Saturday, October 30, 2004

Out of the Mouths of Babes... 

Our younger son is wandering around the house, saying over and over, "Little boys who take more than one cookie always end up as Republicans."

[By the way, this is NOT something we have said to scare them--he (apparently along with his brother and cousin) came up with this one without any help from us...]


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Recipes for Success 

Okay, it worked with the Red Sox (profuse apologies to my clan), so here are the recipes for our New England comfort food requested in comments by NYMary.

Boston Brown Bread (from Mary Gubser's Quick Breads, Soups and Stews)

Note: Boston Brown Bread is traditionally steamed, but it comes out just fine baked in this recipe

2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8x4x3" loaf pans. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses. Separately combine the flours, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer (or by hand, actually), gradually add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture. Fold in the currants or raisins until thoroughly distributed. Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake approximately 40 minutes (check at 35). Test for doneness. Turn out breads on a wire rack. Spread with sweet butter or cream cheese...

New England Clam Chowder

Note: This is a recipe I do by feel, although it's similar to a number of different ones I've read. This is as close as I can remember how I did it on the night of that first Boston win, so if we're getting superstitious...

A very small amount of salt pork (I keep it in the freezer, and I sawed off a small slice), finely diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons (approx) butter
2 very large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
A splash (up to 1/4 cup??) sherry or white wine (I used the last of a bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream that happened to be in the house)
3 cans minced or chopped clams AND their juice (I know, not as authentic as fresh clams)
a bottle of clam juice (if you can get it... I had to use chicken broth)
1/2 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups of some kind of mixture of milk and cream, depending on how decadent you want to be
Salt to taste

Saute the salt pork until it's all shriveled up ("brown and crispy" sounds nicer...) Add the butter to the pan, because if you've used a really small amount of of salt pork, you'll need more fat for the onions. Add the onions to the pan and saute until they're translucent. Add the potatoes and stir around a little. Add the sherry and let it mostly cook off. Drain the juice from the clams into the pan, along with the bottled clam juice or chicken broth and the 1/2 bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes are soft and (hopefully) have thickened the broth a bit (note: you can add flour back toward the end of the sauteing phase for more thickening, but I don't). Add the clams themselves and the cream or milk (or combination) and heat through to just barely a simmer. Remove the bay leaf, add pepper (people who are fussy about these things use white pepper) and (if you need it) salt.

Okay, I've put up the recipes, but if you live in a swing state, or can get yourself to one, don't waste your time cooking Kerry good karma food. Get out there and get out the vote.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Religion Makes Strange Bedfellows 

I always thought it was evangelical Christians who had a problem with Halloween.

Turns out that witches aren’t too happy about it either.

Go figure.


Doing the Math 

Dana Milbank has an informative piece on possible scenarios where the Electoral College could fail to produce a winner. (For example, I was not aware that one of Kerry's Ohio electors may be ineligible because he is a congressman, possibly throwing the race to Bush (via the House) if Kerry wins 270-268, though hopefully the elector could be persuaded to resign his House seat if that's what it would take.)

Milbank emphasizes his view that 11 close states will decide the outcome, and that "a computer analysis finds no fewer than 33 combinations in which those 11 states could divide to produce a 269 to 269 electoral tie".

For perspective, there are 2^11 = 1,024 possible scenarios for those 11 states, making the probability of these "33 combinations" about 3%, assuming each state is equally likely to go either way and is independent of the other states. (Of course, neither of those assumptions is realistic, meaning that the "true" probability of a tie could be higher or lower; given the race's uncertainty, "between 1 and 5%" is probably a good estimate, and more meaningful than the number "33" without context.)


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Don't Believe It For A Second 

Dahlia Lithwick suggests that Bush's replacing Rehnquist might be less than disastrous:
The possibility of Rehnquist stepping down also crystallizes how oversimplified the recent arguments about the power of Supreme Court appointments really are. Suddenly this "four-seats-to-fill-with-whatever-maniac-he-likes" rhetoric is shown to be at least somewhat lacking in nuance. Because if Rehnquist steps down, and President Bush is re-elected, the 5-4 balance on the current court would remain unchanged. In fact, Bush might arguably have a hard time confirming someone as conservative as Rehnquist in the current Senate climate—meaning that the net effect of a retirement could be a more moderate court, even with Bush in office. (Emphasis added.)
While I hope never to have a chance to say "I told you so", Lithwick's optimism is completely unfounded:
First, Bush has never named a moderate to any significant position. (The closest thing to an exception is Christie Whitman at EPA, but EPA is a second-level position and Bush knew he could control her, which he did.)

