The Party-in-a-Laptop isn't dead.

The Party-in-a-Laptop isn't dead.

The Party-in-a-Laptop isn't dead.

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 17 2004 1:03 PM

Kf Cops a Blog!

It's time to party-in-a-laptop again.

In The Nation, Tom Geoghegan pushes a really bad idea--"Blue States could pass a law: 'Nobody can be fired, except for just cause.'"** But his trademark mordancy is intact:

The problem is, unions represent only about 8 percent of the workforce (private sector). When the airlines finish with Chapter 11, we could be even smaller. In four years, could labor in the private sector be more or less gone? I hope not. Anyway, I suppose someone will always be on strike at Yale.

P.S.: I do think Geoghegan's plan to put concrete worker benefits on blue-state ballots--"paid maternity leave for three months ... right to a vacation for seven days ... right to four sick days ... severance pay"--might work, in that many of the measures would pass. (But then who'd need unions?) The obvious counterexample, though, is California's Prop. 72 to mandate employer-paid health benefits, which narrowly failed after Gov. Schwarzenegger came out against it. (I voted for it on immature 'heighten the contradictions' grounds.) ... P.P.S.: Geoghegan's article, available yesterday, seems to have been pulled back behind The Nation's subscriber wall. Guess too many people were reading it! (Soviet-era store manager: "We no longer carry that item. It kept selling out.")


**--Then Mike Ovitz's severance would have been even bigger! 9:35 A.M. 

From Kay Hymowitz's depressing, sensible  City Journal report on black "Accidental Fathers":

In fact, some hip-hop icons are going all Ozzie, crooning their devotion and life lessons for their sons. "You a blessin' and I'll always guide you," sings rapper Ray Benzino, co-owner of Source Magazine and organizer of the publication's 2002 event "to reveal the nurturing side of rap artists as fathers and mentors." [Emphasis added]

Wouldn't it have been better if The Source had just gone out of business? ... P.S.: Hymowitz also says "More black males get their GED in prison than graduate from high school." If John Kerry said that, I wouldn't believe it. I don't believe it! ...9:20 A.M.


Monday, November 15, 2004

FYI: I'm participating in the Festpost for Jason DeParle's big welfare book here. ... 1:59 P.M.

Post-Mortem Skipper: If you haven't been able to bring yourself to face all the Democratic recriminations, Alexander Barnes Dryer's excellent TNR summarizer  may be all you need to read. ... But: He's way too tough on the "gay marriage" theory. If that issue really caused Southern Ohio to go for Bush, doesn't it explain, like, 100% of the outcome, not 5%? ...Also: Why no links? ... P.S.: Are you really going to make us type out "Alexander Barnes Dryer" for the rest of your career? I have RSI already. ... 11:00 A.M.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Keep Your Hat On: Randy Newman's 1988 hit "It's Money That Matters" opens with a lyric that always puzzled me:

Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
Moving careful and slow


All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive

Are people at NPR that hard up? Or was Newman's perspective distorted by his exposure to the entertainment industry pay scale? I never figured it out. Comes now the news, via NPR's Form 990, that All Things Considered host Robert Siegel makes $259,777 a year (plus benefits). Seems like plenty to me! [Thanks to Petrelis ] ... Update: Well-informed emailer B. suggests "the big run up in NPR salaries" didn't take place until after this incident in 2001. I tend to think Newman was wrong even back in 1988. The NPR people could always afford Volvos. What more do they need! ... Update: Many readers suggest Newman was referring to employees of local public radio stations, rather than NPR. Reader AOP thinks he was employing the "unreliable narrator" device. "[T]he narrator is a crass dummy who can't identify the signal characteristics of the upper-middle class liberal good life (which do, at first glance, often bear a lot in common with impoverished college life)." ... But do crass dummies go around talking about what would happen "in any fair system." That sounds like what college lefties (or NPR employees!) would say. ... 11:19 A.M.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Poached Blog: At the ONA convention in Los Angeles, I stole the following ideas ...

From Joe Trippi: Expect a big wave of Democratic retirements from Congress in the next couple of years, as veterans who've been holding on in hopes of regaining majority power give up. Many of these Democrats have been using their personal popularity (and powers of incumbency) to win in Republican areas. When they leave, their seats will flip. The GOPs could attain 60 votes in the Senate and maybe 30 more seats in the House. Thank you, Rep. Matsui!

From Dave Winer: Trippi argued that the Internet sends power within the parties to the activist/citizens at the bottom. Winer says that in the long run the Internet will not distribute power within parties so much as lead to entirely new political organizations. What the Web does, he notes, is enable communities of interest to form that aren't well served by the Dem/Gop duopoly. I tend to think Winer's right. Why? It became apparent, during the Trippi-Winer discussion, that the Internet has been wildly successful at raising millions of dollars for the parties' presidential candidacies but that in 2004 there was a shortage of things the parties could efficiently spend those millions on. Would $10 million more have helped Kerry? By allowing him to do what, exactly? Place more TV ads in the clutter that clogged battleground viewers' brains? Hire yet more organizers and canvassers? Kerry had plenty of canvassers; at some point adding more just annoys voters. I suspect that, in the future, millions of potential dollars will be sloshing around with no place to go--at least no place within the existing two party structure. Isn't it logical that these easily-raisable millions will instead go to create organizations that serve the new hybrid communities that are now able to form: Anti-war Republicans or culturally permissive free-marketers; Giuliani-McCainiacs; anti-Union Democrats; an anti-immigration party drawing from both Dems and GOPS, etc. Some of these groups will last several election cycles. Some may form and dissolve in a single campaign. One of them may eventually supplant the weaker of the two majors--a revival of the "party in a laptop" notion that was dashed when Howard Dean declined to mount a third-party run.  Who needs Terry McAuliffe to raise your money when you have the Web? It's very, very easy to start an organization of national scope these days. (Small partial example: KerryHatersforKerry. About a day and a half's work went into it, I'd guess. The Democrats did not approve the message. But more than 200,000 people visited it in about a month of existence.)

