Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Raised By Republican's Election Predictions

Hi Everyone,

A number of friends and relatives of mine have asked me what the results will be on election night 2004. I could give you a bunch of reasons why I expect the outcome that I do. But I've said most of it here already and besides, the one thing the mainstream media is GUARANTEED to talk your ear off about is the horse race.

Instead, I'd like to talk about the policy outcomes will likely be if either Bush or Kerry win. After all, that's the only reason we should really care about the election at all, right?

If Bush wins: If George W. Bush is reelected, it will be seen by the Republicans as a massive endorsement of both the war in Iraq and a religious conservative social agenda at home. Trust me, even if the election is VERY close, the Republicans will behave as if it was a huge mandate. The 1996 "Contract With America" election was a narrow victory (in terms of national popular vote) in an election with the lowest turnout in American history yet the Republicans took it as evidence that the entire nation was behind their agenda 100%. In policy terms in 2004-2008 this will mean a number of things: 1) Patriot Act II (to include executive branch power to revoke the citizenship of any "enemy combatant" even if they are natural born citizens) 2) Privatization of social security (to inflate economic growth while the war in Iraq and tax cuts suck capital out of the economy). 3) Supreme Court Justice John Ashcroft (he may not get confirmed but he's who Bush wants). 4) Airstrikes against Iran's nuclear sites before they come online, from bases in Iraq and aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf 5) The Democrats will win control of BOTH houses of Congress in 2006 and 2007 - 2008 will be dominated by Congressional investigations of Halliburton's no bid contracts, the CIA agent leak, Enron and energy company anti-trust violations etc.

If Kerry wins: If Kerry wins, the Republicans will almost certainly retain control of at least one house of Congress and possibly both. His electoral victory will mainly result in the cessation of the Theocratic/Neo-con Republican agenda. As the President presiding over a majority Republican Congress, Kerry's ability to get his agenda through will be very limited. Sure, the curtains covering up the "obscene" bare breasted statue of Justice in the Department of Justice building will come down, but not much legislation. The result will be exactly what the Founding Father's had in mind, a government so incapacitated by institutional and partisan divisions that our civil liberties will be relatively safe from abuse. Republicans won't lose out much, there won't be a new law making gay marriage mandatory or anything like that. But they won't be able to impose their narrow minded agenda on the rest of us anymore. Stalemate! This will allow a cooling off period. The country can get back to normal FINALLY after 9/11. We've been whipped up into frenzy after frenzy by the Bush people for so long I think Americans will welcome some good old fashioned Washington Gridlock for a change!

Comments? Discussion?

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Friday, October 29, 2004

The Economist Picks Kerry and New OBL Tape

Hi Everyone,

The Economist, a magazine with a strong pro-market editorial policy, has endorsed John Kerry - albeit reluctantly. The Economist endorsed Bush in 2000 and has strongly supported the decision to invade Iraq. Despite this, they believe that Bush has "never seemed truly up to the job, let alone his own ambitions for it..."

They don't have much nice to say about Kerry (they oppose his position that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake for example) but are scathing in their criticism of Bush's incompetence and the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo abuses. Essentially, they say that while they agree with Bush generally, Bush and his administration are simply not capable to governing. "If Mr. Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr. Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world."

In other news, Osama Bin Laden has released another tape with the usual vague threats. Both Bush and Kerry responded with strong statements that Al Qaida needed to be hunted down and defeated etc.

Comments? Discussion?

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More news stories

1. Republican voter suppression. And lots of it. Apparently they're sending registered mail to potential voters, and when they don't pick it up (because it's from the Republican Party) their legal residence is challenged. Crazy, huh? Read all about it here or here and maybe even here. Crazy.

So maybe you read the Onion this week and thought this article was funny? Guess again. Check out this nonsense:



Read all about it here.

For those of you that think that Democrats are probably doing this just as much, take a gander at the ultra-conservative WSJ's attempt at balance here.

2. Two Los Angeles communities, worlds apart. That's the gist of this LA Times article (registration required). One precinct is overwhelmingly pro-Bush, the other overwhelmingly pro-Kerry. Here's my favorite type 4 Republican quote from this one:
The master's degree candidate from Simi Valley pulled a Bible from his backpack and opened it to Isaiah 58. He read aloud a passage about feeding the hungry.
He said he had visited Compton and understood why its residents felt Kerry was their best hope for better jobs and affordable healthcare.
"But I just don't like Kerry," he added.

Hmmm. A bible-reading white guy who is voting for Bush because of religion and because he doesn't like Kerry? Even though there is no issues-based reason to do so? Must be an isolated case, right...?

3. Former GOP Senator Bob Smith endorses Kerry. You can read his letter here. Let me refresh your memories -- this is the guy who once left the Republican party because it was too moderate (!) and is still loved in New Hampshire. This gives New Hampshire to Kerry, I guarantee it.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Get Ready to Man the Barricades!