Second, the most prominent legal official appointed by Bush is John Ashcroft. 'Nuff said.

Third, the actual federal judges appointed by Bush are extremely conservative, including the now infamous Jay Bybee.

Fourth, the small number of Bush judges not confirmed are, if anything, more radically conservative.

Fifth, changing the composition of the Supreme Court is the central goal of Bush's conservative Christian base. There is absolutely no reason to think that he would sell out his core constituency, which he has supported on issues great and small, on their central issue.

Sixth, I would not assume that a new justice could not be more conservative than Rehnquist. While Rehnquist is certainly very conservative, my impression is that he does take seriously the independent power and dignity of the judiciary, a view manifest for example in his splitting from Scalia and Thomas to hold that federal courts did have jurisdiction to hear Yaser Hamdi's due process challenge to his detention. A new judge is more likely to accept Bush's broad view of an imperial presidency unconstrained by the judiciary.
I suspect Bush's strategy for the next justice would mirror the Clarence Thomas appointment, but for another constituency -- pick a young, attractive, ideological conservative who is a woman or Latino/a and has few published writings, and count on the left to be sufficiently split that the nomination squeeks through. The strategy, of course, was previewed with trying to appoint the now withdrawn Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit. If the candidate is too green to be Chief, Bush can always throw the center a bone by elevating O'Connor to Chief as cover for adding another ideologue. (Of course, if Bush feels strong enough in the new Senate, he could make Scalia Chief.) The new judge could sit for 30, 40, or even 50 years.

Rehnquist's retirement would not be a small matter.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Optimism, Part II 

The Rasmussen daily tracking poll has been one of the most stable polls, showing a consistently small (1-4%) Bush edge throughout the Bush convention bounce, the Kerry win at the first debate, etc. Today, Kerry is ahead -- by two points -- for the first time in over two months. The tidal wave is coming.



No analogy is perfect, and predictions are a waste of time, but the I'm going to indulge in both because I'm very optimistic about the presidential election.

I have long thought this race resembles 1980 -- an incumbent president dealing with defining failures on both domestic and foreign policy, whose strategy necessarily depends on the argument that the challenger is not fit to govern; a challenger who, after some initial leads, has been unable to pull away from, or even ahead of, the weakened incumbent; and, most important, a enthusiastic, organized, grass-roots movement for change (there, the Christian Coalition, here the less centralized, internet-based movement led by MoveOn, ACT, etc.)

Given that, I thought we'd check in on the Reagan-Carter race. Here's the Times' summary of the state of that race as of the Monday eight days before election day:
Two major new national polls confirmed that President Carter and Ronald Reagan are in a virtual dead heat, with the momentum apparently building on Mr. Carter's side. Released yesterday, the Time magazine poll showed Mr. Carter with 42 percent, Mr. Reagan with 41 percent and John B. Anderson, the independent, with 12 percent.
Dudley Cleneinden, Campaign Report; the Quiet Before the Words, New York Times, Oct. 27, 1980 (via Nexis).

Sounds familiar, no? If anything, Kerry now seems stronger than Reagan then -- and Reagan won in an almost double-digit landslide. Of course, the last Reagan-Carter debate was still to come the following night, and Anderson was artificially holding down Reagan's support. However, the debate -- though it included the now famous "There you go again" line -- was not an obvious turning point until after the fact. See Hedrick Smith, No Clear Winner Apparent; Scene Is Simple and Stark, New York Times, Oct. 29, 1980 ("The Presidential debate produced no knockout blow, no disastrous gaffe and no immediate, undisputed victor. It was a contest of content against style, of a President repeatedly on the attack to put his challenger on the defensive while Ronald Reagan used his calm demeanor to offset Jimmy Carter's contention that he was 'dangerous.'")

