not worth archiving.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
The marketing of ideas. We all know that Fox tailors its news and discussion programs for its target audience, but how do you feel about school textbooks? The state of Texas will be buying Holt Rinehart and Winston textbooks which have restrictive information about sex and marriage. In addition to focusing exclusively on abstinence, it describes marriage as "a lifelong union between a husband and a wife."
Notice that this definition goes beyond the sexual orientation
issue, and into the permanence of the marriage. Now, I really
think that marriage should be till death do ya part, and
couples should work hard to make that happen. But divorce is a
reality (something like half of US marriages end in divorce), and
any textbook which willfully ignores that reality is walking
right into a credibility problem. All that information on
abstinence is more likely to get shoved aside, and the textbook
has nothing to fill the vacuum. Stupid, or what?
Getting his war on. The assault on Falluja
has begun. I hope everyone here knew this was
coming; it would really be a shame if the people who voted for
the President's re-election were unaware of the facts and likely
Ready for some action yet? Or are you going to let them take over the country on the basis of a razor- thin majority? (Just because they won the election doesn't mean they don't have to represent you, you know. There are no rebates on your taxes when you vote for the losing side.)
Look hard in your address books and Christmas card lists, and think of someone you know in Pennsylvania. Maybe a college buddy in your email address book.
Are you aware of what Arlen Specter (R-PA) went through this week? Specter is among a group of relatively moderate Republicans in the Senate (along with people like Chuck Hagel [Nebraska], Dick Lugar [Indiana], Olympia Snowe [Maine], and Lincoln Chaffee [Rhode Island]) who are going to be under greater pressure from the evermore vocal conservatives in their party. Some of that pressure could move them rightwards, but support could help keep them where they are. Specter is likely to be the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee next term, and knowing that, he made suggestions that the President needs to be temperate with the nominees that he sends to the Hill. With Rhenquist ailing and others on the Supreme Court getting up there, this is a hot issue. But the next day he assured the President that he would apply no litmus tests to nominees, meaning his committee would entertain a Supreme Court nominee committed to overturning Roe V Wade. (For more, see this post from Josh Marshall.)
What you can do is, is find your friends in Pennsylvania and
get them to write letters of "basic" support to Specter. As
constituents, he'll listen more to them than to you. Their
letters should mention that they knew he would likely take over
the Judiciary Committee, that was one of the reasons they voted
for him, greater voice for Pennsylvania, like his moderate
outlook, and so on. And mention that they're concerned about the
erosion of rights and freedoms established by previous Supreme
Court decisions: list a number (oh, search and seizure, guns,
whatever, but include a woman's right to choose). Really, these
moderate Republicans need some
support from their liberal constituents. They really do.
Want to take back the country? Or, at
least return it to something closer to what you thought it was?
Mike Everett Lane of Ishbadiddle has Ten Steps. Well worth a read, there's a lot of good
thinking in it.
Welcome to the Era of Mediocrity. In a further lowering of standards, Republicans are referring to Tuesday's results as a "mandate." Yet Bush only received 51% of the popular vote: a pretty slim margin to be declaring something which the dictionary defines as "A command or an authorization given by a political electorate to its representative." Almost as many said "no."
Republicans like the 51% because it's the first time since 1988, when Bush "Sr." was elected, that a single candidate attracted more than half the votes. But let's look at the historical differences, to see how the President's "mandate" stacks up in history; 75 years' worth of elections should provide a suitable context, no?
We can calculate a preference ratio: popular votes for the victor, vs. those for the loser, and multiply by 100. The multiplication by 100 is just because that's what is typically done in indexes like this, but basically a higher number represents broader preference between the top two candidates.
George W. Bush has no mandate: preference for him over his top contender in each of the last two elections is low, and you have to go all the way back to Jimmy Carter's 1976 victory over Gerald Ford to find another victory with preference as low as Bush's.
Further, remember that Bush is a "war president;" there is supposed to be a coalescing around the President in times of war. But not for Bush: compare his ratio of 106 to Nixon's 162 in 1972, or Roosevelt's 116 in 1944.
How does Bush fare as a re-elected incumbent? Poorly. Look at Presidents who were elected and then re-elected: Clinton in '96 (121), Reagan in '84 (145), Nixon in '72 (162), Eisenhower in '56 (138), or Roosevelt in any of his three reelections.
This is no mandate, gang: Bush is no more than an unpopular victor.
