[Bush's] recent call to ban all campaign advertising by all such outside groups -- known as 527 committees -- is not only insufficiently critical of the swift boat campaign but also restraint of free speech.
The answer, Mr. President, is not to restrict the use of political free speech, but to condemn its abuse.
There's a lot of talk about how to clean up the Olympics, and I agree it's a job that's got to be done. Here are some suggestions that I think will help:
Eliminate art. Get rid of synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and any other "competition" which is more about "artistry" than it is about physical ability.
Eliminate design. Ban costumes of all kinds. Uniform attire only (i.e. for symnastics plain one or two color leotards with the flag of the country, or similar simple designs on them). No glitter, no suffle, no lace, no glitz, no makeup except normal street makeup, no sparkles in the hair.
Eliminate distractions. In any event in which music is chosen by the contestant and played during the performance, get rid of the music. In fact, if the event has music, just cut the event altogether. (I'm willing to grandfather in women's floor exercises, but without the music). Ban choreography. Do what you have to do, connected together smoothly and efficiently, but without annoying hand waving and posing.
Eliminate confusion. Reaffirm that the Olympics are not about performing or entertaining or pandering to an audience, they're about physically fit people competing against each other to do amazing things impossible for the rest of us to ever hope of achieving.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Blogger has replaced banner ads on their free-hosted blogs (such as unfutz) with a navigation bar that includes a "Next Blog" button that takes you to a random Blogspot blog (it's up there on the upper right at the top of the blog). I've been getting about a dozen hits a day from people using that button, and I've been reciprocating by looking at the blogs they're coming from , just to see what's out there. Unfortanately, I've yet to find one that interests me, but that's probably just my own finickiness.
Today, I had a hit from a blog which shall remain anonymous, and which appears to consist of pretty much your standard right-wing delusions, without much of individual merit to recommend it -- you know, insane wild-eyed spoutings from Ann Coulter (still apparently off her meds), Kerry is a war criminal, the Swift Boats liars are paragons of virtue, yadda yadda yadda. Dittohead City.
Down at the bottom of the homepage is a litte graphic with a "definition" of liberalism: "The haunting fear someone, somewhere can help themselves."
It's been my experience, in the last extraordinary 20+ years or so that the right-wing has been in ascendancy, that these folks consistently exhibit two significant traits: they project like crazy -- that is, they ascribe to their opposition characterstics which are perfectly representative of their own behavior and attitudes, and they are congenitally incapable of telling the truth, even in the littlest thing, like defining their opposition. Their standard procedure is to redefine their opponents in the form of easily-attacked straw men, and then (of course) to attack them -- and, given the assistance (both deliberate and structurally-generated) of the media, they've been remarkably successful in making those redefinitions stick.
What we have in this little conservative corner of the World Wide Web I came across, is an example of the latter, which the proprietor presumably plucked from some user-friendly right-wing website and plunked down on his home page to liven things up.
It hardly bears explaining, of course, that the definition of liberalism offered is about 180 degrees away from the reality, which is that (in these terms) liberalism is all about the fear that somewhere, someone cannot help themselves and, without desperately needed assistance from the community, will not be able to survive. In point of fact, liberalism more than recognizes that many people can either help themselves or start out with significant advantages over others, it's predicated on the proposition that those people should not be allowed to take advantage of those who cannot help themselves or who did not begin life with a silver spoon in their mouth and a trust fund in the bank.
(It amazes me how many people, such as, apparently, this particular blogger, seem to be convinced that if everyone were allowed to sink or swim on their own, with no assistance from outside forces, and no protections from predators and those who got there first, they will inevitably end up being one of the elite survivors, instead of bloody chum for the sharks, which assuredly most of the them would end up being.)
On MyDD, a commenter, while concluding that Kerry will win the election, characterized him as a "weak candidate." Here's my response:
I agree with your ultimate conclusion (that Kerry will win), but I think it's possible to overstate your initial contention. I think it's highly unlikely that any of the other available Democratic candidates would be in any better shape right now than Kerry is, and many of them would be distinctly worse off.