Hi Everyone,

A New York Times article is reporting that thousands of absentee ballots from mostly Democratic Broward County, Florida (remember Broward CO.?) are missing. The Post Office says they never got them. The County says they are sure they delivered them. Florida Governor, Jeb Bush's state police said they found no evidence of wrong doing and ended their investigation. Gee, that was fast and efficient!

In related news: the number of registered voters in Florida is increased 1.6 MILLION since 2000! But how many will get to vote? How many will try? And in Florida, Karl Rove's famous untapped Evangelical army will be a factor in the northern part of the state (often referred to as "South Georgia"). Will Nader hand the state to Bush again?

Which brings me to something I heard on Hardball yesterday. They were talking about how the Bush campaign is now aggressively asking Democrats to vote for Bush. You might think, "of course he is." But this is a pretty major strategy shift. The Rove-Bush strategy had been based almost entirely on the assumption that one could win the Presidency with Evangelical Conservatives ONLY. In other words cross over voting was not a factor. But now Bush is in Ohio practically begging Democrats in the industrial NE of the state to vote for him. Could this be an indication that Bush campaign internal polls are showing impending defeat?

This is it folks. Its officially down to the wire. The stakes in the election are far higher than any since election since that notorious scoundrel, Aaron Burr, was defeated (narrowly) by Jefferson.

Find your polling place here.
If you go to the polling place indicated and the poll workers tell you you're not on the list, politely but firmly ask for a provisional ballot. They are required by law to give you one - EVEN IN OHIO.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Four kinds of Republicans

As the race comes down to the final stretch, I can identify four kinds of Republicans and how they should vote. Let's take a look.

1. Social conservatives, especially the kind for whom this is the most important issue. The anti-gay, anti-Roe v. Wade crowd. These people should (and will) vote overwhelmigly for Bush.

2. The extremely rich who care above all about their bottom line. There are some obscenely rich people who are fervent Kerry supporters (George Soros comes to mind) but I'm talking about people who like Bush almost exclusively for what he did for their wallet. These people will vote Bush, as well they should.

3. Fiscal conservatives. The people I've referred to as "economically Republican". The small government, low taxes people. These people are probably split -- Bush's record is not that of a fiscal conservative, but would they vote for a Massachusetts senator? One fiscal conservative who struggled with this decision for a long time is Andrew Sullivan, and he has finally endorsed Kerry.

4. Lifelong Republicans who will always vote Republican, even if there is no issues-based reason to do so. You know these people. They break down into several categories:
(a) Those who think Bush is tougher on terror
(b) Those who think Bush has been a social moderate / fiscal conservative
(c) Those who believe the propaganda and are scared of Kerry
etc. I fear that category number 4 is the largest one. If you're a Republican reading our blog, and you're going to vote Bush, make sure you're not in category 4 before you cast your ballot. One easy way to find out is to go to PresidentMatch.com and take the survey.

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What Can We Expect Next Tuesday?

An anonymous comment to one of the other postings asked "So RbR, a question for you: how do you feel about the likely outcome of this impending election?...What the hell is going on poll-wise? Are we likely to see voter debacles again resulting in the supreme court making the decision? What is the vibe you get, being a man on the street?"

What is the vibe you get, being a man on the street? Well, I should start by saying that I'm a poor choice as a "man on the street." I'm hardly an average voter. I'm a registered Democrat and I have a PhD in political science. Also, I live in Los Angeles - a fairly liberal city. So I have a partisan bias, live mostly with other people with the same bias, and I have far more than the average level of education. However, I have a large extended family with whom I'm in close contact and most of them are Republicans, some of them are Evangelical Conservatives. Finally, being "Piled Higher and Deeper," I'm more than willing to express my opinions about these sorts of things so here goes:

I've heard a lot of Democrats and people further to the left getting really bummed because the polls that get reported on CNN et al keep showing Bush ahead. Such depression is far from warranted.

What the hell is going on poll-wise? Here are my standard lines on poll watching. No single poll tells you much of anything. They are not perfect measures of anything and you have to look at a number of polls over time to find out anything useful. The news channels only report one poll most of the time. CNN is particularly bad because they over report the Gallup Poll which performed terribly in 2000 (predicting Bush to win the popular vote by a wide margin) and has been criticized for over sampling registered Republicans by as must 30%. When you look at lots of polls, you see that most of the polls show a statistical tie (neither candidate ahead by more than the margin of error).

Furthermore, Bush's level of support seems to be "stuck" at about 47% give or take. The conventional wisdom is that polls are pretty accurate about support for the incumbent. BUT, they tend to under estimate support for the challenger. If that holds this time, Bush is in BIG trouble because he's not getting over 50% outside of the Deep South.