Jesus has a big tent, so before you
start to fear Christians because of the turnout which Bush and
Rove promoted, read
this guy. Yes, you can support the Democrats and Jesus at the
same time. Jesus is not a wedge issue. Though he may be a quick
refuge of a scoundrel.
How to move to Canada. Salon has a
primer. But look, true patriots don't abandon ship: When they
kick at your front door how you gonna come? With your hands on
your head, or on the trigger of your gun?
A day after declaring victory in an especially divisive election, President Bush said at a news conference that "I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals," adding that "I earned capital in this election, and I'm going to spend it."
Will there be attrition in Republican ranks? I wonder how long it will be before many Republicans wake up and no longer feel a member of their party, as if it's deserted them, and leave. (I wonder if this is wishful thinking on my part?) We already know that Bush doesn't represent the traditional "small government" ideal which many conservatives value, what with increased government employment and record deficits. Over at The New Republic's main blog, Noam Schreiber puts up some exit poll preferences which should alarm any party which wants to describe Democrats as being out of touch with the mainstream:
And with Cheney seeing the results as a mandate, there's bound to be rightward shift in the actions of the party's most powerful politicians. Today's Washington Post has an article by Charles Babington and Juliet Eilperin regarding the party pressures which moderate Republicans in congress will face: some of the Republicans who got elected to the Senate this year are very right wing, and their ascent to the upper chamber is another sign of the growing hard-right voice in the Republican party:
In the past, some have pointed to how the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats has decreased over time. According to Harris Interactive, it was 40% in 1984 (the middle of the Reagan years), and almost as high (38%) in 1996, the middle of the Clinton years: but in 2003 it had fallen to 33%. What isn't always talked about, though, is how the number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans has also declined: at the same link, you'll see that it was 28% in 2003 (not only less than Democrats, but down from its peak of 33% in 1990, under the first President Bush). In the last 13 years (from 1990 to 2003), Republicans have decreased by 15% and Democrats by 13%: both parties have lost membership.
Interestingly, there was a bit of a swell for Republicans in
the first couple years of the current Bush administration, but a
sudden decrease in 2003. So there is already momentum underway to
leave the Republican party, and I can't help but wonder if it
will increase with this anticipated rightward shift.
If you think for so much as a minute that Bush will be conciliatory in his second term, perhaps I could interest you in the Brooklyn Bridge? The margin of victory in 2000 was smaller, and look how conciliatory he was for the last four years. He's got a stronger Senate majority now, and the Democrats' new leader in the Senate will be less experienced at it than Daschle was. With a more comfortable Senate majority, Sandra Day O'Connor may retire (there were rumors she was looking forward to doing that in Term I, and I honestly don't know what held her back; I'm hypothesizing it was the Dems' proven ability to block Bush's radical-right judiciary appointments) and Rhenquist doesn't seem very healthy. They are already drafting the State of the Union address...
We have our work cut out for us, but take heart in that there
are many of us. We can learn a lot from the tribulations of all
the Civil Rights marchers of the 1960s: they went through so
much, and there were fewer of them. Be prepared.
I can't believe the head of red leaf
lettuce I used to make our salad tonight. Every single leaf
was incredibly limp, as if it had been sitting in our
refrigerator a good week. The odd thing is that I'd bought it
just today, early afternoon, from the grocery store around the
corner. I always trust their produce and have never felt a need
to feel the lettuce leaves, but this was just so —
wimpy. I felt taken advantage of. I hope this isn't
related to the election, I can't take four more years like this.
I don't know about you, but I'd feel
better about last night's result if Bush had achieved it without
so many lies and so much negative campaigning. If your political
philosophy is so superior, run on it. If your record is
good, run on it. If you have a genuine vision for the
future, run on it. But Bush lied and spun and twisted and
approved every ad paid for by his campaign.
Osama Bin Laden, game theory, and the State Department. In the hubbub of yesterday's elections, you may have missed the story that the remaining 13 minutes of last Friday's Osama Bin Laden tape was translated, its contents were released, and confirmed by the US State Department. (Friday's release only included five of the 18 minutes.) Now, remember, the State Department asked Al Jazeera not to air any of it, and Al Jazeera went ahead and selected five minutes it considered too newsworthy to not air. If you want to read it, you can find the full transcript here, but let's just point out that OBL talked about how one of his goals was to drive the US bankrupt, and that Bush was playing into his hand:
On the face of it, this is a slam against Bush. Now, let's think about this. Why would OBL say something like that, hoping it would get through? Would he really have thought that America would hear this message — coming from him, who killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens — and embrace it, saying, gee, y'know that OBL's got a lot on the ball, I think I'll vote for John Kerry. I have no way of knowing what he really expected. But I think he's smart enough to use reverse psychology; his thinking might have been along the lines that if he were to paint Bush the fool, that OBL-hate would be strong enough to rally voters around Bush, to the point that people would never even stop and think about the accuracy of what he was saying.
