I haven't written much about Reagan's death: I didn't like the man, and I've refused to watch any of the wall-to-wall coverage for that reason. You can't avoid, however, the ongoing effort to sanctify the man into St. Ronny the Beloved Optimist and Destroyer of Communism, patron saint of conservatives, because it's all over the place. I've tried to counteract the mind deadening effect of this by reading a bit of the very good and interesting counter-coverage available on the liberal/left blogosphere and elsewhere on the Web
I have nothing particular to add. Read some of this stuff and you'll get a much more rounded take on Reagan's public life.
Jonathan Chait in The New Republic looks into why Reagan, who was not exactly an orthodox conservative, has been latched onto so strongly by the right. Kevin Drum weighs in on the same question, and Digby synopsizes the Reagan Cult.
David Greenberg in Slate looks at the myths surrounding Reagan, as does Gadflyerhere, here, here and here. The SCLM's relationship with Reagan is Eric Boelhert's subject in Salon, while the deluded fool Christopher Hitchens recovers his facilities long enough to outline Reagan's stupidity on Slate.
One of the advantages of the new digital cable box that Time-Warner Cable of New York forced on me is that I now get BBC America, which means that I get to watch again, among others, AbFab, Blackadder, Keeping Up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, and, of course, Monty Python's Flying Circus.
The prescience of the Monthy Python crew is absolutely amazing! Did you know that they forsaw the advent of Fox News' sputtering bully Bill O'Reilly 32 years ago in their "Argument Clinic" sketch:
Mr Barnard: WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Man: Well, I was told outside that...
Mr Barnard: Don't give me that, you snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings!
Mr Barnard: Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, maloderous, pervert!!!
Man: Look, I CAME HERE FOR AN ARGUMENT, I'm not going to just stand...!!
Mr Barnard: OH, oh I'm sorry, but this is abuse.
Man: Oh, I see, well, that explains it.
Mr Barnard: Ah yes, you want room 12A, Just along the corridor.
Back at the end of February, when Nader had announced his intention to run, Kevin Drum (then of Calpundit), suggested that while the mainstream media had to cover Nader, it might be best if he was ignored by the blogosphere, there being more important things to concentrate on. I remember agreeing with that, and I thought I had blogged to say so, but I can't find the entry now. (Maybe I made my agreement privately, I dunno.)
In any case while I have mananaged (for the most part) to contain my bile about the role Nader & the people who voted for him played in electing Bush in 2000, I have blogged about him now and again, and I'm going to do so again now, because I've come up with something that I think is interesting.
One of the consistent claims made by Nader and his partisans is that his candidacy did not (and will not) help elect Bush because he draws from both candidates equally. I've taken a look at a good number of polls that had both direct head-to-head Bush/Kerry numbers and three-way Bush/Kerry/Nader numbers, and I've found that Nader's claim is (as you might expect) not true, his being in the race hurts Kerry more than it hurts Bush. However, the Nader Effect is not as pronounced as you might think.
Using data posted on David Wissing's website, The Hedgehog Report, for both national head-to-head polls and national three-way polls, I matched up those performed by the same polling organization at the same time and found 43 pairs of results, ranging in date from Fox News on 2/18-19 to today's LA Times and Fox polls. Using these, I found that while in the head-to-head results Kerry was beating Bush by an average of 1.37 percentage points, in the 3-way results with Nader, he was losing to Bush by an average of 0.16 points. This means there is an observable "Nader Effect" of 1.53 percentage points drawn from Kerry.
Obviously, 1.53 points doesn't seems like an awful lot, and these are national results not a specific state-by-state comparison, but with many in-state polling results in a statistical dead heat, a point and a half pulled away from Kerry could turn out to be very significant. After all, in 2000 there were 5 states in which the winner was determined by less than that: New Hampshire (Bush by 1.27), Oregon (Gore by 0.44), Iowa (Gore by 0.31), Wisconsin (Gore by 0.22) and, of course, Florida (Bush by 0.01 and Supreme Court fiat). I have every hope that the election won't be nearly as close, but, so far, these are no overwhelming indications that will be the case, and the 1 1/2 point Nader Effect may turn out to be extremely important.
You can see the effect in operation in a graph I made of all the head-to-head and 3-way results on Wissing's site. The red Nader-influenced results on the right cluster lower down than do the black head-to-head results, and more of the 3-way ponts are below the 0% (Kerry and Bush tied) line then the head-to-head points.
There are fewer in-state polls that provide both head-to-head and 3-way results, but I looked at those I had (12 of them: ACT & ARG in Florida, Research 2000 in Iowa, two Epic/MRA polls in Michigan, two ARG polls in New Hampshire, Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, Rasmussen and Research2000 in Oregon, and Badger and Rasmussen in Wisconsin) and found a Nader Effect there as well, and more pronounced. Head-to-head in these polls, Kerry averages 1.50 points over Bush; with Nader in a 3-way, Kerry runs behind by an average 0.42 points -- together, that's an in-state Nader Effect of 1.92 points.
If you combine the national and the in-state data, the total observed Nader effect is 1.62 points being drawn from Kerry, so I'd say it's reasonable to assume that he'll take away anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 points in the election, or possibly more, depending on what the undecideds do.
