Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
What Won't They Lie About?

When people tell lies this casually, over such trivial matters, can they be expected to tell the truth about anything?

Buzzflash points out that Laura Bush has now changed her story on the bit of idiotic doggerel that she previously said was written by her husband. Here's the quote, since it's likely to be scrubbed soon from the White House web site:

We delight in great works of literature and especially in the works of budding new artists. President Bush is a great leader and husband - but I bet you didn't know, he is also quite the poet. Upon returning home last night from my long trip, I found a lovely poem waiting for me. Normally, I wouldn't share something so personal, but since we're celebrating great writers, I can't resist.

Dear Laura,

Roses are red, violets are blue, oh my lump in the bed, how I've missed you.

Roses are redder, bluer am I, seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.

The dogs and the cat they miss you too, Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe.

The distance my dear has been such a barrier, next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.

I'm happy to be the inspiration behind this poem. Someone or something always inspires an artist and this is true for tonight's distinguished speakers....

But now Laura admits it was a fake.

Incidentally, that isn't the only lie Laura told in this speech. If you read down further, she also called Bob Schieffer a "talented and respected journalist".

Monday, December 29, 2003
Gloomy Howard

Atrios suggests that Repug spinners are now pushing a meme that Dean is a pessimist. In response, Nathan and Matthew (who is quite correct in noting that, in describing Bush's policies, 'optimistic' is a euphemism for 'delusional') have launched a google bomb to try to demonstrate that Dean is indeed an optimist.

I wonder if proof by google bomb is taught in the Harvard philosophy department?

Optimism - as opposed to, say, realism - is one quantity I certainly haven't found the Deanies to be lacking in my recent visits to Deanie Central, aka Daily Kos. This morning, Fox ran an incorrect report that Dean has raised over $30 million this quarter - a ridiculous amount given that Dean's Q3 total was under $15 million, and that was a record. Several (not all) Deanies immediately jumped in to say that it was perfectly reasonable, and Dean probably has raised that much.

If it is accurate it does not surprise me ...

Couple that with the huge amount after the Gore announcement, the steady pace the rest of the quarter, 30 million doesn't seem so far fetched at all.

IIRC Dean approximately doubled his reciepts each quarter - $3.5MM to $7.5MM to $15MM. And that was back when he was "unelectable." He really does need to be in the $25MM range for Q4 or Clark and Kerry will continue yapping at his heels.

I would say if less than $20 million for the Q, there is something up.
Bob in MN

Unfortunately, the Dean web site put up the bat just a few hours later - so far, Dean has yet to reach his Q3 total.

Between the idea that a google bomb is some kind of electoral strategy and the tendency to overestimate their own fundraising prowess by 110% or so, the Deanie belief that their campaign offers the best chance to beat Bush suddenly becomes more understandable. Not more plausible, however.

Note: Atrios cites Laura Ingraham in this Hardball as being the first use by the Mighty Wurlitzer of the 'pessimist' meme against Dean. I actually don't see what he's talking about anywhere in the transcript.

Clark Gaining in NH

The first ARG daily tracking poll for NH is out. Here's how it compares to a poll taken about two weeks back:

Dean 37 (45)
Kerry 19 (20)
Clark 12 (8)
Lieb 6 (6)
Gep 4 (3)
Edwa 3 (2)

Clark is rising; Kerry dropping. (The one point in this poll is meaningless, but a longer term trend clearly shows that Kerry's numbers are dropping, both for NH and nationally.) I still expect those lines to cross before the actual primary.

Dean's number's suggest that part of his post-Gore surge may have been a temporary bump that is now settling down. Some national numbers point in the same direction, but it's too early to know.

Dean supporters like to talk about a 30 point win in NH, or getting to over 50%, but remember: the favorite almost always does worse than expected here. I look for a strong 2nd by Clark, even an outside chance he could win.

Friday, December 26, 2003
What would Jesus do? Well, most likely not this. (Free registration required.)
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Kevin picked up an interesting report from the Guardian:

Whitehall insiders confirmed that Mr Blair's decision was partly out of anger over a US veto on his proposed visit to British troops in Iraq during the Christmas holiday.

....Mr Blair and Mr Bush have had at least three phone conversations during the past seven days which Whitehall officials described as "increasingly terse".

A Downing Street insider said: "Relations between the two are at the lowest ebb since they first met.

I suppose I can understand why Blair felt a need to get permission from the US for a visit - just as a matter of practicality, since we presumably control the airports and probably a lot of the sea traffic as well. But why wasn't this just a formality? What earthly reason could the US have for turning down a request by Blair to visit his own troops?

The only thing I can think of is that a full visit by Blair would have made Bush's sneak-in-n-out visit look chicken by comparison. Which it was. So it seems that, rather than allow a visit which might, for some people, make Bush look bad, we're now going to antagonize one of our two remaining aliies.

So much for the theory that Bush can actually put pressure on Sharon to make some concessions that will cool down the West Bank. He can't afford to at this point - the Israelis are the only ones left still talking to us!