Some of us think that Bush has furthered the cause of terrorism — not intentionally, of course, but through his international blundering into Iraq. It's quite possible that OBL really wanted Bush to win. I can't think of another reason why he would have put this into a video tape for release just before our election: it's just too obvious a move to be interpreted as "pro Kerry campaign" statement.
What I'd love to know about, though, is the dynamics of the
State Department. They had the full tape at the time Al Jazeera
did, knew its contents, and argued against their airing any of
it. To what extent did they think about the election and the
impact of the tape? Did they discuss game theory and reverse
psychology, wondering about whether or not OBL was doing a head
fake to get Bush re-elected? I can't help but wonder: even though
the full transcript theoretically came out before the
election, it was so late on Monday it couldn't have had much
Naturally, I'm surprised that more voters share Bush's vision of the future than Kerry's. I never doubted that Bush would make it close, even when exit polls were being released showing leads for Kerry in states like Ohio and Florida — I not only didn't believe them, I didn't post them here even in a "for what it's worth" mindframe, and I emailed other bloggers asking them to not post the exit polls, knowing that the optimism might turn to hubris which might hurt turnout. And as for the polls conducted among early voters showing a strong preference for Kerry, I knew there was nothing you could do with those numbers, too, since no one has suggested that early voters are representative of the larger voter population.
But it's a bit shocking to find Bush the likely winner of yesterday's voting. I know Kerry hasn't conceded yet, with the provisional ballots outstanding, but I will be surprised if once they are counted Ohio goes into Kerry's column and puts him over the 270 total. First, it seems there's disagreement about how many provisional ballots exist; the Kerry campaign sent out an email saying there are about 250,000, but the Ohio Secretary of State thinks there are fewer than 150,000. Second, the AP vote totals right now show a difference in Ohio of about 135,000 votes; even if the Kerry estimate of provisional ballots is accurate, and all the votes are accepted (they may be challenged), Kerry would need about 75% of them. I don't know where those provisional ballots are clustered, but 75% is a tough bar. (I haven't found results on a precinct-by-precinct basis yet.)
My shock isn't based on popularity of a specific political philosophy which a Bush victory would imply, but the popularity of misperceptions of reality it implies. A survey of Bush and Kerry supporters taken in September/October showed that Bush supporters believe unproven assertions about Iraq (assertions which are unsupported by the facts, according to multiple government commissions), both regarding 9/11 and WMD's. I have no problem with a populace that figures its concerns of terror into its votes, but when misperceptions buttress a feeling that Bush will be superior than Kerry in the next four years, that's where I start to have a problem. If people supported Bush on terror, it's because they think he's handled it well so far, and that includes taking us into Iraq. Bush supporters not only still think Iraq was behind 9/11 (according to that survey, in spite of the findings of the 9/11 Commission), but also think Iraq actually had WMDs and that the US found them in Iraq. These are objective facts at this point, unlikely to be subverted in the future. (I can't help but wonder how much of the country read about the IAEA seals at al Qa Qaa, the unprotected munitions dump, and inferred that those seals meant there were WMDs at al Qa Qaa. I know I've seen that thought expressed on conservative blogs.)
Are people too lazy to engage the facts? If Bush wants to unite the country, he's going to have to correct these misperceptions among his supporters. It's one thing for the country to have philosophical differences, but we need to agree on what the facts are, or there is no hope of overcoming the polarization: each side will continue to look at the other in disbelief, and question everything else which comes afterwards, instead of considering the merits of what each side actually has to say.
Republicans are making noises about the challenge for the
President (and were last night), but this same challenge existed
in January, 2001, and Bush did not pursue a conciliatory path for
the last four years. We're willing to work for a united country,
but don't ask us to drink the Kool-Aid. We won't.
Don't spend time reading any blogs today until you've figured out when you're going to vote, have cleared your calendar to do so, and have persuaded all your friends to vote too.
