Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Worth watching

I've never seen so much excitement over an upcoming blog, but lots of people are looking forward to The Becker-Posner Blog: A Blog By Gary Becker And Richard Posner. Including me. I'm suprised ChicagoGuy hasn't picked up on this yet.

Pajama Guy adds: Posner has to be about the most prolific author ever in the social sciences. (No doubt Karl Marx and Aristotle would have given Posner a run for his money if they too had word processors.) He's going to turn blogging on its head.

Playing it Safe

Sasha Frere-Jones reviews Eminem's latest album, Encore, in The New Yorker. Sasha's not impressed, but he does like one thing: the song--and video--"Mosh."

"Mosh" is, as Frere-Jones puts it, a "furious jeremiad against President Bush." True enough. But then he goes on to claim, amazingly, that putting out the song required bravery, rather than being the perfectly safe act it was.

Worse, Frere-Jones seems to think "Mosh" is a serious anti-war statement. Here's a portion of the lyric: "Let [Bush] go fight his own war let him impress daddy that way/ No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil." This is the kind of stuff that gives mindless sloganeering a bad name. The video, which suggests that Bush and Bin Laden are in cahoots, does the impossible by being even stupider than the song.

I don't blame Eminem. He's got talent and knows what sells--there's no reason to expect him to understand anything about world politics . But I would hope for a slightly higher level of criticism from The New Yorker.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Antigone to the rescue

Keeping its streak alive, the Los Angeles Times Book Review offers up yet another piece as a springboard to question the policies of George Bush. This time, it's Seamus Heaney's version of Antigone. As the Times puts it on the cover, it's "a bold new translation tailored to a post-9/11 world." Personally, I think Heaney would do better to tailor it for the ages, since that's what Sophocles did, but it's his call.

Antigone is about a leader, Creon, who, through intransigence, goes astray and pays a terrible price. Thus, it's a favorite to stage by those who feel there are vital moral lessons to be learned by those who disagree with them.

All I can say to the Book Review is hope you have a happy four years.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

It's official--your race determines who you are

Years ago, Bill Clinton said he wanted a cabinet that looked like America. Rather than condemn him for not picking the best people available regardless of race or sex, many Americans seemed to think this was a good idea.

More recently, when asked to defend his racial policies, President Bush pointed to high-ranking African-Americans in his cabinet, as if this meant anything. (By the way, I don't mind people saying "some of my best friends are..." to defend against personal accusations--why this line is considered so ugly any longer is beyond me.)

Recently, I was reading a Washington Post article about Ralph Nader demanding a recount in New Hampshire (good luck, buddy). Beneath it was a piece called "A More Representative Hill." Since there are more African-Americans, Latinos and women in the 109th Congress, and their percentage is closer to what it is in the general population, this means, for some reason that escapes me, that this Congress is "more representative."

I would think, as long as people are free to vote, that Congress is always pretty representative. Apparently, though, it's now common wisdom--not even worth discussing--that having the right skin color or sexual organs makes you better at representing certain people. One of the great ironies of the civil rights movement is it's devolved into such essentialism. Luckily, other groups that were discriminated against (Jews, Irish, Italians, Catholics, etc.) solved their problems before the modern civil rights establishment was able to legally separate them from everyone else.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Just checking

Earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times, there was a story on Michael Moore after the election. In it, Moore claimed there was a stagehand at the Oscars who swore at him after he made his anti-Iraq war speech, but when Moore did the Tonight Show a year or so later, he met the same stagehand who now shook his hand and said he was right.

Since some people feel Moore has a problem with the truth, I really wish he'd mentioned the name of this itinerant stagehand so the story could be checked out.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

We've all got plenty to be thankful for. And while counting your blessings, let's not forget negative bounty. That is, we haven't had a major attack on our soil in over three years. I'm certainly not taking that for granted.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Danny, We Hardly Knew Ye...Well, Actually, We Knew Ye Plenty

At first blush, it seemed odd to me that none of the pundits here at PajamaGuy-TheBlog weighed in on Dan Rather's announcement that he will be taking his out-of-context Texas epigrams back to the ranch next March. (I really don't expect to see him doing many hard-hitting news pieces for "60 Minutes," especially regarding the Texas National Guard). When I thought about it a little more, I realized that it didn't really require much comment. When was the last time you watched The CBS Evening News? Or Brokaw? Or Jennings? I live in the midwest, they're on at 5:30--I never see these guys. In the last ten years, I've seen the clip of Rather getting poleaxed at the '68 Democratic Convention more than I've seen him live.

The point (to the extent there is one) is that the 30-minute network news shows seem wildly irrelevant. I wonder if folks on the coasts feel the same way.

LAGuy adds: There was a time when the President knew if he'd lost Cronkite, he'd lost America. Things have changed. There's news available 24 hours a day on TV (not to mention radio, the internet, etc.), so why should I get my dose when the networks decide? I don't think I've turned to Rather even once in the past ten years. In fact, it's only on election night when I get a glance at old pals like Brokaw and Jennings. (Can I help it if the other channels always schedule Seinfeld and The Simpsons during the news?)