I don't expect a Kerry landslide. Half of Reagan's 10-point margin came from Anderson. Give Bush a couple more points for fraud, voter suppression, etc. Kerry: 50.2%, Bush: 48.6%, Nader: .8%, Others: .4%.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Deconstructing Wisconsin Voter Registration Form 

Kevin Hayden's insightful rundown on the state of the presidential race led me to the Wisconsin voter registration form, which the Wisconsin GOP has helpfully linked to on its web site.

Hayden's conclusion is that the race will be decided in Wisconsin, Florida, and Minnesota, and that Wisconsin could be swung by last minute registrations by Chicagoans who find a sudden urge to reside in the land of cheese. Whatever opportunity for fraud may have existed, though, has passed. While Wisconsin permits registration until the day before the election, voters must have been residents for at least 10 days, which in this case was two days ago (assuming an attempt to register on November 1).

The form raises another interesting issue: Registering to vote in Wisconsin requires that one not "make or benefit from a bet or wager depending on the result of an election". I bet -- er, suspect -- that many other states have similar requirements. This, of course, brings us back to electronic markets, which permit betting on the presidential election. For a variety of reasons that I will assume are obvious, participants in electronic markets are likely to be disproportionately Republican. If we lose, and the margin in Wisconsin is sufficiently small, we may want to consider a subpoena to IEM and Tradesports to discover whether any of the Wisconsin market participants have voted illegally.


If Baseball Were Like Politics, Part III 

... Derek Jeter would be performing heroics in the Bronx tonight -- or so the electronic markets would have you believe.

Bush's long-standing lead in the electronic markets (he's currently trading at 57.5 on Tradesports and 59.0 on the Iowa Electronic Market) has led to considerable right-wing triumpalism based on the supposed predictive efficiency of "information markets". (Here's a good place to start for information on election markets.)

But don't let that upset you too much -- those same markets totally missed the Red Sox win this week, even when they'd come back to tie the series. Here are the Tradesports prices for the Yankees after Games 3 through 7:

Games --- Price
2-0 --- $0.38
3-0 --- $0.38
3-1 --- $0.47
3-2 --- $0.49
3-3 --- $0.37
3-4 --- $0.00

(The prices are my approximation based on a graph that was available on the site earlier today but has been taken down now since the Yankees are obviously no longer a tradeable security. You can see the Red Sox' side of the equation here. You have to click "MLB.REDSOX" and, when the graph appears, click "Last Week". You will see Red Sox shares trading fairly, though not completely, steadily between 0-3 and 3-3, and the market suddenly waking up Thursday and realizing that the Sox are the favorites to win the series.)

In contrast, note that Yankee fans saw the oncoming train as soon as they lost the first game -- if you doubt that, check out the nascent pessimism in many of the comments to this post.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Proud Father 

Our 11-year-old has combined his interests in politics and rap to write a rap for John Edwards:
I'm a nation builder
Son of a miller
Not an oil driller
Like my opponent here
With his big funny ears.
What's his values?
I don't know.
But this President
Has got to go.
Now if you vote for me
I'll be V.P.
Vote J-O-H-N.
Billionaires for Bush ... where are you?


Is CNN In The Tank? Part III (Fair And Balanced, Part V) 

Aaron Brown's lead Iraq story last night:
On to the war in Iraq and a reality check for whoever wins the election. It comes by way of the Pentagon and paints a picture of a growing insurgency funded in part through Syria with lots of money coming from Saudi Arabia. You know the Saudis, our friends and allies in the war on terror.
A reality check for whoever wins the election?

Here are Kerry and Bush from the first debate. Do both of these men seem equally in need of a "reality check"?
KERRY: This president just -- I don't know if he sees what's really happened on there. But it's getting worse by the day. More soldiers killed in June than before. More in July than June. More in August than July. More in September than in August.

And now we see beheadings. And we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and they're blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there.


KERRY: Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here, and he said the terrorists are pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment.

The national intelligence assessment that was given to the president in July said, best-case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst-case scenario, civil war.

I can do better.


BUSH: In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realized that after September the 11th, we must take threats seriously, before they fully materialize. Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell. America and the world are safer for it.
And yes, I know that Bush said 8,000 times that his job is "hard", but there's no doubt about who's arguing Iraq is going well, and who's not -- nor is there any doubt who needs a "reality check".