I grew up in Florida, and a surprising number of the stories coming out of the sunshine state hit me with a special warmth. (For instance, every mention of Teresa Lapore, the designer of the butterfly ballot which was used in West Palm Beach in 2000, went to my high school, and graduated two years ahead of me... Although it wasn't a large school, with total enrollment just under a thousand, we never met so far as I can recall.) And I grew up in North Palm Beach, a West Palm Beach suburb just two towns north of Riviera Beach, a town with many black citizens, whose voters seem to be turning out "massively," "many vowing they will not be disenfranchised again."
Crank up the turnout! A report at Bloomberg is predicting record turnout (which you can help yourself, by making sure you vote, being kind to others in line, bringing munchies, reading material and so on).
For the next four years, no matter what happens today, we're going to have to learn to talk to each other more. Not just you visitors to this blog to other visitors to this blog, or intra-communication at Atrios or Little Green Footballs, but across the blogs and across the political spectrum.
Do you really want to know why the nation is so polarized? Because too many of us are too lazy to get out of our own neighborhoods and hear what others have to say. These are thoughts I've had for some time, provoked again by my being banned from commenting at a conservative blog where I think I was being polite and reasoned (you can judge for yourself, if you really want, it's here).
Blogs, of course, represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to honest discussion. We should all make it a point to read publications we don't typically think about. Salon.com recently tried something in its own pages where they hosted regular back-and-forths from Joe Conason and Andrew Sullivan; many paid subscribers rebelled over the idea of their subscription money subsidizing Andy, but they didn't realize they were really promoting their own diversity when they read what he had to say. Andy has now come out for Kerry, while maintaining conservative ideals. See what can happen when people are open?
We can't afford to stifle this country's progress by
segregating ideas. Let's learn to talk, OK? I encourage you to
visit other political blogs, both left and right, and contribute.
We've got a divided country, and we all need to talk to each
other. (Impolite dissent will continue to be squelched in my
comment boxes, and repeat offenders will be squelched even when
they're polite, but aside from that I welcome the dialog here.)
REAL good news on how the networks are
going to be handling the elections tomorrow night. A buncha
network VPs are on PBS Newshour right now, and the one from CBS
is talking transparency. And as an example, she says they won't
be "calling" states for specific candidates, they'll label it as
"estimates." I am so much more comforted by the caution
implied by "estimates," compared to what I thought they used to
do: "projecting" winners. Big diff, no?
Being John Malkovich is on Comedy
Central tonight at 7 PM Eastern. If you haven't seen it, try to:
it's a very imaginative comedy with John Cusack about what it
would be like to periodically inhabit Malkovich's body.
(Screenplay by Charlie Kaufmann, who "co-wrote" the screenplay
for Adaptation, another fine comedy.)
"We are standing just a few miles from Pearl Harbor, the site of a sudden attack ... Three years ago, America faced another sudden attack," Cheney said.
Yeah, well, one of the reasons 9/11 must have seemed sudden to the birdbrains in the White House is that they ignored the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief from the CIA - - the one entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the US." You know, the one which discussed al Qaeda cells in the US, their having cased US federal buildings in Manhattan (they're clustered in lower Manhattan, you may have heard, along with other buildings which it's reasonable to presume were also noticed by al Qaeda), and aircraft hijackings. (See pages 261-262 in your copy of the 9/11 Commission report. If you don't have a copy, you can download one for free here.)
How did they respond to the PDB? The report says, on page 260 and 262 (page 261 is filled with text of the PDB itself),
Note a couple things: the 9/11 commission doesn't evaluate what the President testified, and lets it lay there like a lox. As to whether or not the PDB could really be considered historical, I recommend you read it here, and see if you can find any comforting phrases which would suggest the threats are moldy and obsolete - - especially after you've read the part about years of planning and being undeterred by setbacks.
Do you have a sense of why it seemed so sudden? I'm not
suggesting it could have been stopped, but due diligence wasn't
even done. The President heard that there were 70 FBI
investigations going on, and he considered that "heartening,"
perhaps relieved that he could go back to playing Myst, or
whatever game he liked back then.
Don't feel like there's nothing you can do at this point. There's plenty you can do, because it's all going to come down to turn out. There are plenty of efforts underway to deter voters from showing up or staying in line, so be determined and think ahead. Here are some good ideas for what you can do today:
And also bring your cell phone, if you have one. Someone near
you in line may get worried about letting their boss know they'll
be late. Let them use your phone, it's better than losing their
vote (and don't ask them who they're voting for first).