December 30, 2004

There's something about 120,000 dead that concentrates the mind. I noted just a few days ago that this was likely going to be a story that would have little effect in the West, particularly America, back when the death toll was less than ten percent of what it now is. The President, comfortably ensconced at his villa for the holidays, didn't even think it was important enough to make a public statement until three days had passed. Not even he could stay silent for that long, and our nation's long tradition of stinginess when it comes to the less fortunate, whether it be in our own country or in the Third World, and public pressure to do something will even force Tom Delay and the Red State Crackerocracy to spend a non-trivial amount.

I think it's safe to say that this is going to be THE STORY for awhile; all others, including the "war on terrorism", will have to take a back seat. If it takes a disproportionate focus on the dead and missing among Western tourists in Thailand to get Americans concerned about the miasma of plagues that afflict the Third World, if we need stories about movie producers searching for missing grandchildren, or supermodels hanging on to trees for eight hours, so be it. Our interest in the lives of people outside our continent and Europe tends to focus on how much they are like us (or unlike us), what the late Edward Said called Orientalism. Understanding that it is entirely possible that more Americans may well have died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami than died on 9/11 may be the first step towards understanding that the First Principle of human existence is not Freedom, Liberty, or Democracy, but to simply live.

Our objective should always be how we can create a global community where the simple act of living is not threatened by hunger, eradicable diseases, filthy water, inadequate medical care, and plain ignorance and superstition. How people choose who governs them (if at all) is a secondary, or even tertiary, matter. It reminds me of the controversial moment in Fahrenheit 9/11, the one that pissed off so many Michael Moore's critics on the Right: the scene where the kid is flying a kite before our invasion. Moore was criticized for implying that Iraq was some sort of idyllic society under Saddam, when in fact he was pointing out that even in one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the history of humankind, a normality could exist where children could play in the streets and vendors could sell their wares, without bombs falling and insurgents battling Marines for control of the cities. It wasn't perfect, and it would have been intolerable for almost every American, but in many ways, it beat the alternative we imposed on them.

It was clear when Bush attacked Iraq that the concerns of the Iraqi people were of no concern to him, or else he wouldn't have picked an arbitrary fight with a nation not threatening us and killed tens of thousands of its civilians. Even now, the upcoming elections in that country seem likely to simply substitute the despotism of a strongman with the oligarchy of an elite, without improving the daily lives of its people in any material way. The basic wants of Iraqis, though, are no different than our own, or those of the people of Sri Lanka: to be able to be reasonably assured that we can survive another day.

The horror in the Indian Ocean this past week should remind us that everybody, Americans and Thais, Africans and Indonesians, are interconnected, and that no matter what unimportant differences in our politics, religions, and cultures we might have, our common humanity binds us. When any part of our world suffers, it should impact us as well.

December 27, 2004

I'm beginning to think that a cruise ship is the wrong way to visit a tropical paradise. The whole point, I think, of going to a place like the Marquesas is to enjoy the beauty and splendid isolation, and to do that requires spending a few days there. Just stopping for a few hours, when the most an honest tourist can do is walk around the pier and (maybe) buy a few odds and ends, just doesn't cut it.

December 26, 2004

About a year ago, I commented on another site that many more people would die of starvation and diseases that were eradicated years ago in the U.S. than would die of terrorism. The author of that site responded by claiming that people like myself were of the "nothing to see here, just keep moving past the World Trade Center" wing of the Democratic Party. It is remarkable that, at least on a superficial level, our country can change so dramatically (and for the worse) over the death three years ago of 3,000 people, but an event that has killed at least four times as many people will cause barely a ripple. No wonder the rest of the world feels so little amity towards our cause, whatever that may be.

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas: A very surreal cruise, so far. After a nine-hour flight, we decamped in Papeete, exhausted and a bit staggered to go from an air conditioned airplane to the tropical humidity of Tahiti. There's usually a ceremonial bit at the beginning, where a band plays "Margaritaville" and we wave farewell, but since the ship didn't sail until 4:00 a.m., that just wasn't practical. Not much life so far.

The first stop was the island of Moorea, which is quite beautiful if you are into that sort of thing, but since I don't snorkel or sunbathe, I made only a perfunctory walk off the pier, realized there wasn't a resort within walking distance, and returned to the ship. Also, this is French Polynesia, so good luck watching the NFL.

The Tahitian Princess is a relatively small cruise ship. The cruiseline purchased the beast from the Renaissance cruiseline after that company went under in the aftermath of 9/11, and have pretty much left the ship intact; even the on-board dining rooms have the same names they did. Still, as anybody who has cruised before will tell you, the larger the ship, the less enjoyable the cruise. On a ship this size, you get to know a lot more people in a shorter time, and all the amenities that one comes to expect are delivered, but in a smaller, more accessible space.

We sail for a couple of days, which, of course, means two days of the social event of any cruise, Bingo. So once again, Merry Christmas to believer and infidel alike.

December 23, 2004

Gone to South Pacific for long overdue vacation. Will be blogging even more sporadically than normal. Bush lied.

December 22, 2004

Ten Votes: How would you like to have been the 2004 GOTV director for the Washington Republican Party today?

December 20, 2004

Not even Nat Hentoff, who is usually willing to roll over when it comes to the Senate asserting its "advise and consent" function with judicial nominees, can stomach the Bush Administration's architect of torture, Alberto Gonzalez.
The terrorists won:
F.B.I. memorandums portray abuse of prisoners by American military personnel in Iraq that included detainees' being beaten and choked and having lit cigarettes placed in their ears, according to newly released government documents.

The documents, released Monday in connection with a lawsuit accusing the government of being complicit in torture, also include accounts by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who said they had seen detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, being chained in uncomfortable positions for up to 24 hours and left to urinate and defecate on themselves. An agent wrote that in one case a detainee who was nearly unconscious had pulled out much of his hair during the night.


Another message sent to F.B.I. officials including Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau's top lawyer, recounted witnessing detainees chained in interrogation rooms at Guantánamo, where about 550 prisoners are being held in a detention camp on the edge of a naval base.

The agent, whose name was deleted from the document, wrote on July 29, 2004: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18 24 hours or more."

The agent said that on another occasion, the air-conditioning had been turned up so high that a chained detainee was shivering. The agent said the military police had explained what was happening by saying that interrogators from the previous day had ordered the treatment and "that the detainee was not to be moved."

The agent also wrote: "On another occasion, the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."
N.Y. Times, 12-21-2004
In all the talk about the President's propasal to abolish Social Security in favor of private accounts, the elephant in the room, the issue the media seems to be avoiding, is Iraq. Bush is asking the American people to take an enormous risk in abandoning a program that has worked successfully for almost seventy years, because there is a possibility, in a worst-case-scenario, that it might have trouble making full payments to retirees forty (or fifty, depending on who's doing the estimate) years from now. Most of us aren't policy wonks on the issue, so we pretty much have to make assumptions as to who is giving us reliable information about the problem. Even if you don't believe the President lied about Iraq's possession of WMD's, you have to admit his statements leading into war were reckless, and for the most part, untrue, and he didn't go out of his way to avail himself of differing viewpoints. And it's also safe to say that his handling of the economy has not been reassuring; if anything, he won reelection in spite of his economic policies, not because of them.

So what, if anything, has changed since March, 2003 that would give us any reason to trust him now?

December 19, 2004

Were he alive today, Josef Goebbels would have a blog, linked to approvingly (and even feted) by Instapundit, Roger Simon and Hugh Hewitt for his scathing attacks on liberals, Democrats, Hollywood, and, of course, the "MSM". His anti-Semitism would be explained away, or perhaps tidied up a bit, in the same way that the fundamentalist base of the Republican Party is excused for its politically incorrect view that non-believers in Jesus will spend eternity in hell. Come to think of it, as long as the former Minister of Propaganda can find it in his heart to support Israel, and to transfer his invective from Jews to A-rabs, he might find himself profiled in Time Magazine as its "Blogger of the Year".

Which brings me to the news that Powerline, the website that was instrumental in publicizing the discredited tale of the "Swift Boat Vets", has been named "Blog of the Year" by Time Magazine (Red State president George Bush was named "Man" of the year by the weekly). Considering how 2004 will be seen as the year in which the early promise of the blogosphere to produce "journalism of the individual" was perverted into a medium of lies, gossip and parroted talking points for whatever ideological agenda you follow, the award is well-deserved. Even the story profiled in the magazine, the exposure of the fake TANG documents used on 60 Minutes II, was fitting: a trivial scandal ginned up by the Internet (Bush's non-service in the National Guard in the waning days of the Vietnam War), reported on breathlessly by the leading TV news mag, only to have the producers suckered by obviously forged documents that dealt with a relatively minor point (and one that, to this day, Bush has not denied). The very thing that gives blogs credibility, that they originate outside of the mainstream of media commerce, from the individual, writing alone at his computer, is what makes them such an indispensible tool for the powerful.

