Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Monday, August 30, 2004
I Pray There's Tape of This

Michael Crowley, RNC-blogging for TNR:
This morning I stopped by a meeting of the Iowa GOP delegation, attended by Nebraska Senator (and potential 2008 candidate) Chuck Hagel. [...] Soon after Hagel spoke, the acting state Republican chair--an African-American man in a white cowboy hat named Leon Mosley--urged his delegates, "Let's remember what's paramount in our life: God ... This is the GOP: God's Official Party." At that, the room burst into sustained applause. Behold, the Republican base.

Sunday, August 29, 2004
My First Shorter Shtick

Shorter Instapundit:
If the media were objective, they'd imply that all those pro-choice women are whores

Is He Or Isn't He? [UPDATE: No.]

Look, I understand that this is a sensitive question, but...could someone please tell us whether Larry (now upgraded to Lawrence) Franklin is Jewish or not? I can't be the only American Jew -- or non-Jew -- who wonders about this, but I haven't seen a word. And if a Muslim American were accused of spying for, say, Iran, you know their religion would have been mentioned by now.

Of course, if he's not Jewish, that might be a little hard to work in without it sounding like an implied slur on American Jews. But by the same token, it might be less inflammatory to write about it.

UPDATE: According to Newsweek/MSNBC, he's not:
...although Franklin was not Jewish, he was an Army reservist who did his reserve duty at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Saturday, August 28, 2004
On Being Sick of Things

I think the embarrassing reality of politics is that a lot of it comes down to getting people to want people, things, ideas, and politics itself to just go away. I've heard the theory that the winner of any election is "whoever the electorate is the least sick of on Election Day". I have a related theory that the underlying politics of same-sex marriage is that whoever talks more about it loses.

All of which brings me to this posting by DemFromCT on DailyKos:

I have little interest in prolonging SBVT debate -- but why there's such profound anger and emotion about the issue of Vietnam will remain of interest until my generation dies off.

Two pieces today, one by Todd Purdum and one by Richard Holbrooke add to the capsule summaries at your fingertips. Holbrooke's, especially, is aimed right at a younger generation:

Well, kids, welcome to an encore presentation of our Second Civil War. The anger and viciousness of the Swift boat debate provide just a brief reminder of how Vietnam divided our nation for a decade.

Imagine Groundhog Day except that the year is 1971...
Which makes me think -- as I posted in that Kos thread -- that although it may not be a conscious strategy, if Rove can make this election about the question of whether or not we want to keep talking about Vietnam, Kerry is in big trouble.

GOP Bitter-Enders for Hillary

A commenter on The Captain's Quarters:
Said it before and I'll say it again: Kerry ain't gonna be on the November
ballot. Captain Ed is on the right track- a Torricelli Option is being worked
out and Hillary - freshly returned from her trip to Oslo with McCain - will be
very much to the fore in the coming days.

Who Leaves Atlantis Off The Maps?

Eugene Volokh gives us what turns to be ultimately an email from Doris Kearns Goodwin, recounting an ancient political campaign song:

Who rules us with an iron rod?
Who moves at Satan's beck and nod?
Who heeds not man,
Who heeds not God?
Van Buren, Van Buren!

which I mention only because I pray it's the source for this:

Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs the cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscars night?
We do! We do!

Newsflash: Corner reader suckered

Derbyshire reports this letter:

Derb---Thought you might like this, as it combines two of your favorite
topics: Home Depot and political correctness. My girlfriend and I own an old
house outside Philadelphia, and so are frequent visitors to the local Home Depot
store. Yesterday she went there looking for some of those glue mouse traps to
take care of our occasional unwanted visitors. However, she was puzzled by the
ones for sale: the package said it would trap spiders, scorpions, grasshoppers
etc--but no mention of mice or anything in the rodent family.