This isn't just about the news, of course. The networks used to have about 90% of all viewers during prime time. It's now about half that. The last hit that had a widespread audience worthy of the name was The Cosby Show about 20 years ago (which helped blow Pajama Guy's favorite show, Magnum, P. I., off the air).

Eminences grises, bon soir

One of the nice things about the election being over is we can stop hearing about the secret geniuses behind the campaigns.

The way the press went on, you might have thought the candidates were fictitious characters created by public relation machines. I'm so glad I don't have to see yet another article on the brilliance of Joe Trippi, the skills of Bob Shrum, the ruthlessness of Karl Rove.

Best of all, nothing more on the mystical, magical, mysterious Michael Whouley. (Because of Whouley, both sides now spend too much money and time on the zero sum game of getting out the vote. What a waste.)

The election's behind us. Let's give the politicans the credit, or blame, for their actions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Symbols

I was actually in Detroit, watching the game on TV, when I saw the Brawl. It was disgusting, no question. Players punching out fans goes so far beyond the line you can't even see it anymore.

Since then, however, a bunch of pundits have been using this incident as a symbol of the breakdown of American society. If I were five years old, I might think they have a point; since I've been hearing this exact same argument for decades every time anyone does something stupid in public, I'm getting a bit tired of it.

The Pistons and Pacers who were involved in the tussle deserve harsh punishment, but I don't think their actions tell us anything deep about America. We've had lots of public violence through the years, and what happened in Auburn Hills was far from the norm in any case. Pundits who want to be taken seriously should either look at overall trends or stories with national impact.

For the record, I also don't think we learned anything about ourselves from the Scott Peterson trial; there was nothing particularly significant in ABC's cross-promotion of Desperate Housewives and Monday Night Football; I don't think a bunch of hunters shot dead in Wisconsin proves too much about our gun culture; and as to Ashlee Simpson lip-synching on SNL having any meaning--let me quote George Bernard Shaw regarding the to-do over his use of the word "bloody" in Pygmalion: "Triviality can go no further."

Chicago Guy Adds: As is usually the case in these things, the most revealing aspects about "today's society" stem not from the incident but from the aftermath. Leaving aside the handwringing editorials and commentaries (and the contrarians, stuck for content, writing the "no big deal" reaction pieces), the deeper cultural meaning of the "basketbrawl" was best captured in Artest's own bizarre Today Show appearance, where he kept holding up the CD he was plugging, having apparently been advised that "any publicity is good publicity."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Bankrupt garage attendant wins $149 million lottery...

...thereby fueling the lotto pipe dreams of thousands of soon-to-be bankrupt garage attendants.

I've Been One Poor Correspondent

With apologies to the geniuses Bunnell, Peek, and Beckley, I have been too, too hard to find. I promise to resume lobbing tired liberal platitudes into this blog as soon as possible.

A bit off

I was enjoying Jonathan Franzen's piece in The New Yorker, "Growing up with Charlie Brown," when I came across this sentence:
The musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was in its second sold-out year on Broadway.
Franzen is referring to May 1970. Well, "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" was running off-Broadway. Furthermore, it opened in 1967, so it was in its third or fourth season by this point. It's first appearance on Broadway was in June 1971, where it lasted less than a month.

If this were a daily paper, I could see this slipping through, but what's happened to the vaunted fact-checking at The New Yorker?

Chicago Guy Adds: It's really gone downhill since Jay McInerney left.

Irony

Being behind the times, I just read last month's issue of Vanity Fair. In his "Editor's Letter," Graydon Carter bemoans the polarization of the electorate. He traces this, in part, to when the Reagan administration dropped the Fairness Doctrine.

The Fairness Doctrine, for those who can't remember anything before 1987, was an FCC policy that allowed politicians to punish broadcasters who criticized politicians. You had to be "balanced," as determined by the government. Having a point of view was, in essence, illegal.

I don't agree with Carter, but up to this point, the argument's been consistent. However, he closes his letter praising the series of lengthy anti-Bush articles he's been publishing. This last issue before the election had seven anti-Bush pieces, by my count. Now Carter may feel his arguments are more rational than those heard on TV or radio, but if the government had a Fairness Doctrine for magazines, he'd be required to double the size of each Vanity Fair to include pro-war, pro-Bush pieces, or stop publishing altogether.

Perhaps Carter didn't have time to consider this, since he's been so busy publicizing his anti-Bush book What We've Lost.

I thought the funniest piece in the magazine was by John Mellencamp. He's worried artists are afraid to speak out against the Iraq war and the Bush administration.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Hillary versus Jeb in '08

Jeb Bush could be the Republicans best candidate in '08 -- but for the inevitable screaming about a Bush dynasty. But if the Democrats nominate Hillary, doesn't that argument get wiped away?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

K-Mart buys Sears

Now I have two reasons not to shop there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Federal Reporter Shield Law?

