?

AP has the full story.

George Lopez: Prospects of an Obama Administration

Big Issues and WhatKnott
Kroc Institute Professor George Lopez paid a visit to Knott Hall for a meeting of Big Issues and WhatKnott this Monday. He provided some insider insight on potential appointees and the possible course of direction in a variety of foreign policy scenarios- including relations with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and more.

I was lucky enough to capture the discussion in text for your reading pleasure. It is a bit lengthy and jumbled, but I did my best.


George Lopez: A Lefty's Exclusive Interview

What is interesting: it is not only rhetoric, but a reality to the bipartisanship effect of an Obama administration. For example:
• Creating a centrist foreign policy.
• Appointees like Richard Lugar, GOP, with expertise in denuclearization
• Nunn Lugar legislation
• For Lugar, make him either undersecretary or secretary of defense
• Bush Administration did away with arms control agency (ACTA), we may see revival.
• Possibly make Lugar ambassador to Russia.

Serious discussion about retaining Secretary Gates

• He is a viable centrist partner.
• There would be remarkable continuity for Afghanistan, Pakistan plans.
• Another possibility is Chuck Hagel for US ambassador to UN.
Thinks Obama is committed to new era of denuclearization
• Obama, as new as he is, understands complexities of arms control.
• Russia has a sort of technological itch from petrodollars.
• If we aren't careful, another arms race is a sliver away from us.
• Russians will likely try to close the gap if the US doesn’t stand down in their own tech advances.
• Obvious problem: loose nukes in hands of terrorists.
• We are seeing nuclear energy spread in Europe, other OECD nations.

No one knows what he will do with trade.

• Said he in campaign he would be opposed to sending jobs oversees, general protectionism. GL suspects this was a function of electoral politics. Not likely to see massive protectionism.
• We could see Susan Schwab, trade rep. as appointee. She is a centrist.
One of most significant appointments relate to economy.
• Undersecretary of Treasury, overseeing where money is going, looking into counterterrorist finance and dirty money.
• We may need to have lawyers, people with international finance degrees to go after bad money.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
• For Afghanistan, appoint specialists to analyze what is possible.
• We may see a sort of surge in Afghanistan.
• Must remember that victory over Al Qaeda is key concern.
• Appoint Colin Powell, maybe Wes Clark to Secretary of State.
• Should listen to Barnett Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations fellows.
• We really don’t want to be in Afghan. For another decade
• Some, including Richard Clarke feel that military is too overstretched w/ Iraq to move in full force into Afghanistan.
• This creates dysfunctional soldier/citizens if they are overworked.
• Most critical element: whether each of those countries can mobilize elections and what results arise. There is a fear if Kurds don’t win violence may break out.
• Referendum on Kurdistan is important decision, deciding whether or not to be a sovereign state or not.
• He may revisit Hamilton and Baker recommendations on Afghanistan.


1) Explain relationship, tension between Petraeus and Obama.
• For US interests, the tension could be good.
• Petraeus feels Obama position about 16 month withdrawal is infeasible.
• When Obama spoke w/ Petraeus, he was forceful and inquired how Petraeus would enact his plan. Petraeus: we will operationalize it, it will be difficult
• Obama: what if we need to do it quicker?
• Once Petraeus came to Central Command, he realized he had valuable experience to help Afghanistan.
• Logical choice to is to move Petraeus to Joint Chiefs of Staff.

2) What will Obama do with Guantanamo?
• Divide detainees into 3 groups, based on guilt and reason for detention.
• Some will be put in American court system, possibly 2/3 of prisoners.
• Could see traditional war crimes trial, Nuremberg model.
• We could see authority given from UN Security Council.
• A standard military trial would be granted for those captured in combat, not those found randomly on hearsay.
• Whole process may be subject to judicial review.

3) How does the financial crisis affect Obama's ability to motivate EU military support?
• Obama is likely to cash in on his political capital earlier, using his mandate to work with Europeans quickly.
• Political economy shifts the possible options EU countries have.
• If economy is rosy: he can only ask stronger NATO presence if he gives NATO more power to decide what will happen politically in Afghanistan, Pakistan.
• An inhibitor: the missile systems in Poland are a barrier for both Germans and Russians, and hurts our ability to make deals with Germany and Russia.