I think the problem is somewhat that you're confusing the necessary results of the process that's underway for an inherent attribute of the candidate. What I mean is, there's a definite progression that needs to occur before we see the real "strength" of Kerry reflected in the polls. The public isn't going to flip a switch one day and suddenly be opposed to Bush. Their discontent has to grow past a certain level before many of them can even consider changing their minds, and even once they've allowed themselves to think about it, they'll need additional time to get used to the idea of voting for Kerry, especially considering all the propaganda about him they've been exposed to.
Although it's certainly possible that somewhere along the line a tipping point will be reached, and things will quickly cascade in Kerry's favor, it's more than likely that that moment won't come until it's provoked by the ultimate crisis, the need to make a definite decision on election day. Until then, I think it's probable that we'll continue to see exactly what we're seeing now, a contest which can be grossly characterized as 50/50, but which, when closely examined, reveals that Bush's support is being slowly eaten away, and Kerry's support is increasing just as incrementally. That's going to be awfully frustrating to live with, and is never (until the very end) going to give us a satisfactory moment of relief and catharsis, but that's the way I think it's going to play out.
This excerpt from The Daily Show, blogged by Atrios, is just too good not to repeat in full:
STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?
CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.
STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.
CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontravertible fact is one side of the story.
STEWART: But that should be -- isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?
CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my *opinion*? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' -- might wanna look it up some day.
STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?
CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well -- sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.
STEWART: So, basically, you're saying that this back-and-forth is never going to end.
CORDDRY: No, Jon -- in fact a new group has emerged, this one composed of former Bush colleages, challenging the president's activities during the Vietnam era. That group: Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability. They've apparently got some things to say about a certain Halloween party in '71 that involved trashcan punch and a sodomized piñata. Jon -- they just want to set the record straight. That's all they're out for.
STEWART: Well, thank you Rob, good luck out there. We'll be right back.
It's sad, really, when a satirical program has a better grasp on the deficiencies of the media than the media itself does. We really should give thanks every now and then that Jon Stewart and the writers and producers of that show know what's what.
Of course, they're not the only ones. Atrios also links to this Campaign Desk entry:
Campaign Desk has written many times about the perils of "he said/she said" journalism, the practice of reporters parroting competing rhetoric instead of measuring it for veracity against known facts. In the wake of the first SBVFT spot early this month, cable news programs for the most part offered viewers two talking heads, one on each side of the issue, to debate the merits of the claims. Verifiable facts were rarely offered to viewers -- despite the fact that military records supporting Kerry's version of events were readily available. Instead of acting as filters for the truth, reporters nodded and attentively transcribed both sides of the story, invariably failing to provide context, background, or any sense of which claims held up and which were misleading. And sometimes even that was asking too much. According to Media Matters, the Aug. 4th editions of FOX News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" and MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" both reported and aired the ad without mentioning (1) that despite the ad's claims, those featured in it did not serve on Kerry's boat, (2) that the SBVFT was wrapped in Republican ties, dating all the way back to former Nixon protege John O'Neill, or (3) the fact that the doctor who claims to have treated Kerry in the ad was not the medical official who signed his medical records
Reporters can, and do, argue that it is not their job to ascertain the veracity of such claims unless and until the Kerry campaign itself raises its voice in protest. But even if you buy that antiquated job description of a good reporter -- and we don't -- there's another ball most of the press is dropping in its coverage of the swift boat imbroglio. Once the Kerry campaign itself began to hit back by questioning the credibility of the Swift Boat Veterans' claims and arguing that the group was doing the president's "dirty work," the press still failed to adequately scrutinize the competing arguments at hand. When Kerry called on Bush to condemn the Swift Boat ads, the White House pointed out that the president had himself been the target of harsh attack ads run by independent "527" groups supporting Kerry, and repeated its months-old contention that all such outside advertising should be banned.
The press dutifully reported this argument. But rarely if ever did reporters see fit to assess the validity of the comparison the Bush campaign was making. The anti-Bush ad most often cited by the White House as comparable to the Swift Boat spot was a MoveOn ad that questioned the president's service in the National Guard. But each one of the claims made in the MoveOn ad -- that Bush used family connections to get into the Guard, that he was grounded after failing to show up for a physical, that he wasn't seen at a Guard meeting for months, and that he was released eight months early to attend Harvard Business School -- is not in dispute. The overall tenor of the ad is harsh, to be sure -- so harsh, in fact, that Kerry quickly called it "irresponsible" -- but there's been no real argument that any of its assertions are untrue.