NBC President Neal Shapiro argues today in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) for a federal shield law that would prevent courts from forcing reporters to testify about confidential sources. The idea, of course, is that reporters could generate lots more good stories if they could make iron-clad promises to keep secret the people who gave them those stories.

Unfortunately, these sources are typically not just good guys doing the right thing. Presumably under a federal shield law, reporters would not have to reveal who might have committed a federal felony by outing a CIA operative. Or a "source" who forged US military records to throw a Presidential election.

Instead the reporters could just invoke their statutory right to shut up -- like doctors, lawyers and psychotherapists. What's more, big companies like GE -- which owns NBC -- would not have worry about being slapped with big fines. A federal shield law would thus hold down legal costs, and so the price of newsgathering too.

Hmm. I still don't know if this is good for the republic and the rule of law. Or for journalism.

Shapiro should live with the very rare cases of intrepid journalists cooling their heels in jail, rather than deal with the line-drawing problems raised by a federal shield law.

Would it cover bloggers? Even bloggers on websites with the number of readers approaching zero? Anyone who's ever appeared on a radio talk show? Reporters who didn't actually report on the information sought by prosecutors? Could anyone who ever wrote a story for his local weekly argue that he's forever immune from testifying about anything?

Maybe I'm making too much of this. Perhaps the shield law could just cover (as in the cases of doctors, lawyers and psychotherapists) state-licensed professionals -- journalists who work only for legitimate, government certified news organizations with a reputations for accuracy, fairness and ethics.

Like, say NBC, CBS and the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

"They're holding up nice."

I just got out of my 6-month dental check-up, and that's what my dentist told me about my teeth. This seemed weird to me, since I've never had a major dental problem. I am 43, however. I guess that means I'm now in life's back stretch and my body parts are now in a race to outlast each other. So my teeth are "holding up nice." Good news. I hope that damned heart is hanging in there, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dumbest argument?

There were a lot of silly things said in the recent campaign, but there was one claim that still shocks me in its stupidity. This was the idea that Kerry would win because, after all, who'd vote for Bush who didn't vote for him last time?

The facts have since settled this issue, but the claim was always foolish. First, the reason Bush lost the popular vote to Gore was millions felt him unproven and not personally up to the office. The Democrats masterfully preyed on this fear by releasing information on his DUI just before the election. After serving a term, obviously those voters wouldn't feel Bush was too green.

Furthermore, at least a few million who hadn't liked Bush would have to feel his record in office was impressive enough to vote for, almost no matter what he did.

Then there was the little matter of 9/11 and Bush's prosecution of the war on terror. While not everyone approved of his actions, there were clearly tens of millions who did.

Yet, amazingly, even some poobahs in the media (famously ABC's The Note) repeated this silly meme. There was never a guarantee Bush'd win, but get new voters? That was a gimme.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Irreplaceable

Walter Cronkite, who harshly criticized Dan Rather in 1987 for walking off the set, now says in Details that Rather's report on George Bush's National Guard Service was a major screw-up, far beyond any mistakes Cronkite made.

No comment. Let the CBS investigation continue. I just want to say, now that we have a little perspective, that the worst part of the scandal was the arrogance of Rather and CBS--they'd been caught in an obvious fraud, and rather than investigating and figuring out (in about two minutes) the documents were no good, and humbly ask for forgiveness, they imperiously stood behind their story because they were important and their attackers were agenda-driven nobodies.

By the way, have they called Ohio yet?

"When you strike at the king...

...you better kill him." So said Oliver Wendell Holmes. The guys at 60 Minutes II are now reportedly worried they didn't heed his warning.

LAGuy adds: How do you think Howard Stern feels? By the way, that line is also attributed to Emerson, but it sure sounds like Machiavelli to me.

Well-deserved vacation

I've been carrying this blog on my back lately. Well, that's all about to change. Tomorrow, I go on vacation, and will not likely be blogging for over a week. I trust my co-bloggers will pick up the slack while I'm gone.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Judging Judges

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren suggests Bush pick Alberto Gonzalez for the next open slot on the Supreme Court. What a rotten idea. Lindgren notes that Gonzalez favors affirmative action and is suspicious of even the slightest hindrance against abortion rights. The mind boggles at how the two very things that should disqualify Gonzalez are seen, by Lindgren, as reasons to choose him.

There are a lot of issues the Supreme Court deals with, but right now the two that outweigh everything else put together are affirmative action and abortion. Gonzalez opposes what Republicans want on both.

Though he has greater strength in the Senate, Bush may still need to make deals to get his candidates in. Or maybe not. Let's find out. But if he reaches the point where he has to make a deal to let Gonzalez in, I say screw it--pick Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, over at Drudge, the latest rumor is Bush would like to make Clarence Thomas the next Chief Justice. I don't know what goes on backstage at the Court, but Thomas seems like a quiet, calm man, who might have the talent to be a good CJ. Personally, I think the job is mostly an administrative one and the power the Chief Justice has to set an agenda is vastly overrated.

