Saturday, October 02, 2004

Two Random Things

1. Zogby on how the race is Kerry's to lose. Hard to dispute. But it is also hard to dispute that he is well on the way to losing it. Not irremediable, but how can Kerry possibly be trailing Bush in so many states where he should be ahead by 5-8%

2. You know who is really great? Chris Lawrence is really great. I've said it before, but there is no one more pissed off than a pissed off Libertarian. (In the post I've linked, note the comment that suggests the Libertarian solution be implemented by passing a law. That's why we are all so pissed off.)

Debated Rhymes With Overrated

Good lord. The people on the left are so happy they are touching themselves about the "results" of the Prez debate.

I have been trying this analogy for a while, and it seems more and more true to me.

I think we can all agree that the Cubs lost today. Braves beat 'em, 8-6.

But that doesn't mean that any Cub fans are going to become Braves fans. (If you have followed those pitiful losers this far, you are innured to pain and immune to reason).

The fact that Cubs lost certainly doesn't mean that people who pay no attention to baseball are suddenly going to say "I love the Braves!"

Here's the thing: in baseball, the games matter. We keep score of the scores, and if you win games you win the big prize. In politics, "winning a debate" only matters for the glasses-wearing nerds who wore pocket protectors and couldn't get dates in high school. These people, now Democratic wonksters and blog-roarers, only talk to other people as isolated from reality as they are. And they are calling each other up on their cell phones and saying, "Hey! What are you wearing?"

Most voters don't care at all about the debates. And for those who do care, they may be glad their guy won, or that their guy lost, but it won't change anything.

Sure, Bush may lose, but not because of the debate. Besides, Kerry still has that image problem.

Update: I agree with CJOB's Charles Adler (pointing to James Taranto of WSJ). He pounded Kerry for his wimpout answer to the question about being "the last man to die for a mistake." The question was, are men dying now in Iraq for a mistake. Kerry: "No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering." Which is it? They won't die? It won't be a mistake, if Kerry does exactly the same things Bush has done? That answer, as Charles says, really does show that Kerry just can't stand the idea of taking a real position.

Update again: I do NOT agree with my friend (and PhD student) Tom Schaller, of Gadflyer. A perfect example of what I was talking about above. You can almost HEAR the self-gratification going on in between keystrokes.

Cutting That Baby in Half

Most interesting and strangest twist on the Electoral College:

Colorado's ballot measure (Actually a proposed Constitutional Amendment, #36) to change the allocation system in the Electoral College, will be voted on Nov. 2, the same day as the 2004 Prez election.

But, because the certification of electoral results, and "convening" of the EC, takes place weeks after the election, Amendment 36 would actually affect the outcome of THIS ELECTION. (Although...)

The bottom line is that under the current system, whoever wins Colorado on Nov. 2 gets all the EC votes, because in all the states except two (Maine and Nebraska) there is a "winner take all system." Colorado has 9 votes this year, based on the national reapportionment after the 2000 Census. IF the Amendment passes (and it may), in other words, the winner (right now, looks like Bush) would get 5 EC votes, and the other "loser" would get 4 EC votes.

Some observations:
1. Interesting strategic voting experiment: suppose you favor Bush (recent polls give Bush at least 3%, sometimes 8% or more, lead). Would you vote for the Amendment, knowing that the Amendment's passage would likely hurt Bush? Or would you vote strategically, voting "no" on the Amendment even though you favor a proportional system in principle? On the other hand, suppose you are a Democrat, but oppose the amendment. Given that the overall EC race may be close, would you vote for the Amendment, strategically, hoping that it would cost Bush 4 EC votes? Obviously, taking four EC votes for Bush and giving it to Gore would have made Gore President in 2000, with Gore receiving 270 and Bush 267.
2. I was on a radio show with Colorado's Gov the other night, and he made an excellent point. Even if the proportional system were a good thing, as a national system, Colorado is giving up all its leverage if it (to use Owens' words) "unilaterally disarms."
3. People seem to think that the Maine / Nebraska system (allocate the two Senate seat EC votes at large, and then split the rest of the votes based on who wins within each of the state's geographic Congressional Districts) is a compromise. But this is dead wrong. Our congressional districts are so gerrymandered that less than 10% of districts are competitive. In fact, only about 30 of the 435 districts are really and truly up for grabs. Why would we want a system that locks in the political cartoon drawing that redistricting has become? Maine / Nebraska is an absolute disaster.
4. Since there is no movement toward a national transformation, we are probably best off with the current system. Colorado may fall on its sword, but when other states see that Colorado has simply taken itself out of the game (if #36 passes) then that will be the end of it. No national movement, no big transformation at the state level. I had a long conversation on email with Betsy Newmark, and she convinced me this should just be a nonissue, no matter excited I am (was) in principle about the proportional system.

a story, and another, and another

Friends and Family

I was in papers (eg and eg) and on several live news shows this week (eg, and eg, and eg), and so was seen and heard by quite a number of people I know. In this situations, it is always useful to have friends and family remind you that media exposure is just balloon juice, and that you are still the same pinhead you have always been.