Correction: The above item actually comes from the Mirror, which is a less reputable source than the Guardian, so it may be doubtful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Crunching the Electability Numbers

What evidence is there that Wesley Clark is really more electable than Howard Dean? I ran a meta-analysis of eight recent polls (2 Newsweek, 2 CNN, Nov NBC, Fox, Gallup, and Dec Quinnipac) to find out. In seven of the polls Clark outperforms Dean, in one they are tied.

In meta-analysis, a group of polls are added together into one larger poll. In the total poll Dean loses to Bush by a little over 13 points, 52.20% to 39.18. Clark loses by just under 10, 50.62 to 40.83. So Clark does 3.23% better than Dean. In this kind of analysis the MOE is quite small; in this case N=8003, MOE=1.12%.

This may seem like a small gap, but in a close election 3% can be critical. In 2000, 7 states with 60 electoral votes were decided by 3% or less, 5 by 1% or less.

Very attentive readers will notice that I have excluded the poll most favorable (relative to Clark) to Dean, the December NBC poll taken the day that Hussein was captured. The poll was excluded because the numbers were too inconsistent with both earlier and later polls. Hussein's capture naturally caused a Bush spike, but the main change wasn't an increase in Bush voters but a decrease in votes for both Dean and Clark. The 28% for Clark recorded in that poll has a z score of -3.75, which means it is equal to the average (40.875) minus 3.75 times the standard deviation (3.44). In statistics, any measurement which varies from the average by more than three times the standard deviation is considered to be untrustworthy. Had the poll been included, Clark's advantage would have been 2.79%

Still, 3% isn't a huge number a year before the election. But there's evidence that Clark's real edge is larger. I ran through some polls in swing states, to see how Clark and Dean compared in the crucial states. In most states, there was no difference, with one odd exception. Two polls taken in New Hampshire each showed Clark six points ahead of Dean in a contest with Bush.

That doesn't seem to make sense. Dean runs far ahead of Clark in New Hampshire. He polls there better than in any other state, possibly including Vermont. His favorable/unfavorable ratings, straying into negative territory in some national polls, have hit +50 in New Hampshire. Dean comes from next door and has spent far more time and money in New Hampshire than Clark has. Here, if anywhere, he should be able to show that he can do better against Bush than Clark. Yet the results are the opposite.

The cause is probably name recognition. Voters in NH have simply tuned in to the election in a way that voters elsewhere haven't. Even back in October, 86% and 73% of New Hampshire voters knew enough about Dean and Clark respectively to form an opinion. In the most recent national poll available, those numbers were 45% and 33%.

As the rest of the nation becomes more aware of the candidates - at least if the media deigns to discuss the candidates instead of crowning Dean - both Clark and Dean are likely to close the gap on Bush. But Dean is unlikely to close Clark's electability gap, in fact it is likely to grow wider. Dean, with the advantage of being local, and with better name recognition, still runs six points (the margin of 15 states and 167 electoral votes in 2000) behind Clark in the Granite State. It may well be twice that elsewhere.

Deaniacs believe that as their man rises in the polls that gap will disappear, or perhaps already has. But the truth is that Dean's recent rally has been entirely among Democrats. Between mid November and mid December, Dean went up an impressive 14 points in Newsweeks polls of Democratic candidates. But there was no movement in the electability gap; three consecutive polls showed Clark 1% ahead of Dean against Bush. In the Gallup poll, Dean moved from a tie with Clark to 15 points ahead, yet, over about the same period, started out 6 points behind Clark in electability and actually fell back to 7.

Will Dean's impressive grass roots campaign make up the difference? Hardly likely. In New Hampshire and Iowa, Dean has worked his grass roots to great effect, and with far more intensity than will be possible to apply to every swing state in the general election. Yet in New Hampshire, Clark's 6 point edge over Dean doesn't even make him the strongest candidate. Kerry runs 10 points ahead of Dean, sinking campaign and all, as does Lieberman. A recent Iowa poll didn't test Clark, but had Gephardt 5 points ahead of Dean, Edwards 1 point, and Kerry tied. Dean will probably win Iowa and New Hampshire, but in both states he is the weakest candidate against Bush.

Sunday, December 21, 2003
The Establishment

Deaniacs take a certain delight in the belief they are being persecuted. Look at the comment threads at Kos or the Dean blog or here and this definitely shows as a recurring theme. The evil Establishment is out to get the virtuous Deanies and will blush at no deed, however foul, to stop them. Sort of like LOTR, which is a comparison made directly by a commenter on the Dean blog.

And yet Trippi today on This Week couldn't even say what that evil establishment consists of. As Tapped pointed out, the anti-Dean effort has really amounted to very little. Some nasty ads which seem to have been financed by unions, a few press releases from the DNC, and the criticism of rival candidates. Not what you would call an all out war. And the claim is even less impressive when you note that the most important member of the party establishment to take an active role in this campaign has endorsed Dean.