December 18, 2004

Birth of a Nation: To no one's surprise, California was one of the Bluest of Blue States in the last election, a point that was confirmed by the official election tally released this week. In spite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Golden State remains one of the ripest of targets for potential terrorists, Kerry defeated Bush by just under 10%, or 1,235,000 votes. Although the margin narrowed for the third straight Presidential election, Bush's pick-up in the vote total only amounted to 1.8%, or less than 58,000 votes from his 2000 performance. In fact, outside of the five counties abutting Los Angeles County, where Bush picked up close to a quarter million votes on his Democratic rival, Kerry dramatically improved on Gore's performance last time. Critically, Bush failed to provide much competition, or make up significant ground, in Los Angeles County, which provided Kerry his third largest margin in the country (behind only Cook County, Illinois, and the District of Columbia).

December 17, 2004

Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact of 2004: NaziPundit hams it up with Nuke LaLoosh.

December 14, 2004

With only a couple of states waiting to be certified, the final score is...Bush 50.73%, Kerry 48.26%. Just under 2 1/2%, or three million votes on the dot. Argh.
Bush Lied?: Howard Owens has returned to the blogosphere, at a new address.
C'mon, if the CIA was behind a pro-occupation blog in Iraq, do you honestly suppose they would use sub-literate morons as their front?

UPDATE: One of the "sub-literate morons" responds, in kind. The battle is joined !!

December 08, 2004

I'm with Atrios on this one. What, exactly, is supposed to be the outrage? I would assume that the whole point of his using a pseudonym was so that he could maintain some segregation between his comings and goings and those of "Atrios"; once Duncan Black began to take more of an open role with the other blog, he "outed" himself. I don't see that as being ethically comparable to a blogger secretly being on the payroll of a political campaign, although even that isn't really a big deal, either.

December 07, 2004

When I first started this site back in April of '02, one of the reasons blogging was so attractive to me was my frustration with the lazy, sloppy, predictable thinking of so many of the people who got paid for pontificating about politics. Case in point: this article, which has received much publicity in the blogosphere, calling for the Democrats to "purge" certain elements, including Michael Moore and Move-On, from the party. The "Moore Wing", the argument goes, cost the Democrats this election by creating the appearance that the party was soft-on-terror, giving Bush the 3+% boost in the electorate necessary for him to prevail. Using the creation of the A.D.A. in 1947 as the inspiration, the Democratic Party should boot out the offending elements, just as Truman, Humphrey, et al. did the same sixty years ago to the Wallacites.

Several things are wrong with that prescription, even if we put aside the merits of the writer's position on fighting terrorism. One, the so-called Michael Moore/Move-On Wing of the party doesn't exist, since neither is part of the party in the first place. Moore, for example, famously supported Ralph Nader four years ago, and as far as I can tell, didn't go out of his way to campaign for Democrats down the ticket this time; if he went out and made speeches for Brad Carson or Tony Knowles during the campaign, the public record is pretty silent. Moore has a following today because he makes entertaining, provocative movies that lots and lots of people watch, and for all the talk about the mistakes and questionable assertions he sometimes throws into his documentaries, he is still, compared with much of the media and blogosphere, an honest voice. When he loses that, the party won't need to "purge" him, since he will no longer have a following to worry about.

Even if we are to assume, as the writer does, that the exit polls indicated that Bush's improvement over his performance in 2000 resulted from the perception that he was "tougher" on the terrorists than Kerry, that Kerry would have won back that segment with a more "serious" view towards the problem, and that Michael Moore and Move-On don't take the problem seriously (and anyone who has seen F9/11 knows that's not the case), you still run into the problem that the "wing" of the party you are trying to purge is at least as large as the aforementioned segment of the voters that voted for Bush last month, ie., 3+ percent. So we can call that a draw.

The most telling thing about the article is that it's clear the writer would have come to the same conclusion if John Kerry had done marginally better in Ohio. Clearly, the writer isn't attempting to formulate an objective analysis of what happened November 2, but trying instead to use the results to justify his desire to marginalize those who disagree with him. To put it another way, if Kerry was busy right now selecting his Cabinet, does anyone believe that the writer would have advocated rewarding the Moore Wing of the party for the victory they had just provided the Democrats? Of course not; he would be calling it a test of Kerry's leadership for him to defy his base, and exclude from counsel those, like Michael Moore and Move-On, who opposed the invasion of Iraq (and, as this writer notes, a stance for which history has already vindicated them).

Secondly, the writer may not be old enough or historically aware enough to understand this, but asking the Democrats to emulate what its governing wing did in 1947 is not exactly the most propitious historical precedent to follow. First, a history lesson: in 1944, the party bosses, realizing the FDR was ailing and that he had no obvious heir other than the Vice President, maneuvered the then-Number Two, Henry Wallace, off the ticket in favor of Harry Truman. Wallace, however, still a powerful figure within the party, remained in the Cabinet after Roosevelt's reelection that fall.

When FDR died in April, 1945, followed shortly thereafter by the Allied victory in Europe, Truman became President, and a split developed as to how to deal with the fact that our erstwhile friend, the Soviet Union, had effectively seized all of Eastern Europe in the aftermath. Wallace supported a more accomodationist position, spoke out against the Truman Doctrine, and was cashiered in 1946. The Democrats took a shellacking in the mid-term elections, fell out of power in Congress for the first time in a generation, and, divided between two different factions that claimed to be the inheritors of FDR's mantle, looked around for a way to regroup.

Hence, in 1948, the faction supporting Henry Wallace formed the Progressive Party to challenge Harry Truman, while another group, claiming to be liberal anti-communists, founded the Americans for Democratic Action (A.D.A.), and tried to dump Harry Truman from the ticket and replace him with Dwight Eisenhower. When that went nowhere, and Truman's renomination was assured, they tried a different tack: co-opt the Progressives on another issue on which they had broken with the national Democratic Party, civil rights. The Democrats had begun to make inroads in the North with the growing black vote during the Roosevelt Administration, in no small part due to Henry Wallace, but after FDR's death the party's position was tenuous, what with a large regional bloc devoted to the principles of apartheid. So a series of small but significant steps were taken, culminating in the passage of a pro-civil rights plank at the 1948 Convention.

The Democrats, of course, won in 1948, thanks to a worse-than-expected performance by Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party, which was due in large part to Truman's historical breakthrough in capturing a significant chunk of the black vote. Here, though, the story starts to get rather grim. The decade following that election saw not the rise of A.D.A.-style liberalism, but of Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon, as well as names long-forgotten to history, like Karl Mundt, Carl Curtis, William Knowland, and Strom Thurmond. Eisenhower was elected, as a Republican, for two terms, and the Republican Party controlled the Presidency, pretty much unabated, until 1992. The breakthough with black voters, so important in the 1948 victory, and so vital in giving the Democratic Party its greatest accomplishments in changing the face of America, would have its own political consequences down the road.

In fact, it's hard to see that period as being anything other than an unmitigated disaster for the Democratic Party, at least in its role as electoral mechanism for candidates. After 1954, the Democrats were resigned to controlling Congress, with its unwieldy and ultimately unworkeable coalition of Southern Dixiecrats and Northern liberals, until even that began to break down in 1980. When a Democrat won the Presidency, it was due either to running a novelty candidate (JFK, Jimmy Carter) or to a freakish historical event (assasination of JFK boosting LBJ, or Nixon's resignation and subsequent pardon leading to Carter's victory). And whether it was Tailgunner Joe denouncing the Truman Administration as a Communist front, or Bush the Elder using a veto of a bill requiring students to pledge allegiance to the flag as an excuse to challenge his patriotism, the Democrats were consistently, and successfully, portrayed as the "weaker" of the two parties when it came time to defend America. As far as capturing swing voters is concerned, making the party inhospitable to Henry Wallace failed miserably.

So clearly, the long-term fortunes of the Democratic Party are not necessarily served best by "purging" anyone. Nor should they be, since the whole notion of a political party in America purging someone for a politically-incorrect position is a noxious one, to say the least. It should be noted, in fact, that Henry Wallace wasn't "purged" by anyone; he left the Democratic Party, after it became clear that his position on issues pertaining to the Soviet Union would no longer advance his fortunes. If anything, one of the reasons we "fought" the Cold War in the first place was to repudiate the notion that some Central Committee or Party Directorate could have a monopoly on the truth. American political parties allow for grass roots participation and influence over their direction in ways unimagined in totalitarian states.