Friday, October 22, 2004

Bush Talking Points Watch, Part VI 

Do you remember when having the support of foreign leaders bordered on treason?
"At the very least, we have a right to know what [Kerry] is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy," Vice President Dick Cheney said at a Republican fund-raiser in Arizona.
CNN, 5/6/04.

Not anymore:
We hope and believe that the next president will again be Bush," Berlusconi told reporters during campaigning for Italian local elections on the island of Ischia, in southern Italy.
Reuters, 10/22/04.

I'd also note that -- contrary to the implication of the smear site Foreign Leaders for Kerry -- Bush's endorsement is (as far as I know) the first endorsement for either candidate from a foreign leader with a criminal history.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Is CNN In The Tank? Part II (Fair and Balanced, Part IV) 

This morning, CNN broadcast a promotional spot showing three people who say in turn, "I'm a Democrat, and I get my news from CNN! I'm a Republican, and I get my news from CNN! I'm an independent, and I get my news from CNN!" (Words approximate, and I don't recall the order.)

Now why would CNN run an ad like that? Pretty clearly, it supports my hypothesis -- that CNN is very worried about becoming pigeonholed as a news source for Democrats (a circumstance which may explain why CNN apparently scrutinizes its coverage for anti-Bush bias in a way that it does not scrutinize for anti-Kerry bias).

Following that, we had this choice nugget from Jack Cafferty on American Morning:
Sinclair Broadcast retreating now from showing that anti-Kerry film in its entirety. Instead a documentary with excerpts from the film will air on Friday on 40 Sinclair stations.

Investors put the pressure on the company, because the price of Sinclair's shares plummeted when the criticize began. Now Sinclair's saying, well, it never intended to show the whole film. Baloney.

However, Sinclair commentator and vice president Mark Hayman (ph) at one point told "The Washington Post," the movie would air unless Kerry agreed to an interview. And the Washington bureau chief got fired for talking about company business with the media. He called the film biased political propaganda.

Believe what you will, the shareholders aren't the only ones upset. Democrats were howling like wounded geese the minute Sinclair's plans were announced, and don't forget the sponsors. When somebody asked Michael Jordan why he didn't run for political office, he summed the whole thing up, by saying, hey, Republicans buy sneakers, too.

Here's the question, "In a race this tight, is it appropriate for Sinclair to air portions of such a highly partisan film this close to Election Day?

They caved like a house of cards, folded up like a cheap suit.
That's from the CNN transcript. On the air, Cafferty actually said the Democrats were "caterwauling". In any case, "caterwauling" is essentially the feline equivalent of "howling like wounded geese", and both have a clearly negative connotation of annoying whining -- hardly a neutral way to describe objecting to a massive evasion of campaign finance laws. Saying that Sinclair "folded like a cheap suit" makes it sound like poor Sinclair has been deprived of its right to broadcast news by those all powerful (and free-speech-hating liberals), but in fact Sinclair apparently has simply repackaged the broadcast in a more palatable but equally partisan broadcast. To correct Cafferty's sartorial analogy, perhaps Sinclair changed its tie. (In fairness, "baloney" is clearly critical of Sinclair, although again it is also consistent with the story that Sinclair's freedom of speech is being squelched.)


If I Weren't So Firmly Based in Reality... 

On Sunday evening, without any prior thought or intention, I made New England clam chowder and Boston brown bread for dinner. I do this every so often, being a native of New England (although not Massachusetts). It wasn't until our little gang of Yankee fans had all gathered with our meal to watch the playoff game that I realized that it might be bad karma for our guys.

Ever since last night's loss, I've been trying to remind myself that as a member of the reality-based community, I have no business succumbing to magical thinking. The fact that we ate Boston food on Sunday had nothing to do with the Red Sox coming back from three games down to win the playoffs. I'm an empirical, rational, enlightenment kind of person, and it just couldn't be related.

But just in case, I'm thinking maybe we should have chowder and brown bread--and maybe some baked beans--again on election eve.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

If Baseball Were Like Politics, Part II 

... then the folks who actually understand the statistics would all be Democrats. (Or perhaps this is evidence that baseball is like politics.)


Monday, October 18, 2004

Is CNN In The Tank? (Fair and Balanced, Part III) 

I don't watch CNN that often (usually only when I go to the gym in the morning), so I wondered whether there was a pattern when I noted an anti-Kerry slant two days in a row.