Two examples, of many such comments this week:

1. My son, responding when someone else asked me if appearing on TV is hard: "Um, if my dad can do it, how hard can it really be?"

2. My older son's baseball coach, a former football player at UNC, a man of few words and truly mammoth size: "I saw you on TV this week." Me: "Oh, thanks; how was it?" Him: "I thought it must be watching the sci-fi channel. Why don't you get a haircut?"

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Sleepy VP Race

Edwards and Kerry are being used in EXACTLY the same way: Send them out, and let them give some face-to-face love to the base. Small speeches, small crowds, red meat content, no big TV splashes to take attention from the main guy.

Both campaigns have settled into what now appears to be their true strategy: nurture the base. For months, Kerryistas went after undecided voters, but there weren't any (there are undecided people, but they decided not to vote!). Now, Kerry is going to try to turn out the faithful. This has been the strategy of Repubs/Rove since May or so.

Neither Edwards nor Cheney are effective headliner campaigners. (Edwards could be, perhaps, but he is no longer trying, and has accepted his good soldier role). Both are good at delivering ideological wet kisses to the hardcore supporters, though. People have been saying that Edwards, in particular, has disappeared. But that's not true. If Kerry can get 75% of the people who honestly prefer Kerry to Bush to vote, he can win easily.

Senate Fun--Repubs Maintain Control

I have it 50 for R's, 46 for D's, and 4 toss-ups that will take more discussion...

Toss ups:
1. Alaska. What a long, strange trip it's been. On one hand, AK is a strongly R state. On the other, Daddy Murkowski has really made voters angry, both because of the nepotistic appointment of his daughter to his seat and because the econonomy has tanked badly. BUT: Can't imagine that when it comes to be Nov. 2 the voters will really yank the "D" lever. If Babs Murkowski has Daddy to worry about, the D canidate (Knowles) has Kerry to worry about. The ANWR project, which Kerry opposes, is hugely popular as an employment creator in AK. And Bush is sure to win AK by 25 points or more. I can't imagine that people are going to split their ticket enough to toss Murkowski out. SO: AK GOES TO THE R's-- 51 R, 46 D
2. Colorado: R Pete Coors vs D Ken Salazar. This stays too close to call. CO is drifting toward Bush on the national race, going from tied in the polls to Bush leading by 3-5 points, or even more. Coors has big money, but Salazar is not fading. One of the most interesting races in the country. (This is an incumbent R seat, Campbell, so even more important).
STILL 51 R, 46 D
3. Oklahoma: Larry Sabato (UVA) has claimed that Republican Tom Coburn has severe foot-in-mouth disease, saying the race is a battle between good (Coburn) and evil (Carson). Just for kicks, Dr. Coburn is being sued by a a young lady who claims that years ago he sterilized her without her permission during an operation. Even though it seems impossible (there is really no state more Republican than OK), a Democrat might win here, unles Coburn can be fitted with a muzzle. I have to leave this as a toss up, though. STILL 51 R, 46 D
4. Louisiana: Bush, for reasons that are hard to explain, now has a significant polling lead in LA. This bodes ill for the Dems. However, because of LA's truly arcane electoral system, there will probably be a run-off, and coat-tails wouldn't count then. I am going out on a limb here: Neither Kennedy (D) nor Vitter (R) gets a majority on Nov. 2, and then Kennedy wins the run-off, keeping LA in the Dem column.
SO: LA GOES TO THE D's (after run-off)-- 51R, 47D

(NOTE: my original 46 in the D column include my assumptions that Daschle wins in SD, though not by much, and that Bowles wins in NC, maybe by 6-8 points).

(ON FLORIDA: Florida voters give Bush a 50 - 47 percent approval rating, up from a 54 - 44 percent disapproval August 12. Voters approve overwhelmingly (78 - 14 %) of the way President Bush has responded to recent hurricanes. So, Martinez beats Castor)

(SOUTH CAROLINA: Def'ly Republican win. Dems are dreaming if they think they can win here. Kerry at top of ballot hurts them, but Dem candidate Inez Tennenbaum probably could have lost all by herself. Campaign imploded). (On the other hand, maybe not: see this).

OVERALL: This is strange. Repubs are not very exposed this time, with fewer R-controlled seats up for reelection. But the Dems are running well. It is still hard to imagine the Dems retaking control, however. One scenario is to have either FL or SC go to the Dems, and then have both toss-up states (OK and CO) go to Dem side also. Then, it would be 50-50, and Vice President Edwards could cast the tie-breaking vote for Dem control. Not saying it will happen, but it sure could.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

For MT: Public Stadiums Suck

A piece by GPL, who knows things like this, because he's from Chicago, and they can burn through public money real fast. Published here, but reproduced in full:

PAT LYNCH: A Voice of Sanity in Washington
Let's consider the recent evidence on sports stadiums. More and more people are starting to sit down and realize that, as nice as it is to have a sports team in their hometown, they certainly do not want to pay obscene amounts of money to subsidize them. And teams have basically been in a less powerful position to push cities around on this matter because the market in professional sports is glutted and there is growing evidence that (surprise) large publicly funded stadiums, like most government spending, don't promote economic growth.