From Trippi and Jehmu Greene: The youth vote did too turn out in 2004, and for Kerry. Trippi claims two million new Kerry voters--whose impact was swamped by other factors.

From Ana Marie Cox: CBS, in publishing the Texas National Guard documents story, was behaving like a good blogger would! If I got some seemingly important documents about a presidential candidate, I might well** slap them up on the web and ask if they could really be authentic, confident I'd find out the truth by return e-mail. The difference is that CBS pretended its story was an old media, take-it-to-the-bank triple-checked black-and-white shot of professional-grade truth, not a blog query with an implicit or explicit question mark after it.

**Assuming it wouldn't open up libel exposure. Microsoft has lawyers to help make that judgment. A presidential candidate seems unlikely to sue. But CBS arguably opened itself up to a possible claim by at least one other individual. 11:42 P.M. link

Que Mal! When Fouad Ajami wrote a strange, pessimistic NYT op-ed piece on the Iraq War last spring, headlined "Iraq May Survive, but the Dream Is Dead," I was puzzled. What "dream" was that, and why was it dead, given that a U.S. defeat in Iraq was (and still is) hardly certain?  I admit I should have known the answer--but Michael Hirsh's piece in this month's Washington Monthly  was an eye-opener for me. Turns out it's all about Ataturk. Who knew? Not me. ... P.S.: Hirsh's piece is dotted with cheap anti-Bushisms (e.g.: "Bush, having handed over faux sovereignty to the Iraqis and while beating a pell-mell retreat under fire ...") but it's not nearly as pessimistic as it thinks it is. If the "Kemalist vision of a secularized, Westernized Arab democracy that casts off the medieval shackles of Islam" is currently unattainable in Iraq--indeed, it seems in retrospect crazy--Hirsh's last-best outcome of "a moderately religious, Shiite-dominated democracy, brokered and blessed by [Ayatollah Sistani]") seems like a major achievement, maybe one worth fighting and dying for. ... You'd have to be less of a Marxist/Wrightist than I am to think that Islamic, non-secular societies can't and won't eventually find their way to modern democracy and market economics themselves, as it becomes manifest it's in their self-interest to do so. ... 2:09 A.M.


Friday, November 12, 2004

But they're really nice pajamas: Vanity Fair unveils its  Web portal, which seems remarkably straightforward and un-snobby. ... VF's interest is either a sign that a) blogs have peaked (Graydon Carter thinks they're hot!) or b) blogs are here to stay. I can't figure out which. ... 1:43 P.M.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Better Wonkette: Shouldn't it be "When you're not with the one you love, love the one you love!"? 7:19 P.M.

Jayhosed: Heartless Ryan Lizza recriminates up a storm--make sure you read the blog tidbits as well as the print set-piece. 1) Lizza argues the Kerry campaign lacked a message and was stuck on the "JHOS" laundry list -- "jobs, health care, oil, and security." I thought that after the early-September Clintonite coup the campaign had an overall message-- something about "more of the same" vs. "new direction." What happened to that? 2) Joe Lockhart is fingered as responsible for the final week's Al Qaqaa obsession; 3) Shrum does indeed seem to be guilty of blaming "events" that prevented a pivot to domestic issues:

 "I think partly or primarily because of events, the case Kerry was making on health care, the economy, and energy was not heard as clearly as it could have been or should have been."

But a New York Times story about a months-old disappearance of munitions is not an "event" in the same way the Osama tape was an "event." Kerry didn't have to talk obsessively about Al Qaqaa in the week before the tape's appearance. (I agree that Kerry should have kept his main focus on Iraq and terrorism  instead of even trying to "pivot" to domestic pocketbook topics. But reacting like Andrew Sullivan to every day's headline wasn't the way to do it! The decision wasn't dictated by the closing weeks' "events.") 4) Bitchy quote of the day: "Go ask [Edwards] what he's hunted." 5) A cautionary note when evaluating the decision not to go viciously negative on Bush: Just because Kerry lost doesn't mean that every decision his strategists made was wrong, even if it was a play-it-safe, focus-grouped decision! 6) According to Lizza, one Kerry aide "repeatedly pressed" the candidate to give a speech about ... welfare reform. ... Why didn't I think of that? Kerry had, after all, voted for the big 1996 reform bill:

The idea was rebuffed because welfare didn't show up in polling as a key issue for voters. "It's never going to be the top issue," the aide complains. "If you call me on the phone, I'm not going to say that. But, if I hear you talk about welfare reform, it tells me something about your underlying character."