However, Clarence Thomas was a lightning rod and could become one again. A confirmation hearing to move him from an associate justice to Chief Justice might blow up in Bush's face. Is this worth spending his capital on? (On the other hand, maybe after Clinton, Democrats will have a tough time voting against any powerful official who chases after underlings.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fear Of The Game

I just saw Word Wars, a documentary about top Scrabble players. I'm not ashamed to say these are my people and I enjoyed the movie.

I did have one problem, though. It's not that it was projected on video. It's not that it didn't have as much time to get into the story as Stefan Fatsis's book Word Freak. No, the documentary suffered from what I call Fear of the Game.

The filmmakers are so afraid viewers will tune out if they spend too much time concentrating on the game that they only give us glimpses of actual play. Perhaps they're right. But I'm a Scrabble fan and I wanted to see some Scrabble. I wanted to see the tiles being picked, considered, rearranged, then placed on the board for maximum effect. I wanted to see strategy--forgoing higher points to make sure you don't open up a triple-word score, for instance. Instead, we get a quick shot or two of a bingo, and that's supposed to satisfy us.

I noticed the same problem in the film Searching For Bobby Fischer. There was never a clear, held shot of the chess board so you could see where the game stood. In the big finish, where hero Josh figures out how to win a tough game (in real life, Josh barely salvaged a tie to win the tournament, but Hollywood would never go for that), the play goes by so quickly you can hardly tell what's happening. This may be because the race for queening at the end is so clearly to the disadvantage of Josh's opponent we'd soon realize how foolish he is.

There is one film I can think of that, while concentrating mostly on non-chess matters, does give you enough of a view of the board, with brilliant endplay, to satisfy. That's The Luzhin Defence. Luzhin is a chess genius who cannot conform to normal life. He kills himself, but his wife finishes his last game for him, based on his notes. We get to see these moves and can understand how they work. I have not read the original Nabokov novel, but I get the feeling the chess game was created specifically for the movie. If so, good work.

Don't get cocky, kid

Now that the Republicans are done congratulating themselves it's time to get back to business. It was a solid win, but there are plenty of reasons not to get cocky. My favorite is simply that if you screw up big, you're out. That's how democracy works.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson took 44 states and 61% of the popular vote. The Democrats also ran the House and Senate. Some feared Republicans would become a third party. But within four years, Johnson was so unpopular he didn't even run for reelection and a Republican took the White House.

In 1972, Richard Nixon took 49 states and 60.5% of the popular vote. He didn't even finish out his term. By 1976, people were embarrassed to call themselves Republicans. Jimmy Carter took office and the Democrats--holding the Congress--looked poised to run things for a generation. But four years of Carter's management drove the public back into the arms of the Republicans.

No party owns the White House, no party owns the Congress. If either thinks so, time to think again.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Beedle dee, dee dee dee

I've been having trouble posting (again?!) so I hope this goes through. My last post--about hanging out last night with fellow bloggers Matt Welch, Amy Alkon and Mickey Kaus--is lost to history.

I wake up today and see two different opinions from two ladies who are very disappointed in Tuesday's returns. First, let's turn to Slate and Jane Smiley. I'm afraid it won't be pleasant.

I'm not a big fan of Jane Smiley the novelist, but whenever she writes essays she's much, much worse. (I think there's something in my archives about her take on the upcoming election. Sorry that I haven't learned to link to myself yet.) Her hate is so great it doesn't leave much room for reason.

Rather than argue, I think quoting her will do the job:

...I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not....[Her relatives who voted for Bush] are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.
Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves....They know who they are--they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind....

A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know ["as we know"--priceless], decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class....They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant.

...red state types love to cheat and intimidate, so we have to assume the worst and call them on it every time....--to always appeal to reason [that's right, reason] and common sense, and the law, even when they can't understand it and don't respond....in addition, we have to remember that threats to democracy from the right always collapse. Whatever their short-term appeal, they are borne of hubris and hatred, and will destroy their purveyors in the end.

So, when you come down to it, nothing to worry about.

Obviously, Smiley is venting. Is there anything missing from her argument? Well, she could have tried to explain why Republican ideas are bad rather than question the motives of those who believe them. (She doesn't believe those who believe them believe them.) More unfortunate, she doesn't spend a second in self-questioning. (She starts with "forget introspection.") Our side? We're too nice, that's our problem.

Jane Smiley can write what she pleases (in our country--this sort of criticism would have gotten her tortured and killed in the countries she opposes us liberating). But that doesn't mean Slate has to publish her. Aside from humiliating Smiley, what purpose does making this rant public accomplish?