Although the DC party is dominated by evil cockroaches who are terrified by the fear that the Dean legions will soon destroy their parasitic power, some of them seem to be heroic leaders who struggle boldly for truth, justice, and the American Way. Although these groups could not be more distinct morally, they often are remarkably difficult to tell apart. The only sure difference is that the latter have endorsed Dean and the former have either endorsed or are assumed to be supporting other candidates.

The Deanies are very forgiving revolutionaries: all it takes is an endorsement to transform a kulak exploiter into a proletarian hero. Even a self-criticism can be entirely dispensed with.

Those endorsements are coming in greater number lately, which I suspect is, ironically, a symptom of the very failings of the party leadership that Deanies and other activists are justly irate at. Some of those endorsers may sincerely believe that Dean is the best candidate, but I suspect that others think he is a probable disaster and no more want to see him nominated than I do. The problem is that politicians figure they can help along their own careers by endorsing Dean and drawing on those volunteers themselves at a time of future need. For a careerist politician not overly concerned with the welfare of the party, a Dean endorsement is looking like a good move about now.

Note: Patrick e-mailed to complain that I was ascribing the Deaniac attacks on the alleged Democratic establishment to him. That was never my intention; I was referring to commenters such as Adamsj, Kathryn C, and Barry who responded to the linked post. But what I wrote failed to express that clearly.

Another Dean Endorsement

Wondering whether the Republicans are still eager to run against Dean? Look at the two articles printed today by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Richard Scaife's paper - about the Dean and Clark campaigns.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003

There have been various commentators of late comparing Dean to McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis. In looking at the competition of Dean vs Clark, the historical analogy that strikes me goes back a bit further. (Although the prize for going farthest into Democratic history to find Dean analogies goes to Lilith Devlin.)

Bobby Kennedy is today remembered as a hero to most liberals. The RFK presidency that never was is probably the single greatest lost opportunity for American progressive politics of the past half century. But what fewer now remember is that, only hours before he died, most liberals were working to stop him.

A little history, since blog audiences tend to be young and even smart young people can have weird ideas about the history that they didn't live through. In 1967, Allard Lowenstein was shopping for a major Democrat to lead an anti-war challenge to incumbent Lyndon Johnson. The first man he went to, Bobby Kennedy, turned him down. So did several others until, finally, a liberal Senatior name Eugene McCarthy agreed. McCarthy ran and lost in New Hampshire. But Johnson was looking at a harsh reality. He had lost the party's southern wing on civil rights and now the liberal north on Vietnam. The size of the McCarthy vote in New Hampshire convinced him that he couldn't win and might well be the first candidate in nearly a century to lose his own party's renomination. Johnson dropped out of the race.

With Johnson out, Kennedy changed his mind and joined the race, as did Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Any of the three was, on paper, a good liberal choice. But Humphrey was tainted by his association with Johnson and the war and remained strictly the candidate of party insiders with limited popular support. The primaries (most states didn't have one in those days) were mainly McCarthy vs Kennedy.

McCarthy was a man with a sterling liberal past who was drifting to the right. (He would ultimately endorse Ronald Reagan.) He was a decent man whose hobbies including writing poetry, and anything but an effective politician. Had he ultimately won the nomination, he would have had little chance to defeat the driven and thoroughly political Richard Nixon.

Kennedy had a shaky past, including working on the Senate staff of Joseph McCarthy. But since becoming Attorney General, and especially since the murder of JFK, he had become deeply attached to the cause of the disenfranchised and impoverished. He was a superb politician whose brother was still beloved by most voters and he had real charisma of his own, as well as being a strong strategist who had made most of the key moves to win the White House for his brother. Kennedy lost Oregon, but won every other primary he ran in. After he won the critical California primary on the last night of his life, probably the only thing that could have kept him out of the presidency is what did.

Kennedy was, in 1968, probably the more liberal of the candidates, although that wasn't necessarily obvious from looking at their past records. It was obvious to anyone who looked closely that he was the more electable, and that there were few or no issues where the division between them was fundamental. But it was McCarthy whom most liberal activists backed, due primarily to the fact that he had opposed the war earlier and more directly than Kennedy or anyone else in the Democratic leadership. (My mother was one of those activists and, as an grade schooler, I went with her while she walked our home precinct for McCarthy.)

Howard Dean is not Gene McCarthy. The most conspicuous difference for this analogy is that, unlike the cerebral and aloof McCarthy, he is a talented candidate, not overly scrupulous, who will fight hard and skillfully. He's probably a worse man than McCarthy, but certainly a better politician, and he'll need all his talents to have any chance against Bush, who has more money and fewer moral limits than Richard Nixon.

Then again, Democrats got smart in 1968 and were preparing to nominate the right man. Although some say otherwise, this race is not yet over and Wesley Clark, the RFK analogue of 2004, may yet force liberal Democrats to experience the bitter taste of victory.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Nothing that the Liar in Chief does is honest and unstaged. Nothing. Ever.

We've heard that the morale of troops in Iraq is low. There are rumors that the troops are asking the same questions that some of us unpatriotic liberals here at home are asking. Are they fighting for their country or for Halliburton? Are the orders they execute based on the needs of the mission or Karl Rove's polling?

