Trick or Treat

Wow, the sun is out, the sky is blue. Haven’t seen than in a while. Still no heat, but it’s not that cold outside. Washed my hair in cold water and am now awake.

Anyhoo — more details are coming out about Mitt’s “relief” party.

The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event, and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo-op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside.

But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it “did donate supplies to the relief effort,” but would not specify how much it spent.)

Zombie Eyes had his own “relief” events in Wisconsin, where people had to hold up work so there’d be something left for the candidate to do when he showed up. No more washing clean pots!

This is so stupid. It may cost more to truck the stuff from Wisconsin than the stuff is worth. And I bet most of these donations are just going to sit on a loading dock for weeks until someone gets around to dealing with them. Eventually they’ll probably end up in a “free food” pantry for the poor after things are more back to normal.

And they really do have lots of grocery stores in New Jersey. Many are closed, but you can check the Twitter feed #njopen to find out where to get stuff. People without power or Internet need generators more than they need cans of corn.

Joan Walsh:

It’s impossible not to see that this storm has devastated Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. The response to the hurricane has seemed like one long dramatic Obama campaign commercial, a lesson in “We’re all in this together,” while Romney, the man who said he’d dismantle FEMA, flails on the sidelines….

…I can’t be sure whether or how much disaster relief will matter to swing state voters outside of the hurricane zone, but I am stranded (on a blue island) in the swing state of Wisconsin, where people are tuned in to the storm and the government response. No one can be reassured by Romney’s empty posturing. Unless there is some government-abetted or neglected further disaster, I think Obama will be reelected next Tuesday. Hurricane Sandy has reminded us what’s at stake.

Alec MacGillis:

… to the extent that the race was still an open question, with some voters still making up their minds or willing to change them at the last instant, it is hard not to believe that the storm has helped the president. Put simply, it has brought the race back closer to first principles. For most of the year, Obama had successfully framed the election as a choice between two approaches, one favoring the Bain Capital upper crust, the other geared toward the broad middle—the 99 percent and, yes, the 47 percent.

We’ve still got SIX DAYS to go. By this weekend, people still without power (or hot water!) will be very cranky, and Fox News will be talking about “Obama’s Katrina.” So the President has to stay on his toes. But right now, from here, Sandy looks like “Mitt’s Waterloo.”

New Jersey Is Not a Third-World Country

Maybe it’s me, but I think Mitt’s little “disaster relief” stunt in Ohio today was not just pathetic and silly; it was insulting. He’s collecting canned goods to distribute in New Jersey? Like there aren’t already canned goods in New Jersey? And what good is a can of food to someone who doesn’t have electricity or a kitchen?

The Red Cross does’t want canned goods, because they’ve got their own procurement and logistics processes in place and don’t want to have to figure out what to do with random cans of whatever. It would be interesting to find out exactly what happens to the stuff Romney packed up on trucks to send to New Jersey and how it is being distributed. The east coast Mormons might have a network in place for distributing stuff like that, but I can’t think of who else would do it.

IMO the photos of Mitt collecting little boxes of Pasta Salad (which has to be cooked to eat, I believe) and what not just makes him look silly, given the magnitude of the crisis. If he’d diverted some of his campaign money to the Red Cross it would have been more impressive.

See also “When Mitt Met Sandy.”

Update: Most of the neighborhood is still dark, which is making me feel very indulgent that I just cooked myself a hot dinner in my well-lit kitchen and am watching Rachel Maddow while being on the Internet. I do wish I had heat and hot water, but maybe tomorrow.

Buddha Loves Me

I have come to realize that most of my building is without power. One neighbor has partial power, others don’t have any. So far today all my electrical stuff has worked just fine. Apparently there’s one power line servicing the building that wasn’t damaged, and it’s the one that goes to my apartment.

I rule.

Today’s Romney Kvetch

I’m sure by now most of you have seen this video of Mittens calling to abolish FEMA, but here it is again —

The plan is for the federal government to shift responsibility and cost for disaster relief to the states, who will then turn it over to the private sector. Has anyone worked out the business plan for making a profit at disaster relief?

This is not to say that private business can’t respond to disasters, when it wants to. After 9/11, power and phone service was restored quickly to the financial district without Rudy Giuliani even having to ask. You might remember there was less interest in rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina.

Not everything that’s worth doing will make money, especially short term. There are some things that are just cost. Recovery from disaster is a prime example. I suppose the hard-core libertarians will argue that if rebuilding thir or that can’t be done at a profit, then let’s not do it. This is an argument for letting the nation fall into rot, sooner or later.

Effective disaster relief, especially on a large multi-state scale, requires management by people with experience at disaster relief. It makes sense to have a federal agency dedicated to responding to disasters, because such an agency can be staffed by people who are experts at disaster relief and who can coordinate work and resources across state lines.

Ideally, such an agency would not be subject to political machinations. The biggest reason FEMA failed to respond to Katrina is that so many of the pros had quit during the Bush Administration and been replaced by political cronies, and the massive loss of institutional memory and experience rendered FEMA into a bumbling mess.

But that’s why states can’t be expected to do disaster relief on their own, because so many disasters are once-in-a-lifetime phenomena. A state that hasn’t had a really massive flood, fire or storm in the past 20 years can’t be expected to put together an effective disaster management team on the fly.