A bit more rational, but still pretty wacky, is Arianna Huffington's take. She believes in the old rationalization that the Dems didn't offer a bold enough alternative. As I've stated before, this is the claim of every loser in every election. Sorry, Arianna, if Kerry had tried to pull a Dean, you might have felt better, but he would have lost by a bigger margin. You see, almost all of Bush's base strongly supported the war on terror (including the war in Iraq). Kerry's base was more tenuous--a good portion opposed the war but a significant minority didn't. Kerry had to appeal to both, unless he only wanted two-thirds of his base and little more. So his message had to be "wrong war, wrong time, but I'm the man to fight it to the end." It's a tough message, I admit, but he almost pulled it off.

Huffington also fools herself into thinking she can characterize all issues from her point of view and the voters (not to mention the Republicans) will acquiesce. Here's how she puts it.

"With Iraq burning, WMD missing, jobs at Herbert Hoover-levels, flu shots nowhere to be found, gas prices through the roof, and Osama bin Laden back on the scene looking tanned, rested, and ready to rumble, this should have been a can't-lose election for the Democrats."
Let's break this down a bit, shall we? If there's trouble in Iraq perhaps we need to redouble our efforts, not vote in someone who opposes the war and is looking to get out. As for the WMD argument, the Dems squeezed as much out of that as they could--it's not possession of WMD that count (Britain, France and Israel have them, for instance), it's the threat of Saddam Hussein with them that worries us, and the post-war reports show he was active in trying to get them. Jobs at Herbert Hoover-levels? Putting it that way takes a lot of nerve. Yes, after inheriting a recession and then being hit by 9/11, Bush's net job growth isn't great, but the employment level at present is a perfectly acceptable 5.4%, whereas it was six times greater at the depths of the Depression. Flu shots? Who cares. Gas prices? Last time they went through the roof was when Clinton was president and you (nor I) didn't blame him then. Hey, I thought Bush was so cozy with the Saudis he could get the prices down any time he wanted. I guess all those Michael Moore theories have to be thrown out. As for Osama Bin Laden, he's still alive, but on the run, trapped like a rat (he used to essentially run a country), his top men dead or captured, and his latest message "please stop hitting me." Yet you think Kerry could speak such nonsense in a debate and Bush would just roll over?

Arianna, if you want to win the next election, a little advice. Now is not the time for propaganda, there's no one voting. Now is the time for self-criticism, and please, please don't conclude that you lost because your message didn't get out, or the Republicans were too mean. At least consider, for just a while, that there's something wrong with your ideas.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Aesthetics

I was just looking at the electoral map, now filled-in with the exception of Iowa. I'm so glad that Bush and Kerry swapped New Hampshire and New Mexico. It creates an aesthetically pleasing look, with a large, connected grouping of red states and several large pockets of blue. NH and NM used to be flies in the ointment, but this works.

I saw a breakdown of the voters (from the very useful exit polling--that was misused and misunderstood on election day) and here's an intersting stat:

Gun owners are 36% of the voters, and they went for Bush 65% to 35%. Non-gun owners are 64% and they went for Kerry 57% to 43%. So it's clear what should be a high priority for the second Bush Adminstration--getting everyone a gun.

Actually, (and this is the only slightly serious item here), the results were shocking. Bush won by 3% of the vote and only squeaked out an Electoral College victory. I remember some academic (it may have been Gary Orfield at Harvard, but don't quote me on it) who was unhappy, years ago, when Republicans claimed they had a lock on the White House regardless of voting percentage. He claimed, mathematically, if you win by at least 1%, it's almost impossible not to get the EC win. The 2000 election might have made you question this, but Bush only lost the popular vote by .5%, so it didn't disprove it. But now, with a solid popular victory, Bush is still only President because he took Ohio in a close vote. If Kerry, somehow, could have turned that state around, he'd be President now, even with 3,000,000 less votes than Bush. Astounding.

Spinning out of Control

Sounds like a story line is emerging on the left: Kerry lost because rural homophobic, single-issue religious fanatics turned out in droves after Karl Rove worked them up into a lather over gay marriage. Thus, the argument goes, Bush's big win really doesn't mean Americans approved of his handling of Iraq, the War on Terror, taxes etc. Democrats used a similar tactic against Reagan -- insisting the amiable Gipper charmed a gullible electorate into giving him two landslide victories, despite that fact that they disagreed with his policies. My guess is that this latest spin will take hold among much of the left, but if Democratic leaders actually start believing it, the party's in even bigger trouble for '08.

Took a wrong turn at Iowa

While Republicans celebrate, Democrats recriminate. We're already hearing the most tired mantra of all--the trouble with Kerry was...he wasn't liberal enough! He tried to be on the side of the war (you know, the one he called the wrong war at the wrong time) and was against gay marriage and straddled too many issues and shot a goose. We need to give the public a clear choice because give them a real Republican and a fake Republican and they'll pick the real one every time.

(These same people who believe in sticking to your principles, I might add, are now suggesting Bush apologize for winning and start to compromise.)

I think it's pretty obvious Kerry being against gay marriage, even if he didn't believe it, was a necessary political stance (a marriage of convenience?), as the eleven successful referenda on the issue demonstrate. (I favor allowing gays to marry, and I can say that openly because I'm not running for President.) And while the base of the Democrats may have hated the war, there was a large group in the middle who thought it was the right thing to do. Kissing them off was kissing off the election as well.