Update: Immediately after I initially posted this, I found that ARG had released results in New Hampshire, so I've updated the text to reflect those figures.
Update: Fox News also released national results today, so I've included those and rewritten the text. I don't plan to keep updating this continually, but may take a look at the figures periodically to see if the Nader Effect remains the same.
Update: Chris Bowers kindly links to this on MyDD and observes that the "Nader Effect" I've seen so far in polling results
seems to be slightly higher than Nader's national impact during the previous election. In 2000, exit polls of Nader voters showed the following set of preferences:
46% would have picked Gore
31% would have sat out the election
23% would have favored Bush
Considering Nader's national vote total of 2,883,105, this exit poll estimates that if Nader had not been on the ballot, Gore would have finished with 50.07% of the national vote, while Bush would have finished with 48.91% of the national vote. A 1.16% national victory would have been an improvement of 0.65% for Gore over his actual victory of 0.51%, almost a full-point less than the impact Ed documents in 2004.
So I guess this means that 1.5 points is a pretty big deal. Chris does issue the caveat that third parties generally poll better early on (before the conventions) and close to Election Day as well, but then don't get results commensurate with their poll returns.
For myself, I'll be happier if the Nader Effect either decreases, or Kerry's margins become large enough to swallow it whole, but there is (so far, and we've still got 5 months to go) not much sign of a big breakout for him yet.
Update: Make sure to take a look at the objections to my conclusion of an observable "Nader Effect" from Scott Pauls, who (if I've Googled the right person) is a professor of mathematics, and therefore much more conversant with statistics (and their pitfalls) than I am. His remarks (and my reply and his response) are in the comments thread here, on MyDD.
Update (6/15): Well, it looks like someone had already beaten me to the punch. I've just now found on the website Don't Vote Ralph a study, made about a month ago, which examined the 37 national polls available to that time, and showed that:
Of the 37 polls reviewed, 32 show Nader hurting Kerry, 4 show no effect, and 1 shows Nader hurting Bush (and that by a scant 1%).
While the percentage swings to Bush are all single-digit, the consensus is overwhelming, directly discrediting Nader’s claims.
In addition to national polls, we found state and special-interest polls that similarly compared Bush and Kerry head-to-head and with Nader added to the mix. Here the results were even more striking. Among other things, these polls (the first six in the above table) show Nader flipping New Jersey and Pennsylvania from Kerry to Bush, and causing an 8% surge for Bush among the large Arab-American vote in four critical swing states. These results alone would almost certainly swing the election to Bush.
The implications of these findings could be enormous. The nation is very closely divided, and it is extremely likely that in some battleground states, these numbers would determine the outcome. When a few percent of voters in a few states will determine the next president, Nader’s independent candidacy could well tip the balance.
As I've mentioned in the past, there is a fundamental danger in an American presidential republic, which is that the head of government and the head of state are the same person. This invests the head of government with a lot of power; the symbolic power of the head of state can be used by the president to influence (or even dominate) domestic politics. This power waxes and wanes, of course, but in situations of perceived crisis it can be overwhelming, thanks to the natural need of nations and societies to have some person to rally around. This is why the Royals in England were so important in keeping spirits up during the Blitz, and why American presidents tend to enjoy so much lattitude.
When crises arise, then, there is both the opportunity and, lets face it, a clear desire for the head of state to "take charge and lead the people". If the problems of politics get in the way, then the president has a nearly irresistable opportunity to sweep those "problems" away, which usually means "emergency powers" of some sort. Once gained, these powers are very rarely given up, as there are always new "crises" to exploit to retain them.
(This can be done with the best of intentions; democratic politics can be maddeningly slow. A president that seizes power isn't necessarily evil or power-mad; he could be a good man that honestly believes that this is necessary.)
A king or queen can't really do this, because their role as embodiment of the people doesn't stem from popular acclaim but their membership in a particular family. People's commitment to popular rule is too strong nowadays for family ties to be seen as justification for conferring absolute power. A king couldn't dissolve the legislature by claiming that it's the "will of the people"; he'd get quickly contradicted by his (elected) prime minister as head of government. Every president, however, can at least partially claim legitimacy as the embodiment of the popular will. It is that will from which his legitimacy stems, but it is also that will from which modern cults of personality are born.
These sorts of events are incredibly common. In fact, they're so common that the fact that the United States has never had this happen has baffled political scientists since the phenomenon was noticed. There are a number of theories as to why, but my own favorite stems from an American military tradition, which is that soldiers swear loyalty to the Constitution, not the president, despite being their "commander in chief". One of the most treasured aspects of the American system is its balance of power between judiciary, executive and legislature; while its effectiveness can sometimes be questioned, it's important in that it enshrines the idea that the United States is a country where the laws stand above the president; that the symbolic power of a head of state will never confer absolute power upon him. "L'etat c'est moi" does not apply. It is, perhaps, the only way in which one can have a powerful president without having the system fly apart in the face of crisis.