Also, most polls are conducted by using land line telephones and then screening "likely voters" based on a criteria that vary from poll to poll. Both of these methods most likely under count young voters and newly registered voters. Specific polls of both of these demographics are showing that they support Kerry by as much as 2:1. That's why polls of "registered voters" show Kerry doing much better.

Finally, undecided voters tend to break heavily for the challenger (most people are saying 2:1 for the challenger). The logic is fairly simple. If you are a voter who is undecided about George Bush after 4 years, its not because you don't know enough about him. It's because you know him and you don't like him.

How do you feel about the likely outcome of this impending election? Personally, I think Kerry will pull off the victory on Tuesday but I'm no 100% confident about that. I think Kerry's support is being under counted for a number of reasons. While both parties are pushing to register new voters, the new voters for Kerry (young people and ethnic minorities) are distributed throughout the country and will likely be a major force in several swing states (Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio). New registrants that Bush is counting on are Karl Rove's famous 4 million untapped Evangelical Conservatives who are disproportionately concentrated in states Bush already has sewn up. Besides the word is that polls of new voters show that as a group they support Kerry over Bush 2:1. Here is a link to a great website that updates its election day prediction after every days' poll.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

Conservatives for Kerry and More Mess in Iraq

Hi Everyone,

Check out this link for a series of stories about conservative editors and activists who are endorsing Kerry because they feel Bush has abandonned traditional conservatism. Their concerns center on Bush's war in Iraq which they regard as an unneccessary, failed adventure that has isolated the US internationally and is the main cause of the high deficits which they say will eventually force tax increases.

Speaking of Iraq, the IAEA has confirmed that 380 tons of explosives suitable for use in nuclear weapons were looted from Iraqi research facilities because US forces failed to secure them following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. Given the Bush administration's main reason for going to war (securing Saddam's WMD technology to prevent them from falling into terrorists' hands), this failure is ASTOUNDING! It is a direct result (I believe) of Rumsfeld's insistence on invading with a smaller force to prove his theories about the increased lethality of US weapons systems. The Bush administration clearly did not even consider how they would achieve the first priorities after the Iraqi army surrendered. Also, given that US forces DID secure sites related to the oil industry, one could be forgiven for asserting that the war in Iraq was all about oil.

Comments? Discussion?

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Friday, October 22, 2004

More Stuff About Iraq

CNN.com has a story about the insurgency in Iraq. Military intelligence reports do not paint an optimistic picture.

Here are some highlights:

1) unaccounted for money (half a billion US$) from Saddam's personal account is financing the insurgency. This is interesting because the Bush Administration's justification for the war version 3.2 is that Saddam was financing terrorism and only by removing him from power could we stop that. Well it turns out that we have him in one of our jail cells and his money is still out there. I would guess that he never devoted this much of his money to supporting terrorists while he was out of jail.

2) US forces have killed or arrested more Iraqis than the original estimates of the number of insurgents allowed for (remember Rummy's "dead-enders"?). However, current estimates are that 12,000 insurgents remain at large. And that number reflects only the "core elements." This is interesting because opponents of invading Iraq in the first place argued that it would create hydra like resistance to the US. As we arrest or kill each insurgent there is always another willing to take his/her place. So this is a real "I told you so moment" for the anti-war folks.

3) Despite the first two items in this report, US intelligence sources are still convinced that arresting or killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would significantly slow or even stop the insurgency. Based on the original estimates, we should have wiped out all the insurgents by now. Yet they remain a formidable problem in Iraq. Who was it who said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Discussion? Comments?

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Robert Scheer Claims Bush Admin Cover up Re 911

Hi Everyone,

My good friend Gao Shan alerted me to the fact that Liberal LA Times columnist, Robert Scheer, recently wrote in his column that there is a CIA report that is very damaging to the White House regarding 9/11. But the report is being suppressed and held back despite requests from the House Intelligence Committee. Two House members are on the record in Scheer's column but a CIA source remains anonymous.

Robert Scheer is pretty left wing so if he's the only one running with this story, it won't amount to much. But if this gets picked up by others....look out.

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Some Random Thoughts

Hi Everyone,

Here are some snippets of stuff I've been thinking about lately:

Random Thought 1: There are still some people out there who think that the outcome of the Presidential election will not have much effect on either foreign or domestic policies. More often than not I suspect this is a symptom of a cognitive dissonance problem. Think about some of the postings on this blog. US support for family planning and health care around the world would dramatically change for the better under a Democrat. US foreign policy would dramatically shift away from the provocative and confrontational focus of the current administration to the more flexible approach of administrations past (both Republican and Democrat). A Democratic President would likely not mention Gay marriage. The delegation of government functions (such as a welfare provision and social services) to religious groups would stop or at least be more closely regulated so as to prevent tax payer supported proselytization. The list goes on and on. There are differences. Saying there aren't any is just an excuse for being self-indulgently apathetic.