P.S.: And don't miss the dishy outtake from anti-pivot Huffington's LAT piece, available here.

Just how misguided the campaign's leadership was can be seen in the battle that took place between Vernon Jordan, the campaign's debate negotiator, and Cahill and Shrum. "They were so opposed," someone close to the negotiations told me, "to Jordan's accepting the first debate being all about foreign policy, in exchange for a third debate, that Jordan and Cahill had a knock down, drag out argument. It was so bad that Jordan had to send her flowers before they could make up." It was a familiar strategic battle with Jordan siding with those who believed that unless Kerry could win on national security, he would not win period. ... [Emphasis added]

The wisdom of the P____-Man! 2:24 P.M.

John Kerry, master politician, knew how to win over Gore mentor Martin Peretz:

[Kerry] was first elected to the Senate in 1984, the same year as Al Gore. Something demonic in Kerry persuaded him to belittle Gore whenever we met.

At last, Peretz tells us what he really thinks of Kerry! 12:12 P.M.

De' Whole Bunk and Nothing But Debunk: If you read Glenn Reynolds' roundup of stolen-election debunkings  alongside RottenDenmark, you'll be up to date on the state of the "Are We Sure Bush Won?" debate. ... The best of the debunking articles is Farhad Manjoo's piece in Salon, though  this Yale Free Press report does a better explaining-away of the most salient "anomaly" out there--the pro-Bush surge in Democratic opti-scan counties in Florida. ... Denmark's anonymous Hamlet  tries to poke holes in the YFP analysis, with only limited effectiveness in my judgment. (It would be one thing if all the opti-scan counties showed a mysterious GOP surge that hadn't appeared in previous years. This doesn't seem to have been the case--previous years fall roughly into line. Denmark's surviving charge is much weaker--that non-optiscan counties didn't see as big a pro-Bush surge this year as opti-scan counties. But counties that can afford to move up from opti-scan systems tend to be richer and different--Lee County, for example, which contains the city of Fort Myers. You wouldn't necessarily expect a big surge of Bush voters there--certainly not a surge of registered Democratic Bush voters.  That's because Lee County, unlike the 28 puzzling opti-scan counties, has more registered Republicans than Democrats. The area's conservative voters have obviously already switched over to the GOP.) ...

P.S.: I still support more debunking, and bunking! I disagree with Reynolds' suggestion that those who press vote fraud complaints are "losers" (except in the sense that they wouldn't be complaining if they'd won).  But the left-blogosphere's election-stealing charge now looks like it's in about the same shape that Yasser Arafat was in four days ago. ... Update: Make that three days. WaPo notes that the Bush totals in the seemingly Dem-heavy opti-scan counties were also boosted by independents. I forgot about them! ...

P.P.S.: See also this Wired News  article. Wired quotes Stanford professor Jonathan Wand:

"It's important that when allegations are made that people bring to bear the correct evidence and statistical analysis to actually back it up. ... What is destructive is when the allegations are made and they are misconceived or implausible.

Nah. It's only when people make misconceived and implausible allegations that other people can point out how misconceived and implausible they are--something that happens very quickly on the Web. That's less destructive than letting them seethe unexamined, no? In this case, the conspiracy theories are being put to rest in under two weeks, thanks to all the irresponsible people. ... Even if they don't bother to read Barone's Almanac first! 4:01 A.M.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

"What a pathetic vessel in which to have placed liberalism's hopes! A senator for two decades who had stood for nothing, really nothing." Finally, some real post-election bitterness, albeit from Marty Peretz, who didn't exactly keep his disdain for Kerry bottled up pre-election. ... P.S.: Has Peretz given up on publishing in the magazine he owns? ... 12:38 P.M.

Here's a new, non-crazy Dem blog that tracks and assesses the various election-stealing scenarios. ... 12:52 A.M.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

It's the NYT's Fault! Tuesday's New York Times report on the Sperling Breakfast post-mortem contains the following astonishing passage:

Mr. Kerry's aides said his efforts to turn the election to the economy were drowned out by news from Iraq as well as Mr. Bush's focus on cultural issues. The slide worsened as the final days of the campaign were dominated by two overseas topics, Osama bin Laden's videotaped message that was released on the weekend before the election and the missing explosives in Iraq.

"News events were driving this, including the Osama bin Laden tape, at the end," said Robert Shrum, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. "The economy was not driving the news coverage." [Emphasis added]

Forget whether it made sense or not to "turn the election to the economy." The excuse Nagourney outlines isn't obviously wrong. It's incoherent. Did the press decide to make a week-long big deal of the "missing explosives in Iraq"? Wasn't that a conscious decision on the part of John Kerry, the candidate? That's what the press has reported--Howard Fineman, for one, wrote four days before the election  about the final week's "gamble" taken

by Kerry: to stop even trying to make news on the economy, or to sell himself in any way, and focus on news accounts of the lost explosives in a munitions dump in Iraq in the spring of 2003. ... [snip]

Last Monday in Philadelphia, Kerry sat down with Bill Clinton in a holding room before a big rally there, then came out swinging on the story of the day—the now-infamous Al-Qaqaa site. The huge throng of some 80,000 loved it, cheering wildly at every new attack on the president's handling of the war.