4) What action might we see with Darfur?
• Nothing will make up for the last years of disposed peoples, lost lives.
• If Samantha Power becomes undersecretary human rights, we may see action.
• We should effectively work with African states to put pressure on Sudan.
• Work with China is key to cutting off oil trade with Sudan.
• Enforce the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese officials.
• What is needed is strong diplomacy, multilateral pressure to place on Sudan.

5) Why is China amoral in their foreign policy? What can be done?
• China has defined relationship with Sudan like the US does with Israel, blind trust.
• China needs to use economic leverage, demanding a stable Sudanese government.
• We must show that it is in China’s interest to have a stable Sudan

6) What is Obama's likely stance on Iran, Russia?
• The probability of attacks on Iran by Israel or US at lowest levels.
• Realistically, Iran is less of a threat. Russia is still biggest potential threat.
• Polish missile system program was a short-sighted punitive act.
• Obama administration has a clean slate with foes, which could be crucial.
• Boldness will be in repealing missile defense shields in Poland.
• Iran has an election. Best thing US can do: don’t give Ahmedinijad lever to rally support.
• We don’t want to give “concessions” to Russia, but use repeal as lever..

Additional Comments
-Obama is most definitely going to visit Britain first.
-We are likely to see less nepotism in appointments.
-we will probably see a restored balance of power with Congress and their role in national security.
-Economic situation, in certain ways, is worse than what FDR faced.
-Colleges will take huge hits. Endowments lose 25% of their value. Banks constrict their lending. Student loans become harder to get.
-Venezuela: Chavez will go away when he doesn’t have money to go around, appease voters.
-Interestingly, with an Obama Administration, John McCain has the power to push immigration reform through his party. There is a strong opportunity here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prop Yourselves Up While Others Fall

In lieu of the passing of Proposition 8 in California, a bill that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, I feel that Lefty's must shed some light on the issue. For so many, the discussion about gay marriage is a muddled mess of irrational arguments and failed understanding. Bill and I often talk about how so many discussions fail to align in basic framework, terminology, and logic. What happens is that ever argument turns into a battle of confusion, over premises and definitions. And so I digress...

The most appropriate comparison with gay marriage, I feel, is the right to vote. The only natural flaw is that marriage isn't defined or enumerated in the Constitution. Nevertheless, the comparison draws some strong parallels. In 1920, when women were given the right to vote, many opponents of the idea were blinded by their bigotry, trapped in a sort of historicist cave, where they were unable to understand the universality of rights and the extrapolation of Constitutional rights to strange and unfamiliar cases. The same occurred in 1965, when African Americans were finally granted de facto (on top of de jure) suffrage.

In my eyes, the same problem exists in our current case. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states rather explicitly:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Perhaps the connection has not been made, but I see it one of two ways. If marriage is a right, then states banning same-sex marriage are denying Constitional rights of certain individuals, AKA unequal protection. If marriage is a privelege, then the state is making a law that abridges the priveleges of certain citizens. The only other option is to say that homosexuals aren't citizens. Madness!

One final note, is that I must address the perennial "Slippery Slope" argument. Opponents of same-sex marriage feel that by granting marriage rights to gays, we are redefining marriage and it could easily slip into a relativist decline thereafter. For example, they will argue, that perhaps one day the definition will be so loose we will allow polygamy, or marrying one's pets, or any series of other hyperbolic provisions. Consider this: if we applied that logic against women's suffrage, to say that one day children (under 18) would vote, or maybe dogs would vote, or even inanimate objects, or maybe one person's vote would count for two, how RIDICULOUS would that seem? None of those have come true, nor will they. The whole point is, rather obviously, that people have rights. These rights aren't given by the angry mob, they are inherent in our personhood (as some would suggest, granted by God). They must be protected from the 52% mob rule that has just stripped away the right from Californians.

And to say it gracefully, Keith Olbermann:

Jobs Amass in Wake of Economic Collapse

Employ Ahoy!

Here's a little blurp from a WaPo article about some new jobs (POLS majors, wink*):

Staffing shortages at the State Department are so serious that much of its work is not getting done.

The situation is so bad that State needs to increase its hiring by 46 percent -- adding more than 4,700 jobs -- between 2010 and 2014.

Any Takers?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Foreclosing Hitler

Here's a funny little video I found the other day on the housing crisis. The jokes and references are very obvious and deliberate, but seeing Hitler in a hissy fit is worth it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Henry's Reason's for Voting Obama: Condensed to The Basics

Here's a video hosted on Unigo from an interview I took 3 weeks ago. I know, it's a bit late, but I figured we could use some native media content. I had to condense my reasons for voting Obama into 2 reasons. TWO REASONS! It was tough, but here's what I said:

364-162. A Mandate?