Random Thought 2: A lot of Bush supporters getting interviewed on TV say things like, "well, I don't agree with a lot of his positions but at least I know where he stands so I'm going to vote for him." Here is what I would say to such people: If you know where Bush stands and you don't like where he stands why wouldn't you take your chances with the other guy?

Random Thought 3: I've seen some articles on the BBC.com site lately about China becoming a super power. Pure alarmist nonsense. The U.S. spends more money on its military than the next six biggest spenders combined. Four of the next six are in NATO or similarly close allies to the USA. The other two are Russia and China (which are awkward allies). Also, China has a HUGE but poorly equipped army with small well equipped units mixed in. Its navy is only capable of effective operation close to home bases. Its logistics capability is insufficient to allow China to project military power abroad. China is big but it is far from being a global influence.

Comments? Discussion?

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Yet another story you've never heard.

I know that President Bush thinks that America shouldn't bend to the will of the rest of the world. I know that just because every other nation says something is good, doesn't mean we have to agree. Fine. But couldn't we agree with them on something? Anything?

I can't believe this story. To turn down a great document because of two vague words is beyond me. Our women viewers need to read this.

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Recount This: The Trouble With Florida

In Florida, the the certified vote had George Bush leading by 537 votes out of a total of 5,956,253 cast. (after the recount, the Bush lead was 193 before the United States Supreme Court ruled). That is leading by less than 1 in 11,000 votes (one in nearly 30,000 with the recount). That is less than 100th of 1%. What kind of a process is accurate to 1 in 11,000? Ivory soap is only 99 44/100 pure. This is just too high a standard of accuracy to expect from a voting system. I suggest that, even taking the vote totals as given, the vote in Florida was simply too close for any counting mechanism to have rendered an accurate count. Certainly not one run by an ad hoc mixture of part-time government officials and senior citizen volunteers. Introducing internet technology does not help, either. In other words, every recount would have given a different tally. Aside from the fact that there was massive fraud in other areas of the Florida election, keeping lpeople from voting, and so forth, such close numbers themselves can re-occur without the election tampering. We need to think of how to handle errors that small in ballot counting. Justice Scalia was accurate on one point: there is no reason to think that a human recount will finally "get it right." Error terms are part of life. It is too bad, but predictable, that in census counting, the intellectually dishonest Justice Scalia had forgotten about math, and proclaimed that an "actual enumeration" was really possible, and that statistical sampling was somehow "cheating"

Any thoughts, O statisticians and mathematicians?

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Mutiny Incident Among US Troops in Iraq?!

Hi Everyone,

The news media is currently under reporting a major story from Iraq. It is getting some attention but the stories are buried and CNN.com didn't even have the story on its page for a full day! It seems that a full platoon of US Army Reserve troops from South Carolina (343rd Quartermaster Company) refused to drive a convoy of fuel trucks in Iraq recently because they were dissatisfied with the equipment they had (they insist it is worn out and unsafe) and with the lack of escorting troops. The unit has been in Iraq for over 9 months and these type of convoys have been attacked frequently. Technically, this was an organized refusal to obey a lawful order by superior officers. However, their claimed reason for refusing makes this very dangerous politically. Here is a link to the LA Times story on the issue (on their webpage, the story link was nested under another headline that wasn't directly related). The Army is handling this with kid gloves. They are saying things "valid concerns" etc. The last thing the Bush administration wants right now is a major story to get out that volunteer troops who are otherwise "gung ho" are so unhappy about their equipment and troop strength that they would risk being charged with mutiny in protest.

Here is the Webster's revised unabridged definition of the word mutiny: "Insurrection against constituted authority, particularly military or naval authority; concerted revolt against the rules of discipline or the lawful commands of a superior officer; hence, generally, forcible resistance to rightful authority; insubordination."

This is a very disturbing development and is reminiscent of of the kinds of things that happened in incidents when moral collapsed in Vietnam.

Comments? Discussion?

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Does anyone feel a draft?

One of the more under-reported events of recent days is this letter from the RNC to MTV's "Rock the Vote", threatening a lawsuit if RTV does not stop claiming there may be a draft. Rock the Vote has clearly not stopped it and, in fact, they're a little defiant. Excerpt:

Mr. Gillespie, this is a generational issue. Nothing cuts closer to the core of the very reason Rock the Vote exists. We think young people deserve to know where the politicians stand on this issue - and that a generation that could be called to service deserves more than the phony debate they are getting. We believe that it is only by asking questions - not by censoring debate - that our democracy can remain strong and vital.

I want LTG's opinion of this. Doesn't this lawsuit seem just a tad frivolous? When did it become unlawful to suggest that the President is lying? And howcome no news outlet is reporting this?

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Stewart and "Hard" News

John Stewart was on Bill O'Reilly the other day and there was an exchange where Vibrator Bill called the Daily Show audience a bunch of "stoned slackers." So Comedy Central struck back. But beyond the silliness of it, there seemed to be a theme of "why didn't you ask John Kerry real questions?" Cause umm, it's, ahh, COMEDY, Bill...