When Bush and the White House didn't respond, Kerry kept attacking, keeping a relentless focus on the war in Iraq. I had been told by his aides that he would spend much of the final days trying to reassure voters about his own character and plans for the country. But Kerry himself clearly preferred the Al-Qaqaa attacks ... [Emphasis added]

The New York Times may have broken the explosives story and played it on the front page, but the Times plays a lot of stories on the front page, many of them duds. The Times didn't make Kerry repeat the Al Qaqaa charge day after day in his campaign speeches. ... Shrum can't really saying that if Kerry had talked about the economy instead of the war, he'd have been ignored by the news accounts that voters in Ohio and Florida heard. Are Kerry's aides that trapped in the Times-tropic news hothouse? ... Hey, the paperwas only trying to help! ...

P.S.: According to Nagourney, Shrum also "noted that there had been few post-election recriminations aimed at the campaign among Democrats."  I think that's in part because Kerry's defeat was so brutal for everyone involved in his campaign that even reporters feel sorry for them. But if Kerry's advisers really try this kind of bogus excuse-making, haven't they waived their anti-recrimination rights?

P.P.S.: I don't trust Nagourney enough to lay the blame for the 'Times excuse' directly at Shrum's feet. The quote doesn't quite nail down his guilt, and Nagourney isn't considered a pro-Shrum reporter, as least by some Dem insiders. (He's thought to be closer to Jim Jordan, the campaign manager Kerry sacked). But I'm assuming somebody actually made the argument Nagourney attributes to "Mr. Kerry's aides." I'll try to get a transcript of the breakfast. ... Update: Mike Allen's WaPo account in fact has Shrum acknowledging a conscious Kerry decision to go with Al Qaqaa. This Cox News Service account  [reg.] suggests the culprit may be pollster Stanley Greenberg. ...  11:24 P.M.

Maybe I've gone Hollywood, but $8,000 a month for Alexandra Kerry's entouragedoesn't seem like so much. Does it to you? Update:Reader J. emails: "You have gone Hollywood. ... Miss Kerry's entourage money would annualize at $96,000 a year." But you get five (5) hangers-on for that! 12:40 A.M.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Shouldn't some major paper publish the definitive investigative piece debunking the various election-stealing theories now careening around the Web before they get out of hand? (Today, Countdown, tomorrow, the Globe!) I'm assuming they can be debunked. I'm hoping they can be debunked. But if they can't be debunked--er, that's a story too! ... (Josh Levin's day-after-the-election Slate piece was a step in the debunking direction but didn't cover the more recent paranoia, such as Countdown's Florida and Ohio innuendoes.) ... 11:06 P.M.

Opinion Journal has fun mocking Fox Butterfield's annual article on the "paradox" of "a falling crime rate but a rising prison population." (Lock up more criminals, and the crime rate falls? This is only an obvious paradox to comically cliched NYT libs.) But Butterfield may have also have buried a lede. Ignoring the "falling crime rate" part of his paradox, he sketches a vicious cycle in which more prison translates into more lawbreaking:

Such a high proportion of young black men behind bars not only has a strong impact on black families, Professor [Alfred] Blumstein said, but "in many ways is self-defeating." The criminal justice system is built on deterrence, with being sent to prison supposedly a stigma, he said. "But it's tough to convey a sense of stigma when so many of your friends and neighbors are similarly stigmatized."

Yet later in the article, Butterfield notes in an aside that:

New York had a 2.8 percent decrease in new inmates, reflecting the continued sharp fall in crime in New York City ....

In fact, New York City prisons had 13,655 average daily inmates at last report-- a 16% decrease from the recent high of 16,364 in October 1999.  The prison population was over 21,000 in the early 90s. Could the city's get-tough crime policies have put it in a virtuous, rather than vicious circle--in which effective deterrence and an altered culture produces so much less crime that it results in a smaller prison population? [Thanks to reader J.G.] 10:18 P.M.

Up to 4,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are missing in Iraq, tripling the number loose in the world. Isn't that a bigger cost of the Iraq War, and a bigger story, than the explosives at Al QaQaa? It is if you're a frequent flyer. Yet we find out about it four days after the election. Damn biased liberal October-surprising MSM not doing its job! ... P.S.: Then there are those 2,500 sarin-filled artillery rockets which, Eric Umansky speculates, may be coming back at us in Fallujah. (That story did break in the NYT the weekend before the election--on page 12.) ...  8:22 P.M.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Tax Reform--the Cure for Lameness in Ducks? Why might Congress be more willing than expected to cooperate with a "lame duck" President Bush over the next two years? Because thanks to the President's proposal to overhaul the tax code Republican lawmakers will be happily swimming in campaign contributions from businesses newly desperate to buy influence lest they lose out in the big revenue reshuffle. ... It's certainly important, if you are a Congressman trying to raise money for yourself, that the dream of tax reform be kept alive! At least for two years. Then it can be nibbled to death. ... Washington D.C.'s economy should be revived, if nobody else's. ... 11:52 P.M.

Under the caption, "Everything you need to know about Bill Richardson," a friend emails the following two grafs from today's NYT:

Party officials said they were concerned about evidence of a cultural gap between Democrats and much of the country. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said that his dealings with Mr. Kerry and his advisers had vividly demonstrated to him the problems the party faces.