Compare that to the Swift Boat ads. Given that military records support Kerry's version of events, and that the credibility of many of Kerry's accusers is now in doubt, it would seem that if anyone should be on the defensive for lacking corroboration and documentation, it's those defending Bush's service record, not Kerry's. No anti-Bush ad from MoveOn has flown in the face of the preponderance of evidence in the way that the Swift Boat ad does. The press, then, should have pointed out the illogic of grouping the two spots as one and the same.
In the end, as always, the information that voters receive depends entirely on the way in which the press frames the story. The problem is that once an easy storyline is entrenched -- that Kerry and his detractors disagree -- too many reporters fail to press on. In this case, they neglected to either test the veracity of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or to compare their ads with those financed by other 527s like MoveOn.
There have been dozens of press failures during this presidential campaign. But this one, even given the Times' and the Post's belated efforts to get to the bottom of things, has to rank as a low point.
In the end, the whole ball of wax certainly did nothing to help the mainstream press' credibility with what is an increasingly dubious audience.
The question Brad De Long asks constantly is "Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?" (his latest instance is here).
There's no reason we couldn't, of course, since the press corps used to be better in living memory, if never perfect. The fact that it isn't, that it's really quite bad, that it's getting worse and not better as time goes on, that sources for information that one used to be able to count on as relatively objective and dispassionate (such as the Associated Press) can no longer be trusted, that there is at times no longer even a pretense of objectivity or even-handedness (or one so flimsy -- such as Fox News' slogan "Fair and Balanced" -- as to constitute a wink and a nod to those in on the deception), all of this is a fairly good indication that what many people have long suspected to be the case really is true, that powerful forces in this country want and need the press to behave in this way in order to maintain their control and dominance.
And yes, I know that verges on tin-foil hat conspiracy thinking, but I really can't help it, that's just where the evidence leads.
Update (8/27): It doesn't help that the executive editor of the Washington Post is apparently deluded about just what, exactly, his job entails:
"We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts."
One of the unfortunate things about some of the most passionate and idealistic people on the left is that they aren't really interested in politics --- they are on a sort of spiritual mission that actually conflicts with politics. I admire their committment, but if it is irrational, it helps the worst elements of the political system thrive.
I'm all for protesting as a tactic if it's organized to make a political point. As emotional catharsis or an exercise of tribal identity it only hurts the ball club. I'm hoping that the NYC protest story is one entertaining and pointed "Billionaires For Bush" style political theatre, not anarchy in the streets.
Me too, but the onus is on the protest organizers to help insure that's the case. They have the responsibility to keep things contained.
Mark Mellman, "senior strategist" of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, in an e-mail distributed to supporters of the Kerry campaign, takes his turn at raising expectations for Bush's post-convention bounce:
By any standard, President Bush heads into his convention in a very weak position. His current position stems from the fact that voters judge the incumbent on his performance and on the state of the nation. By this measure, the president is in grave difficulty. To be counted a success, the Republican convention must fundamentally alter public attitudes on President Bush's stewardship of the country.
There are some basic benchmarks by which an incumbent's success can be measured as the campaign heads into the fall:
The average winning incumbent has had a job approval rating of 60%. Indeed, every incumbent who has won reelection has had his job approval in the mid-50's or higher at this point. In recent polling, Bush's average approval rating has been 48%. President Bush must emerge from his convention having dramatically altered public perception of his performance in office.
In recent years, when incumbents have gone on to victory, 52% of voters, on average, said the country was on the right track. Now, just 37% think things are moving in the right direction. Thus, President Bush must convince the electorate that the nation is in much better shape than voters now believe to be the case.
Every incumbent who has gone on to be reelected has had a double-digit lead at this point.
Following their conventions, the average elected incumbent has held a 16-point lead, while winning incumbents have led by an average of 27 points. Bush will need a very substantial bounce to reach the mark set by his successful predecessors.
Incumbents have enjoyed an average bounce in the vote margin of 8 points.
On average, incumbents' share of the two-party vote has declined by 4 points between their convention and Election Day.
President Bush has the opportunity to achieve an average, or even greater, bounce from his convention. Typically, elected incumbents go into their conventions with a 9-point lead, while incumbents who have gone on to win enter their conventions with a 21-point lead. Most current polls show the race quite close. This gives the president substantial room to bounce. By contrast, Senator Kerry entered his convention in a far stronger position than the average challenger. The average challenger goes into his convention 16 points behind, while Senator Kerry entered his convention with a 1-2 point lead. This gave Senator Kerry much less room to bounce.