John Stewart was also on Crossfire. Besides making fun of Tucker Carlson and calling him a not nice word that my mommy said was out of bounds, he tries to make a point...and neither Carlson nor Begala get it. Or at least, they are so "concerned" with the low level of "legitimate" news coverage on the Daily Show that they pretend not to get it.

Granted, Stewart was essentially telling these people they were idiots and bad at their jobs, which, of course, they are, so I'm sure they didn't have the nicest sort of warm fuzzy feeling toward Stewart that they otherwise might have had. But his point remains: why can't any real journalist, and no, John Stewart is not a real journalist, ask a tough question and get a real response? Answer: they worry they'lll never have an interview again. Oh, and they're all suck-ups. Actually, I think journalists can't ask real questions because they have several forms of monkey retardation...But more damning is the possibility that people don't care or aren't interested enough to ask whether they are getting good, straight answers from their elected officials. In a market economy, I can't think of a better way to stand out and make yourself different...be the network that will ask a real question and demand a real answer.

The funniest comedy/news ("nomedy"?) show on TV: 2
Grating Half-Wits: 0


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Friday, October 15, 2004

There's Something About Mary

I'm sick of this Mary Cheney flap and want it to go away. I don't think it's good for anyone, especially the intensely private Mary. But I do think we ought to ask a prominent gay Republican what he thinks. Heck, let's make it two.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Republican Senator Flips Lid; Kentucky's Seat In Play

Hi Everyone,

Some of you may know that in addition to the Presidential race the fight for control of Congress (especially the Senate) is also very tight. That's why this is a big deal....

Senator Jim Bunning (R- Kentucky, pitcher for the Phillies in the 60s) seems to have gone completely nuts. This not the usual kind of nuts for Republicans, this guy is actually certifiable! Reuters is reporting that his behavior has become increasingly eratic - even for him. Bunning accused his Democratic opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, of beating up Mrs. Bunning and said that his Italian American opponent looked "like Saddam Hussein's son." These are not the only or even the strangest episodes. The Lousiville paper is openly speculating that Bunning has gone insane or has Alzheimers.

Bunning's 17 point lead has suddenly shrunk to 8 points as reports of his possible mental illness spread.

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Amazing.

This is a letter from a reader to Andrew Sullivan:

I think you’ve missed an important point in your analysis of the candidates. I’m willing to concede, for the sake of argument, the Kerry’s proposals and stances are all superior to Bush’s. I’m also willing to concede, in the same spirit, that Bush is less competent than Kerry.

It still doesn’t matter. What you miss in all your analysis is the fundamental attitude of the candidates toward the War on Terror. Their attitudes are more revealing than their platforms: Bush cares about the War on Terror, and Kerry doesn’t. That’s all that really matters.

That Kerry flip-flops on the issues is not important because he might be indecisive in times of danger, though that is certainly something to consider. That he flip-flops is not important because we need someone who doesn’t change his mind. That he flip-flops is important because it exposes something infinitely more telling about the man: the man doesn’t really believe that there is a legitimate threat. If Kerry sincerely believed that a true anti-war stance would win the election, he would take that stance. Hell, if he believed that a platform advocating carpet-nuking Qatar would win the election, he would advocate that. The man simply doesn’t take it seriously. Bush, despite his shortcomings, does.

I’m about as angrily libertarian as they get, and I was as appalled as you were by Bush’s support for the pandering, theocratic Federal Marriage Amendment. But I certainly believe Kerry would have supported the same thing if his base had demanded it, and I think Kerry’s predilection for pandering outstrips Bush’s by ten to one.

Of course, we know all politicians are panderers. Bush and Kerry can’t escape it. But in a time when nuclear terrorism looms large and our very lives are at stake, we owe it to our country to vote for the guy who takes our safety seriously.


This is amazing to me. If you didn't want to read the whole thing, I can summarize it like this: "Bush may be a moron with ideas inferior to Kerry's, but I will still vote for Bush because he gives the appearance of being tougher on the war on terror." This is, unfortunately, why many people will be Bush supporters. Not because they agree with him about anything, but because they THINK that Bush will be tougher on terror. Nevermind the fact that you are more likely to get struck by lightning than die in a terrorist attack. Drives me nuts.

There are legitimate reasons to vote for Bush (social conservatives should, for instance), but this is not one.

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Reactions to the Third Debate (Domestic Issues)

Hi Everyone,

I didn't get to see the entire debate but I did see most of it. And I downloaded the transcript for the part I didn't see at C-SPAN. Here are some of the highlights from my point of view.

First, I think Kerry won this debate but didn't deliver a knock out blow. No memorable line that makes Bush look like a dope. No "there you go again" line. Polls show that this seems to be the plurality opinion out there. Only Republicans think Bush won any of the debates.