Josh and the WSJ, however, has shown that the United States may be moving in the direction of countries like Argentina and Chile. The line of argument made in the memo isn't new, but very, very old... it's the first stage in a possible process where the powers of the laws is eroded and the powers of the executive rise in their place. Arguing that the president has the right to "set aside the laws" is an argument for absolute executive power, because the supremacy of "the laws" is the only real power that the legislature and judiciary have. Without this legal supremacy, the United States becomes like every other fragile republic in the Americas.
We know what will happen. We've seen it dozens of times before, and we'll see it dozens of times in the future. Republics are always haunted by the spectre of their "commanders-in-chief" becoming simply "commanders". The Latin word for commander is "imperator", more popularly known as "emperor". America may yet have its Napoleon; its Octavian. That it hasn't happened yet does not mean it won't.
This memo and the ideas that underlie it does not make empire inevitable; it is, however, the first necessary step in journeying down that road.
Unbenownst to anyone up to now, the US Constitution is apparently the basis for a legal dictatorship. Very interesting indeed that such a radical new interpretation of presidential power should be "discovered" by an administration that was installed by a 5 to 4 vote by the Supreme Court, isn't it?
What's the old saying, "begin as you mean to go on?" They went on as they began, all right, using all levers of power in service of their desired goals regardless of legal precedent or constitutional legitimacy. We shouldn't be surprised. This is what people who pursue power for its own sake always do.
Subversion of the Constitution really is treasonous (pace Ann Coulter's scurrilous attacks on liberals, progressives and Democrats in general as traitors), but since the only practical way to prosecute it is through impeachment in the Congress, nothing will happen on this. It's actually a much more serious charge than the Valerie Plame leak, which, while serious and illegal, doesn't go to the core meaning of what a constitutional republic is (which was also why Nixon's misdeeds in Watergate were more important that the penny-ante breaking-and-entering which provoked its discovery), but it's more likely that some sort of legal action will come from Plame than it is that anything will happen from the Torturegate memo. That's just the reality of having all three branches of the government controlled by one party, the party of those who are doing the bad deeds.
This torture memo shocked me. And it shocked me not because of its endorsement of torture, we knew something about that already, indeed we've seen pictures of it. No, strangely, it shocked me because it was the product of a bureaucratic "working group" and it was delivered in the dry prose of a government report on the legality of setting aside an executive order on train travel requirements. But this "working group," consisting of lawyers from throughout the executive branch, was tasked with something a little bit different than your average government project. Its job was defining the legal limits of the president's authority to order people to be tortured.
They had meetings at which I'm sure they all believed very sincerely that they were doing important work on the War on Terror. I'm sure they worked long hours and diligently analyzed the law and offered their advice to the president and secretary of defense with nothing but the good of the country in their minds. And they produced a 50+ page paper from which, I understand, only one person --- the state department representative -- dissented.
And that report, this product of a bureaucratic "working group" of lawyers is so deeply depraved and contrary to American values that one wonders if at any time during the discussions if someone had stood up and said, "we're talking about TORTURE for God's sake!" they would have produced a report at all.
Perhaps they wouldn't have. But, more importantly, I seriously doubt that anyone stood up and said such a thing. After all, this was being dryly discussed in the op-ed pages of major newspapers and in the weekly magazines as if it were just another method of warfare --- like terrorism itself. I'm sure these fine bureaucrats and political appointees believed they were doing their duty.
I can't get past the fact that this is the product of a "working group" of lawyers, all of them highly educated, presumably intelligent, decent hardworking Americans who love their country. And, not one of them resigned their post rather than participate in creating a legal justification for torture. And, it was not just an abstraction to them; they went into great detail about the precise amount of pain that was to be allowed. There are long passages in which the meaning of "severe pain" is discussed, the effect of long term mental damage is assessed and where the justification of the infliction of long term damage is defined as a matter of intent rather than result.
What was the process by which they came to these dry legalistic definition of when, how and where on is allowed to inflict terrible pain as long as it doesn't reach the level of intensity that would accompany serious physical injury or organ failure? Did they discuss this around a conference table over a take-out Chinese dinner? Did they all nod their heads and take notes and write memos and have conference calls and send e-mails on the subject of what exactly the definition of "severe pain" is? Did they take their kid to school on the way to the meeting in which they finalized a report that says the president of the United States has the unlimited authority to order the torture of anyone he wants? Did they tell jokes on the way out?
These nice people with nice backrounds and nice jobs spent weeks contemplating how to legally torture human beings. Then they went home and watched television and ate dinner and went to bed and made love to their wife or husband and got up and did it again because it was their job and their duty to find ways to legally justify it[.]
These people who set about legalizing inhumane behavior on behalf of a president on whom they confer absolute power to order it at will are as shallow and evil as the cliché spouting president who demanded it. The slippery slope to totalitarianism started in a conference room where coffee and donuts and microsoft power point presentations on torture and pain were on the agenda one morning.
The LA Times has a national poll which includes separate results for three states: Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin.
The good news is that nationally, they have Kerry up 51 to 44 head-to-head against Bush, and up 48-42-4 with Nader included (margin of error plus or minus 3 points). Also they have Kerry up in Ohio 45-42-4 (moe 4), which may indicate that the GOPward drift there has abated.