However, as the data above makes clear, average is not enough for President Bush. Incumbents who went on to win reelection had an average lead of 27 points after their convention. Indeed, the average elected incumbent -- winners and losers -- had a lead of 16 points after their conventions. An average bounce would still leave Bush well below the historical mark set by other incumbents, particularly those who went on to victory.
Perhaps most important, the average elected incumbent experienced a 4-point drop in his share of the two-party vote from the post-convention polling to Election Day. Thus, to beat the odds, President Bush will need to be garnering 55% of the two-party vote after his convention. Anything less than that and the president will remain in grave political danger.
The question now is, will the media run with Mellman's suggestion the way they did with Matthew Dowd's just before the Deomcratic convention that Kerry should get a 15 point bounce? Somehow I doubt it, which is a shame because Mellman's actually make more sense than Dowd's did.
Personally, I expect that Bush will get only a small bounce from the convention, for the same reasons that Kerry's was small (in the horse race numbers, that is): there's just not enough room for a big bounce. The real question for Bush post-convention will be whether his approval numbers improve at all, or the right track/wrong direction numbers. If they do, he's got a chance to hold on, if not, he's toast.
A few days ago, over on MyDD, Chris Bowers, in an entry about the power of free media in spreading the libelous claims of the Swift Boad liars, wrote that a good response
would be to come up with a series of ads that attack Bush's personality drama where it hurts. Simply put, some 527 needs to produce a series of ads that portrays Bush as a complete asshole. They need to make him look like someone who you would never want to spend time with and who only cares about himself. Dig up some old college friends who complain about Bush's tendency to use off-color jokes and how it made him uncomfortable to be around. Find some old employees of Bush-ruined businesses who were hit hard by the company's failings while Bush himself came out richer than before. Try to specifically find people who were turned away by Bush when they directly appealed to him for help. This is the sort of ad buy the media would run with. The free media generated from the story will be worth 100 times what it cost to run the ads.
Any good ad campaign should not just be tested in focus groups of swing voters, but focus groups of editors, pundits and news directors as well. As the power of paid media declines, the ability of campaigns to exploit free media must begin to increase.
My response (in comments there) was to disagree, vigorously:
The meme of Bush's affability and regular-guy-ness is now so firmly implanted in the American psyche, that such ads would more likely rebound against Kerry than they would do any damage to Bush. The press won't pick up on them, because "Bush is nice" is part of their standard storyline, and they don't like to debunk their own mythology once they establish it (see the goring of Gore in 2000).
You don't attack an opponent frontally in his area of greatest strength out of picque or annoyance. If you must attack their you come in from the sides with stealth and guile and hope to penetrate their defenses that way, plant a meme and get out -- but first you should consider if there aren't other places you can attack with greater chance of success.
Bush's good 'ol boy persona is so ingrained, that people will most probably still believe in it, even after they've been given the reasons they need to abandon him as a candidate. To try to take him down on that basis is, in my opinion, extremely foolish.
Today, Josh Mashall warns also about the dangers of responding to the Bush campaign lies with a renewed attack on Bush's record (or non-record) in the Texas Air National Guard:
[F]ighting fire with fire isn't a compelling message. Nor will getting into a tit-for-tat about what each of these guys was doing in 1969 or 1970 or 1971 win this race for the Democrats.
Look at the wrong direction/right direction poll numbers and you see pretty clearly that the country is looking to fire George W. Bush. The president's only hope is to get the debate on to issues like these, shift the dynamic of the race, and convince voters that, whatever their dissatisfactions with his administration, John Kerry isn't an acceptable alternative.
When this stuff comes down the pike, Kerry has to fight back mercilessly. And he can win those fights. But, fundamentally, every day of this campaign that isn't spent talking about the sluggish economy and the president's debacle in Iraq is a day wasted, a strategic failure for the Kerry campaign. [Emphasis added - Ed]
So the Bush Swift Boat Lies hit Kerry on multiple levels. Most obviously, they attack Kerry personally by attempting to take the burnish off his record in Vietnam (one of Kerry's strongest attributes), but also, as Marshall has noted, if Kerry doesn't hit back hard against them, they raise the implication that he's a weak sister, not strong enough to run the country during perilous times. Finally, they attempt to deflect attention from what should be the real focus of the election, the dismal record of the Bush administration, especially concerning Iraq and the economy.