As luck would have it, the delivery guy from the glue trap
happened to be there to replenish the stock. She asked him
where the proper mouse traps were. He said that the one she held was intended
for mice, but that 'the animal rights people' had objected, so the company
decided to remove any mention of mice from the product! He assured my girlfriend
that the traps would work wonderfully for catching mice. Crazy, no? My reaction
was, what happens when PETA begins advocating for scorpions and

Well...checking out the Home Depot website, I find, at least, a "Mouse and Insect Glue Trap (Pkg. of 2)" from the standup, take-no-prisoners Victor company. (The site does not seem to have what we'd call permalinks, since all the urls generated have some session-id stuff; but it's there for the searching.) Sounds like the reader's girlfriend bought a product based on a salesman's assurance that it's useful for something it's not. (And if the salesman's right, she bought a product from a company that can't stand up to PETA. And if they can't stand up to PETA, how are they going to stand up to a mouse?)

Friday, August 27, 2004
A Second-or-Greater-Hand Account

A post by Jonah Goldberg at The Corner will now trigger a pet peeve rant (bolding is mine):
From a guy in uniform:
As an officer I'm to remain impartial and publicly neutral. One point, though:
When Bush came into that mess tent in Baghdad (first hand account from two friends), that place spontaneously erupted.
No. The friends gave a first-hand account. The correspondent is now giving a second-hand account. I'm willing to say you can keep the number-of-hand-ed-ness constant through a direct quotation, so we can stop there, but if you go out into the world and tell this story from your recollection, you gotta bump it up to third-hand. I once had an argument with a guy who told me something that a guy had told a another guy who finally told him, and he was insisting that this was "at first hand". As you can see, I'm still bitter and obsessed.

Thursday, August 26, 2004
Conflict of Interest

On the one hand: I would be happiest not seeing a moment of the Republican Convention.

On the other hand: I don't want to miss The Daily Show, which will be covering the convention all week.

What to do, what to do.

Sunday, August 22, 2004
Matters of Timing

Two observations about the timing of the Swift Boat stuff:

Saturday, August 21, 2004
Who Would Al Qaida Rather Have As President? (Part Umpty-Third)

Sam Rosenfeld takes another run at this in TAP. Yes, I shouldn't mock, since I last felt compelled to address it about 6 weeks ago; but a couple of comparisons have come to mind since then, so...

My feeling is (still) that "AQ considers GWB their best recruiter" is not the dominating thought. I think at this level of conflict, everyone is operating under the theory "We should remove their leader." So if they had to, for instance, choose to assassinate exactly one of Bush or Kerry, it would be Bush. And if the President of the United States were to be defeated in an election, they'd love that matter who that President is. If Kerry is elected, then he'll become their #1 target, and 4 years from now they'll hope he's thrown out, too.

Comparison #1: When Iran was calling the USA the Great Satan, they were calling Jimmy Carter that as well. Their release of the hostages at the moment of Reagan's inauguration establishes their desire to poke Carter in the eye. Surely no Republican would want us to imagine that this shows that they feared Carter more than Reagan, or thought that Reagan would be easier on them than Carter had been...right?

Comparison #2: The RNC is making the defeat of Tom Daschle a priority. Is it because they think that with him gone, the Democrats in the Senate would have no leader? Of course not...they just want to knock off the top guy, because it feels good.

So...yeah, AQ would probably rather Bush lose, but not for any reason that has anything to do with the relative anti-AQ policies of Bush or Kerry. Oh, and to the Bush administration flunky who gave this quote:
"The view of al Qaeda is ‘anybody but Bush.’”
For your choice of words, which gives AQ the same slogan as mainstream Democrats...fuck you.

Friday, August 20, 2004
Too Much Space on Our Hands

Look, Comics Buyer's Guide, I know you have a lot of pages in your news monthly format -- 242 in the newest issue -- but some kinds of padding are both transparent and tedious.

Tony Isabella's reviews have been a CBG feature for years. He reviews comics in depth and also gives a rating of 0 to 5 "Tonys". Do you understand the meaning of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 Tonys in this context? I bet you do. You can examine the fine distinctions in more detail here, on Tony's website, over in the right-hand sidebar. That's already more detail than you need, because once I say "a scale of 0 to 5" yo've heard everything you need to know about it.

But guys, there's no excuse for stretching the explanation of 0-through-5 into a half a page, as I find on page 61 of this month's CBG. That's just insulting.