And yet when Bush appeared in front of the troops, there was no mistaking their enthusiastic welcome. So surely the rumors were exaggerated.

Except that it turns out the troops who were allowed in for Thanksgiving dinner and Bush's photo op were pre-screened.

The newspaper, quoting two officials with the Army's 1st Armored Division in an article last week, reported that "for security reasons, only those preselected got into the facility during Bush's visit. . . . The soldiers who dined while the president visited were selected by their chain of command, and were notified a short time before the visit."

For those soldiers not fortunate enough to belong to a unit considered fit to meet the miserable failure, it was different:

Now that we’re stationed at Baghdad International Airport almost 10 months later, my soldiers believe that several comforts have finally arrived for them, like the post exchange and dining facility. But imagine their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit.

The one thing that they find a requirement was denied to them. They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away? Why wasn’t there a special meal for President Bush and that unit in the new dance hall adjoining the 1st Armored Division’s band building? And all of this happened on Thanksgiving, the best meal of the year when soldiers get a taste of home cooking.

Were the local national servers also kept out of the building because of security reasons? Regardless, my soldiers chose to complain among themselves and eat MREs, even after the chow hall was reopened for “usual business” at 9 p.m. As a leader myself, I’d guess that other measures could have been taken to allow for proper security and still let the soldiers have their meal.

American servicemen, serving overseas in a combat zone, had MREs for Thanksgiving dinner so the Deserter in Chief could get his photo op just right. And the official reason is, just like when the Secet Service tramples on the First Amendment to keep domestic protesters safely away from the Royal Majesty, "security". What does that mean? Are there substantial numbers of soldiers now serving in Iraq who are considered threats to the President's security? Isn't it enough for the White House to deny our servicemen and servicewomen a Thanksgiving dinner without also slandering them?

And of course the SCLM isn't going to tell us about it. Even though the story appeared in the Post, a paper of record, I found no sign in Google that any other paper has picked the story up. It's been so obscure that even most lib bloggers haven't mentioned the story. I found out from Corrente and Maru caught it, along with a few others, including at least one arty Deaniac I've never heard of.

Sunday, December 14, 2003
In honor of his Javertesque pursuit and repeated humiliations of John Lott, Tim Lambert has been added to the blogroll. I have also belatedly gotten around to moving William Burton out of the dead blog category and back among the living.
Going Negative

I frankly think the response to the recent anti-Dean ads has been pretty overblown. The ads are certainly negative, but I really don't see them as dirty. There is no misstatement of facts, not even a carefully worded statement that is technically true but misleading. The most controversial ad says that Dean has no foreign policy experience at all and is likely not the best candidate to lead a war against terrorists - and probably not the best to match against George Bush, who most Americans incorrectly believe has been effective at fighting terrorism. All true.

What is untrue are the charges that the ad is "linking Howard Dean to Osama bin Laden", or that it questions "Howard Dean’s commitment to defending America". It simply doesn't say anything of the sort.

What I do object to is these ads being run in secret, with no explanation of who's behind them. This group apparently doesn't have to list its funders until February. Now it takes time to do a comprehensive list of donors, at least if you have a large number. But organizations like this, that don't have large numbers of financial supporters, should tell the public who they are. A 527 or similar group running an ad campaign should be required to reveal all major funding sources, say those who have donated at least 4% of the money, within 24 hours of the first ad running.

I agree with Avedon and Atrios that the other candidates, including Clark, blew the moment at the beginning of the debate when Koppel asked them to raise their hands if they thought Dean could win. They may have just been startled by Koppel's boorish behavior and the ridiculous question, treating them like a High School class asked to raise their hands if they knew the answer, but that ultimately doesn't alter the fact that they blew it. Dean does have a shot, albeit not a very good one, at winning, and party leaders shouldn't be saying otherwise.

There is little chance that Bush will score a landslide against Dean. I set out today to compute how many reasonably solid electoral votes Dean would have against Bush. Using the very useful data on Dave Liep's election history site and the slick electoral map on the Edwards web site, I gave Dean the votes of every state that Gore carried by at least 10% in 2000. (CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI.) Two states that Gore carried by a large margin, but below 10% were VT and ME, both easy wins for Dean. I added in Michigan, close in 2000 largely because Arab voters broke for Bush, a mistake they won't make again. And MN and WA were both close largely because of Nader. (I think he'll likely run again, but if there's one thing we know about Dean, it's that he can win the votes of affluent, well-educated white liberals, the voters who went for Nader. I don't see Nader doing Dean a lot of damage.) I think they're both good matches for Dean, so I gave him those too. That's 15 states and DC with a total of 210 electoral votes where Dean will be a favorite.

The count of rock solid Bush votes is lower (I count 196), but for almost all of the remaining votes I think Bush would be favored. In spite of the fantasies of some Deaniacs, Dean is not popular in the South, so FL is probably lost. OH is tough for any Democrat and will be quite tough for Dean. And adding in NH where, despite all his campaigning and his strong lead in the primary, Dean polls very badly against Bush in a two way race, and Bush is already up to 247. Dean would have to pull 60 of the remaining 81 votes to win, and he would be the favorite for very few of them.