In Missouri, Kerry is down, 37-48-5 (moe 4), which is not unexpected, since only the Zogby Battleground results of 5/24 had Kerry ahead (although the margin of 9 points is pretty high). The disconcerting news is that they also show Kerry behind in Wisconsin, 42-44-4 (moe 4), which means I'll be looking out for any signs of a GOP trend there.
As a result of this poll, I'm moving Missouri from "in play" (where I moved it on 5/24) back into Bush's column (where it came from), which means my current status is:
Based upon our most recent wave of state polling data, Rasmussen Reports projects that if the Presidential Election were held today, Senator John Kerry would win 227 Electoral Votes, President George W. Bush would win 177 Electoral Votes, and 134 Electoral Votes would be in the toss-up category.
At Rasmussen Reports, we consider any state where polls show a candidate leading by less than five percentage points to be a toss-up. [...]
The bottom line is that, no surprise here, the race itself is currently too close to call. This point is driven home when you consider alternative ways of looking at the Electoral College totals.
If we were project Electoral Votes based upon which candidate was ahead in our state polls, even if that lead was by a single point, President Bush would be ahead, 264 to 231. The 43 toss-up votes would be be in Florida where we currently show a tie and in two other states where we have not yet released data (New Mexico and Tennessee).
[I]t is apparent that conservatives are simply more prone to hero worship, finding leaders whom they can hail as near-saints. He may not be Reagan yet, but George W. Bush certainly commands a tremendous loyalty among partisans, even as he is deserted by all to the left half of the political divide. On the other hand, liberals inevitably view their leaders with reservations and disappointment. Although one can come up with liberal heroes like John and Robert Kennedy or Harry Truman, they are not venerated with the same kind of fervor as Reagan. One will hardly see thousands of Democrats naming their firstborns "Clinton." But in 2003, "Reagan" was the 202nd most popular name given to girls in the United States, according to the Social Security Administration. It's no Brittany or Ashley, but that's still a lot of little Reagans running around.
I toyed with the idea of naming my son "Kennedy," ("Kennedy Fitzgerald"), but with the mononomial female VH-1 v.j. Kennedy around, it seemed destined to be construed as a girl's name. (I also tried to convince my wife that we should name him "Darwin" after Charles Darwin, but with a daughter named "Arwen" that seemed like a mistake.) I never considered naming him Lyndon, Clinton or Carter. (We settled on "Connor" for reasons of euphony.)
In a Tapped entry about Nancy Reagan's drive to overturn the ban on stem cell research, and Orrin Hatch's agreement with it, Matthew Yglesias casually says that "All five Senate Mormons share Hatch's views" (Hatch is a Mormon, as one would expect for a Senator from Utah). It was news to me that 5% of our Senators are Mormons, which is somewhat more than one would expect, considering that only about 1.3% of the U.S. population describes itself as being Mormon.
(Of course, the fact that one expects both Senators from Utah to be Mormon, and therefore that 2% of Senators will probably be Mormon, skews things already.)
I wonder who are the Senatorial Mormons, and where does one find information like that?
We hear a lot about regressive conservative amendments to the Constitution (anti-gay marriage, anti-flag burning, pro-Pledge of Allegiance), but, since the demise of the Equal Rights Amendment, not a lot about possible progressive amendments. Chris Bowers has an interesting entry about that on MyDD, which includes these amendments proposed by Jesse Jackson Jr.:
The Right to vote
The Right to public education
The Right to health care of equal and high quality
The Right to affordable housing
The right to a clean, safe and sustainable environment
The right to employment
Equal rights for women
Guaranteed progressive taxation
Generally, I'm opposed to amending the Constitution except to resolve serious structural problems (like the Electoral College), and Jackson's suggestions seem to me to be more of a political platform than constitutional material (not to mention the fact that there is absolutely no chance of any such amendments ever being passed, at least not in the United States as it now exists), but they might provide fodder for some good, frank discussion about what it is we expect this country to be.
LONDON -- Fahrenheit 451, as we all should know by now, is the temperature at which paper burns.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is the temperature at which Ray Bradbury, author of classic sci-fi novel "Fahrenheit 451," gets really burned up.
Bradbury is telling everyone in earshot that while Michael MooreMichael Moore may be a Palme d'Or- and Oscar-winning director, he's "a jerk" nevertheless.
Bradbury's problems with Moore don't stem from any disagreements with the political content of Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's the title, which Bradbury contends was appropriated by Moore without credit or, more damningly in his view, without manners.
"He's not a very nice person, is he?" Bradbury asks plaintively. "He steals things without permission, and he never even called me. My novel is 50 years old and still being taught in schools. He could have called it 'an homage,' right? But even after I called him about it six months ago to protest, and was told he would call me back, he never did."
Bradbury made it clear that what he seeks is not legal recourse but something considered old-fashioned in today's Hollywood: courtesy. The legendary novelist has no interest in taking Moore to court because "litigation takes forever."
"I sued CBS in 1957 because they plagiarized 'Fahrenheit 451' for 'Playhouse 90.' They approached me for the rights and I turned them down and they used the book anyway. I finally won, but it took me three years."