Second, I thought Bush was defensive and whiney again. I've heard people are calling Bush "Furious George" now. Its a great nickname, but I'm not sure it fits 100%. "Spoiled George" or "Whiney George" would be better fits but they don't sound as funny.

Third, I thought Bush's answers on domestic issues were excessively "on message." That is he mentioned "no child left behind" in answers to questions about jobs, taxes etc.

Fourth Kerry's performance was a little sloppier than the first debate. His answers weren't quite as tight and he showed some of his tendency to give long, complicated answers.

The moment I thought was most telling was when Bush said the solution for the impending flu shot shortage was for young people to not get flu shots. Think about this. Bush says the health care situation is better now than it was when he got into office but we are going into a flu season with half the flu vaccines we need! Bush said that our health care was the envy of the world. But I wonder what the flu shot situation is in Canada or Sweden or Denmark?

This leads me to one other comment: Bush said that government controlled health care would lead to "rationing." He said that what we need a "market" in health care. But the problem with that is people always want more health care! Demand for health is inelastic. That is as price goes up, demand remains high. So what Bush is proposing is de fact rationing but the mechanism for rationing will be how much you are willing/able to pay for more health. More money = more health. Less money = less health.

Comments? Discussion?

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Where Do I Start?

Hi Everyone,

BBC.com is reporting that the US backed Iraqi government is withholding information about duel use technologies they are obligated to make regular reports about. The IAEA is particularly concerned that machinery that can be applied to the construction of nuclear weapons has been sold on the black market by US appointed Iraqi officials.

OK, so the Bush administration told us we had to invade Iraq to prevent them giving WMDs to terrorists. It turns out Iraq didn't have any WMDs but the Bush administration said that Iraq did have the potential to restart its WMD program. Well, despite this being the main reason for war, the Bush administration made no plans for securing the machines and materials that could be used to restart such a program. Now it seems these items are loose on the black market. Bush has succeeded in turning Iraq's weapons program into a second Russia - full of qualified weapons designers with no way to make a living other than selling off their skills and materials. Meanwhile the rest of the country is bogged down in a simmering state of civil war.

What's more, the Bush administration likes to claim credit for stopping the black market sale of nuclear technology by the US backed regime in Pakistan. In light of the stories about Iraqi weapons technology, such claims seem ridiculous.

Bush supporters are very aggressive about how a vote for Bush is a vote for increased security. But stories like this (and there have been dozens of them) show conclusively that the Bush administration is easily the most incompetent foreign policy administration in American history. I can think of no American administration that has been so detrimental to US interests.

comments? discussion?

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Nuisance nuance

Both sides in this election have spent a lot of time talking about "winning the war on terror", but, as RbR points out, neither side has made it clear what that means to them -- until now.

In the magazine interview, Mr. Kerry was asked what it would take for Americans to feel safe again.

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Mr. Kerry said in the article. "'As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. 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."


President Bush fired back with this (my emphasis):

"I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world."


(Both citations are from this New York Times article)

So while Kerry has given a reasonable definition of winning the war on terror, Bush is still using that terminology without explaining what it means. Does he actually believe we can end terrorism for good? It doesn't seem like he does, given his earlier statement that "I don’t think you can win [the war on terror]. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." So what's his complaint with Kerry's statement?

The answer is, he and his team are grasping at straws. With no record to trumpet, he is reduced to attacking Kerry and his attacks are getting more and more desperate and farther from the truth. It's his only politically viable move, but it's just too bad we can't stay above the mud-slinging.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Elections Start in Afghanistan and Australia

In other news, elections have begun in Afghanistan and Australia. Recent polls show it very close in Australia.

What news comes out of these two elections could drive the polls in the US as much as the debates themselves.

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Reactions to the Second Debate (Town Hall Meeting)

Hi Everyone,

For the first 30 minutes or so of the debate most of the questions were about foreign policy and especially Iraq. During these questions, Bush seemed combative and defensive. As he answered questions or responded to Kerry’s statements, Bush paced back and forth as close to the audience as could, aggressively gesturing all the while with his voice rising in volume and tightening in tone. He came off less likable in my opinion. Bush’s worst moment was when he sort of whined that with regard to Iran his administration was “doin’ just what he [Kerry] suggested.” This is the kind of thing that will continue to erode Bush’s advantage on foreign policy. In general, I thought Bush’s answers sounded more reasoned and intelligent than his answers from the first debate (although I disagree with him).

Bush did better in the second half of the debate when the questions turned to domestic issues. He made little jokes and he calmed down. However, the content was lacking. He made excuses for poor economic performance in some answers while in some answers persisting in asserting that things are going well. While his delivery was more easy going and classic “guy I want to have a beer with” style, I doubt people will buy it. It certainly wasn’t anything new substantively.