American political parties are often frustratingly cumbersome, but one of the ways in which they have made this country great is by being inclusive. In the end, that inclusiveness is empowering, since it puts the individual in a much better position in our democracy than members of more traditional political parties have.

December 05, 2004

This actually happened: Sitting in my neighborhood sports bar, nursing a buzz and trying to get over the fact that my alma mater got screwed by the BCS, I happened to notice my favorite bartendress was carrying a heavy table from one room into another, at the request of one of the patrons. I asked if she "needed a hand", and when she said yes, I politely applauded (sorry, it's an old Bob Newhart joke). Anyways, the patron she was doing that for turns around, laughing, and it's none other than...Flavor Flav. He turned around, wearing the trademark clock around his neck, complimented me on my bon mot, and gave me a soul handshake before sitting down and holding court with his friends (no Brigitte Nelson, though). The blessings of living in a celebrity haven....

December 04, 2004

I don't know what's worse, the fact that a majority of voters in Alabama voted to keep language in the state constitution upholding segregation, or that one of the reasons they did so was to avoid paying higher taxes improving the school system there. One of the saddest things about the Blue State-Red State divide is that my taxes go to supporting those racist leaches. Where we live, we have to worry about a replay of 9/11, largely because the President has decided that the terrorists who attacked really aren't as important as installing a puppet government in Iraq, while they have the small comfort that a good Christian man is in the White House.

December 02, 2004

For those wondering whatever happened to George Galloway, the radical British MP who was such a despised figure in the blogosphere last year, here's a story of interest: he just successfully sued one of the most powerful newspapers in England, the Daily Telegraph, for defamation, after the published a series of articles based on fraudulent documents that alleged he was on Saddam's payroll. The judge also awarded him about $250,000 for his injuries. It should be noted that George Bush has not brought a similar action against Dan Rather or CBS. [link via Rising Hegemon]
Bud Selig should make himself useful, for a change, and expunge every offensive record set in baseball over the last ten years. Don't just put an asterisk next to Bonds' single-season home run record (or any record set by McGwire and Sosa, for that matter); let's just ensure that any "achievement" those phonies accomplished be sent down the memory hole. The past decade has been to the sport what the mid-70's to mid-80's were to swimming, and the late-80's to the present are to track and field: huge, unmistakeable gaps existing in the collective memory of its fans, where names like Kornelia Ender, Ben Johnson, and "Flo-Jo" seemingly set staggering records, but which now are viewed, if at all, as performances that never happened.

November 29, 2004

Nicollette Agonistes: Frank Rich's column on last week's faux-controversy, and the intense viewership that Desperate Housewives has among the same Red State voters that just reelected President Bush.

November 25, 2004

One of the posters at Daily Kos has an overdue defense of his hometown, Detroit. It should go without saying that anyplace with a population over a million people probably has something going for it, if only because so many people still live there. And as far as blaming the Motor City for last Friday's riot is concerned, it should be noted that the Pacers-Pistons game was played in Auburn Hills, which is a suburb (or, dare I suggest, an "exurb") of Detroit.

November 22, 2004

If this is true, then you have to love the irony of yet another heel evading the terrible swift sword of justice, only to bring himself down in the process. BTW, whatever happened to Gary Condit?

November 21, 2004

From the standpoint of deterring athletes from charging into the stands to attack abusive fans, the NBA Commissioner's decision today to suspend Ron Artest for the season, as well as the hefty bans placed on Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson, certainly accomplishes the task. If the punishment for leaping into the bleachers to defend oneself from a beer shower is going to be more severe than for turning another player's face into raspberry jelly, you can be rest assured that athletes in the future will know their place. After all, the league doesn't have a problem with players choking their coaches anymore.

Turning a blind eye to the problem of nasty, drunken fans (or, in the case of David Stern, making pathetically empty denuciations of their bad behavior) guarantees that the NBA will have more black eyes will in the future. This isn't a problem limited to basketball, of course; a couple of years ago, several players on the Dodgers went into the stands at Wrigley Field after being attacked in the bullpen by a number of rummies, and a Kansas City Royal coach was nearly beaten unconscious by a father-son tagteam in Chicago. The last few years, going to Dodger games has become an increasingly unpleasant experience, the franchise apparently pursuing the fan base the Raiders left behind when they returned to Oakland.

What Stern has done is give the green light to that sort of behavior. Sure, the Pistons now have a P.R. problem, what with their fans now being perceived as being something out of A Clockwork Orange, but thanks to the thuggish antics of Pistons fans, the league has now completely wrecked their chief divisional rival. Drunken hooliganism has now, unbelievably, been rewarded by the league in the only area that counts to most fans.

One can only imagine how fans in other cities will react to this precedent. If the Pistons' quest for back-to-back titles has been aided by the crippling of the Indiana Pacers, with no real punishment (and no arrests) meted out to the true malefactors, what's to stop fans in other cities from pursuing the same ends? Fans of the Boston Red Sox who believe that Ron Artest had it coming, for example, might think twice if a similar situation were to occur at Yankee Stadium, with drunks tossing beer bottles, batteries, and other assorted objects, while yelling racial epithets to boot, all for the purpose of baiting David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez into losing their cool. Letting the Pistons get off scot free is an invitation for fans in other cities to get liquored up for the home team.

November 20, 2004

I Love This Game?!?

November 18, 2004

Smythe's World Recommendation: Samurai Homeboys, 9:30 tonight at Cozy's in Sherman will be a late night well spent.

November 16, 2004

Any analysis of the 2004 Presidential election that doesn't take into account the fact in the 51 different contests for electoral votes, 48 had the same result as in 2000, can't be taken seriously. Was terrorism the paramount issue? The same people who voted for Bush last time, when he was calling for a more humble, less active foreign policy, did so this time, when he staged a preemptive war not even plausibly connected to terrorism. Gay marriage/civil unions? Wasn't an issue last time, when Gore lost Ohio, Nevada and the entire South; I haven't seen the exit polling, but my gut tells me that the voters in the only two states that switched to Bush, Iowa and New Mexico, probably aren't more homophobic than the voters of New Hampshire, which went to Kerry. Michael Moore, F-9/11, and the Hollywood Elite? Kerry won Wisconsin and Minnesota, anyways, while two states that hardly epitomize traditional values, Florida and Nevada, both went for Bush by narrow margins. Defective voting machines? Funny, how the Republicans rigged the voting machines to fix the results in precisely the same states they won narrowly last time, while failing to do so in about a half-dozen states that might have given Bush a more commanding margin in the Electoral College.

Truth be told, the 2000 Census was a more pivotal event this election than 9/11. The big difference between this election and 2000 was that Bush ran a national campaign, and significantly increased the number of Republican voters across the country. Karl Rove had Bush on television everywhere, effectively using cable to get the message out, even in states where he had no chance of winning. As a result, while Kerry held his own in the "Purple States", even improving Gore's performance from 2000 in states like Colorado and Ohio, Bush won the popular vote by increasing his margin in the base, while reducing the amount he was routed in states like New Jersey, California, and New York.

Last time, Rove made a series of miscalculations in the final two weeks, and Gore was able to close the gap late and win the public nod (if not the Electoral College). With four years to plan, he didn't make the same mistakes, and the Republicans out-organized the Democrats, not by a lot, but by enough. As hard as it is for the defeated side to accept, for a candidate to receive 48% of the vote in a national election, and to capture states as different as California and Delaware, Rhode Island and Michigan, Hawaii and New Hampshire, a lot has to go right. Democrats should be more concerned about why, in the 2002 and 2004 Congressional elections, they couldn't elect moderate-to-conservative candidates in the South, not with how their left-liberal Presidential nominee fell one state short of victory.

November 15, 2004

What he said: A Blue State Manifesto, by S.Kimble.

November 09, 2004

Matt Welch has had a run of good posts the past week (here and here, for example) about the gauche, classless manner in which conservative pundits have gloated over last Tuesday's "landslide" victory by the President. One would think that with an election that close, at a time when the economy was not in a recession (so populist attacks would be less effective) and the nation at war (so any criticism of foreign policy is inevitably treated as unpatriotic, even treasonous), a three-point, thirty-six point Electoral College win over a left-liberal Senator from Massachusetts would be somewhat humbling for the victors. With the GOP five Senators short of a filibuster-proof majority, and with the President's goals for his second term more historically ambitious (and I would venture that the changes to the tax code and Social Security he is pursuing are a bit more adventurous and significant than cutting taxes for the wealthy and imposing national standardized tests on 11th graders), some bipartisanship might be in order, or at least some sense of sportsmanship towards the vanquished.

