Monday, November 29, 2004

Red and Blue Therapy

If the MSM are to be believed (yes, I know, but stick with me here) the Red and the Blue states are more divided than we have been in a very long time, so long, in fact, that the appropriate quasi-humorous thing to do is to draw up a cartoon reflecting the isolation that blue states feel from red states, or as they’ve taken to calling them, Jesusland. Yet, US Presidential elections have gone far beyond the point of humor; the unthinkable can result from them.

As someone concerned about the divide, real or perceived, I have been trying to think of something that might help bring Americans closer together, to allow each side to better understand the other. After some brainstorming, I think I have settled on am appropriate first step: A Sister Cities Program. Surely the folks at Sister Cities International could put together a program to help.

I am a bit surprised that no one is out on TV or in print yet suggesting that we mend fences in this manner. As for the folks at Sister Cities International, an email sent asking about this critical red/blue issue was not answered.

Update: Yes, this post is only semi-tongue-in-cheek.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Hitchens on Powell

In the November/December issue of Foreign Policy, Christopher Hitchens pens a critique of Colin Powell’s tenure as Secretary of State. Hitchens’ criticisms, interestingly, are not dissimilar to what he had to say when Powell was first nominated. Perhaps his most valid criticism of Powell’s tenure is:

The official historian of the State Department has calculated that Powell will have traveled less than any secretary in more than three decades. His three immediate predecessors voyaged abroad an average of 45 percent more than him. “Shuttle diplomacy” may well have been overpromoted by Henry Kissinger, but a politique de presence has an importance of its own, and Powell should not forget that it was very largely his own personality—large, affable, calm, and, yes, originally Caribbean—that landed him the post to begin with. I myself doubt that a diplomatic “offensive” by Powell would have melted the heart of the Elysee, but he incurs criticism not for failing, but for not trying.

Essentially, Hitchens’ argument for trying hits directly at the heart of what diplomacy is supposed to be about. Trying when you don’t have to, trying even when you know that it is futile is what makes for great foreign policy. When viewed within the context of the old adage that “a diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell and make you feel happy to be on your way” even if we never got France, Germany or Russia to change course, at least we would have put on a noticeable charm offensive. Perhaps Powell was ruled by a White House that couldn’t stomach the thought of having tried so publicly in the face of such impossible odds and perhaps his background as a military general, used to getting what he ordered, was too large a hurdle for Powell. Not inconsequentially, it occurs to me that this type of effort may have been what Sen. Kerry was suggesting was the right way. Too bad for Kerry he never would give anyone any specific idea about what he was talking about during the entire campaign.

Hitchens may also be correct in assessing that Powell will retain personal popularity after leaving the current administration. I suspect, though, history will not judge him kindly for his time at the head of the State Department.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rather Stepping Down

I cannot help but wonder if today’s announcement by CBS that Dan Rather is stepping down isn’t the result of negotiations between CBS and the “independent” (wink, wink) investigation. By getting Rather off the table, CBS (in its own eyes) looks proactive and can argue that the difficult decisions have been made and that other recommendations need not be made. If they are actually negotiating the public version of the final report at this point removing Rather as a chip the investigators can bargain with might keep more embarrassing items from surfacing. We’ll have to wait and see.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Cuban on NBA Violence

Mark Cuban has some thoughts on the fight this weekend between Detroit Piston's fans and NBA players from the Indiana Pacers. As usual, he is a contrarian.

The Specter of Trial Lawyers

The focus of reporting concerning the appointment of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Chairmanship of the Senate Judicial Committee has focused solely on a single issue, abortion. What is getting overlooked is that Specter is also a little to tight with the trial lawyers lobby as well. Read here. Specter’s influence on tort reform is perhaps even more important to the GOP than judicial nominations.

From the article:

But while Specter has longtime ties to the legal community in Philadelphia and his son, Shanin Specter, is a well-known trial attorney in town, many Democrats -- locally and across the country -- are eyeing the Republicans' slim majority in the Senate and hoping Hoeffel may be the one to tip the balance.

Local Democratic lawyers "are going to have conflicting emotions," said Alan Kessler, an attorney at Wolf Block and chairman of the Democratic Party's state finance committee.

While party members want to see Democrats take back the Senate, "many have long-standing relationships with Sen. Specter," Kessler noted

Friday, November 19, 2004

Re-Importation Incongruity

One of the arguments for re-importation of prescription drugs is that Americans should not have to pay such high prices for these life saving drugs. On its face, it may be a good argument. It strikes me as incongruous that the same political party that is arguing this position is the same one that argues that we should not have abandoned The Kyoto Treaty, at least in part, because developed countries like the US can afford to bear the higher costs it imposes. The same is true for the position of those on the right, of course.
Washington, the ultimate argument in the alternative.

