So, by noon yesterday I decided not to go on-line for the rest of the day.   In my regular gig (a public school science teacher), this can be hard to do.   Not only do I have to check district e-mail on a regular basis for communications, not only do I enter attendance and grades into an online system (ATLAS), but now I have two periods of a computer-based tutorial to monitor.

So, even if I wanted to do otherwise, every few minutes at Bullard I'm looking at some computer or other, most of which are connected to the web in some fashion.   But I just played a game of "let's pretend" with myself, that there wasn't anything else other than the district programs to use.   I didn't check my Hotmail or Gmail accounts, I didn't have a window open at any point to a news feed.

Why the programmed withdrawal from all things Web-derful?  Simply this:   I had read enough yesterday morning to know that, on the other side of the world, the merchants of terror had struck again at American interests, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.    Apparently, some of the citizenry in the Mideast had once again allowed themselves to become the cat's paw of forces arranged in a struggle between the modern and medieval.   A supposed trailer for a "film", made in America and uploaded to YouTube (in some versions dubbed in Arabic) contained scenes that not only visually depicted Allah's Messenger (which in itself is blasphemous to Muslims), but implied that, ya know, ol' Mohammed wanted to get it on with moppets, fellas and other vaguely-defined critters....

So, this is where the thing just gets weird, in fact just plain "Psychotronic."  The alleged maker of this "film", who sounds as if he some sort of disenbodied pathogen ("Sam Bacile"), is no budding Lili Reifenstahl or Luis Buniel,  with a daring cinematic vision enlisted in behalf of some provocative ideology.   There isn't anything about this trailer that would demand a thoughtful response, and in fact if you didn't know the circumstances of its production you would be forgiven thinking that it is some sort of spoof.   It is an incoherent, amateurish stitching-together of various unfinished snippets of video that makes the most hastily-assembled "SyFy" channel original look like Citizen Kane.   It is as if Ed Wood was reborn, and suddenly was able to shake the very heart of the world with achingly sincere, but also sincerely awful dreck, the kind of movie that's, you know, "so bad that it's good."

And yet, somehow, what anyone in North America would instantly dismiss as drivel became, once dubbed into Arabic, a trigger for public protests in the Arab world for its clumsy attempt to take a dump on the memory of the Prophet.   No doubt the filmmaker intended to provoke such a response, but how anyone in the modern world could believe this parade of non-sequiturs, cheesy acting and non-existent production values should be intended as representative of the United States or its government is difficult to understand.

Oh.   Wait.   "The modern world."   Let's pause, and soak that in.   We aren't really dealing with people who live in the "modern world", are we?  Just because they have access to technology with a global reach, just because these Arabs can access YouTube, doesn't mean that they are part of the modern world.   Just because many Arabs occupy large urban areas doesn't mean that they are urbane, or worldly, or even civilized.   The alleged filmmaker has gone on record as being fiercely anti-Muslim, describing the existence of a faith tradition with a billion adherents as a "cancer".   But there's nothing in the Muslim religion that requires people to attack embassies, destroy property or kill the unarmed representatives of another country.   The problem is not that some people in the Mideast think that Muhammad is God's Prophet.   The problem is that many of the Arab peoples in that region who belong to that faith tradition are not its best representatives.   Many are in fact barbarians with a medieval view of the world, who have only recently embarked upon a project of representative government, and who seem to view the opportunity to participate in such a project as an exercise in populist payback.

That makes me sad.   The death of our people in Libya angers me.   The irony that some of the protests were provoked by an ineptly made "movie trailer" kicks me in the gut.   But that's not why I had to get off the Net yesterday.   I had to step back, I had to disengage because of the sheer fury I experienced when I learned of how this story had been seized upon in the presidential race in a desperate, but misguided attempt to change the narrative of the election.