Now, it's three for three. Yesterday morning, I saw CNN's Reliable Sources. The theme of lead sequence was that Bush had won the third debate, but only Fox had said so, while the other networks called it a tie. The question, then: Was this the (non-Fox) media's liberal bias, or its lack of backbone?
HOWARD KURTZ: So Evan Thomas, was the Fox team right, or were the other networks pundits just too wimpy to say who they really thought won?

EVAN THOMAS, NEWSWEEK: Well, Fox team is rooting for Bush. I don't think there's too much question about it. But they were looking -- they chose to narrowly look at one debate, and I think the others were looking at all three debates. And in the context of three debates, it's basically a tie. I think you can make a good argument that Bush won the third debate.
The fact that all of the polls showed Kerry winning the debate was dismissed out of hand. (Laura Ingraham's "I don't put all that much stock in some of these instant polls" went undisputed.) Then, they went on to whether Kerry's comment about Mary Cheney was "cheap", "tawdry", or "odd" before discussing whether journalists are favoring Kerry "deliberately", or just "subconsciously". Now, I don't claim that overnight polls are the last word on who won the debate, but it is rather Orwellian to see a pro-Kerry bias in the media when the polls all say Kerry won but not a single network did so.

Today, Pandagon reports further evidence of CNN's increasing tilt toward Bush. ("CNN's election coverage this morning: show a poll with a hefty Bush lead, interview a Bush flack, tell everyone what the Kerry campaign is saying and thinking. Show a Kerry speech, but only in the background as a reporter talks over it. Cut to a Bush speech, uninterrupted, in a fluff ceremony for Olympians.")

What's going on here? Wasn't it only seven weeks ago that Kurtz was reporting that Democratic voters were heading to CNN, while Republicans were watching Fox? I suspect that CNN is responding to the competition from Fox, and to the risk to its reputation of being described as "liberal", by bending over backward to avoid favoring Kerry. In other words, I suspect it's less that CNN is actively trying to help Bush, and more that its reporting gets scrutinized more closely for anti-Bush bias, meaning that the anti-Bush statements are more likely to get changed before they air than anti-Kerry ones. (Of course, the more cynical among us will suspect overt pressure from the Bush propaganda machine.)

Another part of the story is that Fox's bias is now being treated as a given, like Rush Limbaugh's, and therefore not part of the story. The narrative then becomes: Well, sure, Fox, and Limbaugh, and Hannity, and the Washington Times are all conservative, but they acknowledge that, so the real issue is ferreting out the liberal bias in all other media outlets and concluding that "the media" is liberal. I'd also note that, like Reliable Sources yesterday, these stories are usually based on the "subconscious" beliefs of journalists -- Ingraham claimed on the show, without contradiction, that 85% of reporters are Democrats -- rather than on what is actually on the air. The latter, which is all that matters, is slanting more rightward every day -- at least on CNN.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Grey Lady Joins Coalition of the Shrill 

I have never seen a New York Times endorsement for a candidate as strong as this one.

I read along waiting for the weasel words, the usual Times mealy mouthed criticism of the person they've (reluctantly, it always seems) decided to endorse. Often, the caveats to the endorsement and shortcomings of the endorsee end up outweighing any faint praise the Times editors can bring themselves to offer. Not this time:
Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.

We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.

After spending the large middle section of the piece reaming Bush, they conclude with more:
Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.

Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.

We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.

Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president

This endorsement is a thing of beauty.


Fournier and Pickler 

Today's AP:
With new polls showing the race tied or Bush slightly ahead, both candidates found new ways to go negative while rallying supporters in the campaign's two most crucial states.
Ron Fournier & Deb Riechmann, Bush Says He's Best Protection From Draft (AP).

The statement about the polls is true, but only if one considers only the handful of most recent polls rather than overall trends.

Since Fournier works for AP, I wondered what does the latest AP poll say? Oh my, AP has Kerry tied with registered voters and ahead 50-46 with likely voters. Maybe Fournier wasn't aware of that? No, I guess not. See Ron Fournier, AP poll: Kerry holds small lead over Bush (AP Oct. 7). But that was 10 days ago, so maybe the trend has been to Bush since then? No, guess not again. The average of all tracking polls shows about a 1 point shift to Kerry among both registered and likely voters during the last 10 days.