Instead, the reaction from the President's supporters in the media and the blogosphere has been more consistent with what one might expect out of Terrell Owens or Ray Lewis, in the unlikely event either of those gentlemen become politically engaged. It's not like that is ingrained behavior among conservatives; most of the Republicans I know would rather have their wisdom teeth pulled without an anaesthetic than use last week's nailbiter as an excuse to demean those who voted the other way. The people that I know who voted for George Bush did so because they agreed with his taxcutting, or thought that his Mid-East policy was the only appropriate way to take the fight to the terrorists, or because they always vote Republican. It may well be that they are not representative of the Republicans in the rest of the country (I live in a Blue State, after all), but I have yet to meet one who thought that in spite of his disastrous policies at home and abroad, we needed to reelect the President to send a message to Alec Baldwin or Michael Moore.

And frankly, the view that what motivated Bush supporters this year to vote for their candidate was a rejection of anything, whether it be Hollywood or gays, is rather offensive. Those of us who respect the will of the people, and take our opinions seriously, know that "winning" and "losing" are temporary conditions, and that the important thing is take part in the national debate. I guess it has something to do with recognizing that the governing party and the loyal opposition are equally important features of a free society.

It's just sad that there are some who do not know how to be gracious winners, and feel instead that winning an election isn't just about attaining the power to do good for society, but is rather an opportunity to exterminate your opponents. Sometimes the classlessness combines with racism and homophobia to create a truly toxic brew. In this "satirical" piece, the author calls for the "expulsion" of twelve Blue States (but not, for some reason, Michigan, D.C., Wisconsin, Pennslyvania, Minnesota or Hawaii) from the Union, reasoning that those states are
"...ethnically diverse; multi-religious, irreligious or nastily antireligious; more sexually liberated (if not in actual practice, certainly in attitude); awash with condo canyons and other high-end real estate bordered by sprawling, squalid public housing or neglected private homes, decidedly short of middle-class neighborhoods; both high tech and oddly primitive in its commerce; very artsy, and Babelesque, with abnormally loud speakers,"
while the Real America is
"predominantly white; devoutly Christian (mostly Protestant); openly, vigorously heterosexual; an open land of single-family homes and ranches; economically sound (except for a few farms), but not drunk with cyberworld business development, and mainly English-speaking, with a predilection for respectfully uttering 'yes, ma'am' and 'yes, sir.'"
Apparently, the Real America also a predilection for going to funerals and taking a dump on the gravesite, if that is any sample of Red State Wit.

Another pundit, Kathleen Parker, managed to attack both the "Hollywood" elite (including that sinister, decadent leftist, Kirsten Dunst) and gays ("When courting voters in flyover states, one does not say: 'I love you, stupid redneck morons.' Especially not when sporting biking tights and straddling an $8,000 two-wheeler") with this column. Since Parker wrote a column late last year in which she approvingly quoted a man who had called for the summary execution of the Democratic candidates for President, I think we may be forgiven if we take her criticisms with a grain of salt. But then again, when one realizes that the losing candidate received, for all intents and purposes, half the vote in this election, what does it say about the country that such an immoral, depraved political agenda as that put forth by the Democratic Party could appeal to so many?

Karma's a bitch, and the Right in this country is heading for a fall. As an unbiased observer from the paganistic core of Blue State America, Los Angeles, the one thing I can say about whatever limited role "God" chooses to play in the lives of people, with any degree of certainty, is that She does so enjoy punishing hubris. In fact, it's probably the one thing God lives for each day; allowing the self-righteous and arrogant to boast about their virtue and superiority, only to tear them down in the end. I just hope that those of us who live in our decadent enclaves on the Coasts are spared Her mighty wrath.

November 06, 2004

By now, the fact that the 2004 vote mirrored the 2000 vote has become well-established, with only three states, Iowa, New Hamphsire and New Mexico, flipping (and, in all three states, the margins this time and last time were microscopic). Had Kerry switched the minds of about 67,000 voters in Ohio, or 65,000 voters in Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, he would have prevailed in the Electoral College, even though Bush would have still won the popular vote nationwide. This map, a county-by-county breakdown of the last two elections, eerily shows how almost nothing has changed in the last four years.

November 04, 2004

In November, 1972, Richard Nixon could be forgiven for feeling that his entire life had been vindicated. He had just won a massive victory, anhiliating George McGovern by one of the most lopsided margins in American history, and in so doing had defeated everything he detested in America: liberals, the Kennedys, peaceniks, blacks, Jews, and hippies. He had gone before the country, having governed in as divisive a manner as possible, showing his true colors, and he had not only prevailed, he had conquered. His assholishness had not been kept hidden; the Watergate break-in, and its association with his reelection effort, had been public knowledge for months, but it hadn't mattered. He had done it his way, and he had won. And thus, his epic fall from grace was inevitiable.

He couldn't have imagined it, but the forces that were to bring him down were already in play. Too many of the people he had bullied were still breathing, patiently waiting for the moment when they could strike back. He had not only created very real enemies, but he had very little support even from those who were his partisan allies. The consequence of stepping on other people to achieve your ends, especially when they are supposed to be on your side, is that few will come to your aid when the mask of infallibility is stripped away, and your human faults lay exposed to the world. And so, throughout 1973 and 1974, when the full depravity of the Nixon White House was revealed, he had no one to rally to his aid, to defend him out of a sense of loyalty and obligation.

I thought of that while listening to the President's press conference this morning. After one of the closest elections in history, with a country dangerously riven across ideological and cultural lines, when true leaders should offer an olive branch to their vanquished foes, Bush instead demands surrender. Three years after one of the most terrifying days in our history, when we as a nation were never more unified, he announced today that he would work with only those members of the opposition who saw things the same way he did (which, with the retirement of Zell Miller and the disappearance of the southern Democrats, can now fit comfortably into a White House linen closet). The hubris of that demand, only days after almost losing a national election to a left-liberal Massachusetts Democrat, is breathtaking.

Some are now calling on us, the defeated, to accept those terms of unconditional surrender, to put aside the bitterness and rancor of the last four years, and to pay allegiance to his agenda. Tuesday marked a sharp defeat for the Democratic Party, especially in races for the U.S. Senate, where five seats in the South were lost, and the party is at its lowest ebb since the election of Herbert Hoover. But although we still have a ways to go to become a majority party again, there is a big reason why Democrats are in no mood to be conciliatory: by sharpening the lines of division, and by achieving victory not by an appeal to voters in the middle, but by focusing almost solely on his ideological base, George Bush has insured that a large opposition to his agenda will not only continue to exist, but actually thrive, without any fear of harm.

Looking at a map of the United States, one can see the outlines of a broader problem to our national politics. The Democratic Party now dominates the West Coast and the North Atlantic region, while the Republican Party controls the South and the states in the Great Plains and Big Sky regions. For all intents and purposes, the other party no longer exists in those areas. A two-party system continues to exist in the Mid-West and in some Rocky Mountain states, as well as Florida, and national elections will continue to be won and lost there, but for 75% of the country, there is no partisan competition as such.

What that means is that Democratic officeholders in Washington are increasingly detached from any sort of political threat from the other side. If one looks back at other recent turning-point elections, such as 1974, 1980 or 1994, the defeated side not only lost a lot of incumbents, but many of those who won did so by the skin of their teeth. Having a political near-death experience was chastening, and it made the losers less willing to obstruct the legislative goals of the winners.

But this time, one would be hard-pressed to find a Blue State Democrat so inclined. At the same time Bush was winning the popular vote, and the Republicans were snatching up open Senate seats in the South, candidates like Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, Harry Reid, and Russ Feingold, who six years ago all had tough, competitive races, each won decisive victories over their opponents. Illinois, which voted Republican in every Presidential election from 1968 to 1988, and which elected an unbroken string of GOP governors for almost thirty years, sent an African-American to the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly. To say that incumbent Democrats in the House had it easy would be an understatement; outside of Texas, where a crooked mid-term gerrymandering picked off four Democrats, one would hardly have known that this was supposedly a big Republican year.

Thus, there is no political incentive for Democrats to compromise in any way whatsoever with the Bushies. In fact, it is in their own best interest, from a nakedly partisan standpoint, to be as inflexible and obstructionist as possible, since there is no longer any real political cost in being so, whereas being perceived as a compromiser invites a primary challenge, which is now the only real threat to one's political career. And of course, the same has become true in areas dominated by the Republicans; if one can get elected to the Senate by supporting the execution of doctors who perform abortions, or by demanding the firing of all pregnant schoolteachers who are single, or by claiming that one's opponent bore a strong resemblance to Uday Hussein (and in each case, defeating Democrats from the center-right of the spectrum), there is little incentive to reach across the divide to find common ground.