(And more than one computer game magazine could drop the "explanation" of their rating scale, too.)

Thursday, August 19, 2004
Where's the Floor?

Kenneth Baer in TAP today:
Like Carter, Bush is an embattled incumbent elected without a mandate and stuck trying to defend a failed presidency. Both presided over an economic downturn. (Granted, Carter’s was more of a total meltdown, but Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a job loss on his watch.) Both contended with an energy crisis. Both were dragged down in a Mesopotamian morass: Bush in Iraq, Carter in Iran. And both faced an electorate that wanted them out of office. In June of 1980, Carter had a dismal 26 percent approval rating, and a Newsweek poll from two weeks ago found that only 43 percent of registered voters want to see Bush re-elected.
Wow...I don't even think they make Presidential approval numbers that small any more. A number as low as the high thirties is a disaster.

And having said that, I must recommend this old piece, found in researching the above, which shows that you can be a right-wing loon and still be funny:

A new ABNBCBS-USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll shows President Clinton has achieved a 139 percent approval rating, the White House announced Wednesday.

The poll, which had a three-percent margin of error, "marks the first time in history the entire nation has universally loved their president all to pieces," White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said.

Monday, August 16, 2004
Populism is too Popular

From Josh Benson, filling in for Noam Scheiber at TNR:
Kerry's rhetoric too often spills into the kind of class warfare that voters have continually rejected. (See: Gore, Al; People Versus the Powerful.)
See: Vote, Popular, 2000.

Sunday, August 15, 2004
And Now, A Message From Asshats For Bush

Fellow Americans: If you're getting a little tired of the whole Swift Boat thing, take heart -- we've got other stuff. For instance, you know that speech Max Cleland gave a couple of weeks ago as the warmup to Kerry's acceptance speech? You think we got nothing left for Max, just because we knocked him out of the Senate? Hell no!

You keep hearing about how Max Cleland "lost three limbs" in Vietnam. First of all -- oh, boo hoo. Tell it to the woman with no limbs at all who just got insulted by the French, no less, when she tried to get on a plane. I bet that woman wishes she had at least one limb. Really, Max Cleland's just a big whiner. But I digress.

Check out the video of Cleland's speech here. Watch his empty jacket arm. That thing's twitching! I bet he's got a good 3 or 4 inches of stump up there. "Lost three limbs" my ass! From now on, we demand that all Americans refer to Max Cleland as losing "two-and-a-half, two-and-three-quarter limbs, tops".

And we demand that he release his medical records, too. The man could have vestigial body parts we haven't thought of. You never know. He might have put his gay lover on the staff! OK, that's not even remotely true, and it wouldn't be in his medical records anyway, but we thought we should mention that story as much as we can.

Hold on, did I mention that everyone in our group was in the rehab hospital where Cleland was? At some time or other? And we all have, at most, one full limb? I forgot to say that? Well, it's true.

This has been a message from Asshats For Bush Veterans-With-At-Most-One-Full-Limb for Truth.

With Friends like These

Jeb Bush on the science of meteorology:

The president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), surveyed the devastation by helicopter. Visiting relief workers in Punta Gorda, he defended scientists and local officials from criticism that they had miscalculated the path of the hurricane, which had been expected to hit the more heavily populated Tampa Bay region nearly 100 miles to the north.

"God doesn't follow the linear projections of computer models," Bush told reporters here outside the emergency management center, whose roof caved in during the hurricane. "This is God's way of telling us that He's almighty and we're mortal." 's hard to "defend scientists and local officials from criticism that they had miscalculated the path of the hurricane", since they did, in fact, miscalculate the path of the hurricane. And a defense against an unreasonable demand for accuracy would be welcome, since the fact seems to be that hurricanes are hard to forecast with current tools. But what Jeb actually said comes across a lot more like serves them right for daring to predict, and you-all for listening to them, too. I wonder if the National Weather Service considers that a "defense".

(Seen at Slate's Today's Papers,with the word "defend" repeated by weekend TP writer Alexander Barnes Dryer.)