So maybe Bush is ahead. And maybe the race is tied. But omitting the possibility that Kerry is ahead -- even with the qualifier "new polls showing" -- is misleading.

The last time I criticized Fournier
for an anti-Kerry slant, I thought it was probably laziness. That's can't be it this time. May the explanation comes in the last line of today's article: "Associated Press Political Writer Ron Fournier reported from Washington. AP Writer Nedra Pickler contributed to this story." As we know, Pickler is very aware of how misleading it can be to omit some significant fact.

UPDATE: Atrios' latest post on Fournier suggests I am been too generous in suggesting that Pickler's research may be to blame for Fournier's slant.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mary Cheney 

Lynne Cheney is upset that John Kerry said during the debate that Lynne's daughter, Mary, is a lesbian.

Was this, as Lynne claims, a "cheap and tawdry political trick" designed to appeal to the homophobic vote?

I don't know what was in John Kerry's heart, and I hope that the reference was not some form of gay-baiting. However, judging by his words, I think what Kerry said was completely appropriate. First, the transcript:
Mr. Schieffer: ... Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?

[Bush's response omitted.]

Kerry: We're all God's children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage, because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it. And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them. I think we have to respect that....
To start with, I just don't think that the way to win the homophobe vote is to say that we have to respect that gays feel that God made them gay. It seems to me that Kerry's naming Mary Cheney fit logically with his overall theme here, which was to humanize gays to voters who may not have (or realize they have) personal experience with them. Gay people are real people, not just an abstract concept, he seems to be saying. Mary Cheney is germaine to this because she is a well-known lesbian, principally because her father's administration has chosen to make gay bashing a theme of its reelection campaign. Mentioning Mary reminds voters that the gay marriage amendment is the one major issue where Dick Cheney disagrees with Bush. Why is that? Isn't the answer obvious? Kerry is saying: If your daughter were gay, you would agree with me. If you were a compassionate person, you would agree with me. I think those are legitimate messages.

Finally, since Lynne Cheney brought it up, I think it's worth remembering four years ago, when Lynne slammed Cokie Roberts for saying that Mary had "declared she's openly gay" and falsely denied Roberts' statement. Who, then, is really the one saying that there's something wrong with being gay?


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

If Baseball Were Like Politics 

Yanks, Sox Exchange Blows

New York (AP) -- The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox held their first playoff game last night in the Bronx. The Yankees scored many early runs, driving Red Sox starter Curt Schilling from the game, but the Red Sox rallied late against Mike Mussina and the Yankees' bullpen. While the total score favored the Yankees, many observers felt that the Red Sox seized the momentum with their late scoring. Though none would speak for attribution, Yankees supporters fretted that the Yankees had to do something in tonight's Game 2 to shift the momentum back to New York.

In comments after the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona seized on one moment in the game as a turning point in the series. "My opponent left Tom Gordon in to give up a critical triple to David Ortiz. Only then did he bring in Mariano Rivera. If he was going to use Rivera in the eighth inning, why didn't he bring him in for Ortiz? That decision alone shows that he's not fit manage in the World Series. If the Red Sox are in the World Series, I will not hesitate to use my closer before the damage is done."

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein was more blunt. "What's with the green tea Joe Torre is alway sipping on the bench? Did he learn to do that in Hanoi with his friend Jane Fonda?"


Monday, October 11, 2004

Bush Talking Points Watch, Part V 

The latest disingenuous Bush attack:
President Bush stepped up his attack on Democratic rival John Kerry on Monday by saying the Massachusetts senator would prefer to reduce terror to an "acceptable level" rather than eradicate it.
Reuters reports that Bush is referring to yesterday's New York Times Magazine article about Kerry. However, though the joys of Nexis, we learn that Kerry never said "acceptable". He did say:
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.... It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
Gosh, might as well just run up the white flag!

The irony of this latest attack is that the candidate who said he wants to reduce terrorism to "acceptable" levels is Mr. Bush:
"I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world. Let's put it that way."
Washington Post, September 1, 2004 (emphasis added).

Even by the standards set by this administration, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.