And yet, many Democrats now suggest they would have done better with Howard Dean. This is true only if you enjoy the spectacle of someone going down in flames. Dean would have offered a true choice, yes, just like Barry Goldwater and George McGovern did.

I commend the Democrats for picking Kerry. It shows they were trying to win, and their man gave Bush a run for his money. In fact, when you looks at it through the eyes of the Electoral College, he came amazingly close to pulling it off. A vote for Dean was a vote for four more years in the wilderness. And if the Democrats want to pretend Dean would have done better, for the childish reason that his rants make many of them feel good (not unlike Michael Moore's), then they can spend all the time in the wilderness they like.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Edward's speaks

No defeated Vice Presidential candidate has ultimately ascended to the Presidency since FDR. John Edwards is no Roosevelt. Prediction: His political career will follow the same track as Lieberman, Gore, Kemp, Qualye, Ferraro, Mondale, Dole, Shriver, et al. No Democrat denies Hillary Clinton the nomination, if she wants it.

Michael Moore, call my agent:

My pitch for a sequel... "Fahrenheit 11/2": Karl Rove gets the first wave of exit polls, and realizes he must do something. He places a call to his cronies Diebold who hack into the nation's new computer voting machines. With a quick software tweak, they electronically steal the election for Kerry.

A Country Divided?

Come on! Clearly this election cycle shows a remarkable consensus on the big issues of the day:

(1) We have to kill the terrorists before they kill us. (In fact, based on the traction Kerry seemed to get with his "Tora Bora outsourcing" line, the consensus seems to be that we must get even more aggressive in hunting down the bad guys.)

(2) We must do what it takes to win in Iraq.

(3) Iran can't be allowed to get the bomb.

(4) We should work with our allies when we can, but never give another country veto power over our foreign policy

(5) At least 99% of Americans are being taxed enough -- and most of them deserve further cuts.

(6) Gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, but should be allowed to enter in to some kind of legally enforceable civil union.

computer

I want to take my computer and throw it out the window. It drives me crazy when it's not working.

Pajama Guy responds: Get a Mac.

Bloggers almost hijack democracy

Clearly the answer is mandatory testing and certification of all reporters, and making practicing journalism without a license a crime.

I wonder if LA Guy has second thoughts about whether the networks should release exit polls.

Elusive Youth

Apparently (haven't seen numbers confirming it, but many bloggers are saying it, though see), the vaunted youth vote didn't materialize. Not a complete surprise. They're less reliable citizens--that's part of the charm of youth.

One thing impressed me--they apparently weren't frightened by all the scare tactics about a draft. Or maybe they just flaked.

Thinking and Hoping

Look at this list of pundits and their predictions:

First, Republicans.

Fred Barnes - Bush 306, Kerry 232.
Tony Blankley - Bush Win
Pat Buchanan (who endorsed Bush this election) - Bush Win
Terry Eastland - Bush 296, Kerry 243
Bill Kristol - Bush 348, Kerry 190
Bob Novak - Bush 301, Kerry 237
Kate O'Beirne - Bush 297, Kerry 241
Tony Snow - 280, 258

Now, Democrats.

Donna Brazile - Kerry 297, Bush 241
Margaret Carlson - Kerry 274, Bush 264
Eleanor Clift - Kerry Win
Al Hunt - Kerry 279, Bush 259
John McLaughlin (not traditionally a Democrat, but he has spent month after month attacking Bush over the war) - Kerry Win
Lawrence O'Donnell - Kerry Win
Mark Shields - Kerry 281, Bush 257

Notice a pattern? This is my problem with "pundits." They should be giving clear-eyed, informed opinions, but too often their so-called analysis is thinly disguised boosterism. It's one thing to explain why you support a political position, it's another to fool yourself into believing the electorate must agree with you.

Perhaps some of these people came to their conclusion in a disinterested manner, but the public record does not inspire confidence.

Perchance

No matter what, it's been an amazing night. I note my fellow bloggers haven't written anything lately. This is because they're family men and are in bed. Like 2000, a lot of people are going to sleep not knowing who's President (or thinking the wrong guy won).

I wonder what they're dreaming of? Pajama Guy is smart enough to know it comes down to one state, so I bet he's dreaming of Ohio. For all I know, he's dreaming of Cuyahoga Country.

Chicago Guy, on the other hand, is a sports fan. He loves the Fighting Irish. He's probably still dreaming about the one bright spot in their dreary season, when they beat my team, the Wolverines.

I'm going to stay up till the bitter end, assuming that end is within the next 12 hours. And after that I'm going to bed and, to tie it all together, I'll dream of the Wolverines beating the Buckeyes.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

By their moans you shall know them

I was listening to some right-wing talk radio. Boy did they sound depressed. I was surprised. If Kerry wins, they've got four years to be depressed. Can't they at least fake enthusiasm for one more day?