''I remember being on a trip with him in New Mexico: I put a cowboy hat on Senator Kerry and someone on his staff shuddered and asked me to stop,'' he said. ''This is I think an example of the East Coast not connecting with the West Coast and with the rest of the country.''

Did my friend mean that Richardson was 1) superficial (it was the hats that did us in!); 2) self-promoting ('Hey, I'm from a red state. Over here!'); 3) disloyal (trashing the party's defeated candidate within days of the election if it will get him in the NYT); 4) too obviously disloyal and self-promoting to be effective at the latter (if you were a politician, would you want to take a trip with Gov. Richardson?)? ... I think my friend meant at least three out of the four. ... Update: Alert reader K.B. notes 5) the Kerry staffer was right! "[A] picture of John Forbes Kerry wearing a cowboy hat would have been instantly posted on Drudge and the subject of a week's worth of BC04 ridicule and late-night jokes."  6:07 P.M.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Spectacularly unsuccessful and slippery Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe--who has singlehandedly disproved the idea that money = speech--just sent me a "Dear Friend" email asking me to "Help determine the Democratic Party's next steps."  Gee. ... Let me think. ... Nothing obvious comes to mind. ... I'll get back to you on that one! ... P.S.: McAuliffe ends by thanking everyone for "helping create something special." Awww! Is it possible for Democrats to thank him with something similarly special? ... 11:18 P.M.

Worried Iraq war supporter David Ignatius  has a

recommendation for President Bush: He should announce that when a new Iraqi government is elected, he is prepared to negotiate the terms and timetable of American withdrawal.

Even better, the current Allawi government could, even before the January elections, demand that President Bush agree to negotiate such a timetable, and Bush could reluctantly accede, no? 1:16 A.M.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Like Marlon Perkins, Tim Russert explains President Bush's appeal in the "so-called red states" to Tom Brokaw and the Bo-Wash corridor:

They can see him in his jeans and his swagger and his belt buckle, a lot of things a lot of people in--in the Northeast would laugh at. But they identify with it. And, Tom, they will say that their i--their connection with him on the issue of values and as a man of faith was much more important to them than the state of the economy or the war in Iraq. [Emphasis added]

1) Not the most condescending thing that has been said about the red states. But pretty condescending! Doesn't Russert have to get, you know, ratings? Do red state viewers (or Bush voters generally) actually like watching Tim Russert? Hard to believe. 2) Would these mystifying red people actually "say" that their connection with Bush on faith and values is more important than the major issues facing the country? Russert suggests they're so blinded by faith they'd vote for Bush even if everything was manifestly going to hell. ... Wouldn't "they" maybe "say" that the economy isn't in such bad shape--as is, in fact, true--and maybe the war in Iraq isn't in such irrevocably bad shape either? Haven't they, in fact, just said that? 11:38 P.M. 

Are we really absolutely for sure sure Bush won Ohio? Just asking!  This story does not reek of closure. I'd be more confident if I didn't know that most of the nation's political reporters (and campaign workers) are utterly exhausted and uneager to pursue longshot leads with Woodwardian gusto. I suppose there are enough Kerry lawyers left over to police the official count "later this month." ... 2:21 P.M.

Paul Krugman thinks "opposition to abortion" is "intolerance"--at least if he means what he writes in today's NYT. Why isn't opposition to abortion a form of principled idealism with which Krugman disagrees? Who's intolerant here? ... P.S.: Krugman argues that to succeed the Democrats have to be more "effective at mobilizing their own base." Huh? Weren't the Democrats spectacularly successful at mobilizing their own base this year? Even so, it wasn't enough. Are there any more "base" voters realistically left to be mobilized?  ... P.P.S.: Nor, we're told, were there that many "undecided" voters this year. To win, then, it sure looks as if Democrats are going to have to start convincing some people who are now on the other side. ... Update: Arianna Huffington's post-mortem  denounces Kerry's "undecided" strategy, but only because she thinks it precluded "boldness" and "big ideas." She's guilty of assuming there are no big, bold centrist ideas. But she doesn't make the traditional hack left "if only we turned out the base" argument. Progress, of a sort. ...  4:28 A.M.

Old Slate rationale for publishing exit poll numbers: "My view is we can't be in the position of holding back information that's accurate." (Slate's editor, quoted in the Wall Street Journal.) New Slate rationale for publishing exit poll numbers that were not accurate: It's "accelerating the much-needed demystification  of exit polls"!  ... I'll have to remember that "demystification" business the next time I publicize something that turns out to be wrong. (My own "we're asymptotically approaching the truth" rationalization is getting a little shopworn.) [Don't you agree it's good that people now don't believe exit polls?-ed Yes. It's actually the first Slate rationale that seems the most suspect. Slate, like any other responsible publication or person, holds back information it knows is accurate all the time.] 3:39 A.M.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Hold the Molar Phone: The Bulge was, in fact, a bulletproof vest, reports The Hill. (But why would the Secret Service allow this info to come out now? It's not as if Bush won't appear in public again.) ... 7:48 P.M.