New-Fangled Technology 

This morning, Fred and I picked up our car from long-term parking at the airport to drive home. I pulled up to the self-serve payment kiosk-thingy and carried out the following steps:

1. Inserted credit-card-sized made-out-of-cardstock parking ticket in small slot in kiosk. Computer inside kiosk "read" the date and time on that ticket and indicated on a small screen the amount due for parking.

2. Inserted actual credit card into the very same slot that accepted the cardstock ticket. Computer inside registered payment. Slot ejected the credit card and I removed it.

3. Waited a few seconds. Computer inside printed out receipt on credit-card-sized piece of cardstock and ejected it from the very same slot.

4. Computer sent signal that raised gate, and we drove away.

Will someone please explain to me one more time, slowly, so I can understand, why we can't have electronic voting machines that create receipts?


Friday, October 08, 2004

Maybe He Couldn't Pass a Physical? 

Josh Marshall notes that this year, Bush has decided to postpone his annual physical, which he has had in early August for the past three years, until after the election.

His campaign claims it's just because he's so terribly busy with the election (although note: this didn't stop him from taking plenty of vacation time).

But Bush has a bit of a history with dodging physicals. Maybe this time it's for the same reason--he's concerned about evidence of the use of certain substances showing up in his blood. [Note: I realize this last is not a reliable source--it's just included for effect.]


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Fair and Balanced, Part II 

I'm still willing to assume the CNN omissions are sloppiness rather than perfidy, but now it's two days in a row. This morning, CNN reported that Bush is out delivering his retooled stump speech in the run-up to the second debate, while Kerry is spending the day in debate preparation. Fine so far. Then, CNN observes, "Kerry even has a stand-in for President Bush" (quote approximate, emphasis mine).

Wow. John Kerry must be some kind of uptight, overprepared, elitist geek to need to debate a fake Bush in practice. Good thing Bush doesn't need no stinkin' Kerry stand-ins. Except, of course, he does.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fair and Balanced 

This morning, CNN described the polls on who the debate as split (no transcript, all summaries approximate). That's true so far as it goes, but CNN's explanation of the numbers left a different impression. First, CNN explained that Cheney was perceived as the winner 43% to 35% in as ABC News poll, but it did not mention that the participants were disproportionately Republican. Then, it continued: But in a CBS News poll 41% of the respondents said that Edwards won. And...? No mention of Cheney. Of course, 41% is far less than half, so without the other piece of information, that 28% of the CBS respondents voted for Cheney, CNN left the impression that Edwards had done poorly in that poll as well.

I think this was sloppiness rather than perfidy, but, nonetheless, thus is conventional wisdom manufactured.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Don't Say You Weren't Warned 

Atrios is "of two minds" on bringing back the draft -- he finds it incomprehensible because it would make the country "explode", but also sees it as "unavoidable" given the Iraq quagmire.

I think Atrios is far too optimistic. My suspicion is that the Bush plan is to wait until the next terrorist attack (which they view as inevitable) and then "roll out the new product" in the ensuing patriotic fervor. Even if events force them to go to the draft without the cover of a new attack, I suspect that the draft would no more cause the country to explode than, say, deciding a presidential election based on a court decision that prohibits counting the votes or detaining American citizens without indictment as "unlawful combatants" or "material witnesses" or bribing members of Congress to vote for significant legislation or lying to justify a major war.

In any case, if you want a preview of what the next four years will look like, and whether there will be a draft, if Bush prevails, tonight's debate will be a far better indicator than any of the Bush-Kerry debates. Cheney was actually surprisingly candid in the Lieberman debate about his plans for the last four years:
MODERATOR: ... If Iraq's president Saddam Hussein were found to be developing weapons of mass destruction, Governor Bush has said he would, quote, "Take him out." Would you agree with such a deadly policy?