Marshall goes on to suggest that a strong way to get the focus back where it belongs and to mount on attack on Bush that's equivalent to the current attack on Kerry is to go after Bush on the grounds of his moral cowardice. (I'm not sure that I can summarize his argument and do it justice, so read his entry.)
I do think that such an effort might be successful, but, as with Chris Bowers' suggestion, not if it's an outright frontal attack. I think such a meme has to be spread suggestively, by implication and (unfortunately) subtle innuendo. It needs to be carried in the very carefully crafted wording of ads that are obstensibly about something else entirely, a tactic that the Bushes (going back to the father) excel at.
Someone at MSNBC just made a mistake. I'm watching the early morning live (and semi-live) coverage of the Olympics, and in one of the commercial breaks, they ran a promo for Alan Keyes Is Making Sense, the short-lived commentary program featuring the once and present Senatorial candidate and pretentious clown, despite the fact that the program hasn't aired on MSNBC for over two years. (It ran from January 21 - June 27, 2002)
I assume it was simply an innocent error, someone grabbing the wrong spot, and not a blatant and brazen attempt to give a candidate with absolutely no chance of being elected some free television exposure.
[T]hese protests have the potential to derail the Republicans or crash the Democrats, it all depends on how they're organized and how the media reports them. That I don't trust some of the suborganizations involved (Earth First) to stay peaceful and that I expect the media to report violence before reality only heightens my concerns. I'll be talking about this much more in the days to come as, I think, will a lot of us bloggers. I really think there's an off-chance that the election may be effectively decided in New York...
The closer the convention draws, and the more stories about rage-filled protestors I read, the more worried I get. Furthermore, I'm not really sure how the protests might "derail the Republicans." I find it unlikely that any sort of protest will dent GOP support besides, perhaps, a spectacle featuring 200,000 calm, sensible and mainstream-looking individuals silently marching down 8th Avenue each holding a single candle in the air. If there's one dumbass giant leering Bush effigy, one balaclava-clad bottle-thrower, or anyone who vaguely appears hippieish, that's who'll be on the news, and the net effect of the protests on GOP support will actually be positive.
Given the GOP's track record for dirty tricks (and the history of the FBI -- at least in the old days -- for inflitrating groups that oppose the government, and crossing the line into agitating for violence), and the prevalent mood of anger on the left about the gross abuses of the Bush administration, it's a virtual certainty that there will be people in these demonstrations who would like nothing better than to provoke confrontations, property damage and even violence.
Of course, this fact is not nearly enough to justify the city trying to suppress the protests, given they represent such a fundamental right of all citizens to make their views known to the government, but it does put the onus on the protest organizers and their representatives to do their utmost to keep them peaceful and contained. The harsh reality that failure to do so will only serve to be a potential help to the Bush bid for election should be sufficient motivation for them to do everything they can to make sure things don't get out of hand.
(Incidentally, I think we can count on the media to report on the protests in the way that is most advantageous to Bush and harmful to Kerry, not necessarily because of any innate bias, but because conflict -- and action and violence and bloodshed -- are what plays best on the air -- "If it bleeds, it leads" -- and the punditocracy will take it from there.)
Paul "Mousie" Garner, a slapstick comedian believed to be the last survivor among several men who played one of Three Stooges, died Sunday of natural causes in Glendale, Calif. He was 95.
By 1930, Garner began filling in for Shemp Howard when he was unavailable, and in 1931, when the original stooges -- Shemp, Moe Howard and Larry Fine -- went on the road, Garner, Jack Wolf and Dick Hakins took their places for Stooge creator Ted Healy on Broadway. First billed as the Three Stooges, the three later called themselves the Gentlemaniacs.
Over the years, Garner worked with nine different men as the zany Stooges[...] The youngest of the Stooges to perform in film, stage, radio, television, comedy clubs and vaudeville, Garner recently worked on two documentaries: "Ted Healy and His Stooges" and "The Last Stooge," about Garner himself.
From misanthropy's Daily Kos diary this historical quote about why the Big Lie often succeeds so well. Guess who wrote this:
All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.