That is the true political legacy of the first four years of the Bush Administration. In a way, his throwing down the gauntlet today was a relief. Having to accept defeat is tough, and agreeing to let bygones be bygones is always so emotionally difficult, since it entails having to acknowledge our own faults as well. Since the President intends to exhibit "leadership" the next four years the same way he did the first four, by using his power and his "iron will" to steamroller any and all opposition, and to impose the narrow, homophobic agenda of his base on the rest of the country, it means I don't have to go through the difficult task of soulsearching, of trying to figure out what my share of the responsibility is for the national divisions. If he wishes to govern as President of the Red States, not President of the United States, I don't have to give him my allegiance, since I am proudly not a Middle American. I don't have to identify his goals as mine, or see his wars as being America's. Since no quarter is to be given, none will be offered.

November 03, 2004

One of the revisionist accounts of yesterday's defeat for the Democratic Party concerns the use of social wedge issues, particularly referenda to ban gay marriage, as an explanation for the disappointing result. Pointing to Ohio, where an anti-gay initiative passed easily, the claim is that Karl Rove, et al., drove up Republican turnout by diverting attention from Bush's crummy record on the economy and terrorism onto a familiar scapegoat, in this case gays. While it might have helped get a few extra homophobes to the polls in Ohio (where an initiative outlawing gay marriages and civil unions passed over the opposition of the Republican governor and two U.S. Senators), an all-encompassing explanation for what went wrong it is not. Of the eleven states where gay marriage bans were on the ballot, two (Oregon and Michigan) were carried by the Democrats, in both cases by larger margins than expected, and seven of the other nine were unreconstructed "Red States". In only two states, Ohio and Arkansas, could it be said that Bush carried a state where there were both competitive races at the Presidential level and a ballot measure before the voters on gay marriage. In neither instance does it seem plausible to me that Kerry lost because of an influx of new voters drawn to the polls because of an antipathy to gay marriage.

Where the issue might have made a difference, though, was in the battle for the Senate. In two states, Kentucky and Oklahoma, the initiatives may have drawn enough bigots to the polls to aid in the victory of two rather weak GOP candidates, both of whom used homophobia to attack their opponents.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall's post, on how push-polling was used in Ohio to draw out the bigots, comes to a different conclusion on its effectiveness in that state.
If a jet hits the World Trade Center, but the vote from the 2000 election is essentially unchanged, did either of the Towers fall?

November 02, 2004

About five hours into the election, it appears that the President is running about two points ahead of his exit polling numbers across the board. If he maintains that (and the networks are clearly not calling Florida for Bush in deference to what happened last time), he will win reelection.
Early exit poll results give no reason for Kerry supporters to be pessimistic, so far...but, as always, take these polls with a grain of salt. They mainly have value for telling who's voting and why; the 2002 exit polls were so inaccurate they were discontinued half-way through the day; absentee and early voters are harder to incorporate into the general mix, etc. These polls certainly don't indicate that a landslide is in the offing, and the next release may show a Bush "surge". Still, it's better to be ahead.
African-Americans in Michigan being push-polled in the middle of the night. An appellate court freeing up Ohio Republicans to perform the "Brown Bag" test in Cleveland. Supporters of a challenger to Tom Daschle attempting to bully Native Americans in South Dakota. Ballots magically disappearing into the ether in Broward County, Florida. Registration forms for Democrats getting torn up and discarded in Nevada. It's Election Day, 2004, in all its spectacular, shabby glory.

November 01, 2004

I'm not going to have a lot to say between now and tomorrow night. Like many of you, I will be scoping out RCP, Daily Kos and Drudge for the exit polling results during the day, and examining the websites of various Secretaries of State from swing states at night. My prediction: a narrow Kerry victory, offset by substantial GOP pick-ups in both houses of Congress. We're still going to have to live with each other Wednesday morning.

October 30, 2004

Yesterday, Red Sox pitching ace and playoff hero Curt Schilling backed out of appearing at a campaign event for George Bush, and in effect apologized for publicly endorsing him. Schilling was quoted in a post on a Red Sox fan website that "(w)hile I hope to see (Bush) re-elected, it's not my place, nor the time for me to offer up my political opinions unsolicited."

Huh? If the final four days of a Presidential campaign isn't the right time to offer up your political opinions, when is? To suggest that Democratic citizens of RedSoxNation are somehow going to feel betrayed because one of their heroes is a Republican is ridiculous. Lefty sports fans long ago came to terms that many of our heroes on the field and in the arena are, shall we say, politically disagreeable. White athletes are a more dependable Republican vote (that is, when they actually care enough to register to vote) than Evangelical Christians, so Schilling's endorsement of Bush (and dissing of Kerry) isn't going to break anyone's heart. He should have stood by the courage of his convictions.
FWIW, by winning on Wednesday, teams from Boston (and its immediate surroundings) have now beaten teams from St. Louis in the championships of all four major American sports. I'm still checking, but I don't think any other city has beaten another city for three different sports titles.

October 29, 2004

The big problem with trying to prognosticate who benefits by the reappearance today of Osama bin Laden is that the election isn't going to be held tomorrow; it takes place Tuesday. No matter what reaction people are having right now to seeing his ugly mug pop up again, that same feeling ain't gonna last four days. The reality is that OBL is still alive (and seemingly healthy), he's still a threat, and Bush hasn't caught him yet. Any benefit he might provide the President's reelection dissipates every second he remains at large.

UPDATE: Upon further examination, the oft-cited parallels between this election and 1980 are again brought into focus. That year, an unpopular incumbent President had a slight lead in the polls going into the last weekend of the campaign, but also faced an increasingly bleak picture in the Electoral College. The challenger had the momentum following a clear-cut victory in their one debate, but had by no means wrapped up the election. In that final weekend, a deal to release the hostages in Teheran was seemingly in the works, and the public was led to believe that it would be announced shortly.

It turns out that the mullahs were yanking our chain, again, and the negotiations fell through. No one could fairly blame President Carter for that, or for the kidnapping of the hostages in the first place. But being reminded of what had come to symbolize that president's shortcomings on the eve of the election was enough to turn what had been a neck-and-neck battle into a blow-out.
For those of you obsessed with Electoral College calculations, you ought to make Frogblog your first destination.
Best way to tell that Kerry is going to win on Tuesday: not the fact that he's pulled even in the polls, with the remaining undecided voters likely to break his way, or that the market-based predictors show him pulling even or ahead, or even the high turnout figures in Dade County among non-Cuban Latino voters. It's today's column by Dick Morris, predicting a Bush victory.

October 28, 2004

October 27, 2004

Quickie Trivia: Name the living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame that were alive the last time the Red Sox won a World Series. Winner gets a night of free drinks and my good company. BTW, there are, at last count, seventeen deceased members whose entire lives were spent after the 1918 Series.
Availing myself of the early-voting program the County of Los Angeles offers, I performed my civic duty yesterday. After a great deal of soul-searching and internal debate, I finally decided to cast my ballot for the challenger, John Kerry. It was a tough decision. I could either choose a candidate who promised to restore some measure of fiscal sanity to Washington, to renew our nation's commitment to the environment, to pursue more civilized policies in areas like gay rights, and to finally take the fight to the terrorists. Or I could vote based on my material interests, in favor of a candidate who would keep my taxes low, in the off-chance that I ever marry into money, and who, like his father before him, has always pursued policies guaranteed to give people in my line of work, bankruptcy law, a steady income. In the end, competence and security won out over tax cuts and future clients.

October 25, 2004

On the one hand, you have the Bush Campaign trying to come up with a tidy explanation as to why over 300 tons of explosive just got up and walked out of an Iraqi storage facility about the time of The Liberation: either it disappeared when we weren't looking, or it was already gone by the time we got there, but we didn't notice. On the other, you have the righteous outrage of some junior orwells at a claim by John Kerry that he was at the Sixth Game of the 1986 World Series, when there is a press report indicating that he attended a political dinner in South Boston the same night. I shouldn't have to waste my time on this, but Logan Airport in Boston is less than three miles away from where the dinner was held, and JFK LaGuardia is literally on the doorstep of Shea Stadium. A flight between the two cities takes only an hour, so it's not as if Kerry would have needed to charter the Concorde to be at both events the same night. Game Six went extra innings; four hours elapsed between Bob Ojeda's first pitch to Wade Boggs and Mookie Wilson's dribbler through the legs of Bill Buckner. Kerry had plenty of time to shake hands at the dinner, put in a token appearance, then head off to New York to have his heart broken by the Mets.

October 22, 2004

The Spice Boys: One big difference between Band Aid and Band Aid 3 is that the original featured British performers who hadn't been thoroughly rejected by stateside music fans. I guess if it's for a good cause, we're supposed to pretend Liam Gallagher and Chris Martin are important rock icons....

October 21, 2004

As a result of last night's game, this post has now been retracted by its author.

October 19, 2004

Jacques Derrida "dies": The Onion has its pre-election review of the swing states.

October 18, 2004

George Soros also rigged my fantasy baseball league.
Karl Rove has a reputation for being a genius, perhaps undeservedly, considering the late collapse his candidate had in the 2000 election. If he's going to earn that rep this time around, it could well depend on how well he's can make gay marriage a wedge issue again, after the week we've just spent discussing the sexual preference of the Vice President's daughter. The controversy clearly played to the short term benefit of the President; after being swept in the debates by John Kerry, and seeming to be less "presidential" than his opponent in the polls taken in the aftermath, it may have been a necessary diversion to change the topic to the propriety of that subject being raised by the Democrats in the first place, and (especially) the rather clumsy and stilted way Senator Kerry brought the subject up. Bush has moved into a slight lead again, and for the time being the momentum the Kerry Campaign had generated since the end of September has stalled.

All of that is fine and dandy, but as far as a winning strategy for November is concerned, it's not going to mean squat. After all, we're talking about the modern-day Republican Party. To Karl Rove, George Bush, et al., gay-bashing isn't a bug, it's a feature. For a campaign that was relying on the "Three G's" (God, gays, and guns) to turn out its base, and that had made rather unsubtle references to its opponent being "French-looking", to now be forced to adopt a defensive posture over this issue can't be what anyone planned.

Let's remember how this all came about in the first place. George Bush was asked, during the third debate, whether he thought homosexuality was a lifestyle "choice". The correct answer is the one that the scientific community has come to, as well as (at least in his public actions) the Vice President: No. John Kerry used his response to point out that fact, that the Cheneys have a daughter whom they are proud of, who has a prominent position in his campaign, who has a partner considered to be enough a part of their family that she came on stage after the Vice Presidential Debate, and who is openly gay. If the Cheneys ever attempted to deprogram their daughter from her lifestyle decisions, the public record is silent.

But to answer that question in the negative would be disastrous before his religious conservative base, which is overwhelmingly homophobic. Answering "I don't know", when his Administration's actions contradict the public behavior of his Vice President, is a lawyerly way of evading any truthful answer. It is the sort of answer a tobacco executive might give if he was asked whether his product causes lung cancer, or a fascist historian might use if asked whether there were any Jews gassed at Auschwitz. After all, there's always some doubt; who can tell, with absolute, 100% certainty, what is true and what is false. If the President was to be asked whether he believes that the Theory of Evolution is a more accurate description of the origin of mankind than the Book of Genesis, does anyone doubt what his answer would be?

Kerry's response, while clearly hurting him in the short run, puts the Bush Campaign in a bind for the final two weeks. Any attempt to press the issue of gay marriage among swing voters is going to bring back the discussion to the sexual preference of Mary Cheney, whose privacy (and, it goes without saying, her right to be gay) the campaign has strived to defend the past few days. I don't see how Karl Rove gets around that.

October 16, 2004

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan has had the best takes on the most stunning revelation from the third debate: that the Vice President has a gay daughter. In particular, he notes (or one of his e-mailers notes) that the battlelines on this issue seem to be generationally-based: with varying degrees of sincerity, fogies seem to be most offended, while those of us born after 1960 (including, it should be pointed out, Mary Cheney, who has refused to bash Kerry over this issue, even though she is running her father's campaign) don't think it matters at all. Sullivan, who has broken with the Bush Administration on, among other things, their efforts to limit civil rights for homosexuals, has deftly exposed the hypocrisy of those on the right concerning this issue (as well, it should be noted, the hypocrisy of those who pay lip service to supporting gay rights, but who act with shocked revulsion when the topic is discussed during a Presidential debate).

October 15, 2004

Model Ballgirls: I was always under the impression that tennis was more exciting to watch in person than on TV. So why use this rather cheesy gimmick? Not that I'm objecting....

October 14, 2004

A few people have noted their discomfort with the reference by the Democratic candidates, first in the Veep Debate and again last night, to the fact that the daughter of Vice President Cheney is openly gay. One of the commentators on FoxNews last night went so far as to claim that the mere mention of that fact by John Kerry was the low point in the debate, while Mickey Kaus asked "What if Kerry were debating a conservative on affirmative action, and that conservative had a black wife, and Kerry gratuitously brought that up in an attempt to cost his opponent the racist vote?"

Well, let's try a little thought experiment. The equivalent time in the struggle for equality with African Americans would have been 1962, when the momentum was clearly moving in the direction of the supporters of civil rights, but a large and seemingly impregnable section of the country was resistent, and seemed to have the political power to thwart progress in that area. Imagine a gubernatorial race in Tennessee, or Missouri, or some other border state, between a candidate with "moderate" views on civil rights for that time (ie., dismantling much of Jim Crow, supporting a ban on lynching, greater voting rights), and a candidate with, shall we say, views more in line with the Confederacy, who claimed that his opposition to civil rights came not because he was a racist, but because he opposed the "intrusion" of the federal government into local matters.

Let's also say that the Dixiecrat had a daughter, who had attended college up north, become a lawyer, joined her father's campaign staff, and, incidentally, was married to a black man. Would it be inappropriate for the moderate candidate to mention that fact during the campaign, in the context of calling for a more free and open society, especially if the Dixiecrat was running on a platform that included support for anti-miscegenation laws? Of course not; one of the reasons the walls of bigotry inevitably fall is that they ultimately reach us at where we are most vulnerable, in our backyards and with our families. Does it make Dick Cheney, and the rest of us, uncomfortable? Of course; it should.

It really is no different than asking Michael Dukakis in 1988 how he would feel about the death penalty if it was his wife who was the victim. If conservatives really do have a non-homophobic reason for supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, then dealing with the fact that people they know and care about are affected by their stance is obligatory.

October 13, 2004

John Gill Watch: It turns out the Phillies-great-turned-U.S. Senator has every reason to go cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs. Today, he accused his opponent's campaign staffers of having beat up his wife at a picnic this past summer, in full view of the public and press, which, oddly enough, hadn't seen fit to report on the matter. In fact, considering the grievous assault, it does seem odd that Senator Bunning did not go public with the incident until today, when he was forced to explain why he had used a teleprompter to deliver his lines in a debate (mentioned below), in clear violation of the rules.
Well, I didn't go out drinking after all. My sister was held up at work, so I babysat my nephew, and thereby got stuck watching the debate (and a good live summary can be found at Prof. Johnson's site, here). Bush finally came up with a persona that didn't alienate the audience, and stuck with it, but his miniscule record of domestic accomplishments put him pretty much on the defensive anyways, so he benefitted little. His lib'rul-lib'rul-lib'rul attack line grew tiresome after awhile, and he just doesn't have the gravity to make that a compelling indictment of his opponent. And I'm sure the media "truth squads" will have a field day with him falsely denying that he had said he wasn't that concerned about Osama anymore.

Kerry was Kerry, knowledgeable and aggressive, but without the ability of a Clinton to land bruising shots at his opponent, or to turn uncomfortable issues on their head. He has no common touch whatsoever, as his discomfort when he made the Tony Soprano reference showed. But after an opening half hour that was dominated by religion and social issues, where Bush did well, the debate settled into a pattern similar to the previous ones, in which Kerry gradually took command. The first instapoll, by ABC, gave Kerry a narrow win, in spite of again showing that more Republicans than Democrats tuned in. Like the second debate, which appeared on its surface to be even until it became evident that Kerry had done the more effective job impressing the voters in the middle, I suspect that his good political fortune over the last two weeks will continue.
For the first time, Kerry now leads the WaPo/ABC tracking poll, having gained seven points on the President in two days. Gallup also reported a couple of days ago that Kerry had moved into a slight lead. Both polls continue to make the assumption that more Republicans will turn out this year than Democrats, so the momentum evidenced here is clearly advantageous for the challenger.
If, on the morrow, it appears that the debate moderator, Bob Schieffer, is tossing his fellow Texan a few softballs, don't be surprised. His brother is an old business partner of the President's, and currently sits as Ambassador to Australia. In any event, keep me abreast of what happens; the League Championships have first priority from where I'll be sitting, and even if the Red Sox lay another egg in sports' most contrived, one-sided rivalry, anything is better than watching the Manchurian Candidate parrot the same lines over and over again.

October 12, 2004

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a party in honor of Reason Magazine that was thrown by the LA Press Club (I'm a member, thanks to my position as Legal Counsel for Bloggers Monitoring the Media), and had the privilege of meeting some of the most interesting thinkers, writers, raconteurs and libertines in all of Christendom. Matt Welch, a friend to bloggers of all political stripes, has recently joined their staff, and his latest column (on the "Swift Boat" scam) neatly encapsulates the mistakes made by both old and new media in covering those charges.
A typical Matt Welch column is as fun to read, and as provocative, as one of Michael Kinsley's "TRB" columns during The New Republic of the Reagan Era, and the fact that the LA Times had him at their back door for the past decade without snapping him up will be as inexplicable in the future as the Dodgers' decision back in 1992 to play Jose Offerman at shortstop rather than the outfield Hitler's decision not to wipe the British out at Dunkirk.

October 11, 2004

If the GOP loses control of the Senate this year, it may well be because one of its incumbents had the bad luck to go stark raving mad this year. The junior Senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, had a seemingly comfortable lead over his underfinanced opponent when he suddenly went all Kim Jong-Il on his constituents, demanding extra security at personal appearances out of fear that he was being "targetted" by Al Qaeda, quipping that his Italian-American opponent both looked and dressed like one of the sons of Saddam Hussein, returning to Washington the day of his one scheduled debate to cast what he said were urgently needed votes (in fact, the Senate had just gone into recess), then insisting that he be allowed to participate in said debate by locking himself in the basement of the RNC Headquarters, thereby preventing any independent observers to see if he was being spoonfed his answers, a la John Gill in the "Patterns of Force" episode from Star Trek. Bunning, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame serving his first term in the Senate, denied the rumors that he's gone insane. [link via Daily Kos]

UPDATE: According to James Wolcott, Senator Bunning may well be suffering from Zell's Disease, an affliction that has reached epidemic proportions among Republican officeholders.

October 10, 2004

Huge day for the local teams yesterday, with top-ranked SC avenging its only loss of the previous season and the Dodgers winning their first playoff game in sixteen years. For a team that has had the image of being a button-down, corporate operation long before they were purchased by Rupert Murdoch, having a player like Jose Lima really provides a crystal meth-sized jolt to the fanbase.

To those of you who do not know the concept of "Lima Time", the pitcher in question is a journeyman who won twenty games late in the last century, but who had pretty much disappeared from baseball, pitching last year for the Newark Bears in an unaffiliated minor league. He has always had a cult reputation among fans, thanks in large part to the hype he has received over the years from Jim Rome. He tried out for the Dodgers in spring training, made the team, and when Hideo Nomo's arm finally gave out, won a spot in the starting rotation. He still pitches like a journeyman on the road, where he gets lit up by the opposition routinely, but at Dodger Stadium, he has been almost unbeatable, and probably generates more excitement than any Dodger starter since Fernando.

In the tradition of Jim "Mudcat" Grant and Black Jack McDowell, he is also a professional singer of some repute, even singing the National Anthem before games. It is now routine for stadiums to blare out familiar songs when a particular hitter is at bat, often chosen by the player himself (for example, Adrian Beltre is greeted at the Stadium with "Hell's Bells" by AC-DC, while Shawn Green makes his plate appearances to the danceable beat of "Song 2"). When Jose Lima goes out to the mound, it's to something he wrote and sung himself.

October 09, 2004

Watched last night's debate at a Woodland Hills sports bar. Although I couldn't hear any of the action, and saw the debate only intermittently between breaks in the playoff game, it did seem like Kerry was, once again, composed and reassuring. Bush looked like he had improved; I didn't spot a single rude gesture the whole night, and the "deer in the headlights" look that can seem so unsettling to even the most fervid Bush-basher was not in evidence. But who goes to a sports bar to watch a debate?

I wonder if the debate audience got larger as the night wore on, since the Yankees pulled away from the Twins about an hour in. Gallup, polling what it described as a GOP-leaning audience, gave Kerry a narrow victory, and that seems to be the consensus (see Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus); even Baghdad Hugh doesn't seem to have his heart in spinning for our Great Maximum Leader's performance last night. No gaffes, with both men performing cautiously, so my guess is that the essential momentum of the race will continue to move in Kerry's favor.

October 07, 2004

No WMD's in pre-war Iraq: Did anyone out there see that one coming? Who knew?

October 06, 2004

In the 8th inning tonight, Garret Anderson bore a queasy resemblance to John Mayberry in Game 4 of the 1977 ALCS. What an awful, potentially career-defining at bat that was; isn't Andres Gallaraga on the post-season roster? Come back, Jose; all is forgiven....
Happy Birthday to me?!? There are some years when I think the flu season doesn't officially start until October 6. Alas, no Bavarian, hop-and-barley based folk remedies for this illness....

October 05, 2004

I didn't get to watch the Veep Debate tonight, on account of there being a ballgame on, but apparently those who tuned in did get to hear someone in the GOP finally give some props to George Soros, billionaire philanthropist and do-gooder. Isn't that nice? My non-interest in tonight's face-off doesn't mean I can't authoritatively state that the clear winner was Edwards: after all, how can I conclude otherwise if someone as conservative as Andrew Sullivan has concluded that "[I]f last Thursday night's debate was an assisted suicide for president Bush, this debate - just concluded - was a car wreck. And Cheney was road-kill. There were times when it was so overwhelming a debate victory for Edwards that I had to look away." The next real debate takes place on Friday, a "townhall" meeting that I will, again, miss because it conflicts with baseball, but hopefully, Bush can explain why he disagrees with Thomas Jefferson on the "global test" issue [link via Jack O'Toole].
Thornton Melon, R.I.P.
Who is Tom Wilson? Well, it was nice while it lasted, but this afternoon was a sobering experience for those of us who have long looked forward to a Freeway Series. I figured Schilling v. J-Wash would be a mismatch; getting the automatic loss out of the way was probably the only reason Scioscia allowed that stiff to pitch. But Perez was probably the Dodgers best hope to win a game, and he got shelled early. The other starters (Lima and Weaver) don't exactly strike fear into the best offense in baseball. Dodgers and Angels see their seasons end Saturday.

October 03, 2004

Apparently, they're not having success with the "global test" spin. As new polls show that their candidate's lead has gone the way of the Bay Area's baseball fortunes, the newest attempt to breathe life back into the Bush Campaign focuses on whether Kerry "cheated" by bringing notes into the debate on Thursday. No word yet on whether his cheat sheet was in Times New Roman. What can I say; there's no rest for the wicked !!
...'cause I'm a ball,
and I go boo-bip-bip boo-bip-bip YEAH !!!

October 01, 2004

He may have lost the first debate, but President Bush hopes to regain some of his momentum after receiving the endorsement of former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. No word yet on whether Bush has picked up the all-important Earle Bruce endorsement, although football fans may remember the ideological contortions performed by Lou Holtz back in 1984, who may have been the only public figure in America to endorse both Walter Mondale and Jesse Helms.

September 30, 2004

And the conventional wisdom was supposed to be that having the first debate focus on foreign policy was to the President's benefit...Kerry started off nervous, but eventually took off, while Bush seemed ill-prepared, unable to improvise or think on his feet. More devastating for the President tonight was the fact that Kerry seemed more forceful, even, dare I say, tougher than his opponent. No obvious gaffes, for either candidate, but Kerry can't help but be pleased; foreign policy, and most importantly, Iraq, has been a drag on his campaign, but tonight went a long way towards neutralizing that Bush advantage.
On the way home from last night's Booze-and-Schmooze LA Press Club party in Beverly Hills, I drove by my old high school, Harvard (now Harvard-Westlake). There is now a gate surrounding much of the campus, an imposing castiron structure that, combined with the trees unnaturally planted along Coldwater Canyon Blvd., has seemingly cut the campus off from the rest of the planet. From the outside, it is almost impossible to see in (I can only imagine what it's like from the inside), so this beautiful school is now hidden away, its students shrouded more like convicts at San Quentin. Is this just a sign of the times, an attempt to keep out unwelcome visitors, or have the school trustees decided that their wards are best kept isolated from the rest of the world?

September 28, 2004

Read William Safire weeping about a "runaway prosecutor" trampling on the Constitution (including the "intrepid Judith Miller"), or Christopher Hitchens whining about "paranoid" October Surprise conspiracies, and try not to laugh...I guess we all just miss the day when the paranoid fantasies of pundits included the belief that the President of the United States was going after Al Qaeda in order to distract the public's attention from a semen-stained dress.

September 27, 2004

Another wacky poll from Gallup, this time showing Bush with an eight-point lead among "likely voters", but a thirteen-point lead with registered voters. There is no info provided about the partisan breakdown of whom they chose to interview, but since this is almost a reverse of their previous post-convention polls, which showed Bush with a larger lead among LV's than RV's, it stands to reason that in order to now give Bush a significant lead, Gallup has to find a sampling base where Republicans outnumber Democrats by close to a dozen points.

Or to put it another way, it is as if Gallup chose to poll only in the state of Montana, and use those results to extrapolate data for the entire nation. Now, it might well be that the national political landscape, post-9/11, now looks like Montana did four years ago, with a massive, historical partisan shift poised to give Bush a landslide victory reminiscent of FDR over Alf Landon, or Reagan over Mondale. Since Gallup's state polls (and other state polls, collected here by Donkey Rising) actually show a race similar to 2000, with Kerry comfortably ahead in California and New York, and swing states like Ohio and Florida within the margin of error, and since Gallup's national pre-election polling in 2000 also sucked, I'm going to stick my neck out just a little and predict that is not the case, and Kerry will probably pick up more than a dozen electoral votes.

Now, it may be easy to laugh off Gallup's quadrennial folly, but this poll (and others like it) have very serious tactical consequences. One of the ways in which polling data is used right now is to demoralize the side that's losing. If the punditocracy can convince enough people that Kerry is toast, or that he needs a miracle, perhaps in one of the debates, to turn around the election, the public perception that he can't win will set in. Through the use of rigged polling data, enthusiasm for the trailing candidate is diminished, his crowds dwindle, and his supporters marginalized and effectively silenced. And that is why the partisan breakdown of the polling sample is so important to know, and why any poll that doesn't provide that information be looked at with extreme skepticism.
In fact, the translation of the slogan on Hugh Hewitt's website is "The influence of Democrats must be destroyed". A bit fascistic, but not atypical for a conservative blog....
Bush Gets Swifted: Well, maybe correlation is causation, at least with respect to the recent focus on Bush's National Guard record: a new poll (by Fox, no less!!) shows that Bush's lead among veterans has been cut in half in the last month. By obsessing about Dan Rather for two weeks, it appears that conservative bloggers may have done the Kerry Campaign an invaluable favor by keeping the focus on a part of the Bush biography that does not redound to his credit. I guess that's just another example of the way the blogosphere is overturning the established order, challenging the hegemony of the Old Media in setting the terms for how the Law of Unintended Consequences can influence an election.

September 24, 2004

In perhaps the surest sign that the Presidential race is neck-and-neck, the latest Time poll shows Kerry cutting Bush's edge over in half, down to 6 points among likely voters. However, as with the Gallup poll published last week, the Time methodology includes a disproportionate percentage of Republicans; among both registered and likely voters, their sample has 6% more Republican respondents than Democratic, exactly matching the Bush lead, even though the actual party I.D. numbers in the electorate have slightly favored the Democrats over the years. Although it's entirely possible that the GOP suddenly has picked up ten percent in voter identification since the last election, in all likelihood their gains (if any) are far less than that, and the real state of the race shows a dead heat, or even a slight Kerry lead.

September 22, 2004

I know the adage about how correlation is not causation, but isn't it interesting how Bush's poll numbers have fallen since Col. Burkett "found" the Killian Papers three weeks ago. From a double-digit, post-convention lead to a dead heat: maybe the "fake but accurate" meme has caught on with the electorate. Or then again, maybe the polls several weeks ago showing the President with a suddenly commanding lead were a joke, taken too close to the convention to have any contextual connection with public opinion, and with too many Republicans sampled to reflect a true picture of the American Voter. I like the former suggestion better, since it shows how a determined set of bloggers, huddled around their terminals wearing their cotton jammies, fact-checking and document-scoping the asses of the lib'rul media, and thereby forcing the largely-irrelevant issue of Bush's service in the National Guard into the public limelight for three weeks. Advantage: Blogosphere !!!

One of the things striking about the ARG polling results is how low Bush's support is; the rule that any incumbent with below 50% in the polls is likely to lose applies not just nationally, but in each state as well. Even those states where Bush possesses a slight lead, such as Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia and Arkansas, as well as the Purple States won by Gore in 2000, such as Iowa and Minnesota, his numbers are under 50%, and falling ever-so-slightly.

For what it's worth, the latest poll from out here shows Kerry leading by 15 points in California, as clear a sign as any that he has the momentum (or rather, that Bush's post-convention bounce has gone the way of the LA Dodgers' NL West lead). Since Gore won the state by only 13 points last time, this bodes ill for the President.
Can you imagine being an airline passenger on a flight from London to D.C., no doubt having to fight exhaustion, boredom, the incessant whining of babies, and the discomfort of sitting in a seat designed for a person half your size, having waited for several hours at Heathrow to board your plane (United, btw, so you just know there was only a minimal delay taking off), then another six or so hours doing nothing on the plane except eating the gristle-and-gravy dinner with salad and watching an expurgated version of Catwoman, then having to delay being reunited with family and loved ones for another half the day after the plane gets diverted 1000 miles north to Bangor, Maine, because one of Ashcroft's weenies thought that Cat Stevens was a hijacker? If you want to punish the guy for "Morning Has Broken" or for his politically incorrect statements about Salman Rushdie, fine, but don't take it out on the commuters, to whom he wasn't a threat.

September 20, 2004

Three Debates: After weeks of negotiating, the campaigns have decided to do pretty much go along with what the presidential debate commission already decided, a series of debates between Bush and Kerry, with one debate slated to be "town hall" format before undecided voters. Considering that the undecided voters will be selected by Gallup, the polling outfit that just went out of its way to rig a poll to show Bush with a huge lead, don't be surprised if the President gets the same sort of soft ball questions he often gets at one of the potemkinesque "Meet the President" gatherings his campaign sets up.
In defense of CBS, it should be pointed out that it took them less time to conclude the obvious than it took the White House to acknowledge that there were no WMDs in Iraq, and which still claims, sans evidence, that the forged documents "detailing" Iraq's purchase of yellowcake from Niger were "fake but accurate". The whole debate about whether this story symbolizes the decline of "Big Media" and the rise of the blogosphere is unimportant to me, especially when one realizes that the same blogs that broke this story knowingly spread false stories from the "Swift Boat Vets" that were discredited after further review. What it should teach us is that anonymously-sourced stories should always be read with a jaundiced eye, but I think most of us already learned that moral from Judith Miller.

September 19, 2004

Europe 18 1/2, U.S. 9 1/2: Now that I've had further time to reflect, these guys aren't entitled to make the Iverson Speech. Never send rich white Republicans (and one Cablinasian) to do anything that entails representing the Stars and Stripes....
Here's another "hypothesis", from blogger Robert Musil, based on the assumption that the "disgruntled" ex-guardsman with an axe to grind against Bush was merely the "conduit" for the Killian Papers. He suggests that the actual creator was an insider with the DNC or Kerry campaign, which managed to bind Dan Rather into silence by a crafty non-disclosure agreement drafted by a "fancy lawyer". One problem: if the DNC or Kerry went to the trouble of drafting forged documents, wouldn't they also have taken the added burden of "pre-authenticating" them, let's say, with the assistance of their "fancy lawyer"? Putting these documents out into the public domain was an extremely risky move, especially if it could be traced back to them, so wouldn't it have been worth doing right? Assuming that whichever lawyer drafted the alleged agreement performed some sort of due diligence before sending them to their "conduit", wouldn't the same problems that made the Killian Papers so questionable from the outset have been spotted?

Musil also questions CBS' investigative zeal, defending the White House's initial response to the documents by suggesting that there was no way Dan Bartlett, the spokesman quoted by 60 Minutes II, could have vouched for the authenticity of documents. As I've mentioned previously, though, the White House can be excused for not immediately claiming that these documents were forgeries, but they could hardly be excused for not knowing if the contents of said papers were true or false. After all, these documents have been "proven" to be fake only to the same extent that the "Swift Boat Vets" stories about John Kerry's cowardice in battle have been proven to be "false"; there may be an overwhelming circumstantial case, but, theoretically, the Killian Papers could still be authentic.

However, Bush would know if he ever received an order to take a medical exam, and there was certainly plenty of time, in the twenty-four hours preceding the broadcast, for the White House to challenge the accuracy of those allegations. It is most telling that, unlike John Kerry's forceful denunciation of the "Swift Boat" charges, they did not do so.