Not a Bush landslide, but well short of a Dean victory. And whether or not there is a landslide in 2004 hardly matters. We already know that this President acts like he won a landslide even after stealing the election.

Avedon and some others are trying to start up a sort of counter-meme that Bush is unelectable. It's a nice idea, but we have to face the reality that it isn't true. It is certainly true that on the scale of bad decisions hiring George Bush as a president ranks several steps above hiring Michael Jackson as a babysitter. I know this, so do Avedon, Patrick , Atrios, and the others saying that Bush is unelectable. But we had better understand that in the real world outside our little circle, most Americans like George Bush. 59% say he "is honest and trustworthy". 50% say he "is a person you admire". And 64% approve of what he is doing to fight terrorism. Bush can win and unless we put up a strong candidate and an effective campaign, he very probably will.

It's tempting to look at Bush's evident lack of curiosity and failed record in office and assume he'll be equally incompetent in the campaign. But Bush and his circle are bad at governing for the same reason that Tiger Woods is probably lousy at chess - it isn't their interest. They care about power, they know politics is a necessary skill to gain that power, and they are very good at it. They use it to reward their friends and punish their enemies, something this administration has probably done more effectively than any in history. By the standards of those of us who see government as a tool to solve societal problems they look much more like failures than they really are. This is particularly so since, for political reasons, they pay lip service to those standards themselves. But they don't believe a word of it. The Bush administration hasn't failed at improving the economy, they simply never tried. To this day, Bush has never even proposed a serious policy for job creation, or energy, or health care. He's only collected proposals to reward his campaign contributors out of public funds and labeled the results as an 'Energy Bill' or 'Growth Policy' or 'Medicare Drug Benefit'.

Bush hasn't failed at solving the country's problems because he hasn't tried. He has tried to be seen as somebody who has proposed solutions for the problems that don't interest him, and he has succeeded. What he cares about, he does well, much better than we are generally willing to admit. And he cares very much about winning the election.

The Ace of Spades

The arrest today of Saddam Hussein gives a morale boost for the US efforts in Iraq and for Bush politically. But in the long run, I'm skeptical about a major impact in either area. Saddam hasn't been organizing the resistance, and I doubt that much of it has been inspired by him. There was already word this morning of another attack in Baghdad.

There was something strange about seeing a bearded and grizzled Hussein opening wide for an oral exam. Stripped of lackeys and power, the greatest living mass murderer looked banal and insignificant - like a bum actually. The madmen who terrify and tyrannize the world like to imagine they're a breed apart, surround themselves with trappings to look the role, but they are nothing at all except what they trick or intimidate us into seeing in them.

Friday, December 12, 2003
Prime Time Politics

Somebody, probably Calpundit, noted that the ending to last season's 24 seemed strikingly naive in the current climate. In last year's story line, it was actually taken as a given that for the US to invade a country on the basis of false intelligence and no real provocation was unacceptable, and that agents would risk their lives and Presidents their authority to prevent it.

Such sentimentality seems absent so far in this season. The hero of the story, Jack Bauer, is now a junkie. President David Palmer, the moral heart of the series, has authorized the payment of a bribe, then rescinded at the last moment. Last week, a CTU agent who turned out to be a traitor (it is apparently firm policy at CTU to assign all key investigations to traitors) was being interrogated by an agent when a third man entered the room. From the dialog it was clear that the third man was known to both agents and worked for CTU as a professional torturer.

For 24, American values now seem to mean much the same as they mean on The Practice, where Nathan Newman recently noted a lawyer speaking these lines:

You're a foreigner; take your hand off the girl or I'll get you declared a person of interest, which means you'll be locked up forever without so much as a trial. Don't think I kid you. This is the United States of America.

So where has morality fled to this season? Apparently to The West Wing. Not the liberals working for President Bartlett, who in the season opener responded to the kidnapping of Bartlett's daughter mainly by worrying that it could be an opportunity for the Republicans to push through their legislative agenda, but to the Republicans, who screamed bloody murder about the excessive size of the federal budget and actually meant it. Republicans who want to actually cut the budget instead of talking about it? That plot line is so implausible it wouldn't play on Alias .

A Mysterious Ailment

This Matthew Yglesias item misses some fairly obvious points about offshoring call centers. It is simply ridiculous to assert, as Matthew seems to, that racism is the only reason a customer might prefer to deal with American call centers. Millions of people prefer for perfectly good reasons to patronize companies that provide American jobs. As Matthew's own article shows, the offshoring companies understand this and go to great lengths to deceive customers into believing they are calling an American facility.

Quite apart from the perfectly legitimate concern for preserving American jobs, there is an even stronger reason for customers to be nervous about offshoring service calls. In many cases, sensitive financial and medical data is being sent to these facilities, and there is little or no protection for the customer's privacy, since the people and companies handling this data are not bound by American laws.