Even as we wait for the final results from Missouri to come in, it is already clear that the 2008 election has exceeded all democratic hopes from the primary season. With Barack Obama's nomination, new swing state opportunities were expected to open up (Colorado, Virginia), but traditional swing states like Florida and Ohio had seemed to move into the "leaning red" column again. Obama's sweeping success in all swing states has thus created the label "landslide" for this election, and the electoral college may suggest so. But is this election truly a mandate for the Obama administration? Has the country united and spoken with one voice, rejecting the Republican party of the past years? A historic perspective and a closer look at these results may help us to answer this question.

The electoral college system with "winner takes all" in nearly all states inherently tends to overstate the winner of a race. It is in fact statistically feasible to have an electoral sweep with only 51 more votes than one's opponent. The more balanced the political attitudes across states are, the more likely it is for a relatively small popular vote advantage to turn into an electoral landslide. Barack Obama has worked the electoral college exceptionally well, translating a 6.2% popular advantage into a 38% advantage in the electoral college. Missouri aside, Obama has won all close states, three of them by an average margin of 1.3%, translating into 53 electoral votes. It has been great to see that Obama could pull through in these tight races, but we need to remember that these states may be called blue now and will be in play for democrats in the future, but that they have a very large red minority that will almost certainly be reenergized with the Bush years in more distant memory.

The popular vote spread is 7.8 million, or 2.6% of the total US population, 3.4% of the voting-age population. While we cannot assume that those who have not voted on Tuesday had a genuine interest in the political future of the country, it is important to remember how small the 7.8 million difference really is compared to the US population. Under the given circumstances and with the nationwide disapproval of the Bush administration, this result is still surprisingly low.

After two long election nights (one of them taking many weeks until we knew the result), we had certainty before the last polls closed this year. But a look at the elections before 2000 (and thus before my personal political memory) will give us a better perspective on the true meaning of Tuesdays electoral college results. Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton had all won each of their elections with at least 370 electors in their favor, and of the 21 elections since 1920, 17 (81%) have been by at least that margin. Roosevelt's 523 and Reagan's 525 are among the outliers for nationwide landslides, and the popular vote has swung the same way. It seems surprising after our euphoria on Tuesday, but Obama's win had been the 7th closest in the electoral college of the last 24 elections.

With all this said, I will not fall into agreement with Robert Novak's column, who tries to make this election look like a close one. It hardly seems possible any more to get the lopsided wins that FDR or Reagan won in their times, with the nation's political opinion's so regionally polarized. A democratic Kansas seems as unlikely as a Republican Vermont. The number of independent voters who make up their mind anew for every election is small, and the swing for Obama is thus very significant. But we need to remember that with all the current Democratic dominance, we are by no means safe from losing it all over the next four years. It will thus remain crucial to work across party lines, not only to avoid a filibuster. The disapproval of the Bush administration still has not solidly turned into Democratic support.

The End of Democratic Paranoia

Despite continuous polls predicting the outcome of this election in almost every swing state accurately, Democrats have been worried until election day and were genuinely surprised about the lop-sided electoral college outcome of this election. The reason for this phenomenon is not plain liberal pessimism, but the rational result of the experience of the past elections. The reason for the caution lay in the faulty polls of the last two election cycles and the freakish ability of Republicans to pull out last minute victories in a hostile environment (2004). Democrats have ever since lost faith in their ability to actually follow through and pull off a victory.

In 2008, neither of the phenomena has occurred in the least. The polls have been amazingly accurate with Politico's Swing State Map coming very close to a perfect prediction (even Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina only swung back to Republican in the last few days before the election, which can possibly be discounted by the early voting already completed before). After the pollsters were chastised in the last two presidential elections, they have clearly done their homework and predicted the outcome of this one almost flawlessly.

Secondly, the McCain campaign was nowhere near the quality of Bush/Cheney's team in the last two elections. The poor vetting of Sarah Palin or even Joe the Plumber (they heard about him on Drudge and invited the unlicensed plumber to be the central theme of the campaign promptly) and the endless swings for responses to the economic crisis have proved the Democratic fear of Republican voter psychology genius wrong. It is a misconception that this election was not winnable for a Republican candidate in this environment. McCain's brief upswing after the convention proved that voters were not set on a Democrat this fall. But is may well be true that the election was not winnable for McCain, who was prepared to win this election on foreign policy expertise and was thrown back by the tumbling economy. A more dynamic candidate with economic expertise and a disciplined campaign could have worked wonders even now. The poor handling of the campaign provided the final dagger for McCain/Palin '08.

The question remains whether Democrats will be able to move past the traumatic experience of losing in 2004 and 2008 and the feeling of getting robbed by Republicans twice. Paranoia has swept the party and a win was absolutely necessary to stop the nagging fear that Democrats no longer have what it takes to close the deal. This win should restore confidence and eliminate the fear that Republicans can magically pull off an undeserved victory. They had the same tool box available in the last three election and utilized it very well in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 they needed to work it to perfection and fell well short, while Democrats used the same tool box with nearly no flaws. We have taken the first step to get over this paranoia and now need to look ahead with optimism, knowing we can win.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lefty's Political Square


Lefty's Square is a quadrilateral mapped on a Cartesian plane to illustrate the political ideology of a given person. Each point of the shape represents a score out of 10 for each of the following categories:
(1) Economic
(2) Social
(3) Civil Liberty
(4) Foreign Policy

The higher the score for a given category, the more liberal (in the American politics sense) the person is for that topic. The smaller the number, the more conservative. One could also say that the more total area in a Lefty's Square, the more liberal a person is overall. For our purposes, let's say conservative spans from 0-3, moderate from 4-6, and liberal from 7-10. The following example is a person who is liberal on economics (8), left-moderate on social (6), conservative on Civil Liberties (3), and right-moderate on Foreign Policy (4). You can try to imagine who this might be.

The reason for Lefty's Square is that too few scales illustrate the complexity of a candidate's ideas or on the other hand are too complex to understand easily. I felt that the four categories used in the square encompassed most of the political issues people care about. The nuance of Lefty's Square is that it is calculated in an interesting manner. Here's how:

A person takes a survey with 20-25 questions covering most of the major issues. For each question, they give an answer from 1-5 (5 being the most liberal, 1 being most conservative). For certain issues, their answer will affect only one of the four categories. For example, the following question is a single-topic question:

The federal government should impose a highly progressive tax structure.

(1) Strongly Disagree

(2) Disagree
(3) Neutral/Undecided
(4) Agree
(5) Strongly Agree

For this question, if the respondent said 5, they would be given +5 to their Economic score. At the end of the survey, each categorical score is divided by the denominator (total possible) and multiplied by 10 to get the numerical score for that category.

Many questions will involve more than one category. For example, issues like abortion or warantless wiretapping are a combination of factors. Let's say abortion is 1/2 civil liberty and 1/2 social. If you score a 3 on a question, it is multiplied by the weight for each category.

In the end, we are given a nice shape that gives a more detailed description of one's political views. Hopefully, we will launch a survey for Lefty's Squares in later weeks for you to try it out yourself. In future posts, I will evaluate certain politicians (or Lefty's authors) and show you how we generated their Lefty's Square.
If there are any requests for certain people, feel free to post your suggestions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 4, 2008: The Day the World Changed

Last night after hearing Obama's speech about the changes in the country over the lifetime of a 106 year-old woman, a quote that came from a (black) friend's mom really hit me:

"We've gone from the back of the bus in the 1960s to the WHITE house in 2009"

There is obviously still a lot of work that needs to be done to erase racism, classicism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. but I think last night was a HUGE step in the right direction for not only America, but also for the world. Speaking to a few of my South African friends online last night made me realize that Obama's win is being celebrated all over the world.

Hopefully this will mean significant, positive changes for minorities, women, gays and the middle and lower-classes. Call me overly optimistic, but I think it will.

"NOTHING can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for CHANGE" -Barack Obama '08, so let's not forget, the fight to end injustice doesn't end here--now the real work begins.

And change is a-comin'.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Predictions for Election Day

Henry's Magic Map
Obama 338- McCain 200

  • Looking at the most recent state polls, I predict Obama will win every Kerry state plus Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.
  • The polls for North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri have all been very close, so I will be cautious and give them to McCain. If they flip I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Opposing Forces Give Uncertainty To Final Weeks

Machine vs Bradley
I started to mull the possible impacts of two unseen forces that may/may not emerge in the final two weeks. The first-which we have heard plenty about in this election-is the tacit effect of racism in voter decision. I went back and researched what discrepancies occurred between polls and election results in a number of African-American races.

It seems that prior to 1996, the swing was about 3.1 points. From 1996-2006, the discrepancy was insignificant. Many look to the New Hampshire primaries this January, where Obama led by 7-8 points the day before, only to lose by 3 in the actual vote. Some pundits suggest that the Bradley Effect is simply a result of faulty polling. I tend to agree. But for the sake of argument, let us consider what would happen if the Bradley Effect did occur.

Let's take a look at some battleground poll averages from RealClearPolitics:

With the current polling numbers, Obama is poised to win the electoral college 364 to 174. Let's apply the 3.1 point swing to every battleground state and see what happens. This would flip the following states for McCain: North Carolina (15) and Missouri (11). This changes the EC to 338-200. Let's see what happens even if the swing is 5 points... McCain now wins Florida (27), Ohio (20), and Nevada (5) as well. This puts us at a 286-252 Obama win. So EVEN if the Bradley Effect swings the results FIVE whole points, Obama will still win by Bush-Kerry margins.

The second silent force that the polls may fail to account for is the power of the ground game. As you can see on the map above, Obama has 18 campaign offices in Indiana alone. Now let us consider the comparison of field offices and the early voting laws to see if we can quantify a possible effect.

If you notice, Florida is the only state in our Bradley group where McCain has more offices. Consider also the available funds that each campaign has until election day. Obama will spend an estimated $200 Million in the final month of the campaign. McCain, on the other hand, will spend roughly $50 Million during that time. Combining the cash values with the ground game, where some of the money will surely be spent on Get Out The Vote, we find that in Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, the "machine" advantage helps Obama. In Missouri, the advantage of field offices is somewhat dampened by the lack of early voting. Nonetheless, there will still be a measurable effect.

Though there is no way to quantify this impact, let us estimate that the ground game advantage will lend a 3 point swing. Combined with our earlier figures from the Bradley Effect, this gives Florida (27) to McCain and the remaining four states to Obama. In the end, the Electoral College ends up at 337-201 Obama. Thus, any swing that we might see from the Bradley Effect, even an exaggerated 5 points, will be countered or softened by the converse effect of the ground game/money advantage.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Comfort of a 6-State Firewall

If you are worried about a possible loss for Obama, consider the 6-state firewall he has right now. Based off the Kerry States + the new automatics (IA, NM), Obama only has to win one of these states, meaning McCain must win them all:
  • Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina

Since Colorado looks to be the safest bet of the firewall states, that is why I think it is the ultimate deciding state. In a landslide, there are multiple deciding states. If the other 5 states of the firewall give in, though, Colorado will likely be the last battle, meaning it will decide the election (convention coincidence?). Of course the polls could move a bit in the next three weeks. We'll just have to see...

(Props and Credit to Mark Nickolas of

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama Takes The Gold at ND, Touchdown Jesus Is Denied His Vote




52.6% of
votes went to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the recent mock election at the University of Notre Dame. John McCain and Sarah Palin picked up 41.1% of the vote. In a school that is traditionally known to be more conservative, this came as a shocker to some. To others, the combination of Chicago roots, age, and enthusiasm made this a likely outcome. Perhaps some blame Obama's victory on the international students who voted. Of course, Europe would try to infiltrate our election. Crazy hippies!

I'd like to give Notre Dame credit for being enlightened, but that would imply that there was something overtly handicapped about supportin' a hockey mom. Only in America... Anyways, I was a little stunned by the margin, but expected Obama to win (by a sliver).

While overseeing the College Democrats this year, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe we would dominate this election season on campus. So far, Democrats on campus have signed up more members, had more volunteers, and have come in droves to the 3 debate watches thus far. Just walk through D2 parking lot and see the ratio of Obama:McCain bumper stickers.

So there it is. Obama wins the mock election. Looking back on the 2004 mock election, where Kerry lost to Bush by less than 1%, I wonder if maybe Notre Dame is the ultimate bellwether. Nah! Obama can't win by 11 points. Not against Team Maverick.

Better Late Than Never


(Henra's Take)




I would have side with The Politico on this one and say that this debate may have been the worst ever. There is something odd about the whole "Town Hall" ordeal. Many, including McCain, feel that Town Hall style debates are more authentic and more intimate with voters. Apparently, they've never actually watched one. I hate to be the predictable basher, because that is too easy to do. Some debates lack thunder power and some are only interesting to real politicos. But for "that one", it deserves every flung turd that comes its way.

The TH style debate was a complete flop because:

(1) It mildly satisfied those in the crowd at the expense of 60 million Americans who had to watch John McCain wandering in the background, not to mention the entire thing seemed shoddy.

(2) The bar stools/
giant chairs were annoyingly tall (for both men).

(3) Some questions went for the heartfelt homey feeling. All this did was get the candidates awkwardly close to people in the crowd and forced us all into watching a paper-thin acting game that looked like a middle school play tryout. Make the audience FEEL your empathy? Pssht. Bogus.

(4) The loud carpet and wall coloring didn't work for TV.
News flash: Red and Blue may be patriotic, but they don't have to turn you color blind.

(5) Finally, the format prohibited legitimate crossfire and discourse between the candidates. Let's bring back those good ole
'Cut The Lying Sack of Crap' interruptions we saw in the first debate. Let every attack be countered.

John McCain may love to say "Never Again" to a second Holocaust.
I say "
Never Again" to a Town Hall debate. Please, God nOOOOO!

In terms of the candidates, they honestly both seemed quite mediocre and Obama beat some expectations about his ability to play in McCain's home court. The only thing people will remember is "That One" and perhaps Tom Brokaw's sexy voice. Oops! Did I just say that?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Nation of Whiners


Being Offended As a Strategy?

A recent email circulated to the Notre Dame College Republicans ironically has become emblematic of the McCain campaign and the Republican party as a whole.
This will crack you up.

Here's the transcript:

Fellow Domers and Republicans,

Last Thursday, the College Democrats called upon their liberal friends on
campus to come out in massive numbers (150+) to the College Republicans debate
watch in the LaFortune TV Lounge to demonstrate that *Obamamania* has a
stranglehold over the University of Notre Dame.

Their behavior at the event was embarrassing on so many levels – as American
citizens, and, furthermore, as Notre Dame students. Prior to the debate, the
College Democrats co-president Spencer Howard asked all Democrats in the
room to raise their hands – they did – and they then all sneered at the
Republicans who were in the minority. This was *inexcusable*. During the
debate, the Democrats, some of whom were professors, disparaged, insulted,
verbally attacked and sought to humiliate :'-( every single Republican in the
room. This was also inexcusable. While their club members were busy
insulting and maligning, the officers of the College Democrats were silent
and did nothing. *We are all Irish. This is not how we act.*

We *cannot* let this stand. We *must* not let this stand. We must take back
the debate and demonstrate that liberals do not control our beloved
University. We must show the Democrats that we won't be cowed in our support
of a man who possesses great experience in the face of a man who has none.

Let us take back Notre Dame by taking back the next debate tomorrow *(Tuesday)
night at 8:30pm in the LaFortune TV Lounge* and by distributing the many
"Pro-Family, Pro-McCain Palin", "Irish for McCain Palin", and "Catholics for
McCain Palin" signs amongst your friends and in your dorms. We will also
have pre-ordering available for the "Irish for McCain Palin" shirts that
will be hitting campus on Thursday. Please bring your Republican friends
tomorrow night.

Thank you very much,

Officers of the College Republicans


What's really *shameful* is how a once proud party has become a bunch of wimps

It appears that John McCain's campaign strategy has winnowed down to acting offended and complaining that “life isn't fair”.

Whether it's attacking a moderator before a debate that the campaign itself had already stated would be “disastrous” or reverting to complaining about the press after low poll showings the Republicans have shown that after years of dominance that they have now become such a fractured, confused, and weak party that they are completely incapable of engaging the Democrats in any real discussion of policy.

John McCain, the man who, in 2005, referred to the press as “my base”, now regularly accuses the press of conspiring against him. This, despite the fact that the mainstream media covers negative Obama stories more than negative McCain stories. After the excessive backlash as a response to a this story about McCain's improper relationship with a lobbyist that appeared in the New York Times, the MSM has completely backed off from pursuing any story that negatively reflects McCain's character. McCain had the audacity to blast the New York Times for being biased against him a month after the paper endorsed his candidacy. In the meantime, legitimate stories about John McCain, such as the Keating Five scandal go uncovered in the MSM.

I should be offended at the low level of discourse that the Republicans have taken the campaign this season, but I have to laugh. At all levels, from college Republicans straight to the top of the campaign, the pathetic calls of “unfair” are a sign of desperation. They have no real attacks against the Obama campaign that resonate with voters so the only strategy they have left is “blame the refs”. McCain's economic advisor, Phil Gramm, was right. “We've become a nation of whiners”. Yes, Phil, you have.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Uber Recess


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is the "Green War" the inevitable future?

The International Relations field of study has been abundant with talk of an epic scale 'clash of civilizations' between the United States and China. If there seems to be some looming conflict, a natural question emerges- what will be the nature of a Chinese-American War? Some rhetoric hints at another World War fought in a much less conventional manner. Some see the future war with China as another Cold War a la the 50 year conflict with the USSR. The real question is- what series of actions and foreign policy moves could propel two giant nations into a global battle? Many look to China's growing economy as a serious threat to the power of the West. Others see China potentially staging a campaign to establish itself as a regional hegemon in East Asia. Some feel that actions by the West may appear threatening and imperialist to China. A possibility I would like to posit is that the future conflict with China will be a global struggle over energy resources. Call it the "Green War" if you will. Both growing nations will face enormous pressures from an ever shrinking supply of oil and the economic backlash from rampant prices. The two nations will seek various avenues to capture more energy to feed their economies, often finding themselves in the same places. In the end, the urgency of their pursuits will lead to nationalistic efforts to secure the upper hand in the global energy market. In many ways, the United States has experience with such a conflict, competing in a "Space Race" with the USSR. And in a very similar manner, perhaps the United States and China will employ fabricated nationalistic concerns to rally massive support for their initiatives, leaving military action on the sidelines.

This should not stand as an endorsement of such a scheme, but carefully consider: how much progress in the United States has been spurred by the sentiments of global conflict? We can look back all the way to the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War to see how the United States emerged from these with a superior state of the union. Unlike these wars, the US may never need to fire a gun in an energy race with China. Or perhaps the IR experts are wrong, and we may never engage with China on an epic scale...unless the government decides that a fabricated conflict without military action is just what we need to kick into high gear.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Bittersweet Lesson for Liberals

(NY Post)

With news of Obama's withdrawal from public financing, Thursday and Friday have been treated to a slew of articles about broken promises and hypocrisy. Allegedly, Obama has turned on his word. This obviously proves (insert self-righteous commentary). In the end, the pundits all know the same thing. Obama's decision to withdraw from public financing was the wisest move, one that lofty liberals and delusional conservatives will undoubtedly condemn. And condemnation has become the expected, yet desperate effort of the GOP, a last breath struggle to name their assailant. For many starry-eyed supporters of Obama, this news is disheartening and may effectively break their hearts. But for realistic progressives, as David Brooks has said this morning in the NY Times, we are witnessing the "most effectively political creature we've seen in decades." And for anyone that has seen the film "The War Room," a certain comfort is brought on this day. The Democratic Party has a winner. They have a fighter. Obama has proven he is tough enough to make the decisions which must be made, even if they break our heart. A political theorist by the name of Max Weber gave a lecture titled "Politics as a Vocation." He spoke to a crowd of young academics aspiring for a role in politics. And almost a century after his lecture, the reality remains the same. Those who choose a life in politics, especially at the highest levels, must be willing to make tough decisions that are ethically questionable. Some of these choices will make you sick to your stomach. But in a nasty world, these decisions must be made. Often we are faced with multiple options that all have their particular weaknesses, with none possessing the mystical quality of being perfect for everyone. Presidents have made these decisions, by and large. When FDR placed thousands of Japanese Americans in camps, he could not have felt pleasure in what he did. Today, liberals have learned a valuable lesson. The office of the President is not for a fool-hearted softy. Ultimately, politics is not about objective matters like right and wrong, good and bad. The verdict is not in on many of the issues. Politics is about interests. Barack Obama has certain values, certain changes he wishes to see in the world. The same is held for most every statesman. John McCain and George W. Bush, like them or not, have interests. There are particular things that they stand for, that they would like to see done. With this in mind, the pundits may continue to cry, generating an unrealistic, inflated sense of reality. But the American people, especially feel-good liberals, need to wake up and understand that at the end of the day, what they are really fighting for are their interests.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Red, White, and Orange