So what does Bradbury want? "I would like to know his opinion of why he did it."
To that end, upon hearing of Bradbury's heated views, Joanne Doroshow from Michael Moore's office issued the following statement:
"We have the greatest respect for Ray Bradbury -- he is one of our nation's great fiction writers. Mr. Bradbury's work has been an inspiration to all of us involved in this film. When you watch the film, you will see that title reflects the fact that the movie explores the very real life events before, around and after 9/11."
So it's more important to Ray Bradbury that his precious title be held for his exclusive use (despite the fact that titles cannot be copyrighted) than it is to expose the malfeasance and misdeeds of the Bush administration, despite his (not quite believable) claim that he has no objection to the politics of the film.
So who's the jerk here?
Shouldn't Bradbury be pleased that his work has so entered the cultural consciousness that Moore can refer to it and have the reference understood by most people? Shouldn't he be more concerned about the state of the nation than the bottom line of his estate? Shouldn't he just keep his mouth shut and continue to live off his royalties?
(I liked Fahrenheit 451, and I've read a lot of Bradbury's work in my life -- although none recently -- but I've always thought he was vastly overrated both in terms of science fiction's unique standards and for his supposedly "lyrical" style.)
Brad deLong gets behind the idea of calling the Democrats "The Party of Muddled Good Intentions" (as compared to the Republicans, "The Party Where You Have to Constantly Reassure the Base That Jesus Will Not Be Really Angry If Ariel Sharon Withdraws From the Gaza Strip"), and commenter Sid the Fish provides an alternative:
Evil Lying Bastards
We're Not Insane
which, of course, brought up fond memories of The Firesign Theatre's campaign for George Papoon for President (as the candidate of the National Surrealist Party). Especially memorable were the lyrics for Papoon's campaign song
Papoon, Papoon for President
There is no one to blame
Papoon for our chief resident
You know he's not insane
Given everything that the Bushies have done, the incredble mistakes they've made, the gross and rank incompetence, the blind adherence to dogmatic ideology over rational decisions based on actual, real-life evidence and impartial information, and so on and so forth (the usual stuff - deLong commenter EH sums it up as "Incompetence in the service of illusion."), it would seem quite appropriate for Kerry and the Democrats to take Sid's suggestion and adopt We're Not Insane as a campaign motto.
On Legal Fiction, Publius has a good analysis of why Bush is at a crossroads in this election, why he and Rove will probably be adapting a strategy of full-bore culture war as their only hope of returning Bush to the Oval Office, and why that choice has a good chance of destroying the current Republican coalition.
If he's right, we'll be seeing a lot of gay bashing, and soon, but it might be the last time for a while we'll be subjected to that kind of stuff from a major American political party.
Obviously, if the data are true, correlation does not necessarily imply causation, and there is probably, as Kevin says, some underlying causal factor, but, still, as he also says, it's weird.
Update: In comments, Eliot Gelwan, of the excellent Follow Me Here, points out some factors which may we underlying causes of the correlation:
the ability to be easily suckered. Bush's message is like junk food advertising in many respects.
difficulty deferring immediate gratification for longterm gain
disdain for the environment, internal AND external
self-loathing and masochism
I've often observed what I think maybe an inverse correlation between urban living and obesity. It seems to me that when I get out of the city into the surrounding surburbs, I see a lot more overweight people. I'm prone to attribute this to the greater amount of walking one does in the city, as opposed to the driving that everyone does everywhere else, but there may be other factors as well, such as an overabundance of younger people in the city (where they come to start making their careers) and an overemphasis on fashion and style here (thin still being in). In any event, it certainly appears to me to be true, and, if so, that may point to percentage of urban population being a factor inthe correlation between self-reported obesity and voting for Bush, since urban areas tend to be more Democratic.
I think I was aware of this before (maybe Jeff Greenfield did a segment on it during CNN's primary coverage), but it just came to my attention again.
Assume, for the moment:
Kerry captures all of Gore's states.
He also picks up New Hampshire's 4 electoral votes (which seems like a good possibility right now).
He also manages to pick up one other small state, either Nevada (5) or West Virginia (5), but can't quite manage to take one of the big ones from Bush, like Ohio (20) -- currently drifiting GOP -- or Florida (27) -- perhaps with some help from Jeb?.
What's the result then? A tie 269 to 269, and the vote gets thrown into the House of Representatives, where each state has one vote, determined (presumably) by a party-line vote of the state's congressional delegation. And, if I remember correctly, it's the old, outgoing Congress which makes the decision, which ain't great for us.
On Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (an invaluable resource), there's a 2004 Presidential Predictions page in which 336 separate and individual predictions (one of which is my own) are compiled based on the "median percentage win for each of the entered user predictions." This, then, is collective wisdom, with the partisan shenanigans (I saw one GOP supporter whose prediction was that Kerry would take only Massachusetts and New York) averaged out by those who post their ideas in all seriousness.
According to this group wisdom, Kerry will win 284 electoral votes, and therefore the election, while Bush will get 254. Kerry wins because he picks up Ohio's 20 votes and New Hampshire's 4 -- these are the only states that change hands (according to this prediction), and they're enough to do the trick.