Combined with Matthew's insistence that Howard Dean has already won the Democratic nomination, I'm getting concerned over whether Matthew's move inside the Beltway is dulling his impressive analytical skills. Is Matthew in danger of becoming an assimilated Beltway pundit, matching quips on MSNBC with Ceci Connolly to see who can more loudly praise how manly George Bush looks in a flight suit?

Whatever has gotten to Matthew also seems to be affecting Michael Kinsley, who for years has been probably the best political columnist and editor in the country. Suddenly, he writes drivel like this:

The only presidential candidate with a truly coherent position on President Bush's Iraq policy is President Bush. He supported it before the war started, he supports it now and he thinks or pretends to think it's working well.

You remember Bush's clear and coherent position on the war. We had to invade Iraq to avenge 9/11 prevent Hussein from giving MWD to terrorists prevent Hussein from launching an MWD attack against Israel launch a 1989-like tidal wave of democracy throughout the entire Middle East democratize Iraq prevent Russia and Germany from getting Iraqi contracts. You can't ask for more consistency than that.

Since I believe Kinsley is still living in Redmond, my earlier theory that something in the DC water was killing Matthew's brain cells probably won't work. Perhaps the only sure way to solve this mysterious epidemic of silly punditry is to bring in the world's leading specialist on mental ailments of Democrats, the great Dr Charles Krauthammer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Spending Limits

Add to the list of things the Dean campaign has done well the slick misdirect on the decision to drop out of public financing. At the time Dean nade the decision, it was described as a way to avoid being stuck without responses to Bush ad campaigns between the end of the primaries and the Republican convention. Almost everybody, including myself, bought the story.

In reality, it's increasingly clear that the negative ad problem isn't much of a problem because the progressive 527s can respond for the nominee. It's even more clear that the real point of opting out was to flood money into early states that his rivals wouldn't be able to match.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Chris Mooney (via Calpundit) reports on the Bush attack on scientific integrity in research conducted by federal agencies. You especially have to admire the bold Orwellian style of this disclaimer Chris notes that results "were not subjected to OSTP's Information Quality Act Guidelines". What that means, translated into English, is that this is actual science, and therefore not accepted as valid by the federal government until it has been reviewed by corporate lobbyists.
Monday, December 08, 2003

It now seems to be a consensus in the conventional wisdom that Dean is inevitable. He will win in Iowa and New Hampshire and never look back. It might be worth noting that this is the collective insight of pretty much the same people who figured that Clinton would be forced to resign, that Bradley would give Gore a real race, that Bush couldn't recover from losing New Hampshire, that Bush was a moderate, and many more equally profound insights. The latest from the usual gang of idiots is the usual bit of idiocy.

Dean is by no means a certain winner in Iowa, and even New Hampshire is still a possible source of grief. There are few more perilous roles in politics than heavy favorite in the New Hampshire primary. They almost always do worse than expected and often lose outright.

John Kerry is the most recent to have that title, only to watch his campaign slowly disintegrate.

Dean has not yet emerged as a clear first in the polls, still leading Clark by less than the MOE. A candidate who is so widely seen as a sure winner, and generally has been for at least a month, really should be opening a big gap, but Dean's gap over Clark in the most recent national poll is 0, with two more hopefuls inside the MOE. Clark is in a solid second place in polls, fundraising, and grass roots support. He is now running paid ads in several of the Feb 2 states, something only he and Dean can afford. The final quarter fundraising numbers, which will be published just before Iowa, should establish that the race is largely between him and Dean. There is even a chance that Clark could beat Dean; the Dean campaign seems to be preparing for an announcement that its totals will be down from the $14.5 million of last quarter and Clark is expected to pull in over $12 million.

Dean and Clark combined pull the support of only about 30% of Democrats nationally; the key to a Dean-Clark race will be which is in a better position to draw support from the 70% either undeclared or supporting other candidates. Here Clark seems to have several edges. The serious candidates most likely to fold first are currently Kerry and Edwards. Kerry based his campaign in substantial part on his status as the only combat veteran in the race; Edwards emphasized the importance of nominating a southerner. Both men's support seems likely to flow to Clark. If Kerry does drop out immediately after New Hampshire, his supporters will probably give Clark a critical boost of a few points in the Feb 2 states. Lieberman is likely to come next, and Clark should do far better with Lieberman voters than Dean.

Another indication is that Clark shows better favorable/unfavorable ratios than Dean. The most recent poll that included both, about a month ago, had Dean with just over half favorable from those with an opinion at 26% - 24%. Clark had a big favorable edge at 34% - 20%.

Clark can and almost certainly will win in a two way race with Dean. A continued large field after Feb 2 will give Dean more primary wins, but fewer delegates. It seems likely to lead no candidate reaching the convention with a majority or near majority. If Dean and Clark are one-two, they might both offer the Vice Presidency to the number three man, probably Gephardt. Gephardt, being no fool, will take Clark's offer. A Clark/Gephardt ticket is highly electable - the 2000 blue states and the candidates' home states add up to 278 electoral votes; the ticket would also be competitive in pretty much all the swing states.