Who Do You Trust?

Kathryn Jean Lopez over at NRO offers up an insider email claiming the exit poll sampling is 58% female. Why? Either why would the pollsters do something so stupid and/or dishonest, or, why would a GOP insider put out intentionally false info that will be soon proven wrong. (I guess the latter has a better motivation to lie--to keep hopes up, while pollsters, with reputations on the line, have less reason to get it wrong intentionally. Perhaps the pollsters' excuse is these are secret, incomplete polls which no one had a right to broadcast.)

So right now there seem to be two possibilities. Kerry wins early, or it'll be a long night.

The Bloggers' "Florida 2000"

Celebration and panic in the blogosphere over meaningless election numbers caused the markets to dip. This was our equivalent of the TV nets blowing the Florida call in 2000.

LAGuy Responds: "Meaningless" is a bit strong. The early numbers, even though off (and where exactly did they come from?) showed at least that Kerry is doing okay and Bush will not blow him out.

The newer numbers, less "meaningless," do show a close struggle at present in Ohio and Florida. If Bush can take these two, he probably wins, even without New Mexico. But if he loses either, the other numbers are not looking good for him.

And yes, I am aware that exit polls four years ago sometimes showed Gore higher than he was. Is this a systematic thing (pollers sample wrong? Republicans lie to pollsters? Republicans go to work then vote?). If Bush is systematically being underreported just a bit, he's got a good chance of taking it. But there's no reason to suspect this just yet.

Pajama Guy's precinct

I live in a strongly Republican district in suburban NJ. I voted at 7 a.m. and was told that the turnout was way up. I believe the polls that say Jersey's in play. If Bush wins here, a big reason will be security moms. But I bet the McGreevy scandal will be a factor, too. I'm curious to see the exit polls on that.

Chicago Guy Adds: My highly Republican suburban district was moderately busy at 6:30 this morning. Work colleagues in the city advise me that there are half-hour to hour waits to vote, despite the fact that Illinois is not in play. My guess is that there is a better than usual city turnout for the Democratic Senate candidate, Barack Obama, who is running against the GOP's resident loon Alan Keyes (polls have it anywhere from 60-75% for Obama).

LAGuy Adds: My highly Democrat precinct seemed a bit more crowded than usual. Of course, it's hard to gauge since the last time I voted, it was for Governor and there were about 400 people running. I think I chose Gary Coleman. They've replaced the old punch-card ballot with a similar ballot that you now ink up. Not only is this new system harder to use (mightn't the ink run out somehow, or is it built into the ballot?), but I miss the satisfying sound every time I punch out a chad.

PS I don't believe Jersey's in play. What you readers want to do is go to a blog with PhillyGuy, ColumbusGuy and MiamiGuy.

"Bush will win 51.6% of vote," Kerry pollster doesn't predict

Mark Mellman, writing in Roll Call, says he "will resist predictions" then appears prognosticate a Bush victory. Along the way, he concedes the "Republican spin" was right when it came voters' unwillingness to change Presidents in wartime, and -- more surprisingly -- that Democratic attempts to talk down the economy were futile:

Democrats have spoken often and powerfully about the nation’s economic problems. But by historical standards, they are not that bad. The “misery index” is 7.8 today but was 20.5 when Jimmy Carter was defeated. Economic models of elections show Bush winning 52-58 percent of the vote.

One could simply suggest that the models are off, but there is more to it than that.

These models essentially confirm that the level of economic pain we are now feeling is not commensurate with voting an incumbent president out of office.

Unemployment and inflation are lower than they have been when incumbents have been defeated. Growth is higher than it has been when presidents have been tossed out of office.


Taking all this into account, Mellman says "an expert forecasting model suggests that Bush will get 51.6 percent of the two-party vote."

Sounds like a prediction to me. Which leads me to a prediction myself: Mellman won't make any friends in the Democratic Party with this column.

Enforced Ignorance

So it's election day and once again the princes at the network will know early who is ahead according to exit polling, and, once again, won't tell us until the polls close--for our own good.

I realize how screwed up the 2000 election was, but that was just bad polling, regardless of when the announcement was made. I live out in California (LAGuy, get it?), where the polls close last (except for Hawaii, which, amazingly, is thought to be in play). I want to know the likely results as early as possible--right after I wake up, if that can be arranged. It's my country and there's no reason for Dan Rather et al to lord it over me just because they work in the news business.

I applaud Drudge and others who try to break the information embargo.

Gloom

I was talking to a few friends of different political persuasions tonight. Oddly, they all seemed down. Almost gloomy. Why?

Could it be possible both sides feel like they're going to lose (as if the Cubs faced the Red Sox this year)? Perhaps. But I think it's something deeper.

After all the excitement of the Presidential race, they may be starting to realize no matter who wins, we'll have the same problems tomorrow, and the new guy (or the old new guy) won't be able to wave his hand and make them go away. There might be momentary exultation, but then it's back to the hard questions.