Let's be clear.   The Republican nominee has the absolute right to have a policy debate with the White House on foreign policy in general, and with relations with countries in the Mideast in particular.   They can be even said to have a duty to outline where they might differ with the present Administration on policy.   But they do not have a right, they do not have a duty to first misinterpret events on the ground, and then stubbornly insist contrary to all evidence that their understanding of the situation is correct.   Mr. Romney, you are entitled to your own views (however weird) on what you think Mr. Obama really believes about America.   You are entitled to your own beliefs.  You are not, sir, entitled to your own set of facts.   Your stubborn decision to "double down" on a late-night press release that inaccurately cast the Administration as apologizing for America is simply wrong:  wrong for you, wrong for your party, wrong for America, and wrong for the citizens of the world, a world that all of us, like it or not, must share with other peoples.   To further state, as you and some of your surrogates have done, that the Obama Administration sympathizes with those who have murdered their own appointed representatives in the Mideast is not merely wrong, it is repulsive.

Many decent and responsible members of the Grand Old Party have had the good sense and moral fiber not to launch, much less defend a critique that is unsupported by the facts.   They have made it clear that they do not agree with the course that you have set for your campaign, and that while they may differ with the President on long-range policy, that they support the President and Secretary Clinton in terms of the local response to these sad events.   I do not for a moment believe that most Republicans would embrace your shameful rhetoric to in pursuit of some short-term gain.   They are my fellow Americans, and most of them are decent.  You, Mr. Romney, I'm beginning to have my doubts about.  As President, it is not enough for you to be the Chief Executive, to imagine that you are simply stepping into the role of the world's biggest and baddest CEO.   You are expected to be the Head of State and the leader of the free world, and you are expected to engage the entire world.    Your actions make it clear that you are not ready to assume those roles, and that Americans should think twice before putting you in any position that might affect the foreign policy or national security interests of this great country.

So, for the next 54 days, I'm making it my business to share that viewpoint with as many of my fellow citizens as possible.   This country can not afford a reckless view of the world that puts a campaign narrative ahead of the facts, that grinds common decency for humanity beneath the boot of an uninformed and delusional corporate philosophy of governance.

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So, I'm not a political pundit, I just play one in the private little melodrammer of my mind, a place where the corpus callosum doesn't necessarily connect the "right" and "left" brain, issue-wise, but hopefully engages the creative faculties as well as those of logic.

Here, on the 11th anniversary of the 11th, the number that interests me is 270 (the number of votes in the Electoral College required to elect a President outright).   The analysis is pretty straight-forward:  there are certain states that would vote for a given party's candidate, even if that party's candidate would force an 11-year-old girl to deliver the spawn of her rapist uncle (which, incidentally, is found in a certain party's platform).

But I digress.   Again, some states are going to go "all in" with that candidate, even if they are "all in" with a completely repulsive personal history.   That's true for both parties.   The Democrats will probably take New York with more than 60 percent of vote if they ran a provocateur like Al Sharpton, and the Republicans would get nearly two-thirds of the South Carolina vote had Herman Cain been the nominee.   That's not to say that either party is "color-blind", you understand (one definitely isn't), but it says that, for both parties, there are places where the only colors that matter are red or blue.

So, the Prez has got many states "in the bag":  California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, in fact most of New England---all told, 142 electoral votes.

And Gov. Romney has parts of the "Solid South" (Alabama, Mississippi) as well as some Western states (Idaho, Utah) sewn up, to the tune of 76 electoral votes.

As "Obviousman" might say, there's a problem right there for Gov. Romney: in the comparison with the President, he trails in the number of electoral votes that can be absolutely said to be in his column, and with no chance to end up in Mr. Obama's tally.   Yet, there are a whole host of states that can be said to be, if not in his hip pocket, "leaning his way".   Here, he has an edge, with 115 electoral votes from such states as Montana and Texas, while Mr. Obama can only must 79 such states.   That narrows the overall race considerably, from 221 for the President, to 155 for the Governor While these can not be held to be as secure as their core, there can be doubt that they are very likely to go in the direction that they are leaning now, with only two months to go.