On judicial appointments, Bush stuck his neck out and said he would not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who would have voted for the Dread Scott decision. “That’s opinion, that’s not what the Constitution says. What we need are strict constructionists.” Law Talking Guy, would you please put the Dread Scott decision into a context of strict versus loose constructionists?

The Republican spin line is clearly going to be “you can run but you can’t hide” with regard to Kerry’s Senate record. Bush said it twice and the second time he said it, it sounded like he was waiting to spring it. It’s a little late in the game to start that up. If Bush gets acclaimed as the winner of this debate, it might get some traction. But in the even of a tie or a Kerry win, I doubt it will work.

Bottom line: I don't think either candidate did much to really dominate the other. Both had moments good and bad. I don't think this debate will change the dynamic of the race much. Since Kerry has the momentum at the moment, advantage Kerry.

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Historical casualties

Here are American wars omitted from most lists. The current Iraq war has more in common with these than with, say, Vietnam or Korea (so far).

1. Phillipine Insurgency, 1899-1902. 1,018 dead, approx. 3,500 wounded.
2. Russian Civil war, 1918-1920. 304 dead, 268 wounded.
3. Lebanese Intervention, 1983. 273 dead.


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Poll Update Going Into Second Debate

Hi Everyone,

Here is a little poll update going into the second debate. American Research Group has posted results for their polls in Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Kerry is ahead or exactly tied in all four states. The polls are of likely voters.

In Ohio, Kerry leads 48% to 47%. The trend shows that Kerry is close to recovering most of the ground he lost in the weeks running up to the RNC with all the swift boat ads. Kerry also holds a commanding 51% to 43% lead among independents (who make up a quarter of the electorate in Ohio). Democrats and Republicans are equally represented in Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, Kerry leads 48% to 46%. Kerry leads by a wider margin among independent voters and Kerry's lead among independents is growing. Independents are a smaller share of the electorate than in Ohio but Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania.

In Florida, Kerry leads 47% to 45%. ARG has had Kerry ahead in Florida in every poll its taken since May. Kerry leads among indepdents 49% to 41% with independents making up a fifth of the electorate.

In New Hampshire, Kerry and Bush are tied at 47%. Kerry was behind in September by 4 points so the trend - as with Ohio and Pennsylvania - seems to be that Kerry has regained much of the ground he lost int he swift boat/RNC period. Kerry leads among independents 53% to 40% (the biggest lead among independents in the four states discussed here). Also, independents outnumber Democrats in New Hampshire and are nearly as populous as the Republicans!

If Kerry is seen as the winner of tonight's debate, next week's polls could really open up for Kerry as undecided voters start to break for the challenger (as they usually do).

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

VP Debate

OK, Who won the VP debate? The Minnesota Twins won 2-0. But seriously, I wonder what the ratings were because it conflicted with a MLB playoff game. Fox didn't even carry the debate, they carried the game. So FOX news was on UPN (I bet you didn't know that the Star Trek channel was an avenue for FOX propaganda).

The morning after polls show that roughly the same proportion of people think Cheney beat Edwards as thought Kerry beat Bush. My impression of the debate is that Cheney won by sounding reasonable and thoughtful. He didn't drop the F bomb, not even once. And he beat up on Edwards for his frequent absence in the Senate. Which I think is what most people will regard as the most effective part of the debate.

Edwards didn't get completely discombobulated but he did seem a bit out of his league. He missed a chance to score points against Cheney when the VP said that he had never said there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaida. But on June 18, 2004 (and many other times) Cheney said, "There clearly was a relationship. It's been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming." He added that any assertion that there was no relationship was "irresponsible."

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Oil Troubles

Here we are going into the VP debates tonight and the BBC is reporting that crude oil prices have hit $51/barrel, a new record!

Why? According to the article, it is because the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted US oil production and because of unrest in Nigeria. This is interesting because many conservatives argue that the best way to get out of being dependent on Middle Eastern oil is to drill more here in the US and to shift our reliance more heavily to African oil. But we see now that this approach has its problems too. I wonder if Edwards will bring this up today.

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Monday, October 04, 2004

Juicy News Bits

Hi Everyone,

Here are some relevant news items:

Item 1: Rumsfeld admits no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. BBC.com reports that "In front of an audience in New York, Mr Rumsfeld was asked about connections between Saddam and Osama Bin Laden. 'To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two,' he said."

Item 2: In the debate Bush tried to score points against Kerry by snapping that he "forgot about Poland." But it seems the Poles would just as soon be forgotten. Poland announced today that they were reducing their military forces in Iraq from 2,500 to 1,500 by January with total pull out by the end of 2005.

Item 3: BBC.com is reporting that four American soldiers have been charged with the murder of an Iraqi General who died in custody last November. None of the soldiers charged are commissioned officers. The defendants are two Chief Warrant Officers, a Sgt. 1st Class and Specialist.