I thought this letter to the editor made a good point, so I lifted it from the relative obscurity of Variety in order to give it the benefit of the vast unfutz readership:
To the editor:
With your editorial "Life of the Parties" (Aug. 3) Daily Variety officially became the 1 millionth publication to bemoan the "dismal TV ratings" for the Democratic National Convention. And with typical media hubris, you assume that boring conventions and apathetic viewers are to blame.
You point out Americans prefer Yankees-Red Sox to Bush-Kerry. Perhaps that's because when the networks cover a baseball game, they truly cover the game.
Can you imagine if, instead, the networks broadcast baseball the way they did the DNC? Instead of broadcasting the entirety of the game, along with the pre-show and the post-show, they might show only an hour of the game. A network might spend half that hour using the game as a silent backdrop for talking-head panels about how dull baseball is and how unimportant and stage-managed the game is. Perhaps 15 minutes of the remaining half-hour could be devoted to endlessly rerunning tape of one player telling another to "shove it" before the game.
Every time a Yankee got a hit, four Boston sportswriters could spin how it wasn't really a hit after all. Or, as they did with Al Sharpton, they could cut away in the middle of a batter hitting a home run to tell us why he's a horrible batter who doesn't belong in the game. Or, as they did with Barack Obama, they could simply not show the at-bat at all, then tell us the next night how he did. The network could force both teams to swing at every pitch, to speed the game up so it won't interfere with a rerun they have to burn off.
And then, after the game, instead of insight and analysis, they could focus on whether the scoreboard fireworks went off on time.
But the networks consider baseball too important to cover it in such a slapdash and halfhearted way. Is it any wonder viewers pick up on this and respond in kind?
(As an aside, having little to do with this guy's very good point, I understand that in Japan, baseball is carried on TV in a specific time slot: if the game goes over its alloted time, they cut away to the next program on the schedule. Maybe if that happened here, the Lords of Baseball might be encouraged to speed the game up a little so as not to lose their TV audience. Perhaps they could forbid players from leaving the batter's box during their time at bat, or tighten up the time pitchers are allowed to take between pitches. There's a lot about women's softball, as played in the Olympics, that a baseball fan like me might find annoying (the lack of offense, batters running up in the box to bunt or slap at the ball, those deeply ugly uniforms, everyone behaving like Pete Rose all the time, with just way too much "hustle"), but the pace of the game isn't one of them.
I love baseball, and I love watching it on TV, but sometimes even I start thinking "Come on, get on with it" when the third or fourth pitcher is brought into the game in late innings to pitch to one man, whom he generally walks.)
About that Bush TV ad (being shown during Olympic coverage) that claims there are two new democracies participating in the Olympics now, with the addition of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Did I miss something? Has Iraq held an election? If it hasn't held an election, how can it be called a democracy?
And as far as I know, Afghanistan's first elections aren't scheduled until October, so it's a little earlier to be touting them as a success for democracy-building, especially since the warlords seem to be on the ascendent.
(Actually, the text of the ad, as described here does a bait-and-switch, which I confirmed when I hit rewind on my DVR and watched it again. It starts out talking about "democracies," and how there were 40 in 1972 and 120 now, but when it switches to talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, they're not "democracies" they're "free nations." Then, a quick switch back with the claim that "democracy will triumph over terror."
This is typical of Bush'd carefully wrought rhetoric in that the words as written and spoken are technically correct, but they manage by misdirection and guile to convey ideas which are not true. This creates "plausible deniability" -- "No, we're not responsible for the inferences you took away, we did not mean to imply them at all. We stand by the explicit meaning of the words.")
More questions I'd look into if I had the resources:
Why was 1972 used as a reference benchmark? Thirty-two years isn't exactly a nice-round period of time. Was it perhaps to subtly remind people of the Arab terrorists who killed 2 Israeli athletes and caused the death of hostages and police during the Munich Olympics that year? I wouldn't want to unjustly accuse Bush of fear-mongering, you know, so maybe someone can think of an alternative explanation for the odd choice of year.
What criteria was used for determining what a "democracy" is? Were any of those "democratic" republics in which turnout is mandatory and the Dear Leader gets 99% of the vote counted? If so, then Iraq under Saddam would count as a democracy as well, wouldn't it? (Strong-men leaders have learned the value of cloaking their authoritarian regimes with the trappings of democracy -- something that the Bush-clan probably looks on with envy, since the party and the government does the heavy lifting of vote rigging, without the need for the candidate to get relatives and retainers to do the job.)