The "Media Circus" TV Permit

Via Instapundit: A good article about the real cost to a municipality of a media-circus court proceeding. In particular, the uber-high profile death penalty cases where it appears we are actually supposed to actively cheer for guilt, death and the glory of the conquering prosecutor-hero.

Cheers broke out among the hundreds of onlookers who gathered outside the courthouse -- some of them pumping their fists in celebration on hearing the news on the radio. They cheered Laci's family and booed Scott's as they left court.

As we all know, these sorts of events are here to stay. The networks, especially cable, make far too much money from being able to reliably plug in a given story, over and over again, week after week, whenever, as Glenn says, there is no real news to report. [Emphasis added] So, the networks benefit greatly from these stories, and the local municipalities get stuck with a huge bill.

With some degree of reluctance, since I prefer less government to more, let me offer a suggestion. The next time one of these cases comes down the road and a small town or county is looking at getting stuck with the bill, they need to invent a special “media-circus” TV permit. If networks want to setup shop for months on end to cover a trial it is going to cost a mere fraction of their profits from covering it; charge them for the inconvenience to locals. I’m talking about serious charges here. $500,000 or $1 million for the permit. If they were smart, they would also raise hotel taxes while they were at it, since it would most directly impact the networks covering the trial, rather than ensnare residents with raised sales tax or something of the like.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

MNF Semi-Nudity

This past Monday, ABC opened Monday Night Football (MNF) with a semi-nude Nicollette Sheridan provocatively jumping into the arms of Terrell Owens. To no one’s surprise, absolutely everyone has reacted exactly as one would predict. As such, after a few days of "careful" consideration Michael Powell announced today that he is disappointed in ABC and MNF, even Disney did not escape Powell’s parental lecture. ....Aw shucks, Dad. We promise....

Frankly, I’d like to know if ABC has promoted the person responsible for this week’s MNF opening yet or if they are going to wait until Powell announces a fine? This was better advertising for MNF than buying time during the Super Bowl and actually delivering a great commercial. Of course, it should also be fairly profitable for ABC. Nobody should ever say that ABC didn't learn a whole lot from its experience with NYPD Blue.

Clinton Library

I know we are all supposed to seize onto the "Bridge to the 21st Century" theme for the look of the Clinton library, but I can't. I cannot get past the thought of Monica Lewinsky every time they show a picture of that elongated, elevated building.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Final Chapter of 04

With some separation now between Election Day and today I thought I might discuss not just why, but the idea of what’s next.

Based on what has already been said I think it is pretty clear that as much as certain groups, especially within the progressive wing of the Democrat Party, would like to point to one set of issues and announce the identification of the bogeyman that will yield staggeringly little. The “moral values” meme though seems to allow Democrats, especially progressives, to point at something and remain blameless themselves. Most interestingly, it absolves them of their nomination and incredibly disorganized way they went about conducting their primaries this year. However, I’m not totally convinced that even with John Kerry as the nominee they couldn’t have won this election. A big problem, put simply, was that this election was totally and completely about Howard Dean. Even after losing his grip on the nomination, it appeared that Governor Dean was showing the way to electoral victory; oppose the war and rally the young. Democrats would have done well to remember just how far Dr. Dean got with that strategy, especially when one keeps in mind that the famous yelp didn’t occur until after he lost Iowa.

While I suspect that the idea of “last man standing” was the general guideline for picking Edwards as V-P, I think a bit more strategy might have yielded a better result for the Democrats. Some conventional wisdom before the announcement was that Dick Gephardt would make the best candidate. Since the election, decidedly little attention has been paid to that. In fact, remarkably little attention has been paid to the idea that a popular Congressman from a swing state that went red could have helped the ticket. A swing of Missouri and potentially Iowa into the blue column would have gone a long way to landing Kerry in the White House. If those two states were rending blue in the closing weeks of the campaign would New Mexico have been swayed as well? Of course, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that John Edwards did absolutely noting, electorally, to help the Democrats win.