First, compared to the previous (May 24th) results, Kerry added leads in Iowa and West Virginia(!), but lost leads to Bush in Missouri, New Mexico and, very bad news, Ohio. He leads in 11 of the 16 states (down one state) and Bush leads in 5 (one up). Not only that, but Kerry's leads are decreasing -- where he had 5 states in which his lead was outside the margin of error, he now only has 1; in 7 states his lead went down and it went up in only 3. Bush's lead went up in 2 states and down in 1. There's really no way not to characterize this as slippage for Kerry.
However, the somewhat better news is that these results confirm some trends that other polls (Rasmussen, Mason-Dixon, Survey USA) began, and these provoked some changes in my electoral vote predictions:
Ohio (20), having moved out of Kerry's column a week ago, now slips farther away from him -- it's now assigned to Bush. This is a big blow. Ohio's been pretty volatile, moving from DEM to "in play" and back again, but when both the Mason-Dixon Plain Dealer poll (5/25 K41-B47-N3 moe2.6) and the 30-day Rasmussen survey (5/31 K44-B46 moe4) showed Bush ahead, I moved it back into "in play". Zogby's figures (K46.3-B49.1-N1.2 moe2.1 -- B+2.8 inside the moe), pushed it to Bush. It will now take several consecutive Kerry leads to move it back into "in play".
There is a counterweight to Kerry's loss of Ohio: Florida (27), which has been in my "in play" column for quite a while, moved into Kerry's category. While not quite as active as Ohio, Florida's been fairly volatile as well, but it never totally slipped away from the Democrats. With no intervening polls in the state that I know of, the current Zogby results (K49.5-B47.9-N0.6 moe2.9 -- K+1.6 inside the margin) simply confirm the previous Zogby numbers, to which they are very similar (K49-B47.6-N1 moe3.4 -- K+1.4 inside)
Iowa (7) also moved from in play to Kerry. The previous Zogby poll had Bush ahead (K44.9-B50.1-N0.8 moe4 -- B+5.2 outside the margin of error), which caused me to move the state into "in play" for the first time, but since then two other polls showed Kerry with a small advantage: Research 2000 (K48-B43 or K46-B42-N3 moe4) and Survey USA (5/26 K48-B45 moe3.6). Today's Zogby numbers (K48.9-B47.6-N1.2 moe3.7 -- K+1.3 inside) confirm that, and put the state into Kerry's list, if something less than firmly so.
Nevada (5), on the other hand, moved from GOP to in play. The previous Zogby interactive numbers (K47.3-B43.5-N2.8 moe4.3 -- K+3.8 inside) and Chris Bowers' estimate of a Kerry +2.2 advantage in the state were enough to convince me that Nevada was not necessarily Bush's any longer, and the current Zogby figures (K47.3-B43.5-N2.8 moe4.3 -- K+3.8 inside), very similar to the old ones, if slightly under, shifted it out into "in play".
West Virginia (5), which had been assumed to be strong Bush territory, got put on my suspect list with the results of a (possibly leaked, possibly private) Mason-Dixon poll (K47-B41 moe4), and the current Zogby numbers (K46.6-B43.5-N2.2 moe4.4 -- K+3.1 inside the margin of error) were sufficient to knock it out of Bush's box for the moment.
Also as a result of the Zogby numbers, I've put Missouri (11) on my watch list - one more Bush lead and I'll be moving it back into the GOP column.
On the other hand, I'll be watching for confirmation of a Kerry trend in West Virginia, and will probably move Nevada to Kerry with another lead there. Other than that, all my suspect/watch states were settled.
Obviously, it's a bit of a paradox that Kerry's slippage in the Zogby results should end up with my increasing my prediction for his electoral vote total, but that's simply due to my not transferring states whenever there's a contrary poll result, instead waiting for some confirmation before making a change. These numbers were sufficient to confirm some moves that had been pending, and most of them (with the exception of Ohio) went in Kerry's favor. If Kerry's Zogby slippage is reflected in other poll results in the coming weeks, then some of those states will also slip away from him, as Ohio has.
But, in the end, it doesn't much matter how much Kerry wins a state by, as long as he wins the state.
Update: I expanded the list of changes in order to better explain why I made the moves I did.
Update: The "current prediction" link should be fixed.
General Eisenhower, after weeks of asking for a meeting with the President, is finally escorted in to the Oval Office, where he is shocked to find out that W has been meeting with General MacArthur, devising a detailed plan to invade Soviet Manchuria immediately.
The strategy of invading Soviet Manchuria catches the world by surprise, but W sells the American public on the idea by citing the need to defeat all the world's menacing totalitarians – Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin. After all, he says, Stalin's worldwide Bolshevik revolution was as much a totalitarian threat to the United States as the Empire of Japan or the Third Reich.
Uhhhh, the Gadflyer Newspaper would write, but Stalin and Hitler don't really get along, and the Soviets and Japanese were historic enemies dating back to the Russo-Japanese War. And even if invading the Eastern Soviet Union were a good idea, one might have argued, total defeat Tojo and Hitler must be the immediate priority.