CHENEY: We might have no other choice. We'll have to see if that happens. The thing about Iraq, of course, was at the end of the war we had pretty well decimated their military. We had put them back in the box, so to speak. We had a strong international coalition raid against them, effective economic sanctions, and an inspection regime was in place under the U.N. and it was able to do a good job of stripping out the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, the work he had been doing that had not been destroyed during the war in biological and chemical agents, as well as a nuclear program. Unfortunately now we find ourselves in a situation where that started to fray on us, where the coalition now no longer is tied tightly together. Recently the United Arab Emirates have reopened diplomatic relations with Baghdad. The Russians and French are flying commercial airliners back into Baghdad and thumbing their nose at the international sanctions regime. We're in a situation today where our posture with Iraq is weaker than it was at the end of the war. It's unfortunate. I also think it's unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability, but if he were, if in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you would have to give very serious consideration to military action to -- to stop that activity. I don't think you can afford to have a man like Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
My prediction is that the draft will come up and, if it does, Cheney will deny it but specifically reserve an out for further terrorist attacks, even though the need for increasing the size of the military is already apparent because of Iraq.


Monday, October 04, 2004

Well, You'd Better Not Try To Ask Any Follow Up.... 

OK, this is a cheap shot, but:

Paul Schur, a spokesman for the network, said Fox's chief political correspondent Carl Cameron had been disciplined for posting an item on FoxNews.com that included several made-up quotes attributed to Kerry.

"Carl has been reprimanded," Schur said Sunday, defining further comment.
Fox News Channel admits reporter posted fake story about Kerry, Oct. 3, 2004 (AFP) (emphasis added).


Friday, October 01, 2004

Last Word 

Fred was worrying last night about the fact that Kerry never seemed to take the opportunity to ask for the extension time to rebut something Bush said, while Bush did so repeatedly.

It didn't bother me at the time, and I now realize that it was actually a great strategy on Kerry's part. Every time Bush asked for the extension, it meant he had to go first with his extra 30 seconds of rebuttal, and Kerry then got 30 seconds to counter what he said. If Kerry had asked for extensions, it just would have given Bush opportunities to get the last word. Instead, Kerry let Bush petulantly demand a chance to respond, and then Kerry got the last word. Smart.

[Several others have noted also that Bush repeatedly asked for these chances for further rebuttal, and then floundered around with nothing to say, which you don't have time to do when there's a 30-second limit.]


Fact Checking the Fact Checking 

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad the Washington Post is fact-checking the debate.

But, as so often happens, the article ends up trumping up charges against Kerry in the interests of balance. On Afghanistan, the Post balances Bush's misleading statement that 10 million Afghanis have registered to vote with the following:
Kerry repeatedly stated that U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape during the battle at Tora Bora in 2001 because the administration, he said, "outsourced" the task to Afghan militia leaders. This probably overstates the case -- it is unclear whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora -- but it is true that the Pentagon relied on Afghan proxy forces in an effort to minimize the potential loss of U.S. military lives. Kerry said bin Laden was in Afghanistan, but the intelligence community has always said he was somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The Post's criticism that "it is unclear whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora" is off the mark for two reasons:

1. While it is not certain that bin Laden was there (though substantial evidence suggests that he was for a period of time), the available intelligence indicated that he was and the Bush Administration believed that he was. They still outsourced the job.

2. Kerry's point was not limited to bin Laden personally, but also to the hardcore al Qaeda fighters who the Bush team allowed to escape:
And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains, with American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world's No. 1 criminal and terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who only, a week earlier, had been on the other side fighting against us, neither of whom trusted each other.
As for the charge that "Kerry said bin Laden was in Afghanistan, but the intelligence community has always said he was somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border", the statement is not misleading in context:
And Iraq is not even the center of the focus on the war on terror. The center is Afghanistan .... The president moved the troops there, he's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden is. Does that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Osama bin - than, excuse me - Saddam Hussein more important than Osama bin Laden? I don't think so.
Kerry's point of course was that we removed troops from a theater in which they could look for bin Laden to one in which they could not. That point is completely accurate and not misleading. Would it have been more "accurate" to say, "in Afghanistan, where they could be deployed to hunt bin Laden", or "in Afghanistan, where bin Laden is, unless he's a few miles away from there, which has some strategic implications, but ones that we can readily deal with through negotiation with Pakistan, although that has been made harder by undercutting moderates in Pakistan by our misguided policy in Iraq"? Sure, in some technical sense. But the statement as delivered was not misleading -- and is no way comparable to Bush claiming that Afghani voter fraud is actually proof of the march of democracy.


John Kerry Kicked Chimp Ass 

'Nuff said.


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