Finally, with respect to Edwards. My immediate reaction at the time and continued belief today is that even without factoring in Gephardt, Richardson, or others, he was a very bad choice for Kerry. His message was more populist in tone than Kerry’s and his outward appearance and demeanor are much better than Kerry’s. Any move to the middle Kerry makes, especially the adoption of Edward’s “Hope is on the Way” line makes the choice of Kerry questionable. Subordinating the message of the winner of the primary to the message of a guy that didn’t is a horrible way to run a campaign. Of all the issues that have not been polled on, and there are admittedly only a few, that is one I would really like to see.

So, that leaves us with the question, what next? I think this is next, in a big way. If George Bush thought the real fight ended after Kerry conceded, I think he is going to be surprised to see that the most powerful group of people in Washington are 15 or so Senators who have enough power to kill anything that comes down the pike. For this reason alone, I think Arlen Specter gets his Chairmanship. Bush cannot afford to go head to head with this group so soon unless he is certain he can destroy their alliance; somehow I doubt they can be beaten that easily.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mike Scheuer

If ex-CIA bin Laden expert Mike Scheuer (formerly Anonymous) is to be believed, Osama bin Laden is a very dangerous man precisely because he is not the crazy insane, ranting, rich guy that MSM has painted him. According to Scheuer, in his 60 Minutes interview broadcast last night bin Laden is actually quite astute and proficient, a ‘worthy combatant’ I believe Scheuer called bin Laden at one point. Perhaps deep down we all believe that to be true, but we would rather see the news make bin Laden into a terrorist caricature.

One thing in particular that Scheuer said during his interview rings true regardless of political affiliation. It is a position that I personally took the minute I read about one of the failed/aborted attempts to get bin Laden in the 9/11 Commission Report.

One of the last proposals, which he described to the 9/11 Commission in a closed-door session, involved a cruise missile attack against a remote hunting camp in the Afghan desert, where bin Laden was believed to be socializing with members of the royal family from the United Arab Emirates.
Scheuer wanted to level the entire camp. "The world is lousy with Arab princes," says Scheuer. "And if we could have got Osama bin Laden, and saved at some point down the road 3,000 American lives, a few less Arab princes would have been OK in my book."
"You couldn't have done this without killing an Arab prince," asks Kroft.
"Probably not. Sister Virginia used to say, 'You'll be known by the company you keep.' That if those princes were out there eating goat with Osama bin Laden, then maybe they were there for nefarious reasons. But nonetheless, they would have been the price of battle."
And that doesn't bother him? "Not a lick," says Scheuer.

Regardless of what is said about Scheuer, and volumes are likely to be authored by multitudes after last night’s piece, you have to give him respect. Certainly the CIA thought enough of him to task him with founding the bin Laden working group. They also thought enough of him to bring him back from “exile” after 9/11. So, twice, when it really counted he was the expert they turned to expert opinion on our enemy.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Peterson Verdict

After hearing the news that Scott Peterson had been found guilty earlier today, I couldn’t resist the urge the flip on some cable news and watch the commentators spin themselves up with endless replays of old footage and engage in congratulatory back slapping with the likes of Gloria Allred. Perhaps the OJ Simpson case was too long ago, but I was rather caught off guard be the reaction of the crowd outside the courtroom. Upon reflection, though, none of us should be.

That large groups of people, most likely representative of like minded citizens across the country, became so emotionally involved in the outcome of a court case is a unique commentary on the state of affairs in America today. While the Simpson case cut directly to a real or perceived judicial bias shared by a large minority segment of this country; the appeal of this case, beyond a very small segment of society, lacks any compelling interest at all. Sure, from a soap opera-like TV movie of the week perspective, this case had it all. However, the cheering at the verdict and congratulatory treatment of the prosecutor as he left the courthouse was the exact sort of ill timed, ill manner of behavior that has become all too common. From emotionally involved sports fans becoming so involved in the performance of sports teams that they attack people doing a job on the field to the all too familiar invective of our recently completed campaign season, Americans display a curious attachment people they would otherwise not care at all about were it not for TV.

If overexposure to violence on television begets violent behavior in the audience, does overexposure to the pundit’s advocatory hyperbole on television “news” shows cause the average American to react so strongly to events to which they have no discernable connection?

What Arafat Fought For

One of the oft repeated phrases that continue to pop up in the run up to and now wake of Yasser Arafat’s death is that he ‘fought for the creation of a Palestinian State.’ While paraphrased, this notion reflects the comments of both heads of state and talking heads alike as mini-eulogies pour out onto the air waves, across cable lines, and into cyberspace.