Item 4: NPR's senior political analyst, Daniel Schorr, reported today on "All Things Considered" that voter registration in areas with large minority and poor populations is so much higher than expected that voter registration officials are being overwhelmed.

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Post-mortem equine flagellation

Here's something I haven't seen brought up a lot. Is the Bush team going over the top with this "flip-flopper" thing? Essentially every American who will vote has at least heard the charge, and most of them have probably heard pretty specific examples of Kerry's "mixed messages". So why beat a dead horse? It's starting to sound a little desperate, as if they search for any glimpse of flip-flopping and then pounce on it.

I think they need to adopt a new line of attack. Bush needs to stay on the offensive, but not in this way. Maybe it's time to really take off the gloves and attack Kerry's patriotism (you know, he did marry a foreigner). Maybe they could attack his Senate record in a non-flip-flopping way (crazy liberal). But people are getting tired of the flip-flop charge, and some are starting to wonder if it even matters if he does flip-flop.

Thoughts?

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Pollwatching and "Momentum Shift"

Two new polls, Newsweek, and Gallup (!) show a dramatic change in dynamics in favor of John Kerry. Both had Bush up by as much as 12 pts in early September.
Gallup now shows a dead tie (49-49) and Newsweek has a Kerry lead (49-46).
So, the first debate certainly had an effect on undecided and very weak-leaning voters.
Of course, those of us at The Citizens have known for a month that the media was overstating the Bush lead (e.g., Zogby never showed Bush with more than a 3 point lead). So the momentum shift is much smaller than the media will now make it appear. Kerry will now benefit from inaccurate reporting ("a 10 point swing for Kerry") based on the highly suspect Gallup poll (which probably, secretly, re-tooled its formula and now has to report a "shift" rather than admit its prior polls were just badly done). The real shift in numbers is 3-5% tops. The real shift in media coverage is 180-degree u-turn. Typical.



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Sunday, October 03, 2004

A Little Substance Between Debates

Kerry challenges Bush on a number of issues: the lack of WMD in Iraq, the shaky and inadequate alliances supporting us in Iraq, jobs and economic performance. However, the Bush administration now says that the point of invading Iraq was to establish a democracy in the heart of the Arab/Muslim world. No one has yet to challenge this position. The lack of criticism is certainly due to fears that the Republicans will declare any critics to be “anti-democratic.” The result is that there is no serious discussion of what is perhaps the most absurd assumption put forward by an administration known for absurd assumptions. The Bush/Neo-Con doctrine on Iraq assumes that democracy will spring up in Iraq more or less automatically now that Saddam has been removed and potential new dictators are held more or less in check by the US military. But this assumption is based on a gross misunderstanding of what democracy is and how it maintains itself.

What is democracy? Leaving aside the canard that conservatives love to raise about the supposedly important difference between “republics” and “democracies,” most political scientists have similar definitions for democracy. This most clearly laid out in Robert Dahl’s important book Polyarchy. Essentially Dahl defined democracy – which he called “polyarchy” for some reason – as a process for making policy that includes accountability to the population ensured through open and competitive elections, universal adult suffrage, freedom of the press, expression, assembly etc.

How does democracy maintain itself? Democracy depends on competitive elections etc. How is that maintained? Well, first you need to have diversity of interests. Second, you need to have parties willing to alternate between being in power and being in opposition. You can’t have an economy or a society in which everyone is dependent upon a single source of livelihood (Government run, planned economy or over concentration in a single industry such as oil). When all the socio-economic eggs are in one basket, being in power means total control over that basket 100% of the country’s resources and being out of power means being totally cut off from the national resources. This makes it very unlikely that who ever wins the first election will ever allow a second one (I’ve posted about this in the past and can elaborate on request).

Neo-cons and their political allies are fond of pointing to West Germany and Japan after World War II as examples of the US imposing democracy through occupation. But citing these examples in support of the policy in Iraq is extremely misleading. First, both Germany and Japan had extremely advanced and diverse economies with thriving private markets in wide ranges of industries. Second, both Germany and Japan had been making moves towards democracy prior to coups d’etat by Hitler and the Japanese military who later started World War II. Germany’s democracy was the most fully developed of the two with an established, if dysfunctional, constitution. But Japan also had been making the gradual steps towards democratization since the Meji Restoration in the 19th century. To compare Germany in 1946 especially to Iraq in 2003 is beyond absurd its deliberately misleading.

The bottom line is that the Bush administration's stated goals in Iraq are IMPOSSIBLE to achieve by military means. It will take decades for Iraq to establish the kind of institutions and socio-economic conditions for self-sustaining democracy. When the Bush administration says they can establish democracy in Iraq by force, they are either being delusional or they are intentionally misleading the public to further their own re-election goals. Yet, this issue is not being discussed by the candidates or the media.

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