Neither side has the requisite 270 in this scenario, however, so both will need to pick up some of the so-called "swing states", ten battlegrounds that, political calculus demands, could go either way:

New Hampshire
North Carolina

All told, these states contain 126 votes, and they are all over the place: three in the South,  two in the West, one in New England and the rest in the Midwest.  The President needs to get 49 of these 126 votes to clinch, and there are several combinations of just three states that could get him there, most of them revolving around....(gulp if you knew this was coming)...Florida, which was so critical in 2000.  The one three-state combo that gets him there involves Ohio, which was so critical in 2004.   Neither state is a done deal for the President, but as we speak both are definitely inching toward his reelection.   The bottom line is that the map really favors the President here, with many ways to get the requisite 49 votes without having to take the majority of the states, or even winning the majority of the popular vote in these ten states.

For Governor Romney, things aren't looking so good, except in the money department.   The former head of Bain Capital, the wealthiest nominee of a major party in the history of our republic, he's pulling down the coin, and it's not his money:  he's pulled in more than $100 million each of the last four months from corporations and private donors, money which if applied directly to the IRS would probably lower all of our taxes a tenth of a percent.   It's not chump change. 

An interesting irony:  the failure of politicians to put party aside and work for the common good can have a stimulating effect on some industries---such as media. All told, this election will actually help put over a billion dollars into the economy, which is good news for those selling the scorched earth that dominates the present political landscape.  And, to give the Governor his due, no one is doing a better job overall in raising money to burn than Willard Romney.   That money, and the onslaught of corporate monies that are now a part of political campaign, is without a doubt what the GOP has to put its hopes in.   They have to hope that the money advantage plays out their way in the swing states, because the map is not in their favor.

How can Romney get the 79 "swing state" electoral votes he needs to get to the "coronation" number of 270?   Well, where the President has several combinations of three states that will get him there, the Romney camp needs to take at least six of the ten "toss-ups" to reach the Promised Land, and probably eight if they don't get Florida, with its 29 electoral votes.   There just aren't as many easy paths to victory, and a lot of hard-fought but ultimately futile paths that net then 60-70 votes, but not enough to overcome the Chicago machine.   To make things worse for the Governor, he only has really good polling numbers in a handful of states (among them, to make things interesting, Florida).   He's trailing in Ohio, significantly.   In the South, which should be a Romney stronghold, he has chinks in his armor: both Virginia and North Carolina are still neck-and-neck, absolutely in play with two months to go.

And here's the capper:  most of the polling numbers on individual states are old numbers, from late August, before the Democratic National Convention.  The national polls, the TV ratings and the disparity in social media coverage between the DNC and the Republican affair in Tampa are marked:  it is very clear that, despite a downsized agenda and cautious optimism, that the Obama-Biden reelection ticket has received the expected post-convention bounce---and the Romney-Ryan ticket has not.   The top of the ticket's overall numbers and favorables haven't moved a bit since early August, but the Democratic brand and its standard-bearer have seen obvious gains in national polls.   State polls past Labor Day will become available next week, and it seems likely that, if anything, the President and his organization will pick up steam in the swing states they are targeting.

Does this mean that the election is "in the bag?"   Only a person with no experience of the Electoral College would say that. The ability of independents to swing the election can not be underestimated, and it will not really be known until right around Halloween how many are going to give the Prez "four more years" and how many will demand, sans hope, a little more change?   The convention season has played in the Democrat's flavor as much as the money markets have favored the Romney ticket, but it will ultimately be debate performance and economic indicators that will sway swing-state independents the most.

Having said that, let's consider the most likely scenario, which is that the economy doesn't dramatically change one way or another in the next two months.   In that most likely of worlds, Obama and Biden will likely score some points with voters in the debates, which will tend to reinforce the image that the incumbents are more likeable and more battle-tested than the GOP rivals.   These will be modest gains, but they will be offset quite a bit by the PAC monies that will be thrown against the President.   In this most likely of worlds, New Hampshire will finally lean with the rest of New England, and (with Ohio) will end up in the President's column.   Meanwhile, the Romney camp will win the close ones in the West and the South, but not rally to pull any Obama-leaning states into the GOP's column.

Thus, here's my prediction.   It's just a prediction.   It doesn't mean much more than a hill of Henry Morganesque euphemisms in mid-September.   It's just what I think is the most likely outcome:

  Come back in late October and see if the map changes!

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