I am left wondering when it is that Arafat did this fighting. I can recall Arafat fighting against the Israelis. I can recall Arafat making slight feints towards peace. I can even recall Arafat being lifted out of the moral sewer of life and coming to the White House to secure his name on a peace prize that should now disgrace the entire Nobel community. Yet, I can not once recall when Arafat actually fought for a Palestinian state. I cannot remember once when he fought and chose the tough route that would have created a free and democratic Palestine.

I cannot recall once when Yasser Arafat placed Palestine ahead of himself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Ramallah Compound Built to Spec for Israeli Destruction: $5,000,000
Personal Wealth Augmentation through Embezzlement: $2,000,000,000

Getting to go to France to Die: Priceless

Monday, November 08, 2004

Monday Musings

From Instapundit, As David Brooks pointed out the New York Times last week, everyone has a theory of why Bush won the election, and most are wrong.

Via Michael Totten, Andrew Coyne does a number on the Christian zealot theory. Also, Mindles H. Dreck over at Asymmetrical Information pulls together a number of useful articles on the topic of who elected George Bush.

With all of this swirling about, a glance at this Matthew Yglesias post, and specifically this comment, “Matt told us a few months ago that he'd been reliably advised that the reason the press feeds us crap is NOT because they don't recognize it as crap. They do it for some "other" reasons. What might those reasons be?” Now, perhaps the commenter was trolling, but the tone doesn’t exactly fit, at least not the way I read it. What it points out, is that it is easy to overlook the root causes. With all due respect to Bernie Goldberg, I’m not going to jump on the bias bandwagon because even Goldberg’s version of bias is far less active than the kind needed to fit this bill. This is a good example, as are the analyses of Bush’s election win, that KISS (keep it simple stupid) still rules the day.

The simplest explanation, obviously, is money. Sensationalism, ratings, ads, and revenue; the great pot from which news is brewed on a daily basis are the main ingredients of every story we are served. Since the hopelessly wonkish story of small gains in multiple demographic groups is far less interesting than hordes of religious zealots turning out to the polls, religion becomes the new storyline of the election.

If we were to end the story there, though, the picture would still be a little incomplete. Sure, the media operates under the profit motive and reports stories that the internal compass of the editor and past experience tell them will attract the most eye balls. The media also, I think case wants to look past the story that may sell better, but goes completely against their own sentimentalities. Two things (Rove on the numbers and Sullivan on Moral Values) demonstrate what is both driving the media’s coverage and driving the majority of those left of center crazy.

Over the past several elections, slowly the Republicans have been better than the Democrats at advancing their cause, of not giving up gains. The terms ground game for GOTV and air assault for radio and TV advertising strike me as extremely apropos of modern day politics. To that effect, the Democrats had better watch out because every election the Republican tent is getting bigger and the Democrat tent smaller.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Exit Poll Flap

Via Instapundit. This FOX News article is suggesting that bloggers are to blame for leaked exit polling data from Tuesday’s election.

Glenn certainly raises some good points. I think there are other good points. Did the leaking or the information that made the MSM and Kerry campaign personnel giddy with the belief that Kerry was going to win? Was it the leaking or the information that led to the disappointment on the faces of main members of the MSM as FOX and then NBC called Ohio for George Bush?

From the article:

"I think people believed them, and it's particularly the case with Internet bloggers," said Kathy Frankovic, CBS News' polling director. "That's unfortunate because it sets up expectations that may or may not be met. I think it's a good exercise because it reminded people that early exit polls can be unreliable."

I wonder if, at CBS, Rathergate is somehow just some sort of exercise as well. Does she really think that same pajamahdeen believed these numbers?

A Most Superlative-est Campaign

That our political climate is full of venom filled pens and keyboards is of little surprise to anyone who is paying any attention at all to print and television MSM. What is of note is the reliance on the superlative tense in speaking of one’s opponent. Anecdotally, my own recollection is that the popularity of the superlative can be traced Bill Clinton’s use of the phrase “worst economy in 50 years.” The effectiveness of this phrase in the 1992 campaign has unleashed a torrent of the most superlative-est campaign language in history!

A quick tour of Google returns the following results:

Historical Test Search

Reagan Worst 348,000

Clinton v. Bush Superlatives

Clinton Worst 993,000

Bush Worst 1,780,000

Clinton Greatest 1,080,000

Bush Greatest 2,250,000

Recent Invective Presidential Labels

Clinton Lied 278,000

Bush Lied 537,000

Clinton Failure 1,090,000

Bush Failure 1,920,000

Obviously not every hit in each search is directly on point and this is hardly scientifically certain data. In fact, Bush’s numbers will contain references for his father’s 4 year term, but Clinton’s numbers (which would equal the time period of 2 Bush Presidencies) are also diluted somewhat by references to Hillary or even funk-a-delic songster George. However, I believe the trends are indeed indicative of a strong reliance among campaigns and supporters of each party relying more and more heavily on the superlative to make their case for them. Until voters reward candidates who eschew the superlative for a more reasoned and tempered language we can expect nothing but more of the same.