Exit Poll Paranoia Special: Did the early exit polls showing Kerry ahead almost across the board  actually spur pro-Bush voters to head to the polls? ... Note that, if this happened, it would undermine part of Slate's rationale for publishing the polls, which is that they don't affect the result (see., e.g., this Jack Shafer defense from 2000).** ... Did Slate (and all the other Web sites that posted exit results) help elect Bush? ...  More: It's not clear whether the early exits polls falsely showed good Kerry news (e.g. because pro-Kerry voters were naturally more eager to talk to exit pollsters) or accurately reflected the vote at that point in the day (e.g. because Kerry voters were angrier and voted earlier). ... The most paranoid possibility is that the exit polls were somehow intentionally skewed to falsely show a pro-Kerry result, either because the media was in the tank to an a near-unbelievable degree (see Dick Morris for such insinuations; Powerline actually declares it "likely") or because Democratic operatives intentionally gamed the exit polls by having voters or pseudo-voters seek out the poll-takers (a possibility half-suggested by Mystery Pollster before the polls opened and occasionally discussed in the Dem primaries). If so, did the poll-rigging strategy backfire--because, instead of spurring a bandwagon, let's-have-a-landslide pro-Kerry effect, it prompted a determined pro-Bush evening backlash that tipped Florida and Ohio for the president? Just speculating! ...

**: Note that in 2000 Shafer cited a study showing that early election projections dissuaded "fewer than 3 percent of potential voters" from voting. Three percent--or even one percent--is not chopped liver in a 50-50 nation. ... Shafer could respond that it's different if, in 2004, exit poll leaks didn't discourage Kerry voters but rather encouraged Bush voters. It's OK, the argument would go, to affect the results by increasing turnout--spurring greater turnout for the candidate "losing" the exits--as opposed to by decreasing turnout--either by encouraging complacency on the part of the winning candidates' troops or (what doesn't seem to have happened Tuesday) demoralizing the exit losers. Under this theory, future elections will be more like a ball game--or a vote in Congress, with its running public tally. Exit polls would be made public immediately and voters would know that the candidate who is behind in the fourth inning might still come back to win.  There would seem to be big transitional problems with this argument, however--this year a) the voters didn't know the exit polls could be inaccurate (indeed, despite all the disclaimers, the initial, near-universal assumption in the professional press was that they were accurate; even both candidates apparently believed them); and b) the supporters of the winning candidate in the exit polls (Kerry) didn't realize that even if the polls were accurate the supporters of the losing candidate in the exit polls (Bush) would learn about them and might stage a comeback. In 2008, they'll know. This year, the leaked exits may have helped Bush (and helped him in part by inducing some Kerry complacency compared with what would have happened in the evening vote if the leaked exits hadn't been so pro-Kerry). ...

P.S.: If electronic voting machines ever become universally accepted, won't a complete open-running-tally election become possible, with cumulative, 100% accurate results posted in real time, just the way Congressional votes are recorded? Would we want this system? It might, even more than now, favor the candidate with more money to create an organization that can go pull enough voters from their homes at the last minute.

P.P.S.: Yes, I agree with several emailers who claim that the real "most paranoid possibility" is that the early exit polls were accurate but the vote count was somehow manipulated. Josh Levin argues that this conspiracy theory doesn't add up. I suspect it will take more to kill it off, though. ... 2:39 P.M.

No Zinni, No Winni: John Ellis explains how his cousin could have been beaten. It's extremely persuasive. ... 1:59 P.M. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Bush 51, Kerry 48: Pollster Ruy Teixeira demands that these raw numbers be weighted to reflect party I.D.! ... P.S.: And they probably only included "likely voters"! ... [Thanks to J.T.] 3:04 A.M.

The Seven Hour Presidency of JFK2: The following email from an anonymous but very knowledgeable source seems to summarize yesterday quite effectively:

[T]he VNS [leadership] from 2000 (disaster) and 2002 (complete collapse of VNS) must be overjoyed with the utterly dreadful performance of the much ballyhooed National Election Pool [which conducted the 2004 exit polls].  They f*** up the national poll, countless state polls (Virginia is a toss-up, I don't think so!) and God knows what else.  The entire news media goes off on a completelymisguided goose chase (or goose hunt!) for SEVEN HOURS (from 2-9pm), and since few of them have any idea how to read a county vote table, many of them keep pumping the Kerry wins fable.

It's an unbelievable f***-up.

I fell for it myself--emailing several Democratic friends to assure them that Kerry was looking good (though mainly I fell for that Ipsos weekend telephone poll). [More: see also RealClearPolitics's report--search for "Sabato."] ... Why were the exit polls so off? My nominee is Reason 3 from Mystery Pollster'slist--"Voting patterns may be different early in the day." Specifically, angrier voters vote earlier. This year, Kerry voters were angrier, so angry that they lined up at the polls as soon as they could in the morning and got disproportionately counted by the NEP survey-takers. Unfortunately, they could only vote once, and their vote was cancelled by the less angry Republicans who sauntered in later in the day. Just a theory. ... Next question: Was the Incumbent Rule disproved? On first glance, yes. Look at Slate's average of Bush's vote share in the last Florida polls: 47.7%. Yet in the event Bush got a much bigger share-- 52.1%. The Incumbent Rule says that is not supposed to happen. Chris Suellentrop's explanation--that the anti-Bush vote went to Nader--won't do the job. Nader got only 0.4% of the vote in Florida. ... 

