“Project Houdini” and the Obama Campaign

Buried deep in Newsweek’s fascinating “Special Election Project” piece is the following nugget:

The Obama campaign’s New Media experts created a computer program that would allow a “flusher”—the term for a volunteer who rounds up nonvoters on Election Day—to know exactly who had, and had not, voted in real time. They dubbed it Project Houdini, because of the way names disappear off the list instantly once people are identified as they wait in line at their local polling station.


Evidence Based Policy and an Obama Administration

That I’m a fan of Barack Obama is not a surprise to anyone who knows me. One of the things that appeals to me most about him is that he seems to be evidence based rather than ideology based. He is clearly very smart and secure enough in that intelligence that he can surround himself with other very smart people and actually listen to them. The thoughtful, nuanced positions he comes up with as a result may not play as well in a debate as pithy ideology, but they leave me with much more confidence that they are closer to “right” policy wise.

The outcome of the election is now looking likely enough that it’s not unreasonable to think about how the world might change under an Obama administration. NY Magazine just ran a lengthy, fascinating article on Obama’s transition planning process. Leading the process is John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and the guy who expected to be doing transition planning for Hillary Clinton. That Obama would tap a Clinton ally for the job (and that Podesta would take it) is refreshing compared to the political score-settling we have gotten used to over the last 8 years.

The article goes on at some length as to what the staffing and policy priorities of a hypothetical Obama administration might be and towards the end contains the following rather interesting quote:

Obama now informs Time’s Joe Klein that endeavoring to spark “a new energy economy [is] going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.”

Wondering what that may look like, I did a little Googling and came across the Center for American Progress, a think-tank helmed by the very same John Podesta. Front and center on the site is a link to “Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy”. There, Podesta outlines a $100B stimulus package that would invest in the following six things:

  • Retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency
  • Expanding mass transit and freight rail
  • Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Next-generation biofuels

As a second year business-school student with strong entrepreneurial leanings and about to graduate into a rather rough job and capital market, understanding ahead of time where $100B in new spending is about to occur is welcome information indeed. More thoughts on the opportunities this presents shortly.

Obama on Reagan

Ben Smith’s blog (link courtesy Matt Drudge of all places) has a clip of Obama talking thoughtfully about Ronald Reagan. I find the ability to look across the aisle and see the good in the other side tremendously appealing although I’m not so confident that the democratic rank and file will see it the same way. (Obama previously mentioned Republicans he’d consider in a hypothetical cabinet and it didn’t take long for the Edwards campaign to slam him for it. )

Whenever I’m discussing politics with someone I always ask them if they had to have a president from “the other party” (whichever party that is) who would they pick? To me the answer to this question says a lot about whether you can listen to what the other side is saying or are blindly partisan.

My answer to that question by the way is John McCain.

Update: As suspected, the rivals pounce.

The Dilbert Blog: Atheists: The New Gays

The always insightful Scott Adams has a hillarious new blog post: Atheists: The New Gays

While I think many Atheists have an unfortunate tendency to be evangelical about their non-belief, I do think that recent events have made atheism more publicly acceptable in America than ever, even if it’s unfortunate that it’s at the expense of Muslims. I personally very much doubt that Bill Gates will ever run for president and I think it would be easy to go overboard with the “Billionaire as benevolent dictator” meme. Think, what if it were Larry Ellison?

Election Hangover

It’s 6am the morning after the election and the democrats have done it. They’ve taken control of the house and the Senate is still up for grabs. Montana and Virginia are too close to call. If the democrats take both of those, they’ll have control of the Senate too, 51:49.
While I’m very pleased with this result, I’m afraid that the Democrats will get the wrong message, that the people of America somehow voted for them. They did not. This election was about turfing out the incumbents and the Democrats were the available alternative. The Republicans are smart. They will re-think and re-tool and in 2008 they will be back with a vengeance. If the Democrats don’t have an actual leadership plan (as opposed to just opposing the Republicans) all those hard fought gains will be lost.

I was pretty inspired by the speech Arnold Schwarzennegger gave at the 2004 Republican convention where he described why he is a Republican and why he thought everyone else should be too. The funny thing is I can imagine how if your initiation to politics is watching Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan, you’d make that decision too.

The Democrats need to decide the list of things they’re for and then be behind those things even if it means siding with Republicans.
I see three key areas that matter to me. The party that is for these things is the party I will vote for:

  1. Fair, Reality-Based and Success-Driven
  2. Socially Non-Interfering
  3. Sustainable

Continue reading