Sunday, December 07, 2003
George Will Makes It Up

George Will, on ABC's 'This Week':

Nowhere in this [Geneva] accord does it affirn the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

From the actual text:

Affirming that this agreement marks the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood and the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, without prejudice to the equal rights of the Parties' respective citizens;...

[T]his Agreement marks the historic reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis, and paves the way to reconciliation between the Arab World and Israel and the establishment of normal, peaceful relations between the Arab states and Israel in accordance with the relevant clauses of the Beirut Arab League Resolution of March 28, 2002...

For the record, I should note that Will was challenged on this.

Saturday, December 06, 2003
Glenn has some unusually dense remarks on the Plame affair. Ted Barlow gives expert instruction in the art of demolition by metaphor.
Thursday, December 04, 2003

Something Fowl

I think that the bloggers who complain that Bush posed with a phony bird in this photo op are being a bit harsh. After all, anybody who looks at the above image and can't find a real turkey in the picture isn't trying very hard.
As I've said before, the Dean campaign is a great campaign with an average candidate. On the plus side, this is sheer genius.

In a letter to Dean supporters Tuesday, Joe Trippi called on the grassroots to show the power of the movement you've built by helping to re-elect Leonard Boswell, the lone Democrat in Iowa's Congressional delegation and a top target of Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee.

The Boswell campaign informs us that in less than two days 1,374 Dean supporters have raised more than $51,557 for their campaign, with an average contribution of $38. Keep spreading the word that the movement you have built plans to take back the Congress when we elect Howard Dean next year.

It works in so many ways. It makes Dean look great to Democrats in Iowa and elsewhere. It's a powerful inducement to elected officials to endorse Dean in the hope that they will get some of this largesse. And it's an impressive display of grass roots support.

It's a brilliant idea and Dean should follow up on it. Maybe even have some sort of "Democrat of the Week" setup where he can send money to key congressional and state candidates. Clark, who has stolen pages from Dean's playbook before, might run with this too. I'd love to see the Clark and Dean camps competing to see who could raise the most money for good local candidates in tough races.

Less impressive is Dean's howler from Hardball.

Also, we have less-fewer levers much the key, I believe, to Iran is pressure through the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is supplying much of the equipment that Iran, I believe, most likely is using to set itself along the path of developing nuclear weapons. We need to use that leverage with the Soviet Union and it may require us to buying the equipment the Soviet Union was ultimately going to sell to Iran to prevent Iran from them developing nuclear weapons.

I hate to admit it (I rarely have to) but Andrew Sullivan is completely right about this. If Bush had said, not once but three times, that the US needed to take a firmer stance towards the Soviet Union, we'd all be ROTFL. You'd hear about nothing else on every lefty blog for a week. And if Dean says something like this as the nominee, Leno and Letterman will run a weeks worth of jokes about Dean's plans to declare war on the Third Reich and the Klingon Empire. With the country far more focused on foreign policy than in recent elections, I really don't feel comfortable running a candidate who makes blunders like this.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Some recent search engine visitors have been looking for celebrity insight. I'm afraid I can't help the person who wants to see Dave Szott nude. But for the fellow who apparently was wondering if Nina Hartley is Jewish, you've come to the right place.

Hartley is in fact Jewish on her mother's side, but not by religion. Her mother was raised secular and her father Protestant; during her childhood both converted to Zen and have been monks for many years now.

Coming to Clark

This essay by Andrew Sabl about how he came to support Wesley Clark after being initially opposed has drawn a substantial amount of deserved blogosphere attention. Another good one that most readers probably haven't seen was recently posted on DU.

I am going to just say it now and get it over with: Wesley Clark may just turn out to be the Democrats’ answer to Ronald Reagan when it comes to popularity with the American People. For years, Reagan drove Democrats and leftists nuts with an affability and sociability that could charm even his greatest detractors.

Of my many thoughts and reflections after this week’s Iowa Debate between the Democratic Presidential Candidates, I was left with a single, yet overriding impression after the dust had settled: General Kanne Wesley Clark has that special quality that many of us on the left have ridiculed for years: Charisma....

Monday night, Wesley Clark demonstrated on a stage in De Moines that he wields one of the most lethal talents any politician can ever hope for which is the ability to break down and communicate complex and even unpopular positions in a straightforward and engaging manner. And there is a refreshing, but subverting quality when Clark speaks; he does not sound like a politician and he doesn’t talk down to people.

Clark speaks in easy to understand sentences and he does so with power. In just seconds, Clark turns the current conventional wisdom that the Bush Administration has made America secure upside down with an unassailable assertion that the White House’s “sideshow” in Iraq diverted the West from rounding up Osama bin Laden thereby making the U.S. less secure. Clark effortlessly recasts the narrow culturally polarizing subject of gay and lesbian unions into a far larger context of America’s sense of fairness and tolerance, thereby appealing to the better nature of our citizenry.