It occurs to me that the whole Swift Boat liar campaign was egregiously mistimed: it started too early and peaked too soon. Out in the real world, I rather think that people really aren't paying a lot of attention to it. Sure, polls show they're aware of it, but my guess is they're more caught up in the Olympics and that the whole thing has therefore had much less effect than it might have if they had waited until after Labor Day, when CW has it that people actually start paying better attention to the campaign.
Mr. Bush's advisers said they were girding for the most extensive street demonstrations at any political convention since the Democrats nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in Chicago in 1968. But in contrast to that convention, which was severely undermined by televised displays of street rioting, Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.
Yep, that's what I said they would do, which is why the protestors need to seriously try to keep things cool and under control. That maybe difficult to do because of hot-heads and infiltrators, but, for a number of reasons, it's important that they try.
On Daily Kos, ptolemy provides a "Protestors Guide to NYC" for those intent on peaceful protest, with a lot of very good basic information and some good suggestions for rules of behavior. May I selfishly add one tip: Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention, is nowhere near Madison Square, which happens to be in my neighborhood. (MSG started at Madison Square, but it's moved several times.)
I'm not planning on joining the protests, not only because I don't think they serve much purpose, and can (as I explained) can potentially be extremely counter-productive, but also because I get fairly claustrophic in large crowds and therefore avoid them under every possible circumstance I can. So, since I really can't afford to take a vacation out-of-town, as many other Manhattanites are planning, I'm going to avoid going uptown to the MSG area as much as I possibly can that week. My hope is that the protestors can control themselves and avoid confrontations with the police and the kind of property damage that the WTO protests in Seattle resulted in, and that it can all be relatively contained to the midtown area to allow some semblence of everyday life to continue in the remainder of Manhattan.
But, causing disruption in my life is not nearly as important as avoiding giving Bush any kind of propaganda coup. If we hand them that kind of ammunition, we may also be giving them the kind of bounce in the polls that Bush desperately needs right now.
Once again, it's been about a week since my last survey of Electoral College tracking / prediction / projection / forecast / scoreboard / map sites, so let's take a look and see what the prognosticators say.
As usual, from each of these websites I've taken the most comprehensive set of numbers offered, if possible without a "toss-up" category or other caveats, just Kerry versus Bush. Many of them differentiate between "solid" or "strong", "slightly" or "weak", and "leaning" or "barely" states, but I've combined them all together in order to present numbers which are as comparable as possible.
I encourage everyone to use the links and check each site for the specifics of that site's methodology and presentation.
My convention is that Kerry is listed first and Bush second, bold type indicates a winning candidate (i.e. 270 or over electoral votes), and italics or underlining indicates a leading candidate.
As always, 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. I'm also more than happy to hear from the proprietors of any of the sites surveyed here, should they have any complaints, comments, or suggestions for improvements.
J. Daniel Behun (8/2 - not updated since last survey): Kerry 284 - Bush 254 (not updated)
Chris Bowers (8/22 - updated): Kerry 327 - Bush 211 (no change)
Kenneth Quinnell (8/8 - not updated since last survey): Kerry 303 - Bush 207 - ?? 28 (not updated)
Race2004 (8/22): Kerry 332 - Bush 206 (*was: 318-207-13 as of 8/7)
(*Note: This site recently underwent a redesign, and because of that, I believe, last week I took the wrong numbers from it. I had been taking the "If the election was held today" projection, but instead I extracted the more immediately apparent summary numbers in the box at the top of the home page. Since I can't find an archive to see what the proper numbers for last week should have been, for the purpose of my stats on votes gained and lost I've substituted the numbers for the week before, which I am certain were correct.)
Larry Sabato (8/16 - updated): Kerry 274 - Bush 264 (was: 290-248)
(Note: Sabato finally updated the numbers on his site -- they hadn't been changed since June -- but only to keep them the same as they've been all that time. This, I guess, rescinds his comments reported in this article in the Mobile Register, which quotes him as giving Kerry a 290-248 win. Also, a curiosity: although the update is dated "August 16, 2004," it was not on the site when I initially prepared this iteration of the survey in the wee hours of August 22nd.)
Site no change: 7 (was: 7) Site not updated: 4 (was: 4) New: 5 (was: 7) Reinstated: 0 Temporarily dropped: 1
AVERAGES: ALL SITES MEAN: Kerry 284 - Bush 227 - ?? 27 (was: 291-222-26)
MEDIAN: Kerry 296 - Bush 222 (remainder: 20) (was: 301-220-17)
MODE: Kerry 316 - Bush 222 (was: 264-211-63)
AVERAGES: SITES WITH NO ?? MEAN: Kerry 301 - Bush 237 (was: 306-232)
MEDIAN: Kerry 307 - Bush 227 (remainder: 4) (was: 316-222)
MODE: Kerry 316 - Bush 222 (was: 327-211)
This week has seen improvement in Bush's position and a erosion of Kerry's lead, but not so much so as to change the status quo: a supermajority of sites still show Kerry winning (71%) or leading (81%), all averages show Kerry clearly winning, and Kerry's position is still around 300 votes -- but whereas last week he was probably a little over that mark, this week he seems to have fallen a bit under it.
Note that of the 4 sites that show Bush winning, 2 have not been updated recently, and 2 are compiled from group averages and presumably change very slowly (and not at all if the group members don't update their predictions regularly). Of the 4 sites that show Bush only ahead but not winning, 2 have not been updated recently, one (DC Political Report) greatly increased the number of toss-up states it reported (indicating significant uncertainty), and the last (Tradesports) is based on group activity.
It's worth talking briefly about Tradesports. Although my scoring system (the "Fitzgerald conversion") still shows Bush ahead (264-269-5), there's been significant weakening of his position, as shown by the "Geekmedia conversion," which defines a toss-up state more broadly. States that Bush would still win if the election were held today (and was based on Tradesports data) are being less strongly held by him than they had been. WV, for instance, was 52.9 and is now exactly 50.0, OH has fallen from 58.8 to 55 and NV was 59.9 and is down slightly to 58.0. Florida remains precariously poised at around 50 (currently 50.4), which is down from where it was several weeks ago.
Kerry, on the other hand, is either holding his own in the battleground states he "owns" according to Tradesports, or getting slightly better. In other words, overall the Tradesports momentum seems to be very slightly shifting Kerry's way, but, in any event, the data certainly no longer supports the clear 264-274 win for Bush it did as recently as two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, despite these caveats, Kerry's lead has clearly slipped a little.
For a few days after I publish the survey, I'll update figures, make corrections, and add new sites that come to my attention. I'll note these changes here, and mark the entry for each altered site as well.
(8/23) As expected, Zogby/WSJ updated their battleground poll, but, unexpectedly, without the addition of four new swing states (AZ, CO, NC, VA) they had said they would be adding. This time out, Zogby didn't make an explicit Electoral College projection (as they did for their last iteration), so I assumed the status of the non-swing states to be as in 2000 and totaled up the vote myself and included them in the survey. (8/27): I found an article on the Zogby website which gave their official count, so I've updated the entry here to reflect that.
(8/23) Also, my own prediction has changed, but I have not included the new figures in the survey's totals or averages. (It changed again on 8/26.)
(8/24) I went back and figured averages for the past iterations of the survey I did before I started calculating them (and thanks to Winston and Stephen from MA for encouraging me to start doing so), and I've included the results as a graph, just below, which is the first image to be officially posted on unfutz. I'm hopeful it will come out ok.
(8/26) Matthew Hubbard wrote to alert me to his Electoral College tracking site. Since his most recent numbers date from 8/21, I've included them in the survey and updated the totals and averages.
(8/26) See the note below about National Journal/Hotline.
(8/26) JeffR in comments (on another post) brings another site to my attention, My Election Analysis. Since the latest numbers here (311-227) are dated 8/26, I won't add it into this survey, but will do so for the next one.
(An article on 8/25 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution quotes the latest Hotline -- that is, National Journal -- numbers as 252-249-37. Since I can't seem to get the free access to NJ during the convention, as I was promised I'd get, and I won't in any case get consistent access to their figures because I can't afford the exorbitant price of their subscription -- unless someone slips them to me under the table -- I'll probably end up dropping NJ from the survey, after using these AJC-reported numbers in my next interation.)
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.