Given my survey of electoral college projections, I really have to wonder if the AP hasn't completely left the path of objective journalism and chosen to throw in as another cog in the right-wing media machine. Bush in the lead? Sez who?
(Incidentally, on AOL this article was slugged with "Can Kerry Catch Up?" Given the state of the electoral vote, a more judicious headline would be "Can Bush Recover?")
BOSTON — John Kerry narrowly trails President Bush in the battle for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, as he makes his case at the Democratic National Convention this week to topple the Republican incumbent.
With three months remaining in a volatile campaign, Kerry has 14 states and the District of Columbia in his column for 193 electoral votes. Bush has 25 states for 217 votes, according to an Associated Press analysis of state polls as well as interviews with strategists across the country.
"It's a tough, tough map. I think it's going to be a close race," said Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who helped plot Al Gore's state-by-state strategy in 2000 and plays the same role for Kerry.
"But looking back four years, we're much stronger now. I think we're going into this convention in great shape," he said.
Both candidates are short of the magic 270 electoral votes. The margin of victory will come from:
* TOSSUPS -- Bush and Kerry are running even in 11 states with a combined 128 electoral votes. Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan and West Virginia are the toughest battlegrounds. Two other tossups, Pennsylvania and Oregon, could soon move to Kerry's column.
* LEAN KERRY -- Maine, Minnesota and Washington (a combined 25 electoral votes) favor Kerry over Bush by a few percentage points. Gore carried them in 2000.
* LEAN BUSH -- North Carolina, Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia, Arkansas and Missouri (a combined 73 electoral votes) give Bush modest leads. He won all seven in 2000.
All total, 21 states are in play. Some will bounce between "lean" to "tossup" throughout the campaign.
Four years ago, Bush won 30 states and their 271 electoral votes -- one more than needed. Gore, who won the popular vote, claimed 20 states plus the District of Columbia for 267 electoral votes.
Since then, reapportionment added electoral votes to states with population gains and took them from states losing people. The result: Bush's states are now worth 278 electoral votes and Gore's are worth just 260.
Even if Kerry consolidates Gore's states, no easy task, the Democrat must take 10 electoral votes from Bush's column to close the electoral vote gap.
Kerry's best prospects may be in the five tossup states won by Bush in 2000: Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
Winning either Ohio's 20 electoral votes or Florida's 27 would do the trick.
Bush easily won Ohio in 2000, but its lagging economy puts the state in play. Kerry must still reduce Bush's advantages among conservative, rural voters. Florida should favor Bush a bit more than in 2000, partly because of its relatively strong economy, but the war in Iraq has helped keep the race close.
Nevada and West Virginia have a combined 10 electoral votes, enough to close the gap. New Hampshire, which neighbors Kerry's home state of Massachusetts, has four.
West Virginia voted Democratic for decades until Bush made values an issue in 2000; Kerry is stressing the theme this year. In Nevada, an influx of Hispanics and the administration's push to use Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste site make the state tougher for Bush than in 2000.
Six of the 11 tossup states were won by Gore: Pennsylvania, Oregon, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin. But the margin of victory was just a few thousand votes in Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin -- meaning Kerry has his work cut out to keep them.
Of the three, Bush likes his chances best in Wisconsin, where he is targeting rural voters in a bid to widen the electoral gap by 10 votes.
Flush with money and leading a united party, Kerry increased his odds by expanding the playing field into a handful of GOP states that Bush easily won in 2000, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia and Colorado. Results have been mixed.
After testing the waters, Kerry pulled his ads from Arkansas and Louisiana, and downgraded his focus on Virginia and Arizona. Hispanic voters make Colorado a prime target, but Democrats acknowledge it's a tough state to win.
"The race is still fundamentally tied, and the Electoral College map reflects that," said Bush strategist Matthew Dowd. "But there is beginning to be a slight tilt toward us with Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Arizona no longer being seriously contested."
Kerry added another Republican-leaning state to his target list when he chose Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina as his running mate. Aides are divided over whether North Carolina will remain a battleground through November, but its 15 electoral votes are too tempting to ignore.
Missouri, a traditional battleground, recently moved to the Bush-leaning category and is being written off by some Democrats. The Kerry campaign reduced its ad campaign in the state after polls showed him consistently 4 to 6 percentage points behind Bush, with little room for improvement.