Update: Reader C.S. reports from the field to "personally confirm the 'angrier, ealier' hypothesis":

I was a Kerry-Edwards outside atty/poll stander at East Side Central Elem School in Toledo, OH. [snip] ... Very heavy voting all though the AM with little lull, through to about 3 pm. Early vote was heavily pro-Kerry, I'd say 75% or more in the AM, while the late, more casual, after work vote was maybe 65-35 Bush. The percentage for Kerry, I'd say, attenuated with the day, with the first hour's percentage possibly 85-90% Kerry and steadily, slowly diminishing over time, with a fall-off, both in turnout overall and percentage for Kerry, again, after 3 pm.

From what I gather, from friends working in CT and OH, this trend was commonly observed.

I felt at 1 pm like we'd win handily, then as the SUVs with "Never Forget 9-11" stickers and the like came in late, I worried.

1:55 A.M.

Is Zogby Nailed to the Perch? He waits until 5:00 P.M. on Election Day to make his "2004 Predictions," and still gets it all wrong! ... Update: Zogby International has issued a statement. ("I thought we captured a trend, but apparently that result didn't materialize.") 12:49 A.M.

I was right! Kerry should have dropped out in New Hampshire. 12:43 A.M.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The Incumbent Rule Rules**:Kf doesn't  approve of releasing leaked exit poll figures. Telephone polls taken before Election Day are another matter! A national telephone poll taken by Ipsos Public Affairs for its own information--not in affiliation with the AP (but available to subscribers  here)--showed a "final-weekend swing to Kerry." Kerry won the Saturday-Sunday poll 50-48, after losing the Thurs.-Fri poll 51-46.  ... These were both full-sample, stand-alone polls, not tracking polls. ... Among those who decided in the final 10 days, Kerry beat Bush 45-40. .. Caveat: Alert reader S.B. notes that weekend polls often trend deceptively Democratic. ... We'll see. ... [** Note: Technically the Ipsos poll doesn't test the Incumbent Rule--I'm misusing the term in the caption. The Incumbent Rule predicts a negligible increase in the incumbent's share of the vote between the final poll and the actual election. It's not about challengers surging or incumbents fading between two polls taken in the final days of a campaign. I just liked the cheap wordlplay.] ...  1:12 P.M. 

Pay no attention to that bad man Jack Shafer! Mystery Pollster offers a  murderer's row of reasons to treat exit polls very cautiously. His conclusion:

[T]hose leaked exit polls really don't tell us much more about the outcome of the race than the telephone polls we were obsessing over just a few hours ago.

MP also clearly disapproves of the practice of publishing the leaked exit poll numbers on the Web, a sentiment I share (though I don't disapprove of anyone emailing the poll numbers to me). ... P.S.: My guess is that Kerry will win, by the way (and I haven't seen any exit polls yet!). ... P.P.S.: Politcal vet Gregg Abbott reports from Minnesota that "The Democratic GOTV is incredibly impressive." ... 11:09 A.M.

Monday, November 1, 2004

Mystery Pollster closes out his 2004 campaign coverage  by making a) peace with Gallup and b) a prediction. ... A grateful and slightly less confused nation thanks him. Or I do, anyway. He's given me lots of easy items. ... 11:44 P.M.

You Spoke Too Soon, MEMRI! A bit of evidence that supports MEMRI's "state by state" translation of Osama bin Laden's latest video, from a 2001 the description of a 1996 interview he gave to, yes, Robert Fisk:

Intelligent - and eloquent in Arabic - bin Laden undoubtedly is. But his understanding of foreign affairs is decidedly eccentric. At one point, he even suggested to me that individual US states might secede from the Union because of Washington's support for Israel. [Emphasis added]

In other words, it may not be that bin Laden's so in touch with American politics that he's reading RealCLearPolitics and counting up electoral votes. He may be so out of touch that he hasn't learned about the Civil War. ... This suggests that while MEMRI's translation may be accurate, the focus of both  MEMRI and the NY Post on the current presidential election may be misplaced. Bin Laden may not be offering protection to a state that votes against Bush. He may not be talking about the election at all. He may be looking past the election and attempting to offer protection to states that secede, or follow their own foreign policies. ... P.S.: Note that this interpretation would both fit the translation and explain why bin Laden seemingly lumps Kerry and Bush together. He's not trying to get votes for either man. ... [Thanks to alert reader P.C.] 10:57 P.M.

Why I'm for Kerry: You don't want to read a long explanation. Luckily, I've put this off for so long that I don't have time to write one.

1) It's about Iraq and the fight against terror: Bush has virtually no appealing second term domestic agenda. Kerry's domestic plans are attractive, especially the expansion of health care coverage, plus he's uniquely positioned to defy traditional Democratic interest groups--especially unions. He doesn't owe them much --most supported his oppponents--and, thanks to the Internet, he isn't that dependent on them for campaign dollars. But it's doubtful Kerry has the skills to get anything ambitious past a Republican House. (More on Kerry's limited presidential abilities here.) On the domestic front, I expect a quick Carteresque stalemate. Malaise by May!