The word "conspiracy"

It looks like the word "conspiracy" has finished acquiring the meaning "false". From Hitchens' review in the NYT of a collection of pro-Kerry books:
Over a decade later, in confronting the uniformed and bemedaled figure of Oliver North, who really could have been his evil twin from Vietnam, Kerry came close to unmasking yet another secret Republican state-within-a-state. I vividly remember the way in which his Senate office and then his subcommittee became the clearinghouse for a whole series of seemingly unbelievable rumors about the Iran-contra connection, most of which turned out to be true. And much credit belongs to Kerry for winnowing out the genuine stuff, about drug running and death squads and slush funds and secret deals with foreign dictatorships, from the conspiratorial garbage.
If "conspiratorial" doesn't describe charges of "drug running and death squads and slush funds and secret deals with foreign dictatorships", I don't know what it does describe. I guess he's referring to the original, accept-no-substitutes October Suprise theory that the Reagan campaign cut a deal so that Iran would hold the US hostages past the election -- but that's no more "conspiratorial" than all the stuff that's been proved. If it's not true, it's because it didn't happen, not because government conspiracies don't exist.

(Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog highlighted the Hitch paragraph.)

Sunday, August 01, 2004
Colorado's Electoral Votes, and a Possibly Self-Defeating Referendum

First of all -- see the Electoral Vote Predictor graphic over on the right-hand side? That's the new feature from the data miners at It gives results at the time this page is viewed, so even if you come back here through a permalink it'll show you the "now" value, not the August 1 value.

Also from that site is this explanation of a proposed ballot referendum in the state of Colorado:

A group of Colorado citizens have proposed a change to the state's constitution specifying that Colorado's nine electors be apportioned strictly in proportion to the popular vote. Currently Bush is ahead 48% to 43% there, so under the proposed system, Bush would get five electoral votes and Kerry four electoral votes, instead of nine to zero. The group has turned in petitions containing 130,000 signatures. If about 68,000 of these prove to be valid, the question will be a ballot referendum in November. If it passes, the change takes effect for this year's election. If it makes the ballot, on the evening of Nov. 2, the TV news anchors will probably be saying: "President Bush won Colorado with 55% of the vote, but we don't know how many votes he will get in the electoral college until they finish recounting the closely fought referendum on changing the Colorado state constitution." Whoever loses will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which once again may have to rule on the sensitive issue of state's rights. To learn more about what may be the sleeper issue of the year, start here.
This leads us into some pretty strange territory. Someday I'll write up my mostly-partisan reasons for opposition to the Electoral College, but even I think that changing the system all-but-retroactively can't serve any democratic interest. More interestingly, in a world of perfect information and perfect self-interest -- classic game-theoretic conditions, in other words -- this can never pass. Colorado went rather solidly for Bush last time, 51/42/5; as mentioned above, current (well, June 18) polling has it similarly, Bush by 48/43/3. Assuming a known frontrunner, on Election Day, the supporters of the frontrunner will vote against the rule change, and the other side will vote in favor. There are more voters in favor of the frontrunner (duh), therefore, it loses.

There are other considerations, though; for a start, there's the Nader voters. You can imagine a situation where it's 49/44/5, and the Nader voters -- let's imagine they're not literally trying to get Bush elected -- figure they get two bites at the apple. They can vote for Nader, thus splitting the vote enough to give Bush the state; but they can also combine with the Kerry voters to change the rule, thus giving Kerry 4 of those 9 EVs anyway. With different motivations for the Nader voters, of course, you'd get different results.

Another possibility, at least in theory, is for each side to try to trick the other side's voters about the state of the race. If the R's can fool the D's into thinking that the D's are winning, the D's will vote against the change; the same applies in reverse. The challenge here is in tricking only the other side; you can "leak" a bogus poll, but everyone will hear about it. This tactic therefore seems better suited to logic puzzles involving tribes who always lie or always tell the truth, rather than 21st-century elections.

Finally, we have that most subtle of categories: the principled voter, whose opinions on the referendum are not constrained by mere partisan gain. This is fantasy and will not be considered. However, if the race were to become close enough by Nov. 2, voters might find themselves willing to pretend they were in this class.

UPDATE: Luis Toro at The American Street has more on this, and better.

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