June 6, 1944 would roll around, and Ike and Churchill are ready to lead D-Day. The British, French, Canadian troops are all ready for the assault. But Americans can send only limited troops because the vast majority are caught up in the Outer Manchurian guerilla war (for any one who thinks the low intensity war in Iraq is new, Google "Stalingrad"). Meanwhile, W refuses to institute the draft for the Manchurian War. Plenty of volunteers signed up after Pearl Harbor, but he knows the public, so approving of the Japanese War, is deeply divided over the Manchurian war, and that there would be draft riots.
Meanwhile, essential projects to win the war are going neglected, underfunded, and understaffed.
The OSS (the CIA's predecessor) is given few Japanese or German interpreters. When the Manhattan Project is finally funded, it has no leadership, since DOD assigns J. Robert Oppenheimer's team to Manchurian logistical operations. Albert Einstein, who might have helped develop the bomb for the war against Germany and Japan, refuses to assist in light of the Manchurian adventure. Intelligence operations are neglected, so America fails to gather intelligence about Hitler's V2 rockets.
(Not that it mattered all that much – in November, 1941, Admiral Nimitz delivered a stark intelligence briefing to the President, entitled "Japanese determined to attack U.S. Fleet on American soil," but the President, on the ranch for a weeks-long Thanksgiving vacation, considered the briefing to be "non-specific" and of a "historical nature.")
Likewise, OSS agents in Tokyo are reassigned to Manchuria, so we miss key intercepts tipping us off to the Japanese's newest tactic: Kamikazes. (You know, using airplanes as missiles/suicide bombs? I know, no one could possibly have imagined it.)
1945 rolls around, and the U.S. (largely with Chinese KMT help) has managed to push the Japanese back off the Asian continent, and the Brits, largely with French resistance and Commonwealth soldiers, has liberated France. The U.S. has even captured Stalin in a Moscow spider hole! But Tojo and Hitler are still alive and at large. They may or may not still be commanding their soldiers – nobody's really sure. And the SS and Kamikazes are still wreaking havoc. The war goes on.
Especially in Manchuria! 150,000 more soldiers required to stabilize it. W calls for the formation of a "United Nations" at San Francisco, but the Canadians, Aussies, Chinese, and others refuse, led by General de Gaulle (who is such a contrarian frog pain in the ass, he only makes W more of a unilateralist).
April 1944. No meeting of the American and Russian armies on the Elbe. No United Nations or meaningful world alliance. Quagmire without final victory.
W travels to the War College in Pennsylvania to give a speech clarifying his WWII strategy of turning Manchuria over to the Manchurians. He still claims that the invasion was necessary in light of Pearl Harbor.
[T]his DoD memo [...] is, quite literally, a cookbook approach for illegal government conduct. This memorandum lays out the substantive law on torture and how to avoid it. It then goes on to discuss the procedural mechanisms with which torture is normally prosecuted, and techniques for avoiding those traps. I have not seen the text of the memo, but from this report, it does not appear that it advises American personnel to comply with international or domestic law. It merely tells them how to avoid it. That is dangerous legal advice.
Marshall (on a point that Carter also covers):
I quote from the piece ...
To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."
So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means --a government of laws, not men, and all that.
Now, we know that presidents sometimes break laws and they frequently bend them, if only in cases where the laws don't seem to anticipate a situation the president finds himself confronting. There is even an argument that the president can refuse to enforce laws he deems unconstitutional.
But there is no power inherent in the president simply to set aside the law. Richard Nixon famously argued that "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal." But the constitutional rulings emerging out of Watergate said otherwise. And history has been equally unkind to his claim.
It's interesting to compare this doctrine of executive supremecy [...] with the more constricted view taken by conservative legal scholars when Clinton’s lawyers advanced the notion that perhaps, just maybe, the chief executive shouldn’t be subject to private harassment suits during his term in office. But, as we all know, 9/11 changed everything.
The question, however, is whether everything will change back the next time a Democrat takes the oath of office. Having asserted – and made such fateful use of – the dictatorial powers outlined in the Pentagon’s legal torture guide, how comfortable will our GOP legal warriors be when and if the opposition lays its hands on those same powers?
I don’t ordinarily go in for paranoid conspiracy theories, but thinking about the political implications of the legal castle the Bush administration has constructed for itself – and the possible consequences of being evicted from that fortress, I can’t help but be reminded of ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern’s recent warning:
The key question for the next five months, then, becomes how far the administration will go. An elevated threat level justifying martial law and postponement of the election? No doubt such suggestions will seem too alarmist to those trusting that there is a moral line, somewhere, that the president and his senior advisers would not cross. I regret very much to note that their behavior over the past three years leaves me doubtful that there is such a line.
Raving paranoia? Go back and read that bit about "authority to set aside the laws is inherent in the president." You just might be hearing more about that, one of these days.
Kevin Drum correctly identifies the ultimate source of the problem:
Why has torture been such a hot topic since 9/11? The United States has fought many wars over the past half century, and in each of them our causes were just as important as today's, information from prisoners would have been just as helpful, and we were every bit as determined to win as we are now. But we still didn't authorize torture of prisoners. FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Reagan — all of them knew it wasn't right, and the rest of us knew it as well.