I didn't actually see the last debate, but a few people who don't support Clark have mentioned to me how strong he was. Clark is already much better at campaigning than he was when he stumbled in September just after entering the race.

A really superior piece comes from Artemisia, a blogger in the Clark Community Network and former Kucinich backer.

So it was only after eliminating every other conceivable candidate, that I began to look at THE GENERAL. And much to my surprise, every single preconceived notion I had about a career military candidate for President was shattered. I was suspicious that Clark would run a top-down operation, an authoritarian campaign in which higher ups (large donors and campaign and party professionals) devised campaign strategy and assigned tasks to underlings. Frankly, I've seen a lot of campaigns run this way and so of course a General would run his campaign this way. Wrong! I find myself surprised at how grass roots the Clark campaign really is, starting with its origins as an internet-based draft movement.

Frankly, I expected THE GENERAL to be more like Lieberman, more supportive of the pre-emptive punishment doctrine and more conservative on social issues like abortion and gay and lesbian rights. Wrong again! Instead I find that Clark is much more open minded, liberal and progressive than I ever expected!...

So here I am, with my progressive, radical, lesbian, eco-feminist politics, supporting a 4-star General for President. And doing so not just because he can win and anyone is better than Bush. But supporting him because, surprise surprise, he has good progressive policy positions, the skill sets and experience necessary to lead a large administrative bureaucracy, and a very personal, very tangible, very real respect for all people, regardless of status, wealth, race, education, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin.

He doesn't just talk the talk of progressive values. He holds those values dear. They are the values that define his sense of patriotism.

And yeah, he's electable. ...

But I find myself supporting Clark not just because he's electable, but because he's an electable candidate that I actually believe in. I don't have to compromise in order to support Wesley Clark. All I had to do was get over my own pre-conceived notions about military men.

Electability was what originally drew me to Clark. I have felt from the beginning that beating Bush was absolutely vital. I was and am willing to accept a lot of compromises to accomplish that goal, and make no apologies for it. But the more I learn about Clark, the more I find that backing him doesn't require compromises on much of anything. Clark is a solid progressive on issues, more liberal than Clinton and at least as good as Dean.

Clark's positions on the environment, for instance, are absolutely solid. Dean's record is acceptable, but, when you consider the fact that his state is arguably the greenest in the country, it doesn't earn any prizes. Fact: in all his races for Governor, Dean never gained the endorsement of the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club.

In character as well, Clark is someone to support with pride. And I don't mean because he seems to be capable, unlike a certain Arkansas Rhodes Scholar, of keeping his dick in his pants. I'm talking about an entire lifetime spent in service to the country, with personal danger, hard work, constant transfers, and low pay. Going over a cliff under fire in Bosnia to rescue his comrades - and not bothering to mention what he did in his autobiography. But even more than that, it's how he treats people. That's the real test, the one that can't be faked.

On Nov. 9, 1999, Massa looked up from his desk to find Clark standing there. Clark told Massa that his wife had called worried about his health.

Clark had arranged another doctor's appointment for Massa, and when Massa protested, Clark gave him the only direct order Massa recalls receiving in four years. "I think we have lost the fundamental relationship between a four-star general and a Navy commander," Clark told him. "You will go to the doctor."

The doctor diagnosed Massa, who had never smoked, with advanced lung cancer and gave him four months to live. Clark cut through red tape to get Massa and his family back to the United States for treatment.

Just before Massa left, Clark convened the staff and tearfully awarded Massa the Legion of Merit medal for his work. Clark had received the same medal in the 1970s when he was a speech writer for the then-supreme allied commander....

Unknown to Massa, Clark had a soldier tracking Massa's surgery. As soon as Massa came to in recovery, staff told him he had a call. It was Clark. At the time, he was overseeing the bombing of Kosovo.

Massa retired about three years ago; he waited so that the last thing he did in uniform was attend Clark's retirement. Now he's living in a hotel in Manchester, trying to avoid a fast-food diet and bringing his family in from New York when he can.

He talks wistfully about the job he lost to get here. Massa was in Washington overseeing part of the Navy budget as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. His departure was reported by the press and has since become fodder for online political sites.

But he doesn't regret where it got him. On the trail, Massa is helping get Clark the veteran vote - and whatever else needs doing.

From another former aide:

Of the three SACEURs I served, General Clark was surely the most influential and memorable. General Clark invited all around him to join him on a journey. He inspired in me a sense of purpose that, until the birth of my daughter, was unmatched my entire life. It is most difficult to serve in an organization the size of the US Army and feel that what you did that day made of difference in someone's life. General Clark made sure that those around him did.

Incidentally, Damascus seems to be the place to go to this political season. The campaign blog now has a whole page of people telling why they decided to support Clark.

Monday, December 01, 2003
Hot Links

I wasn't the only one who wasted an hour of my life watching yesterday's Meet The Press. Roger Ailes was equally impressed.

Patrick Hayden, who has linked to my own Taibbi post, also sent me to this terrific blast from Jim Henley.