I'm LAGuy and I hope this message wasn't too negative. Happy election day.

Chicago Guy Responds: I am getting the exact same reaction from my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican. There's a fear that your guy might win and somehow screw things up worse than we've got it now.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Mickey Spin

I don't buy Mickey Kaus' logic in supporting Kerry. First, he tosses out all domestic issues (though he favors Kerry's positions, he concedes Kerry does not have the political skills to get anything passed). Fine. Second, he dismisses the notion that Kerry will do a better job in Iraq. So it all comes down to stopping the terrorists, and this is where I think the wheels come off Kaus' argument. He writes:

In the larger war on terror, however, it's no contest. Both candidates will hunt down and kill existing terrorists. The issue is how many new terrorists are we creating--as Donald Rumsfeld famously wrote, "Is our current situation such that 'the harder we work, the behinder we get.'?" Let's say that n is the number of net new terrorists who'll come online in the next four years. Isn't it obvious that n is a lot lower if Kerry is president than if Bush is president?


No, what's obvious to me that if both are equally agressive in hunting down and killing terrorists, they'll tick off basically the same amount of people. To argue otherwise is to embrace the same wishful thinking that, say, the French will contribute troops to Iraq if we ask them nicely.

Chicago Guy's Unscientific Finger in the Wind Election Prediction

The folks at www.electoral-vote.com have it 298-231 for Kerry, with 9 votes too close to call. I think not. Don't see how Kerry can win Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania; to the contrary, I think Bush will win Ohio, Florida (eventually--it could take days), and New Mexico as well. Kerry gets PA and NH as his home version of the game, thanks for playing. Call it 283-255 Bush, meaning (1) those stoner ski bums out in Colorado can split their electoral vote any way they please; and (2) four more years of high-pitched liberal whining from ChicagoGuy.

Bush Swing State Sweep?

Maybe, says Strategic Vision: They have President Bush leading in Florida (50%-47%), Iowa (49%-47%), Ohio (48%-46%) and Wisconsin (48%-46%). Bush is tied in Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey. He trails in Pennsylvania by a point (46%-47%).

Kerry 75% certain to win the election

Or so says Slate.

LA Guy responds: Who?

Time running out for 60 Minutes II?

Broadcasting and Cable, however, says Rathergate is not the main reason.

Guarding the Henhouse

I happen to know Pajama Guy watches Fox News regularly. So he must be aware of their latest polls which show Kerry with a slight lead in the national poll and a solid lead in Florida.

Are they gonna call this one early?

Pajama Guy responds: The Fox poll is good news for Kerry. It's been the major poll with the least wild fluctuations. In 2000, moreover, Fox had the national race a dead heat. (The polls tightened in the last weekend after Fox broke the story of Bush's drunk driving arrest.) I'm sure that Fox will call the race as it sees it. As the highest rated cable news network, it has far more to gain by being indeed "Fair and Balanced" than it has by trying to get Bush re-elected (as if it had the power to do that.) What's more, I think that CBS's Rathergate, ABC's "The Note"-gate, the New York Times NYTro-gate and the indisputable leftward slant of the overall media coverage of this campaign are tamping down most of the grumbling about Fox's alleged bias. One thing is clear -- Fox is a heck of a lot closer to the middle than CBS or the NYT.

Pajama Guy adds: That said, the Kerry spot thinks the Fox poll is funky.

Kerry: less-than-honorable discharge?

If Kerry wins, I hope this doesn't turn out to be true.

Bush 98.1% certain to win

That's how the Horserace Blog is handicapping it today.

LAGuy Responds: Who?

It's Over, #3 in a Series

It's over, for real this time. Forget polls predicting how people will vote, we now have exit polls on how they've already voted.

In Florida, Gallup says that 30% of registered voters said they'd already cast their vote, and Kerry is ahead 51% to 43%. Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register poll says 27% have already voted, and Kerry is ahead 52% to 41%.

Now I admit there are some problems here. Even with new rules and attitudes, I find it hard to believe so many have already voted. It would mean less voters on Election Day than beforehand. (Not impossible. Oregon does it all by mail.)

Also, these polls are far from perfect. Gallup, for instance, is famously erratic; Bush has had an incredibly shrinking lead in Gallup just this past week for instance.

Yet, unless these polls are strongly unreliable, they solidly suggest Kerry's going to win in Iowa and Florida. (Either they show Kerry is more popular, or Kerry is better at getting out the vote, which is just about as bad.)

It's generally believed for Bush to win he must take two of the three big swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 2000 he took the first two. This year, Bush was polling best in Florida, so if he can't win there, he's in big trouble. He still has a shot if he can take one of these biggies, but then he's also gotta clean up a few smaller blue states, such as Wisconsin and Iowa. If he can't take Iowa, he blows his last chance.

So that's it, everybody. The election is over. Please stay home, your vote doesn't matter.

After the official election is over, I will explain how Bush blew it, and what it means for the country. (Unless Bush wins.)

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