A final Note: Are you jaded enough by the modern political language that you missed that the link to the “worst economy” Clinton quote was entitled “Bull Clinton”?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Talking Head Prediction

Predictions are difficult under most circumstances. Every now and then, though, things become obvious and it becomes comfortable to step out on that limb and bounce a little. With that said, here I go:

Over the next week or two you are going to see an incredible amount of cynicism from the MSM. The MSM is going to be talking about how Karl Rove is now influencing the actual events on the ground during our war in Iraq. We are going to see and read this because in short order Fallujah and probably Ramadi are going to come under attack by our brave soldiers in what will likely be the largest offensive we have seen in quite some time.

MSM pundits and talking heads are going to tell us that Bush didn’t do this before the election because if it does not go as well as it could, he would be ruined in the polls. What I don’t expect them to say is that if the American people (regardless of MSM opinion) thought it was a success, the MSM would have been accusing Bush of using his power as Commander in Chief to wield our overwhelming military power to crush a few thousand insurgents for the benefit of securing his victory over Senator Kerry.

Moving Forward

Dean Esmay has a good thought on what Bush might do to help adavance the meme of coming together.

I agree with Dean. I wonder if the MSM would allow the event to come off with such a spirit or whether snarkiness would rule the day.

Kerry Concedes (Edwards Announces)

Sen. Kerry just finished up what I consider to be a very gracious and noble concession speech. He was grateful to his supporters and this nation as a whole, humble, basically everything he had to be. Sen. Kerry rose to the occasion in a way that Gore was never able, better than many candidates I have ever seen. America always moves forward.” I hope you are right, Senator.

Edwards, on the other hand, signaled to every Democrat in this country that he is first in line and he isn’t budging one inch. He announced that 4 years from now he was going to run once again on the “Two Americas” theme. Unlike Sen. Kerry, Edwards made clear that he is a hyper-aggressive, opportunistic partisan with no sense of timing. Does anyone doubt he is already on his cell phone, huddled with advisors making sure they have a plan to outflank any would be challengers?


Political scientists love to use the word “pendulum” to describe shifts in national sentiment. Not until last night did I realize how completely outdated and/or incorrect the terminology is. The image of a pendulum is one of effortless oscillation between two poles with only gradual change in intensity. Perhaps in days past, decades ago, this was an apt description. However, the longer I live the more I suspect that the pendulum view of political movements has never been particularly apt.

I think that the image of a scale, with hands furiously adding and removing weight from each side is a far more accurate description, each side working feverishly to counteract the efforts of others and push momentum decidedly in their favor. One of the things the blogosphere demonstrates very clearly is that there are voices on both sides of every issue adding critically to the effort to tip the balance in favor of the desired result.

Rather than dwell on the rancor and division that some are displaying in the blogosphere or engage revel in self congratulations, I think it is most important to appreciate the nature of the process.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Bush 283
Kerry 255

Update: I'm still not sure what happened here, but I think I miscaluated with respect to Alaska, somehow giving it to Kerry.

2004 Presidential Results (Competitive Senate Also)


As I encourage everyone to do today, I voted. A bit of description of my experience this morning. At 10:15am, my local polling place was not at all heavily attended. There were enough open booths to accommodate everyone standing in line and from what I could tell of the voter rolls turnout had been light earlier today as well. My polling precinct is Democrat dominated in a Republican area of Ohio. Aside from my surprise at a local of any challengers, there was only one “irregularity” I noticed. As I entered the building, there was a local campaign volunteer passing out stickers for his candidate of choice (also local candidate). When I left, he was already gone from that position. I imagine that his brief stay so close to the polling place can be overlooked since we were experiencing a steady rain and he looked as if he had been standing in it for a while.

I hope you are like me in that you had a good voting experience and are proudly displaying your “I voted” sticker.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Wired on Cocoa

This month’s issue of Wired has an interesting article about how Columbian cocoa growers have created a decentralized peer-to-peer network to distribute a new strain of the cocaine producing plant that is resistant to the herbicides we are using to eradicate it.