(Webshots) VIET-R-ANS
Many of you have undoubtedly heard the statistic that 1 in 4 homeless are veterans, a fact that presidential candidate John Edwards never failed to remind us this election season. 47% of these homeless veterans served during the Vietnam War. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with a veteran at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. He had found a good place to share his knowledge and personal experience. After helping find a name on the wall, he shared with me his personal story. So he began...Over 30 years ago, he fought in Vietnam, where he believes he was contaminated by Agent Orange. He has been living on the streets for the past year. The homeless shelter where he sleeps requires that he is gone until 10pm and must leave before 6am. At the moment, he is waiting months for his medical case to be processed through the VA. But his wait is not abnormal. Many others, some who live with him at the homeless shelter, have complications from Vietnam due to Agent Orange. They live on the streets, often with little prospect of ever finding a job, proper medical care, or a permanent place to stay. The question I had to ask myself is: what is our duty to our fellow Americans? The answer is not simple. The policies needed to solve such problems are never simple. There may be no perfect answer. But I am sure we can all discover some much needed insight by reaching out and speaking with our homeless veterans, hearing their stories, and then deciding for ourselves what measures must be taken by the President and Congress we elect in November.

Friday, June 13, 2008


TIM RUSSERT (1950-2008)
(June 13)- NBC news Washington bureau chief and moderator of "Meet the Press" dies of a tragic heart attack. Russert, 58, was an Emmy-winning journalist seen as a leader of the news community. Russert spoke at the 25th anniversary Red Smith Lecture on April 14 at the University of Notre Dame, where I was lucky enough to see him. He left us with a message about honor and responsibility in journalism and politics. Russert will always be known as a master of interviews and a person of integrity. May our thoughts and prayers be with his family on this day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Democratic Town Crier

"The Constitution of the United States of America has divided time and space."

-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-2), speaking to the Democratic National Committee summer interns about an epic paradigm shift enacted by the US Constitution which fundamentally changed the nature of our existence, making it possible for people such as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to become the Democratic nominee for President.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The rich and their tax cuts

It is quite odd, though not entirely surprising, that presidential candidates rarely shed light on the reality of income taxes. The Republican Party places an impenetrable shield of populism in front of themselves by broadly proposing lower taxes. The Democratic Party struggles to make their message resonate by virtue of complexity-i.e. suggesting more segmented, nuanced tax proposals. The reality, that the American people deserve, is that the wealthiest Americans pay a fairly low percentage of their wealth, one that has only been lower 16 out of the last 95 years of income taxation. At one time the wealthy were taxed on their top dollar at obscene rates such as 90%. I may not agree with trickle-down economics, but I know that anything higher than 70% is going to put a serious hurt in one's economy. But this isn't the entire picture. The entire dilemma rests not as much on the fact that the wealthy pay so little, but that we define the wealthy in very different ways than we used to. In 2008, if you make $212,000 annually, you are not wealthy. You are well-off. You are riding the edge of the upper middle and upper class. You still have to make sacrifices to send your children to college, to save enough to retire. You are quite different than those who make, say, 5,000,000 annually. Yet you pay the same percentage rate. Somewhere along the line, we simplified our tax code, making it so that those who most would consider middle class were actually being taxed higher than before, and those who were ultra-rich were paying the same as those who were well-off. The Democratic Party needs to tell the truth to the upper middle class. They need to show them that they are getting the short straw. Then the Democratic Party needs to talk to the working and middle classes, explaining how they have been duped by such simplified rhetoric. If Dems want to stand a chance of winning the rust belt for years to come, they really must use a firm, directed approach at economic populism to rally the working class vote. For Republicans, they may as well continue what they are doing. It has worked since Nixon and Reagan...somehow.

Old Layouts

Here are some old Lefty's layouts from back in the day. 
Look how far we've come!

"This one is kind of ridiculous. I drew a picture of Che on a jack-o-lantern in 2007, and had a picture taken of it. When I joined Lefty's I decided we needed a new banner, and to keep with the 'Lefty' theme I put up a picture of a prominent Lefty."

"A sort of post-election twist on our old banner. This one unfortunately doesn't have a real picture of a jack-o-lantern. Just a pixelated image of Obama's face pasted on a picture of a pumpkin. Not my best work."

December 2008-January 2009

February 2009-March 2009

March 2009-May 2009

May 2009-December 2009

December 2009-April 2010

April 2010-September 2013