Republican advantages in rural Missouri and the fast-growing exurbs make the state tough for Democrats, but Kerry will likely keep it on the table through November in case the political winds shift. Besides, abandoning a traditional battleground would be embarrassing.
The four-term Massachusetts senator has begun to gather strength in traditionally Democratic states such as Maine, Minnesota and Washington. All were tossups in the spring, but now lean toward Kerry. A good convention could push Pennsylvania and Oregon into the lean-Kerry category.
Recent polls give Kerry an edge in both states, but strategists for Kerry and Bush say the races are still tossup.
"There is an angry feeling toward the incumbent because of Iraq," said David Sweet, who managed Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's 2000 campaign. "I think Kerry will win in the end, but that's partly based on an assumption of things to come. It's close."
Of the states won by Gore, Pennsylvania is by far Bush's top target. The president has spent millions of dollars in the state on commercials and has visited it more than any other contested state -- 30 trips since his inauguration.
For Kerry, losing Pennsylvania would create a virtually insurmountable electoral vote gap.
There's been a slew of polls, some of which have provoked changes in my electoral college prediction, and probably in those of other sites as well (a number of which use the latest poll to assign each state's votes), so I think I'll be doing a new survey in a couple of days.
In the meantime, my newest prediction, along with my notes on the changes, is here.
The executive summary? Florida moves from Kerry to toss-up, assigned to Bush and Missouri goes from Bush to toss-up, assigned to Kerry, which gives us:
Kerry 264 - Bush 211 - ?? 63 (FL, MO, OH, WV)
or, with toss-ups assigned
Kerry 295 - Bush 243
[Also posted as an update to the most recent survey.]
Catching up on some blogs I've been skipping over lately, I came across an excellent post by Digby, well deserving of being extensively quoted here:
It was clear to many of us in 2000 that the Republican Party had completely run amuck and that George W. Bush was simply a brand name in a suit that the Party was putting forth to hide their essential ugliness from the American people. It was obvious to some of us that this was an unprecedented partisan battle and that this insular, myopic view on the left was going to hurt us very badly. I have little patience for the idea that it took this massive demonstration of GOP power under the Bush administration to convince people that the first, most important order of political business was to check the Republican power grab. It was obvious in 2000 to anyone who was paying attention.
Nowadays, I'm told it's not that the Democrats are just corrupt but that they are corrupt pussies who never fought back until we gave them some spine. This is simply untrue. For a decade Democrats battled back a Republican juggernaut of unprecedented force (and a GOP landslide in 1994) while simultaneously fighting an extremely hostile media and a left wing faction that couldn't deal with the fact that the Democrats, after 12 years of right wing ascendency, found a way to get elected and stop the inevitable slide to a permanent Republican majority. On that, (and not for the last time) they actually joined with the right wing in their loathing of the strategy that won elections in a conservative era and kept the Republicans from total political dominance. (This is not to say that the same strategy would work today. But, the argument of purism vs pragmatism hasn't changed for the last thirty years, no matter what new strategy was proposed.)
Now that the purists have finally been sufficiently schooled in the consequences of letting Republicans have their way, I'm glad to see they are rejecting quixotic, third party politics for the time being. However, their view of modern partisan politics is as parochial as ever. For instance, I hear tell that we are going to finally "fight back." And that seems to consist of charging mindlessly onto the battlefield, shouting slogans and beating our chests about taking our country back. It seems to be thought that if only we shout loudly enough, everyone on the sidelines will be impressed with our passion and join the fray on our side. And the Republicans, I guess, will be so shocked and awed that they will lay down their arms and capitulate.
I'm afraid that it's far more likely that when the Democrats rush onto the field shouting our high minded slogans, the Republicans will simply explode a dirty bomb, killing untold numbers and scare the shit out of everybody else. The cable news ratings will go up and up and up as the media once again embeds itself on the side of the GOP in denouncing the "crazy" left wing terrorists.
Inchoate passion is not persuasive. And, to believe that "fighting back" consists of browbeating our elected politicians into standing up and denouncing Republican badness and wrongness is infantile. We grassroots types and bloggers and blowhards --- as well as strong unelected voices like Gore, Dean and others --- can stand up and give fiery speeches and have some effect if we're willing to take some social heat for it. But in the real world of power and politics, passionate rhetoric is just one small piece of the puzzle.
The reason the Republicans have been as successful as they are, despite their policies being unpopular, is that they use their power to the nth degree, whether the public mandates it or not. They are confident in their ability to spin their partisan use of democratic institutions with bromides about values and morality and freedom and democracy. Underneath their rhetoric is a pure lust for power, but they have been very good at obscuring that by claiming victimhood and portraying themselves as the party of strong individuals speaking truth to(liberal) power.
Our problem is that we actually believe in democracy so we don't think it's right to shove our agenda down the throats of the American people without their permission (hence Clinton actually delivering on the centrist policies he ran and won on.) This means that in order to defend the country from impending fascism while we try to further a progressive agenda, we have to to protect democratic institutions, allow moderates a voice proportionate to their constituency and patiently try to bring the country around to our way of thinking.
Bill Sher at Liberal Oasis has been talking about this for months. As he says, liberals haven't made the case that "liberal ideals are politically pragmatic" (and it's not as if they weren't given the opportunity during the primary campaign to do that.) Deluding yourself into believing that the public is just going to wake up one morning and reject this Republican image of us (and them) that's been painstakingly stitched together for decades is wishful thinking. Only 20% of people people identify themselves as liberals and that should tell us something. We have a lot of work to do and it isn't going to get done by standing around giving our politicians vague orders to "fight back" whatever that means.
Certainly, fighting back as a minority party is about as useful a pitting a high school baseball team against the New York Yankees. The first order of business to is win the presidency so that we can reverse this frightening foreign policy debacle and stop the bleeding on the domestic front. And that's a big agenda at this point. But if we want to actually enact a progressive agenda it will not be enough to stand around and rail at the Democratic minority in congress for being unable to "win." We need to be in a majority before anything gets done.
The fact that in one short three and a half year period this government has managed to spend the country into oblivion to the benefit of the very rich and has completely shot a half century of international leadership all to hell should, by all rights, translate into a landslide election for our side. And, yet it remains neck and neck. We have a Democratic base as fired up as any in my memory and yet we are still fighting among ourselves about the relative purity of our candidates and how if only they'd "fight" we'd win --- as if we haven't had some recent lessons in how certain satisfying fiery rhetoric is spun in the media to our extreme detriment. We can go down "fighting" like that or we can win by "fighting" using superior tactics and strategy.
And, yes we need to work to change this toxic political environment over the long term. We should use the newfound energy created by this Bush backlash and the new communications tools at our disposal. It was long past time that we created some political instutitons of our own to battle the political institutions of the right and groups like CAP and MoveOn and fledgeling efforts like Air America are our future.
But, right now we simply cannot forget that the single biggest problem we face is not our own lack of ballocks or the perfidious compromising DLC or the money that is required to run a modern political campaign. This country is in grave danger if the Republican Party maintains its grip on total institutional power. And they will not give it up easily and if they lose in the short term they will scratch and claw to get it back. They aren't going away. Keeping them from total power must be our first priority, what ever it takes.
I frequently come across complaints from my friends about Kerry (or the Democrats in general) not being liberal or progressive enough to please them, or not "fighting back" hard enough, and there is some truth in the charge that extremists in the DLC would like to see Democrats present themselves to the public as "GOP Lite," but my response has been consistently that we have to keep the proper perspective and our "eyes on the prize."
If this election turns into an attempt to make liberals and progressives feel good about themselves (as with the lift they got from the Dean campaign), we will lose it, plain and simple. That doesn't mean that Democratic candidates should reject liberal principles or become ersatz Republicans, nor does it mean that they shouldn't indulge in any crowd-pleasing liberal-populist rhetoric at the convention (since that's partly what conventions are for), but it does mean that candidates must present themselves in a way that is appealing (and, just as importantly, non-threatening) to moderate swing voters, and they're not going to be able to do that if liberals and pressure groups representing other interests within the party are too diligent about "holding their feet to the fire." I've written this before, that Democratic candidates, especially Kerry, need to be given some breathing room to operate without fear of being taken down by radical discontent from within.
And that thought extends to after the election as well. If Kerry wins (sorry, when Kerry wins) there is not going to be any broad mandate to radically shift the country back to where it was ante-Reagan, and any attempt by liberals and progressives to force Kerry to move faster and farther than the center is willing to move is going to end up in continuing long-term disaster for us and for the country. It took 30 years or more for the political center to shift as far rightward as it has today, and that shift isn't going to be rectified in 4 or 8 years of a Kerry presidency. It's going to take decades, and that means multiple Democratic administrations and at least some years of effective Democratic/moderate Republican control of Congress -- and the only way that is going to come about is by careful alliance building and liberal/moderate bipartisanship, which has to start on Day One of the Kerry Administration.
Even if we don't take back the Senate or the House, there is every possibility that a Democratic White House can work with the Democratic caucus and moderate Republicans (more so in the Senate than the House) to move moderately liberal programs forward and start the process in motion of shifting things back. Once the initial inertia is overcome, and the far-right stranglehold on the process is broken, then we're on the right track.
(Another essential part of the long-term program is to continue the building of center-left institutions to counter the influence of the insitutions of the right which have sprung up in the last 30 years. If these institutions are purely liberal or left-wing in orientation they will likely fail to take root, but a center-left outlook can, I think, suceed and have a major impact.)
Update: Dignby has more on this topic, including good insight into the equivalent problem for the GOP, here.
During my recent period of reduced political and blogospherical involvement, I think I achieved a rather welcome state of noninvolvement, which is probably more typical of the average swing voter than either inside-the-beltwayism or down-to-the-nitty-gritty bloganoia, and from this hallowed condition, I can hemi-semi-demi-quasi-authoritatively pontificate that:
(1) The Sandy Berger brouhaha? Doesn't mean shit to a tree.
(2) The Joe Wilson imbroglio? Makes no nevermind.
Dems should stop fussing about it. The right's gonna go on and on about it, for obviously political reasons, so it's worthwhile to counter their bullshit whenever possible, but stop worrying that it means anything to anybody who's gonna pull a lever in November, cause it don't and it won't.
Now, if Patrick Fitzgerald indicts someone inside the Bush administration, that'll probably penetrate our thick noggins out here, but it depends on who it is. (Libby? The guy who makes tomato juice?)
Here's another case of basic misapprehension.
On hold the other day during a phone call to the company that repairs the intercom in my apartment, waiting to set an appointment, the "hold music" was a raio station I didn't recognize, which featured two guys talking, pretty calmy and rationally. (They were both liberalish independents, so it wasn't your normal talk radio fare, nor was it NPR, I don't think -- because of a sideways reference to NPR. It might have been Air America, but I don't get reception of that station in my aparment, so I'm not familiar with what it sounds like.)
Anyway, whoever they were, they were disagreeing about whether there should be more showmanship or pizzazz in Kerry's campaign. The one guy was saying that what people really wanted from the campaign was a serious and frank discussion about issues and policies, and it was all I could do to stop myself from yelling at him at the top of my lungs how completely and utterly wrong he was. (Obviously, I had not yet achieved perfect noninvolement.) In fact, give people a serious and frank discussion about issues and policies and they will stay away in droves, so if you orient your campaign to focus on that, you're dead meat.
Instead, give 'em enough pizzazz to keep them entertained, enough reason to feel comfortable with your guy, and provide the serious issues and policy stuff to the people who want it, who will then become the influencers everyone else turns to for guidance. But don't listen, please, to that guy on the radio and turn your campaign into something resembling C-SPAN2 at 3:45am, because, like I said, then you're dead in the water.
And don't fuss about the Sandy and Joe Revue either, OK?
Postscript Of course, if I found out that the Democratic PTB were reading unfutz or, even more unlikely, paying attention to what I was advising, I'd be both shocked and rather perturbed -- my presumption being that they already know this stuff, right?
A short, sharp addition to the fast-growing body of docus indicting the current Bush administration, "Hijacking Catastrophe" goes beyond simple Bush-bashing to paint a horrifying portrait of organized U.S. imperialist expansion and public deception stretching back to the early Reagan era. Lacking the humor and dramatic flair of "Fahrenheit 9/11," sober expose will reach a narrower audience of the previously converted (at home if not necessarily abroad), but it's a good choice for rep and fest programmers. It's already available for dissemination in home formats, whilst playing big-screen benefit and limited-run dates.
Well-documented premise is that a few radical neo-conservatives first hatched theoretical foreign and domestic policies too extreme to be revealed -- let alone fully implemented -- during Reagan's first term. Their wish list included such goals as the U.S. no longer honoring certain international treaties or the U.N.; an offensive, "pre-emptive" military approach toward invading other countries found problematic or desirable; artfully scaling back civil liberties and Constitutional rights; vast increases in defense spending.
More mainstream Republicans thought all this a little too hot to handle, whether they were in sympathy or not. Just one year before the 9/11attacks, former Defense Dept. honcho and neo-con theorist Paul Wolfowitz (who'd first formulated these ideas as an ideological package) noted in a report that progress toward such lofty goals was likely to be slow ... unless some "catastrophic event ... like a new Pearl Harbor" allowed them to be shoved down the public throat as patriotic national-security necessities.
History duly complied.
Point is that this way lies creeping fascism, not to mention catastrophic national debt (projected as $7 trillion by this year's end) that could eventually lower living standards for every citizen, save the very rich. Noted en route is the status of various Bush Jr. honchos (Chaney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, the prez himself) as "chicken hawks" who avoided their own military service in younger years, as well as the Hollywood-style management of W.'s macho, take-charge image, and the energy expended to keep the public "scared stupid" via vague warnings of further terrorism.
Commentators run a gamut that includes international diplomats and activists, leftist intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer), investigative journos, and appalled (if safely retired) military personnel. Iraq civilian casualty photos provide the stomach-churning reality that's been largely airbrushed from popular American reportage. News/archival appearances aside, however, no one representing or defending those accused is heard from -- which will hurt the docu's chances of being seen by anyone middle-to-right on the political scale.
[This was originally posted as an update to the Electoral College projection survey, but I decided to re-post it as a separate item. -- Ed]
In his dKos diary, mindgeek has posted the results of a meta-analysis using the state poll results on the Real Clear Politics site (a fairly comprehensive assemblage), and has determined that:
[I]f the election reflected recent state polls the probability of a Kerry win would be 98%. With 95% confidence I predict between 270 and 322 electoral votes.
This comports well with the projections of the sites in the post below, I think.
On another site, the preliminary findings of the meta-analysis are reported (and "mindgeek" turns out to be, apparently, Prof. Sam Wang of Princeton):
This calculation is a snapshot in time. It takes a large number of state polls and calculates the likeliest number of electoral votes if the election were held today and reflected those polls.
Results as of Sunday, July 18, 2004 based on state polls:
The current probability of a Kerry win is 98 percent. Counting only the last three polls the probability is nearly 100 percent.
270 electoral votes (EV) are needed to win. The current 50th percentile outcome for Kerry is 296 EV. The 95 percent confidence band is 270-322 EV.
Current probabilities by state (rounded to the nearest percentage point): AR 15, AZ 0, FL 98, IA 100, ME 98, MI 100, MN 100, MO 11, NV 25, NH 96, NM 100, OH 26, OR 100, PA 89, WA 100, WV 18, WI 88. The calculation is currently dominated by the large states FL (98%), PA (89%), and OH (26%). In most high-likelihood scenarios, two of these are needed to get over 270 EV. (my earlier posting left out PA)
Added comment: the current snapshot suggests that the threshold state is PA, where Kerry leads in 11 of the last 12 reputable polls since May 1.
There is a rank ordering effect, in the sense that states tend to move together. The rank order among big swing states is currently
D <-- MN - MI - FL - PA - WI - OH - MO --> R
Certain Kerry wins: IA MI MN NM OR WA
Likely Kerry wins: FL ME NH PA WI
Certain or likely Bush wins: AR AZ MO NV OH WV
All of this is quite in line with my own observations. Despite the possibility raised by some methodologies that Missouri may be moving Kerry's way, I really don't see any indication of that in any of the polls, and Ohio is still annoyingly unstable and confounding: an apparent trend toward Kerry some weeks back turned out to be very temporary, and yet it won't settle down to be firmly in Bush's column either, which I why I've go it (with West Virginia) as a toss-up.
On dKos, mindgeek writes "My analysis currently indicates that to win the election, Kerry must win Florida or Ohio," quite close to my own conclusion, which is that Kerry or Bush to win must get two of these states: Pennsylvania, Florida or Ohio. However, PA seems pretty firmly in Kerry's hands right now (his leads there in both the latest Quinnipiac and Zogby polls are outside the margin of error), so it comes down, as Professor Wang says, to Florida and Ohio. Since Ohio is mushy, Florida looks like the best bet at the moment (and Kerry's showing in polls there has been good lately, including an outside-the-margin lead on Zogby), but Florida is also enemy territory, obviously easily subject to manipulation by the Bushes, so I'd be much happier if we saw some positive movement in Ohio (also Republican-controlled, but not directly by the Bushes) and were able to take the onus off of Florida.
Two weeks ago, with 18 projections surveyed (including my own), 11 had Kerry winning, 4 had Kerry leading, 1 had Bush winning, and 2 had Bush leading. This time, of the 19 projections I surveyed, 14 show Kerry winning (although one of these had not been updated from 2 weeks ago), and 3 others show Kerry ahead. Only 1 shows Bush winning, and 1 other (not updated) shows Bush with a lead.
(Note: Many of these sites differentiate between "solid", "slightly" and "leaning" states, but I've combined them all together -- for specifics, and the site's methodology, use the links and take a look.)
If anyone has links for any other sites that regularly track Electoral College status, please feel free to send them my way and I'll be glad to add them to the list.
And again (7/21): I just realized that I had included Tradesports in a previous survey, but not in the last one (because the site was unavailable at the time). Also, someone mentioned Intrade in a comment on Swing State Project -- although it seems to be a separate site from Tradesports (they have different Irish license numbers) their trading figures are precisely the same, as far as I can tell.
Kerry winning: 15 Kerry ahead: 3 Bush winning: 2 Bush ahead: 1
Addendum (7/21): It's interesting to note that the Tradesports/Intrade results are precisely the same as those compiled from 764 user predictions at Dave Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections. I assume that this means it represents a sort of collective conventional wisdom about the current state of the race.
The result gives Pennsylvania and New Hampshire to Kerry, but Florida and Ohio to Bush -- but it's worth noting that the trading results show an extremely thin advantage for Bush in Florida (50.2% chance of his winning there), and a somewhat stronger one in Ohio (56.0% chance). New Hampshire is also close (48% chance of Bush winning), and Pennsylvania less so (42.3% chance of Bush winning).
So the apparent collective conventional wisdom says that Bush is ahead right now, 274 to 264, but it's a razor thin margin, with Florida teetering.
Note (7/22): On Tradesports, Florida's Bush contract is currently at 49.0, down from 50.2, which means that the state changes hands and the current electoral vote total from Tradesports is
Kerry 291 - Bush 247.
Obviously things are very fluid.
[There's some controversy about what the best method is for converting the Tradesports contract data into an electoral college result. For a sometimes informative and sometimes snippy discussion (mea culpa)on that subject, see the comment thread here. Suffice to say that for my purposes here I've done the conversion by assigning any state in which the value of the Bush-wins contract is over 50 to Bush, and any state under 50 to Kerry. That seems to me to be the simplest and most transparent way to go about it, but there is disagreement about that, and another method has been suggested as being better. At this time, I am unconvinced of its merits.]
More...: I see that Princeton Professor Sam Wang (mindgeek on dKos), has added an electoral vote map to his meta-analysis I cited in another post, which wasn't there (I don't believe) the last time I was there, which means he now has a specific projection I can add here (it's the FL & NH but not OH scenario):
Kerry winning: 18 Kerry ahead: 3 Bush winning: 1 Bush ahead: 1
Update (7/24): There's been a slew of polls, some of which have provoked changes in my prediction, and probably in those of other sites as well (a number of which use the latest poll to assign each state's votes), so I think I'll be doing a new survey in a couple of days.
In the meantime, my newest prediction, along with my notes on the changes, is here.
The executive summary? Florida moves from Kerry to toss-up, assigned to Bush and Missouri goes from Bush to toss-up, assigned to Kerry, which gives us:
Linklater, who directed Slacker, Dazed and Confused and SubUrbia, would seem to have what it takes to capture the rampant paranoia and claustrophobia of Dick's book, and he's apparently made the right kind of noises to convince Dick's progeny that he'll stick more closely to Dick's worldview than other directors have:
A Scanner Darkly is one of our father's most personal stories because much of it is based on his own experiences. For this reason, it was especially important to us that it be done with all of the right intentions. His struggle with drug abuse is well documented, and he (and we) have witnessed many casualties. The novel is filled with his humor and his own tragedies. And we believe that Richard's screenplay manages to capture these key elements -- he has even included our father's poignant afterword in his adaptation.
After agreeing that this project was the right way to go, we were delighted to hear that this group of gifted actors would be playing the characters: Keanu Reeves as Arctor, Winona Ryder as Donna, Robert Downey Jr. as Barris, Woody Harrelson as Luckman, and Rory Cochrane as Freck. We think each person brings a unique quality and passion to the project. Laura and I visited the set during filming and had a chance to speak with the actors about some of the more personal aspects of this story. Without exception, every person we spoke to -- actors, producers, and crew was entirely gracious and enthusiastic about the work of Philip K. Dick. They have welcomed our input, and made us feel a part of this project.
Like a graphic novel come to life, A Scanner Darkly will utilize live action photography overlaid with an advanced animation process to create a haunting, highly stylized vision of the future. The technology was first employed in Linklater's 2001 film Waking Life and has evolved to produce even more impact and detail.
Scanner is probably the least science-fictional of Dick's non-mainstream books, and one of the darkest in a pretty dark catalog -- I'm looking forward to the movie. (It's due for release sometime in 2005.)
I bring up Dick, because I came across a weblog -- What Would Dick Think (WWDT) that views contemporary politics through a phildickian attitude, and I think it's worth checking out. The blogger, David Johnson, is currently on vacation, but he'll be back soon. Drop by and take a look.
I've always been a proponent of the idea that reading science fiction regularly will, to some extent, immunize one against future shock, but in a way it's disconcerting how much stuff that seemed absolutely wacko and bizarre in Dick's fiction has turned out to be weirdly and terribly prescient.
I'm not a big sports fan -- I follow baseball pretty closely, and enjoy watching the big tennis tournaments (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open), and about once every year and a half I'll watch enough of a football game to reinforce my basic lack of interest in the sport, and that's about it. (Oh, occasionally I can get caught up in snooker or some Olympic sport or another -- I really enjoyed watching curling matches at the last winter games, for instance -- but it's just a momentary thing and doesn't blossom into a lasting interest.) And despite the fact that most of the world's population is ga-ga about it, I'm totally uninterested in soccer -- and I may have just figured out why (aside from not having been brought up with it, of course).
With their heads. With their arms and hands all but useless. I think there lies the root of my problem.
There are two distinct things which separate mankind from other animals: having a brain large and complex enough to sustain spoken language and its extension, writing (and everything that goes along with it, such as history, and the external storage of knowledge for posterity); and having an opposable thumb, which allows us to use tools. From these two capabilities, language and tool use, springs pretty much everything else that makes us human.
And soccer is a sport which ignores and all but eliminates one of those capabilities.
Think of it: practically every other sport imaginable is built around our unique ability to manipulate tools and objects -- balls, bats, clubs, rackets, mallets, cues, reigns, steering wheels, and so forth. Even those that don't, like swimming, require positive and active use of the hands as a tool itself. Only soccer, that I can think of, ignores the hand almost entirely (except for goalies), and relegates it and the arm to the status of mere balance-keepers.
What a silly sport. It turns out that 50,000,000 Frenchmen (and Brazilians, and Koreans, and, well, just about everyone else on the planet too) can be wrong.
Inexplicably, despite my frequent absences from unfutz, traffic has actually picked up here somewhat. The average number of daily visits has about doubled (from 30-ish to around 70), so where it took me 7 months to reach the 5,0000 visit mark, it took only 3 1/2 months to reach the 10,000 visit milestone.
My sincere thanks to those of you who have stuck around and continue to check in regularly -- I really appreciate it!
Update: Oh, and to my surprise, unfutz is listed on BlogShares -- I have no idea why.
MyFriendRoger (aka Roger Keeling), whose voice has been for too long absent from this weblog, brought a very interesting poll to my attention:
[T]he American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the big national association for CPAs, conducted a survey of its membership (which includes CPAs, accountants, and tax professional). They got above 1,700 responses. The results were "unprecedented," according to Rick Telberg, the author of the article. Never in the organization's history has there been this kind of split.
In brief, an earlier poll showed Bush beating Kerry by a 2 to 1 margin among CPAs. Now, his lead has vanished entirely; they are in a dead-heat.
As Roger wrote me, this is pretty big, because (with exceptions, of course) "CPA's
are a very conservative bunch, overall." As an indicator of the trouble Bush is in, I'd rate it up there with the booing of Cheney at Yankee Stadium as revealing of dark undercurrents which don't show up in the national head-to-head horse race poll results.
Aladdin President Bill Timmins ordered security guards to escort pop diva Linda Ronstadt off the property following a concert Saturday night during which she expressed support for controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
Timmins, who was among the almost 5,000 fans in the audience at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, had Ronstadt escorted to her tour bus and her belongings from her hotel room sent to her. Timmins also sent word to Ronstadt that she was no longer welcome at the property for future performances, according Aladdin spokeswoman Tyri Squyres.
How much weight that carries is debatable, since the bankrupt Aladdin is in the process of being sold to a group headed by Planet Hollywood International Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Earl.
Near the close of her performance, Ronstadt dedicated the Eagles hit "Desperado" to Moore, producer of "Fahrenheit 9/11," and the room erupted into equal parts boos and cheers.
She said Moore "is someone who cares about this country deeply and is trying to help."
Ronstadt has been making the dedication at each of her engagements since she began a national tour earlier this summer, but it has never sparked such a reaction.
Hundreds of angry fans streamed from the theater as Ronstadt sang. Some of them reportedly defaced posters of her in the lobby, writing comments and tossing drinks on her pictures.
Timmins told Las Vegas Sun gossip columnist Timothy McDarrah: "We live in a city where people come from all over the world to be entertained. We hired Ms. Ronstadt as an entertainer, not as a political activist.
"Whether you are politically on the left or on the right is not the point. She went up in front of the stage and just let it out. This was not the correct forum for that."
Timmins said she was wrong to bring her politics to the stage.
"Our first and only priority is the enjoyment of our customers," he said. "I made the decision to ask Miss Ronstadt to leave the hotel. A situation like that can easily turn ugly and I didn't want anything more to come out of it. There were a lot of angry people there after she started talking.
"If she wants to talk about her views to a newspaper or in a magazine article, she is free to do so. But in a stage in front of four and a half thousand people is not the place for it."
Squyres said half the audience walked out, an estimate that might have been high. But the number was substantial, nevertheless.
"The hotel's policy is that we hired her to entertain guests, not to express her political views," Squyres said.
Yes, I'm absolutely certain that in the history of Las Vegas, no entertainer has ever expressed conservative or anti-liberal views from a casino stage, supported the establishment, the war in Vietnam or the invasion of Iraq, extolled the virtues of or criticised the President (depending on who's in power) or made explicit their views on, let's say, the Second Amendment. Never happened, not in the Sixties, not during the Clinton administration, and certainly not today.
I mean, to do so would be just so, you know, outrageous.
(Of course, given that the Alladin is apparently bankrupt, perhaps the judgment of its president is not stellar in many ways.)
and for a moment I was concerned that he was referring to me, and I just hadn't gotten the memo or something. (It turned out to be Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor investigating the outing of Valerie Plame, and no relation to me that I know of.)
In any event, I'm not finished, not nearly, but there's no denying that I have been pretty absent from the premises lately. I'd like to thank those who inquired about my health on the basis of that extended absence, but unfortunately I can't offer much of an excuse. It's not that I'm incapable of posting (I feel fine, all things considered), or that there's nothing going on worthy of posting about, but I simply haven't been moved recently to write anything. I've even cut back on my regular blog-surfing routine somewhat (although I still read enough of them to keep current on what's going on).
Call it a little mental and emotional vacation.
I've no doubt that this is a temporary lull, and I'll be back to my regular posting volume soon enough. Thanks to those of you who have stuck around and continued checking in regularly -- I appreciate it, and your diligence will be rewarded soon.
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.