This seems to obvious to me that I have to wonder about the basic intelligence of anyone who would suggest turning disaster relief entirely over to states, never mind trusting the tender mercies of private business. Of course, today Romney is saying he wouldn’t abolish FEMA. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “total bullshit.” He has no convictions; he just makes stuff up as he goes along.

See also Matt Yglesias.

OK From Here

No apparent storm damage here in lower Westchester County, just north of the Bronx. I have not lost power, and the only damage I can see from my windows is to the shrubbery. There’s no traffic on the Cross County Parkway, which makes me wonder if it has been closed. I am too far from either the Hudson River or Long Island Sound to know how much flooding damage there has been.

Well, I spoke too soon — the heat and hot water are out. I hadn’t noticed there was no heat because the apartment is comfortable, but the no hot water thing is a more immediate concern. Well, could be worse.

Killing the Messenger

They’re saying the storm is reaching land about now. So far I’m not seeing much. It’s damp out and very windy. However, moving to a beachfront apartment is losing its appeal.

Meanwhile, the name “Nate Silver” seems to be driving the Right into a hysterical rage. The most recent rant by Dylan Byers sneers that Silver is merely using arithmetic.

Silver’s no stranger to doubt and criticism. He even doubts his own model sometimes. But he dismisses this criticism.

“We can debate how much of a favorite Obama is; Romney, clearly, could still win. But this is not wizardry or rocket science,” Silver told POLITICO. “All you have to do is take an average, and count to 270. It’s a pretty simple set of facts. I’m sorry that Joe is math-challenged.”

Of course, it hardly matters what Brooks, Scarborough or any of Silver’s critics or supporters think. What matters for Silver is that the president wins and that he ends up with a total number of electoral votes somewhere in the ballpark of whatever Silver predicts on the afternoon of Nov. 6. And even then, you won’t know if he actually had a 50.1 percent chance or a 74.6 percent chance of getting there.

In other words, Byers cannot even imagine that somebody might draw conclusions from the data and not the other way around. See also Steve M.

Professor Krugman:

Like others doing similar exercises — Drew Linzer, Sam Wang, and Pollster — Nate’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver, and has shown that edge widening over the past couple of weeks.

This could be wrong, obviously. And we’ll find out on Election Day. But the methodology has been very clear, and all the election modelers have been faithful to their models, letting the numbers fall where they may.

Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

They don’t know how to be objective. They don’t know what objectivity is. It is unthinkable to them that the truth isn’t exactly what they think it is.

For an antidote to the craziness, see Nate Silver: Artist of Uncertainty.

See also “People Who Can’t Do Math Are So Mad At Nate Silver

Stuff to Read

Apparently having been dropped on his head from a large height sometime after 2007 or so, Matt Stoller is arguing that electing Mitt Romney would be good for progressivism. Apparently, the income inequality that has been building since the early 1970s is entirely by President Obama’s design — seriously — and there is no significant difference between Obama and Romney on women’s health issues such as abortion. Who knew?

Scott Lemieux argues that Stoller has turned into the new Camille Paglia, except “1)with fewer references to Madonna and uses of the word “Dionysian,” and 2)less coherent.” That’s good, but not on the mark, I think. I have always thought of Paglia as the Thomas Kinkade of philosophy, and I don’t think Stoller rises to that level. He’s possibly attempting to be the Glenn Beck of firebaggers, but he’s not flamboyant enough to pull that off.

Also, too:

Excerpt from the new book Assholes: A Theory

Frank Rich on how the Right will get worse after Obama wins.

More on Stoller — the Booman.

Left Versus Right: The Gap Widens

Dean Chambers, the rightie poll-denier genius behind, explains the basic difference between the American Right and the American Left:

While many conservatives look to former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris to understand the polls and political surveys on the elections, or even a site like, those on the left look to New York Times blogger Nate Silver.

Behold some of Morris’s predictions from 2010:

Morris talked about Christine O’Donnell having a 50-50 shot to win the Delaware U.S. Senate seat (she lost by 13 percent), how Republican Joe DioGuardi had a good shot against incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the New York U.S. Senate race (she won with 62 percent), and how Carl Palladino had a “superb chance” of upsetting Andrew Cuomo in the New York State gubernatorial race (he lost by 29 percent).

Steven Taylor:

The bottom line here is that Chambers is claiming that the “right” like to get their numbers and analysis from a blatant partisan commentator and/or from a source that re-calculates the polling results while the “left” likes to go to a fellow who analyzes copious amounts of data via sophisticated modeling. This strikes me as damning the “right” quite frankly. It certainly puts Chambers’ POV into perspective (not that this is a surprise).

In other words, Chambers lives deep in the weeds of rightie la-la-land and wouldn’t know reality if it smacked his face and introduced itself. Further, Chambers’s opinion piece is unconsciously and hysterically funny, especially if you are amused by psychosexual obsessions:

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.

See also Tbogg, “Unskewed Studmuffin Dean Chambers Does Not Care For Nate Silver’s Dickless Polling.”

And here’s the punch line: Yesterday even Chambers had Obama two points ahead of Romney. See “Now Even the “Unskewed” Polling Has Obama out in Front.”