So what's different this time? Only one thing: the name of the man in the White House. Under this administration, we seem to have lost the simple level of moral clarity that allowed our predecessors to tell right from wrong. It's time to reclaim it.
As usual, Billmon has some interesting and insightful things to say about Reagan on Whiskey Bar (here, too). This, in particular, was encouraging:
To me, the tremendous conservative nostalgia for Ronald Reagan is a sign of a movement that is, if not in decline, then poised on the cusp of it. It's an implicit admission that the golden age, when a conservative ideologue like Reagan could win the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans (and not just the instinctual cultural loyalty of red state America) has passed away.
The contrast with Bush the younger - desperately scrambling to avoid defeat in a bitterly polarized electorate - is painfully clear. In it's obsessive desire to glorify Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement is retreating psychologically into its own past. Its a sign that the political era that opened the night Reagan was elected may also be nearing its end.
To which I can only say: Rest in peace.
Update: Pop over and look at what Juan Cole has to say about Reagan as well.
Reagan's policies [...] bequeathed to us the major problems we now have in the world, including a militant Islamist International whose skills were honed in Afghanistan with Reagan's blessing and monetary support; and a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which the Reagan administration in some cases actually encouraged behind the scenes for short-term policy reasons. His aggressive foreign policy orientation has been revived and expanded, making the US into a neocolonial power in the Middle East. Reagan's gutting of the unions and attempt to remove social supports for the poor and the middle class has contributed to the creation of an America where most people barely get by while government programs that could help create wealth are destroyed.
I am quite amused at Republican attempts to brand Bush the "new Reagan". It's clear Bush has been unable to stand on his own as a leader, hence the efforts to transfer some of that Reagan glow to the failed Bush presidency.
But really, I'm not sure why they insist on making Bush/Reagan comparisons. However you look at it, Bush looks so much smaller in relation to Reagan. And it really helps drive home the growing concensus that Bush is, indeed, the worst president ever.
In comparison, Bush makes Reagan look positively god-like.
In the April New York Times Magazine article by Matt Bai which compared the Republican Party's organizational structure in Ohio to that of pyramid-scheme companies ("multilevel marketing" is, I guess, the formal designation) like Marky Kay Cosmetics and Amway, Bai writes:
Republicans believe they can control a new, more promising demographic: the fast-growing, conservative communities just beyond the suburban sprawl, where tony malls are rising almost monthly out of fields and farmland. For Republicans, this means a whole new market of potential entrepreneurs to enlist and mobilize. If Bush can harness the power of the exurbs, he can create a kind of organization the counttry has not yet witnessed -- a political machine for the new economy.
Fortunately, we live in a one-person-one-vote democracy and not in one that's one-dollar-one-vote. Those exurbs may well be promising GOP territory, but the population density is low (deliberately so), and the families are generally small, quite unlike the areas dominated by the Democrats, which tend to be high-density.
But what happens when those exurbs, slowly and surely, turn into the same kind of suburbs that people are fleeing from? Those who live there, however willing they were to have farmland turned into homes for themselves before they moved in, are going to, sooner or later, start getting upset that their idyllic retreat is no longer as remote and unpopulated as it was at the beginning, so they're going to start to turn to zoning measures to control growth, which is going to put them in direct conflict with developers and real estate intrests, who also happen to be strong supporters of the GOP. When that happens, who do you suppose the GOP is going to back, the exurbanites or the developers?
Dave Pell says about the public statements of Bush & Co.:
I'm never sure if I'm watching the real administration or a parody of Hannity and Colmes produced by The Onion.
What amazes me is when six months on those way-out Onion satires turn out to be closer to the mark than anyone realized at the time. This is truly an adminstration so outrageous it's almost impossible to be too outraged about it.
Get Your War On comes to a revelation: "Rumsfeld, Feith, and Perle are actually more incompetent than they are evil. [...] None of them has any fucking idea what they're talking about."
Yes, I think that's true. I'm undecided about the evilness of the neocons (as opposed to the evil outcomes of their policies and decisions), but their incompetence is obvious, extreme and all-encompassing.
For the most part, I don't think that Reagan's death is going to be all that influential a factor in the election, seeing as it occured so far out in time from the voting -- plenty of opportunity for things to calm down if they get churned up.
I do, however, have one caveat: there's a certain amount of disgruntlement with Bush's administration from traditional conservatives, the ones who believe in small government and not running deficits. Bush has obviously thrown away their philosophy entirely, and more and more of them are awakening to that fact. It may be that the inevitable discussions about the Reagan Revolution (their revolution!, which Bush has now squandered, from their viewpoint) could fuel their growing anxiety and help to continue to fracture the increasingly fragile Republican coalition.
I don't think that the Dems can use it as a wedge issue, nor should they try (it would just blowback on them), but it might just serve that purpose all by itself. In any case I doubt that it's a strong possibility, and it might be offset or obscured by a rally-round-our-President, Bush-is-the-spiritual-heir-of-the-Gipper effect.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.