Still in an era when cities all across the country are telling sports owners to start paying for their own stadiums, leave it to the last U.S. bastion of socialism east of Berkeley, DC, to offer major league baseball to pay for a 400 million dollar stadium through taxes and bonds when there's already a franchise 30 miles away. Mayor Anthony Williams, in a Marion Barryesque lie, even had the gall yesterday to tell the people of Washington yesterday that they won't being paying for the stadium because it will be financed by bonds and business taxes.

Well, of course they will, and as
Sally Jenkins points out in today's Pravda, it could very easily set up a scenario in which baseball could leave the District - again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pulling the Republican Lever

Bless Wonkette's lusty little heart.

She rescued this, after it was posted to Craigslist and those Stepford Bloggers yanked it (sorry).

Some thoughts:
1. K. Grease, being himself ambidextrous and possessed of an excellent imagination, never had to pay for it, of course. But this service would command a moderate price in the marketplace. Even if clumsily done by an amateur, it would cost $150-200. Is that what a vote is worth?
2. The "what is a vote worth?" question is complicated by the marginal/inframarginal nature of the negotiation. If you figure control of the administration is "worth" $500 million or more, than one vote in Florida in 2000 was worth about $1 million.

Maybe Clinton was more of an innovator than we thought. Kerry doesn't need better TV ads. He needs lots more blue dresses, and a big dry cleaning budget.

(Nod to MT, who pays all the time)

(UPDATE: craig @ craigslist noted (see comments to this post) that the piece had been restored, through the good offices of Wonkette. So...sorry, my bad, forget the Stepford thing; C stepped up. Besides, if you read the next few entries in Craigslist, you'll see that quite a few angry young women suggest that such fellow just take matters into their own hands, and then shut up.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Nobel's Prize

An interesting site, where market incentives produce information on relative chances of the next Nobel Prize in Economics (October 11 this year).

Best chance, according to this approach? Robert Barro. Seems right. K. Grease has in fact claimed that Barro is a lock.

Second most likely? Edward Prescott. Sure, makes sense.

On the other hand, either someone has a sense of humor or else there are huge arbitrage opportunities in this market. Third most likely is Paul Krugman. (click here for accompaniment).

(Nod to JB)

Soros: Why Not?

Is it wrong for someone to spend their own money to advance a political agenda he agrees with?
George Soros is having quite a year, according to the Times.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- He's donated some $18 million to organizations working to defeat President Bush. Now, billionaire George Soros is taking his campaign -- and money -- on the road.

The Hungarian-born activist will spend between $2 million and $3 million in the next month visiting a dozen cities, sending at least 2 million informational pamphlets to voters and placing ads in national and local newspapers.

``In spite of his Texas swagger, George W. Bush does not qualify to serve as our commander in chief,'' Soros said Tuesday at a news conference.

I've got to admit, I don't see the problem. I think Soros is a goof, but he gets to have an opinion and he gets to try to get other people to come over to his crackpot views.

But why not admit that more spending, and more speech, on all sides gives us a better debate. The idea that the federal government might restrict spending of one's own money on political speech is terrifying. The 527s...God bless 'em!

It is worth repeating the figures published a month ago, and now even more lopsided in favor of the liberal side:

Seventeen of the top 20 groups operating under the 527 code active in the presidential election support Democrats and are funded by donors with ties to the Democratic Party. In all, they've raised at least $133.1 million, according to Internal Revenue Service records compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine. The three Republican groups raised $15.5 million.

Eliminate all fundraising and spending provisions, and let the people decide. If Soros wins, more power to him.

Why Che? Why Now?

HispanicPundit asks a question that interests me, too.

"What's the deal with Che?" I mean, WTF?

But then I look back at my own little essay on Cuba, and find this:

I really admire Guevara. He was an impossibly attractive combination of intellect, physical vigor, and sensitivity to suffering, besides looking really terrific in the beret. But he [was] wrong, dead wrong. There are no “new economic forms.” And people pursuing “the satisfaction of their ambitions” are the real motors of a healthy society. People “incorporating themselves into society” are people descending into a living grave.

Why did I have to say I admire the guy? He was a thug, and a vicious war criminal. Sure, so were Fulgencia and the right-wing brain trust that ran Cuba, but Che was a bad guy. Why do we all love him so? First, Cuba wanted him back. Then, "The Motorcycle Diaries" (admittedly a pretty good read) is made into a movie. And now his home country is pressing for the return of his tired old bones. Again, WTF?

Monday, September 27, 2004

George Butler and Swift Boats III

Have you heard about "Going Upriver"?
George Butler, maker of docufilm "Pumping Iron", is releasing "Going Upriver" on October 1. That's THIS FRIDAY.

It's basically the second "Swift Boats Vets for Truth" ad, with a more sympathetic voiceover.

Ben Affleck is the narrator.

You just can't make stuff like this up. Do they really think they are going to HELP Kerry by doing this? The mind boggles. I haven't seen the movie, but most Americans aren't going to see it, either. They are just going to hear about how a bunch of SBVFT outtakes got strung together into a 130 minute documentary.

(Nod to CoLo, who knows things. Check out some of her work)