It doesn't matter. The election is the first chance Americans have had, post-9/11, to figure out how to confront the terrorism problem. What's at stake isn't how to give millions of relatively healthy Americans better health care. It's how to stop millions of relatively healthy Americans (and other humans) from eventually dying at the hands of aggrieved groups who will in coming decades a) find it easier and easier to organize, thanks to the Web, and b) be increasingly be able to get their hands on increasingly destructive weapons, especially bioweapons. I get this basic framework from my colleague Robert Wright's excellent series on terrorism, available here. (For appropriate accompanying atmospherics, I recommend the unsuccessful but eerily prescient film Twelve Monkeys.) Currently the dominant threat is Islamic extremist terrorism. But after that it will be some other flavor of terrorism--environmental radicals, perhaps, or animal rights fanatics, or separatists, or superempowered Columbine nihilists, or all of them at once.

2) The voters have it wrong: Polls show doubts about President Bush's ability to handle the Iraq war but relative confidence in his approach to the larger war on terror. It seems to me this gets it backwards. On Iraq, I'm highly suspicious of the strident attacks on Bush's prosecution of the war from those who pushed the war (like Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and the editors of New Republic). Arguing that Bush horribly botched the job is one convenient way of avoiding the conclusion that it was a bad idea to take on the job in the first place. (For example, what if we'd kept the Iraqi army--and then it staged a coup in a few years?)  In any case, we're now in Iraq. We have some chance of succeeding-- with positive long term consequences for the region--and it would be very bad to fail and leave. So the issue is who is more likely to make the best of the situation. Bush, having made the mess, has every incentive to see through the unmaking of it. Kerry always has the tempting option of blaming his predecessor. As  David Adesnik  notes, there's ample reason to worry about Kerry's commitment to democracy in Iraq.(It's alarming that he talks mainly about setting up a "viable"  government.  Did thousands of people die for a viable government? Saddam was "viable.")  If all we were talking about was Iraq, it would be hard to have much more confidence in Kerry than Bush (though we might still want to punish Bush for his mistakes).

In the larger war on terror, however, it's no contest. Both candidates will hunt down and kill existing terrorists. The issue is how many new terrorists are we creating--as Donald Rumsfeld famously wrote, "Is our current situation such that 'the harder we work, the behinder we get.'?" Let's say that n is the number of net new terrorists who'll come online in the next four years. Isn't it obvious that n is a lot lower if Kerry is president than if Bush is president? Even if you think the Iraq war was worth fighting, as it may well turn out in the long run to have been, it's hard to deny that it has angered millions around the world, and that Bush is a focal point of their anger. A tiny but definitely non-trivial percentage of these people will be angry enough to try to do us harm, and as the years go by technology will make it easier for them to accomplish this. We lower the volume of lethal hatred simply by thanking Bush for his efforts and retiring him.

Significantly, President Kerry will not have to do anything to accomplish this. He won't need any grand foreign policy framework. It will happen to him automatically if he wins, whether he likes it or not. In all probability he will have to fight against the tide of smarmy international goodwill that will envelop his administration--forcefully reminding the world that he intends to be tough, America should still be feared, etc. Unless he's an utter incompetent, however, he should be able to accomplish that while simultaneously lowering the level of anti-Americanism and at least partially defusing the self-fulfilling prospect of a "clash of civilizations." Meanwhile, if President Bush worries about how many people around the world his policies are enraging, he gives no sign of it. In four more years the "n" number could rise to calamitous, irreversibly high levels, even if the lethal effects might not be felt for a decade or two.

I'm continually amazed that bloggers, of all people, don't appreciate the way intensely motivated individuals, operating without centralized state (or any other) control, can be empowered by new technology to do us tremendous harm. To put it in mundane current blogospheric terms, when it comes to preventing future attacks, the terrorists will more and more come to resemble bloggers in their pajamas and America will come to resemble CBS. That's not a position we should be comfortable in. (Yes, it may be hard for small groups of non-state malcontents to develop nuclear weapons. But it might not be hard to acquire nuclear weapons. And bioweapons may well be developable by alarmingly small groups.) 

If all Kerry does is lower the hatred level while making the best of Iraq (and continuing to pursue Al Qaeda) he will have done his job. In every other respect, he has "one term president" written all over him. This may not be so good for the Democrats in the medium run. That doesn't matter either.

Update: Reader Z.S. points out it's not just "n" we need to reduce. It may be "n" + "people who look the other way."

one thing though which i think is even more important than the additional terrorists that bush will inspire is the effect he has on non-terrorist muslims who dont like him (eg me).  truth is there is a finite number of people willing to strap on bombs and blow themselves up etc. ...[snip] but more important is the pond (isnt that the analogy?  mosquitos? pond-drainging etc?).  the only way to defeat the terrorists is to win the hearts and minds of the moderate muslims among whom they live and breathe.  terrorists cannot fucntion without tacit support.  and this tacit support exists even among people who hate the terrorists and would be their first targets.  but they havent been moved to be more active in the war on terror because - quite frankly - we hate bush more.  when bush says, youre either with me or with the terrorists, many people say, fine, in that case im with the terrorists.

That's one reason why it's no answer to Wright's 'hatred matters' argument to say "well, the terrorists only need a few angry lunatics, so the general level of anti-American rage doesn't matter." (Another reason is that it does matter whether there are 75 angry lunatics or 750.) 2:21 P.M. link

Reminder: KerryHaters for Kerry election-eve morale-simulating Meet-Ups this evening, Monday, in D.C. and New York. ... The sleeping giant awakes! ... 11:37 A.M.

T. Bevan of RealClearPolitics is getting worried. ... 10:08 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk