Sunday, October 31, 2004

Prediction time
I was going to try to avoid this, but, is Atrios is brave enough, I suppose all of us wannabe Atrioses should too. So here is my prediction for the election. Sadly, it's essentially the same as Atrios's.

I'll call it for Kerry 51-48 on the popular vote and 284-254 for the Electoral College. In all of the possible scenarios I've tried out 284 is the most common number I get for a Kerry victory.

Like Atrios, the particular scenario I favor is for Kerry to get the Gore states plus New Hampshire and Ohio. As far as switches from the 2000 count, I think New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Iowa are the most at risk for our side (in that order). Kerry can lose Wisconsin or the other two and still win. He cannot lose Wisconsin and either of the others and win.

For Bush, I think Florida, Colorado, and Nevada are the most at risk.

I also think it's more likely that a big shift would favor Kerry than that one would favor Bush. I wouldn't be particularly surprised if Kerry hit 310 in the EC, but I would be surprised if Bush went over 290.

So much for election night; what about the lawsuits and recounts?

I suspect that many of the Republican dirty tricks and rumors of Democratic dirty tricks spread by the mighty Wurlitzer are less aimed at securing an election night victory than in compromising confidence in the election and laying the groundwork for the legal challenges. More simply put, I think Rove is intentionally sowing confusion. It fits with Rove's history. It fits with the new Republican demotion of elections to merely one of many possible paths to power.

Unless Kerry wins by an overwhelming majority, Rove will try to sue his employer's way back into the White House. Naturally, Florida is the most likely state for lawsuits. It would be best for Kerry if he managed a strong Electoral College win that didn't require Florida. But, Florida isn't the only state for lawsuits. I expect major suits in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and lesser lawsuits in a dozen other states.

Counter-lawsuits can win the election, but the best thing for the future of our democracy and the cause of popular democracy in the world, is for Kerry to win a large and unambiguous victory. The key to that is in the get out the vote effort in the swing states.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Best scandal name ever
Is al Qaqaa the best name for a scandal ever, or what? It makes me want to go back into teaching history just so I can pronounce from the lecturn, "Bush appeared to be sailing toward a sure reelection until al Qaqaa hit the fan." This scandal will bring light and joy to the dreary lives of junior high boys well into the new century.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

It's part of the job description
Do all conservative bloggers sound like comic book villans?
If the Kerry does win, the mainstream media will have gotten him elected with their biased coverage and they will pay for it more than they could imagine. And it will be the blogosphere and you, our supporters, who will make them pay. Our strength will grow incremently with a Kerry victory in terms of influence and even economic power. And both will be at the expense of the mainstream media. Yes, we too have "plans."

I picture the writer wearing a uniform of his own design, a monocle, and rubbing his black gloved hands together as he rants. The gloves hide the fact that he has a mechanical hand, a result of the horrible accident that cost the election as prom king and started him on his career as a supervillan.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Is Bush campaigning for Kerry?
Does George Bush ever listen to the noise that comes out of the front of his head? Because if he did, I'm sure he would be sure find some of it quite alarming. For example:
A President must be consistent. After repeatedly calling Iraq the wrong war and a diversion, Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place full of dangerous weapons. The Senator used to know that, even though he seems to have forgotten it over the course of this campaign. But, after all, that's why we went into Iraq. Iraq was a dangerous place, run by a dangerous tyrant who hated America and who had a lot of weapons. We've seized or destroyed more than 400,000 tons of munitions, including explosives, at more than thousands of sites. And we're continuing to round up the weapons almost every day.

I want to remind the American people, if Senator Kerry had his way, we would still be taking our global test.

Saddam Hussein would still be in power.

He would control all those weapons and explosives and could have shared them with our terrorist enemies.

But thanks to prompt action by the Bush administration, the terrorists don't have to share the explosives. They get to have all of them. And why, exactly, is this supposed to reassure us or make us what to vote for you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Things that go boom
Traditionally, when a law enforcement agency seizes a large amount of drugs they use a curious formula to report the "street value" of the seizure. They figure out the price of the smallest retail unit at the lowest level of distribution, convert the seizure into a number of that unit, and multiply up. This way the drugs are given the maximum number of dilutions and price mark-ups. The "street value" is thus inflated many times over the real amount that the drugs were likely to have earned for the dealers. This is just good spin for the agencies. They maximize their victories and minimize their defeats. We all do this to some extent.

I offer that as a cautionary tale because I'm about to engage in that kind of spin. Call it truth in advertising.

Both sides are spinning the missing al Qaqaa explosives story today. The other side is saying lots of explosives and munitions were lost in the chaos of the fall of Iraq. No one is even sure when this exact stockpile went missing. I'm not sure why this is supposed to be reassuring to us or why it should exonerate the administration of criminal incompetence. This was not a secret supply dump. Al Qaqaa had been under international surveillance for twelve years. Couldn't we have managed some aerial or satellite surveillance for three more weeks? Why wasn't it secured? Again, wasn't the stated purpose of the war, keeping big weapons out of the hands of bad people? Why does Scott McClellan think telling us they lost track of many times this much explosives will make us sleep better or want to vote for George?

Our side is using arguments that might sound to some as suspiciously similar to the "street value" presentation. We have been trying to divide 380 tons of high explosives into units that the average American can grasp. I'm going to say that this kind of rhetoric is justified in this case, because most of us don't have much knowledge of explosives beyond fireworks and those kitchen chemistry experiments we did in junior high and still deny. TV and movies are no help because bombs ther are always either unecessarily huge, for dramatic effect, or ridiculously tiny.

The two best comparisons I've seen are to other well-known terrorist attacks. Pan Am 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland using one pound of this type explosive. Three quarters of a million pounds are missing from al Qaqaa. That's enough to blow up a 747 every hour of every day for the next 87 years.

Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City using a truck load of a much weaker home-made explosive. With the al Qaqaa explosives he could have fit enough to commit the same crime into the back of a Cooper Mini. Three quarters of a million pounds is enough to blow up the Murrah Federal Building 5000 times.

So far the most encouraging sign I can see is that the Iraqi insurgents are not using the explosives very efficiently. That no comfort at all to the families of those who have killed with the stuff. And we have no reason to believe they won't get better at using it.

Personally, I'm inclined to stock up on ammunition and dried beans and retreat to the old family cabin in the roadless Alaskan wilderness for the next decade.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I was Atriosed
I'm sure that when Duncan Black was a wee child he never suspected that some day he would become a verb. Yet, now he is. I'm happy to say that Thursday, I was Atriosed. In one day I had more traffic than in my previous best month. This is what it looks like.

Thanks to my Atriosing, Saturday, while my wife and I were out celebrating her birthday, archy recieved its 20,000th hit. I don't know who you were, but I thank you for visiting us. Tell your friends and come again.

P S - The president is an idiot, the republic is in danger, vote, get your friends to vote, and don't give up the fight.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Made you look
I hate the media when they give credence to ideas that are intentionally misleading and just plain wrong. In the name of the current style of false objectivity, too many news and information outlets treat politically motivated academic "contraversies" as real and give them free publicity. The news media usually know better than to provide a platform for Holocaust deniers, but often fail to apply the same standard to greenhouse skeptics and creationists. By covering these false controversies, they give unwitting support to the political agendas of the anti-science groups.

I was heartbroken to open my mail today and see the cover of the new National Geographic and read "Was Darwin Wrong?" "No!" I cried, frigtening the cats, "The bastards got to National Geographic!"

With a sinking heart, I flipped to the inside and found the answer to their question in quarter-page tall capital letters, "NO," and in only slightly smaller print, "The evidence for evolution is overwhelming." This is followed by a good article by David Quammen. I feel much better now.
More fraud in Florida
I blame it on civic pride. Now that Mexico and the Central American republics have cleaned up their acts, Florida holds the title for the most corrupt and least credible elections on the continent. But their position is not undisputed. States like Ohio, Colorado, and Neveda are vying for the title this year. They have a long way to go before any of them will will present a serious challenge to Florida. Proud Floridians are not resting on the laurels of 2000. They are working hard to make sure that they hold on to their dishonorable position as number one.
Pasco elections officials have a warning for the county's absentee voters: Don't give your ballot to a stranger claiming to be from the elections office.

They're not who they say they are.

"The people who are soliciting your ballots in this manner are not elections officials," Pasco Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning warned Thursday.


The deception is the latest sign of the lengths to which some partisans appear ready to go in this election. Elections officials worry there will be many more complaints of overly aggressive behavior in attempts to affect the outcome of the presidential race.


Manatee Elections Supervisor Sweat said the people collecting the ballots appeared to know exactly who had absentee ballots. It is possible for political parties, candidates and political groups to get lists of voters who request the absentee ballots.

Sweat said it appeared the collections were occurring in neighborhoods full of low-income, minority and elderly residents.

Notice how the reporter is careful to attribute the criminal actions only to "some partisans"? I wonder who would do such a dastardly thing? Let's see, which "political parties, candidates and political groups" could have an interest in seeing that "low-income, minority and elderly residents" (who are expected to overwhelmingly vote Democratic this year) don't have their votes counted? Boy, that's a stumper. Maybe Governor Jeb has an idea who might do such a thing.
Sometimes the conspiracy is real
This election is going to be a mess. Just get used to the idea. We've all done our best to categorize the mess. Attempts to suppress registration. Late mailing of absentee ballots. Dirty tricks involving the date and location of voting. Attempts to disenfranchise minority voters. Impossible to meet standards for registration, absentee voting, and provisional voting. Democratic candidates left off the ballot. And so on. And so on. Some of this is even happening outside Florida.* If you're not a conspiracy nut by now, you're not paying attention.

I can't prove that the chaos is being intentionally stirred up for the sole purpose of creating openings for lawsuits. I suspect some, at least, is. But I can guarantee that opportunities for lawsuits will be ruthlessly exploited by Karl and the RNC (despite the sound, that is not the name of a beloved Philadelphia doo wop group). Wednesday morning after the election, they will be holding press conferences in front of half the state capitals in the country to cry foul and sue their way into office.

Bush's appointment to office in 2000 has essentially guaranteed that recount demands and lawsuits will become a permanent feature of our elections. That one decision did more to undermine confidence in our system than any dirty tricks, scandals, or decade of declining reporting standards combined. Confidence in the system is a necessary requirement for the survival of any democracy. So, is the democracy doomed? Not yet. But if it is to survive, people of good faith in both parties will need to make some changes in how we do things. It is time for the federal government to establish some procedures and standards of openness for the welter of states and municipalities that actually conduct our elections.

However, that can't happen until after the election. In the meantime all we can do is work to give Kerry a Florida-proof majority.

* Jeb, we're not laughing with you; we're laughing at you.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Things I never thought I would say
I hate the position this administration puts me in. I frequently find myself making comparisons to Reagan and Nixon where those two black-hearted bastards come out on top.

Remember Reagan press conferences? When Ronald Reagan gave press conferences, he would often say things that were mind numbingly stupid or out right terrifying. Then Reagan would amble off the stage and, before the reporters were allowed to leave, some poor spokesperson would rush out and explain what the president really meant to say.

The Bush adminstration avoids that problem by simply not having press conferences. Even so, sometimes someone creates an awkward moment for them by actually quoting the president's stupid or frightening words.

This would have been a problem for the Reagan team because they were part of the reality based community-- See? There I go. In order to make a point about Bush, I have to comparatively praise Reagan's connection to reality. This is just wrong.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The Bush team has no problem with this. They just deny it happened. Pat Robertson says Bush told him ther would be no casualties in invading Iraq.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan responds, "Of course, the president never made such a comment."

Bush advisor, debate coach, and surrogate mommy Karen Hughes replys, "I'm certain that the president did not say that remark."

Conservative blogger Orrin Judd explains that compaired to the invasion of Germany in 1944 a thousand dead is nothing.

And so I pine for the days of Reagan's honesty, openness, and firm grip on reality. My head hurts.
Welcome Atrios readers
Please, look around. Sample our fine fare. Tell your friends to visit.

My, it's getting crowded in here.
This one is for the rumor mill
Recently, some of the speculation I've heard about the October Surprise has centered on the idea that Rove might have Bush stage some headline grabbing stunt, specifically a repeat of his silly night flight to Baghdad last Thanksgiving. The idea is that such a stunt, though a transparent campaign ploy, would dominate a few news cycles, drive Kerry off the front page, fire up the faithful, and perhaps make points with a wavering demographic group. In the case of a new Baghdad trip the target would be military families back in the states (most of the serving military overseas have already voted, so there wouldn't be much to gain from them).

My own feeling has been that Rove is more likely to try and keep us off balance by spreading the rumors than to actually lose a day or more of campaigning to stage such a stunt. Today a little news item popped up, via Atrios, that certainly fits with the Baghdad trip scenario. According to the AP, Bush will be spending the day in Crawford Saturday. As Atrios says, "Strange time in the campaign for a rest."

The first Baghdad stunt was done under cover of spending Thanksgiving with his family at Crawford. While George, Sr. and Barbara stood on the porch holding her famous Jello salad, George, Jr. and Condi were sneaking out the back door and heading for the airport. Karl Rove has a limited repertoire of tricks and he tends to repeat them with as little variation as possible.

Am I on to something here, or am I just feeding the rumor mill?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bush alarms his friends
Pat Robertson is not exactly known as a card carrying member of the reality-based community, but apparently Bush is sometimes so far out in cloud-cuckoo-land that even Robertson starts edging toward the door.
"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' "

Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

The White House had no comment on Robertson's remarks.


"I mean, the Lord told me it was going to be A, a disaster, and B, messy," Robertson said. "I warned him about casualties."

Based on his previous conversations with God, we have to believe Robertson thought this was going to be a popular messy disaster.
"I think George Bush is going to win in a walk," the religious broadcaster said on his "700 Club" program on the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded.

"I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way," Robertson said.

"The Lord has just blessed him," Robertson said of Bush. "I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."

In that same episode (2 January 2004), Robertson revealed that God let him know 2004 would be a year of "extraordinary prosperity." I think the Big Guy likes to pull Robertson's leg sometimes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Cherry picking the very best cherries
Is everyone as burned out by the volatility of the polls as I am? This just came in from one of my wife's friends. Since it produces very happy numbers for our side, I'll pass it on.
If the election were held today, then based on recent state polling, John Kerry would have a 98% probability of winning at least 270 electoral votes. He could expect 318 electoral votes and 51.23% of the popular vote. Based on the average of 18 national polls, there is a 95% probability that he would win a popular vote majority. These projections assume Kerry will win 60% of the undecided voters. Historically, undecided voters split 2-1 for the challenger.

The author of the site, who calls his or herself TruthIsAll, provides an explanation of the methodology he or she used to reach this conclusion as well as lots of interesting data, charts, and links for polling geeks.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Mutiny on the front page
Looks like the mutiny of the 343rd Quartermaster Company has made the mainstream media. Bloggers and small-town Southern papers were on this two days ago. Today, the AP has a well-distributed story and it's on the front page of The New York Times.

For those of you who missed the story, the gist of it is this: The 343rd Quartermaster Company is a reservist unit out of Rock Hill, South Carolina. They are essentially truck drivers. They were called up and are now in Baghdad. Wednesday (Tuesday night over here) they took a load of jet fuel to Tallil, an outlying base. The fuel was found to be contaminated, so they returned to their home base with their trucks still full. They were then told to deliver the same fuel to Taji, a different outlying base. At this point the unit refused to go. Citing the facts that the fuel was unusable, they were being given no escort, and the trucks were overdue for maintenance, they called the delivery a suicide mission. Before they were arrested, several of the reservists got off phone calls to relatives back in the states who notified local papers.

Right now it appears that the soldiers are no longer under arrest and the Army is playing down the incident while investigating it. The whole incident should bring on an almost blinding deja vu experience for anyone who remembers Viet Nam. The incompetence of the orders and the impossible situation in which these reservists were placed need to be publicized. Someone higher up needs to held responsible for creating a situation where these soldiers felt that mutiny was their only reasonable recourse. I also wonder what would have happened to those reservists if they had not been able to get the word out. Would they have quietly vanished into our system of military "justice."

There are are, of course, important object lessons here about the importance of a free press, openness in government, and how cool blogs are. I'll let others go into all that. I found one annoying element in how the military mind frames an issue like this. The New York Times coverage went beyond the AP story to get some expert commentary:
Phillip Carter, a former Army captain and expert on legal and military affairs, said the kind of insubordination the unit showed had been more common during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, when the draft was still in place and the average conscript's goal was survival. The formation of an all-volunteer Army was supposed to address these problems, Mr. Carter said.

To Carter, the problem is not the fact that incompetent orders were given sending troops on a potentially fatal, yet pointless, mission. The problem is that the troops refused the order. A more professional, all-volunteer army should be better indoctrinated into the military culture of unthinking obedience. Reservists and National Guard units are contaminated with civilian thought patterns, including self-preservation.

The Army is in a difficult position here. Normally I would expect them to react the way any employer would in such a situation. That is, they would slime the reservists as bad seed, troublemakers from day one. Unfortunately for the Army, the reservists side of the story has already been well publicized in the South. The Army and the Bush administration need the good will of the South. You can bet that this issue will be handled very gently until after the election and possibly beyond.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

His answer just doesn't cut it
Last night when Bob Schieffer asked Bush what he'd say to a person who had lost his job to someone overseas, Bush answered:
I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.

We've expanded trade adjustment assistance. We want to help pay for you to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.

He digressed into No Child left Behind for a bit and finished with this:
No, education is how to help the person who's lost a job. Education is how to make sure we've got a workforce that's productive and competitive.

Got four more years, I've got more to do to continue to raise standards, to continue to reward teachers and school districts that are working, to emphasize math and science in the classrooms, to continue to expand Pell Grants to make sure that people have an opportunity to start their career with a college diploma.

And so the person you talked to, I say, here's some help, here's some trade adjustment assistance money for you to go a community college in your neighborhood, a community college which is providing the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. And that's what I would say to that person.

Atrios points out how insulting this is. To a conservative, failure is always the result of a personal shortcoming. People lose their jobs because they are stupid or because they failed to maintain 21st century skills. But Bush's answer is not just insulting, it's also impractical and misses the point of what drives the changes in our economy.

When I dropped out of my doctoral program in history, it was because I had a huge and growing debt, my financial aid for the coming year had just been withdrawn, and, as far as I could tell, there were no jobs in my field. After mucking around for a few years, I stumbled into a good job in the computer industry. That lasted for three years and then the bottom fell out of the industry in 2001. I have not had a permanent job since then, though I have been lucky enough to have an unbroken series of contract jobs for the last two years.

"Contract work" is the polite euphemism that professionals use for temp labor. I'm paid better now than when I was an office temp, but otherwise it's just the same--no paid time off, no insurance, no retirement, and no job security.

What exactly am I supposed to study at the community college? I already have two college degrees. The Seattle area is one of the most advanced technical job markets in the country. I was right in the forefront of that market. The internet sector has collapsed to fraction of it's former self. The software industry is sending many of its jobs to Asia. Boeing has cut thousands of jobs, and though they recently hired some back, they promise to never be as large an employer here as they were in the past. Most customer support jobs are going to Asia. Construction is down. Bush's hostility to science is driving most of the cutting edge biotechnology to Europe. I'm too old to become a mercenary in one of his wars. Almost every major local industry has a glut of skilled and experienced workers in the region.

What are these 21st century skills that I'm supposed to be able to pick up in a few weeks at the community college? A working knowledge of conversational Hindi so I can follow the jobs to Madras? Bush's solution assumes that there are lots of good jobs out there that are going begging for a lack of skilled workers. What are those jobs? What are the these 21st century industries that creating jobs that stay in the states.

Bush doesn't have a clue what it's like to work for a living.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pre debate comments
I'm going to miss bout two thirds of the debate when it runs live, so I'll have to watch it on tape later tonight.

Bush is in a tough spot. Kerry is ahead and this debate is expected to be Kerry's strong suit. Bush clearly lost the first debate and Kerry gained in the polls because of it. Bush's supporters were spooked by his bad performance. In the second debate, Bush reassured his supporters, but didn't recoup any of his losses from the first debate. Bush can't lose tonight. Kerry is slightly ahead, so a tie works in his favor. Bush needs a clear win.

Bush will, of course stay on message and be drearily consistent. He will repeat all of the messages that haven't worked that well so far. The economy is great and getting better. The bad parts of the economy (all past now, thanks to the tax cuts) were all Clinton's and the terrorists' fault. Being president is hard (actually, Karen Hughes has probably slapped that line out of him). He might even have the gall to work in the "don't change horses" theme. Kerry will end our lovely recovery.

Further repeating the big lie isn't enough and his people know it. Bush needs something else. He might try unveiling some new program tonight (puppies for everybody!). He can promise anything he wants tonight since you'll never hear of it again after November 2.

That still won't be enough. That leaves sliming Kerry. I'm sure you're all shocked to hear this, but I think that nice Mr. Bush will say some bad things about his opponent. Not personal smears, that has to be done by surrogates like Sinclair Broadcasting. He'll probably use scare tactics along the lines of "Kerry's health plan can only be paid for by ending all protections against terrorists." Even though this is supposed to be a domestic issues debate, Bush will bring foreign threats into the debate. He might work it into his buzz phrase for the night. Kerry wants to make us poorer and less safe.

Ultimately, I don't think Bush's handlers can realistically expect him to regain tonight the ground he lost at the first debate. They might be hoping for some continued damage control like the second debate, but these are too seasoned of professionals to be counting on a win. That leaves dirty tricks over the next 19 days. Sinclair is just one shot. The more I see of the registration and absentee ballot phoney baloney going on, the more I think they are planning to throw a couple states into chaos and fight the election in the courts again. The fact that such a course will pretty much end any credibility the our election system had in the eyes of America and the world doesn't matter to them. Winning in the short run is all they care about.

Remember, even though I won't be basking in the same unifying, warm glow of a cathode-ray tube with the rest of you, my heart will be watching the debate. I expect it will be shouting and throwing corn chips at the tube. I'll catch up later.
Bush's suits
For those who can't get enough of rumpled-jacket-gate or those inclined to believe that the lump on Bush's back was caused by a chance wrinkle, Paul Waldman at Gadflyer has details on the kind of suits that Bush wears. Let us just say that his suits cost more than the cars most bloggers drive. These are hand-tailored suits made of wool so exclusive you know the sheep who contributed it by first name. These are are perfectly fitting suits that do not have random wrinkles. That is, they were perfectly fitting when Bush left the tailor. I think the "Bush is melting," "alien brain sucking symbiot," and "evil double has replaced the real George" theories are still open.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

My wife sent me a joke
I don't usually forward e-mail humor, but I liked this one.
President Bush was visiting a primary school. One of the classes was in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked the president if he would like to lead the discussion on the word "tragedy."

So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a "tragedy".

Little Jimmy stood up and offered, "If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs him over and kills him, that would be a tragedy."

"No," said Mr. Bush, "that would be an accident."

Little Suzie raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy."

"I'm afraid not." explained the president. "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered. Bush searched the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of tragedy?"

Finally at the back of the room little Johnny raised his hand. In a quiet voice he said: "If Air Force One carrying Mr. and Mrs. Bush was struck by a "friendly fire" missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a "tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaimed Mr. Bush. "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be a tragedy?"

"Well," says little Johnny, "it has to be a tragedy, because it certainly wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either."

I suppose I should add some kind of butt covering caveat to the affect that I do not advocate blowing up Air Force One when the Bushs are on board. Air Force One is property of the American taxpayers, so it would be wrong to blow it up.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I don't have a strong feeling about the bump in Bush's jacket. He might have a radio prompter hidden back there, it might be something else, or it might be nothing at all. That's not to say I don't care. As an unemployed historian and trivia monger (is that redundant?) I'd love to know. I just don't think it matters as far as the election is concerned.

This is almost an exact parallel to fountain-pen-gate over in Right Blogistan. Last week the rights blogs were all over themselves trying to prove Kerry took something out of his jacket pocket at the start of the first debate. After treating the debate video like the Zapgruder film and enhancing it frame by frame, they were able to triumphally announce that Kerry had brought an unauthorized fountain pen into the debate!!! My response to their proof in fountain-pen-gate is the same as their response would be to our proof in rumpled-jacket-gate, so what. This is not a game of Monopoly. Proving a technical moment of "cheating" does not disqualify the other side. You do not win the election by default.

Whether or not Bush wore a wire has no more bearing on the election than whether or not Kerry brought an unapproved fountain pen. On the other hand, it's still fun to speculate over. So let's look at the alternatives. Something was under his jacket or he just had a wrinkled jacket.

The main problem I have with the wire theory is that between the shoulder blades seems like a stupid place to put the receiver. Wouldn't you put it in a less obvious place, like in the small of the back or in the inside breast pocket of his jacket? Maybe there's a reason it has to be in that spot. I did all my high school debates without a wire so I'm not that familiar with the technology. Some have suggested that he wears a back brace as a result of all the falls caused by bicycles, Segways, and killer ninja pretzels. There is a certain logic to this. He is a klutz and he enough of a macho idiot that he would want to hide the fact that he has a bad back. Some have suggested that it's the strap from a bullet-proof vest. I lean toward this one. Bush lives in enough of a protective bubble that I could see him or his handlers becoming apprehensive about appearing before a unknown crowd. It's also possible, though no one has yet suggested it, that it's a brain controlling alien parasite like the one that attached itself to Lando during the last season of Babylon 5. Interestingly, the White House has only denied the wire and bullet-proof vest theories.

It is possible that it really was just an oddly shaped wrinkle. You would expect the president to be able to get a better fitting jacket than that. Even Andy Rooney's jackets don't form a big square lump between his shoulder blades when he's standing erect. It could be a result of Bush's slowly morphing into Nixon, a man whose clothes fit notoriously badly. Maybe he has that horrible disease that has been causing William Buckley to slowly melt over the years.
Setting the bar low
William Safire announces in his latest column that Bush clearly won Friday's debate because he managed to convince William Safire on all of his points. Safire then lists some of the triumphal debating points that so convinced him.
When Kerry complained again of "going it alone," Bush was ready with a powerful counterpunch: "Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski we're going alone."

This not only showed that Bush knew these allies personally, but could also pronounce Kwasniewski's name...,

Safire only gets 700 words or so of highly coveted New York Times op-ed space to present his analysis of the debate, so you know he's not going to waste it on trivial points. He's going to get right to the meat and highlight Bush's most convincing moments, the moments that really said, "this man has what it takes to lead the free world." And according to William Safire one of the most important of those moments was the revelation that George Bush has met world leaders and can pronounce their names!

I suppose we all have days when we can't think of anything intelligent to say.
Ecosystem upgrade
N.Z. Bear, host of the indispensible TTLB Blogospere Ecosystem, has added a bunch of cool new bells and whistles to the site. Today is its first day live, so there are still bugs to work out, but from what I can see for my site, It's chock full of interesting information. If you're a blogger, check it out. If you're a blogger who isn't part of the Ecosystem, this is the time to join.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Osama wins Afghan election!!!

Just kidding. I wanted to see if anyone was paying attention.

Friday, October 08, 2004

First impressions
I realize that it is not entirely fair to look at a debater’s performance and pick out one line and complain that they should have said something else. But I'm going to anyway because the opportunity has presented itself in all three debates so far, because we have passed up the opportunity each time, and because it is clearly a response they fear.

Flip-flopping. They have had numerous chances to say mule-headed intransigence is not a virtue. They have had numerous chances to say grown-ups give up on a bad policy when it clear they are wrong. Kerry and Edwards both passed up opportunities on point blank questions about flip-flopping to say "no we don't." This is the point when the American people want to hear some honesty, not more weasel words. It doesn't matter whether Kerry and Edwards are correct; nuance sounds weasely to people. Kerry made point in the first debate when he said of the 87 billion, "I shouldn't have said that."

Tonight he blew his best chance ever. Right at the end of the debate a woman asked Bush to name three mistakes he's made. Bush not only refused to name any, he veered dangerously into the paranoid when he started explaining what "they" mean when "they" ask that question. There was no "they" involved; there was a nice middle-aged woman in a red jacket. She wanted to know if either one was man enough to admit a mistake. When Bush failed to name three Kerry stood up and in effect said " I can name three mistakes Bush made."

We had a chance for a killer moment of honesty and the last word in the debate and we blew it. Arrrgh!

On the other hand, we're winning the turnout game on the insta-polls. Since Kerry is slightly ahead at the moment, a tie is in his favor and he at least tied. I think he came out a little ahead, mostly on the strength of the health care answers. I also think Bush looked like his face was about to explode in his effort to look bright-eyed and enthusiastic.

Oh well, lets see what the paid journalistic corps think.
Rove's October surprise
Early in an election there are hundreds of elements to keep track of, but as we get closer to the end, they fall away 'til there are only a handful left that can affect the result. At this point in the election, I count the debates, turnout, unexpected news developments, and last minute advertising blitzes in key markets as right at the top. To this list, sadly, I suppose we should add post-election legal wrangling. We also need to consider dirty tricks.

On the way home from work last night, my wife and I got talking about Rove's October surprise. A few things are predictable about Rove dirty tricks.

First, is that he doesn't commit all his energy to one attack; he uses multiple attacks to keep his opponent off balance. So far we can credit him with the Swifties and, I suspect, fontgate. I expect at least two more blasts from him. One is already overdue and the other will come less than a week before the election. The traditional time is Friday or Saturday before the election. This gives it time to soak into the public's consciousness but doesn't give the other side time to mount an effective response.

Second, is that he prefers to work through surrogates. The two big advantages of surrogate attacks are deniability and credibility. Deniability is insurance against repercussions. When people decided the Swifties were over the line, Bush was able to shrug and say he wasn't responsible. Credibility is trickier. An attack directly from the campaign will be dismissed as pure politics while an attack from concerned citizens is news. The weakness of a surrogate attack is lack of control. Once the surrogates have been set into action, the campaign has to depend on their competence to get the message across and to get media coverage.

Third, is that he knows no shame. Nothing is too foul for Rove. In fact he count on the innate decency of most people to contribute to his deniability. When a Rove connection is suggested, most people and many reporters react in horror with some variation of "they wouldn't do that" and dismiss the suggestion as mere conspiracy mongering.

Finally, and most characteristic of a Rovian attack, is assaulting an opponent's strength. Most campaigners look for an opponent’s weaknesses, hoping to expand those weaknesses. Rove looks at their strengths, looking for a way to neutralize those strengths leaving them with only their weaknesses. Kerry's two strengths are his Viet Nam service and the general fact that Americans prefer the Democratic position on most domestic and economic issues. We've weathered Rove's attack on Kerry's Viet Nam service, next should be the attack on his domestic positions.

So what will it be? We should be looking for an unknown third party to deliver a low blow to that undermines Kerry's domestic policy strengths. It should be a complicated and layered attack that will keep us distracted for over a week while Bush rebuilds some of his Iraq credibility. It should be timed to peak on the eve of next Friday's domestic debate. I suppose the ideal timing depends on Bush's performance tonight. If he does well, Rove will want the Sunday chat fests to be devoted to Bush's masterful connection with the common folk in the town hall. If he does badly Rove will want a distraction to keep the talking heads from rubbing it in.

However foul this attack is, we need to expect an even cruder and lower assault on the eve of the election. The Rovian other shoe has yet to fall. I can't believe he's out of dirty tricks.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Our Commander in Chief
In part three of David Neiwert's new series on fascism and the new Republican Party, he makes the following comments about Zell Miller's frothing at the mouth speech before the Republican convention last month.
Miller expanded on this theme in suggesting that merely running against Bush in the election was a kind of treason, claiming that "our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief".

Miller's characterization of the opposition to Bush thus deftly identified it with attacks on the national interest by referring to him as "the Commander in Chief." It's a sly way of associating Bush's political enemies with our national enemies -- Democrats with Al Qaeda. Dissent is treason, indeed.

I remember at the time that that formulation, "our Commander in Chief," made my skin crawl. As long as I have been aware of politics, I have cringed whenever I have heard some one bemoaning our lack of leadership or praising a politician as a leader. My first reaction is always, " I can make my own decisions, thank you; I don't need or want a leader." When Zell said "our Commander in Chief" those old hackles rose and I found myself growling at the teevee, "He's not our Commander in Chief. I don't have a Commander in Chief and neither do you, you senile cretin. Civilians don't have a Commander in Chief; we have a President."

This is more than semantic pettifogging on my part. This strain of discourse leads in dangerous and anti-democratic directions. It's not just a curious artifact of European culture that most historical fascist movements called their heads simply "the leader"--der Feuhrer, il Duce, el Jefe, Nagobda. The leader, in the fascist worldview, is no longer an individual human being with an individual name. The leader is a manifestation of the will of the nation, the volk. The leader is a semi-mystical force of history not bound by transient human rules and laws like elections and term limits. To suggest that the leader should be is rank obscenity to the fascist mind.

The Bush campaign has been treading dangerously close to this line of argument and some of their informal supporters have enthusiastically tumbled over the line. A major talking of the GOP in this campaign has been that not electing Bush or even challenging him sends a message of weakness to our enemies and confusion to our allies. When they say we must be consistent, they are doing more than making a virtue of Bush's mule-headed intransigence or pleading for a second term. Their public argument is that we must stay the course during the war. That sounds fine during one election, but what happens if we combine this with their earlier message that the war on terrorism will be a permanent feature of our lives into the foreseeable future? If Bush wins, what will their message be in 2008? Our Commander in Chief, we are regularly told, is the indispensable man, we need his continued leadership to prevail in our unending struggle with the forces of darkness.

This same message is impicit in their scare campaign: vote for us or the terrorists will kill your loved ones. Only Bush can save you.

Finally, consider one other element: Bush's legendary common appeal. In the game of managing expectations before the first debate much was made of Bush's ability to connect with the common people. He spectacularly failed to live up to expectations that night, but that hasn't changed the narrative. We are hearing it aging in the run up to the second debate. Bush and his handlers, of course, work hard to perpetuate this myth. He exaggerates his Texas accent and masterfully uses his photo op ranch display his just-folks bona-fides. His press team relentlessly hammers home the message that Bush understands the common people and they in turn understand him. The language is different than the pseudo-mysticism of twenties and thirties Central Europe, but the message is the same. Our Commander in Chief has a special bond with "real" Americans. By definition, anyone who doesn't share that bond is not a real American or, worse, is a traitor to their nation.

All of these elements--the indispensable man, the special times, the unique bond with the people, and rising above the rules--are classic elements of the fascist concept of "the leader." They have no place in a democracy. They have no place in America.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

He can't win
Last night Cheney mentioned as a place to go to get the facts that prove him right on Halliburton. This morning NPR pointed out the site is, not .com. There is a, it's a George Soros site. If viewers go there they find the headline "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." If, by chance, they get to the site Cheney meant to recommend, they find the headline "Bush Mischaracterizes Kerry's Health Plan."

Update: Corrected the context of Cheney's referencing
Cheap shot possibility
Last night Cheney's most effective line was that this was the first time he had met Edwards. By this morning the gang had documented at least three previous occasions where they have met. For a February 2001 prayer breakfast we have a video of the two together and Cheney welcoming Edwards by name. We also have a video of Elizabeth Dole's swearing in to the Senate. Edwards escorted her and Cheney administered the oath. Finally, Tim Russert claims they met back stage at his show and shook hands. These could all be taken as evidence that Cheney is lying liar. Or we could take him at his word that last night was the first time he remembers meeting Edwards. During all of his well documented heart problems has brain ever had to go without oxygen for any length of time? Maybe the poor boy isn't all there. The humane thing to do at this point would be to send him home to rest under the kind care of Lynne.
Veep debate morning after
One of the disadvantages of living on the left coast is that by the time I'm caffeinated enough to think coherently, my blogging colleagues on the other coast have said most of what needs to be said about overnight news like the debate.

In case you haven't looked around yet, the best bit of fact checking is the revelation of at least three earlier occasions where Cheney met Edwards. Kos has all three right next to each other. The best one to throw around is probably the 2001 prayer breakfast where the tape shows Cheney welcoming Edwards by name. The problem with this kind of fact checking is that most people will only see the clip from the debate; they won't see the following corrections. Most news venues will have moved on to other stories by the time the correction is circulated. Cold blooded liars like Cheney depend on the short attention span of the professional news media. They know that 80 percent of the audience will only hear the lie, so a good memorable line is more important than a truthful argument.

I only watched a little of the post-debate blather, mostly on MSNBC. The MSNBC coverage was an example of Chris Matthews at his very worst. In general, Matthews' heart is in the right place and he is often very good at cutting through the official versions and browbeating people into telling the truth. Too often, however, he behaves like a four year old on too much sugar. His mouth runs ahead of his brain and he starts inflating his metaphors for the pure joy of the rhetoric. He loses track of the point of the discussion and just wants to be the center of attention. Before the debate he was already in the grip of the excitement, competing with Scarborough for the best prediction about how Grandpa Cheney was going to put that young wipper-snapper in his place. After the debate he started babbling about how Edwards brought a squirt gun to fight a machine gun--no, no, a howitzer.

I was amused to see the reaction of Matthews and the panel to the first insta-poll from Matthews website. After about fifteen minutes of convincing each other that Cheney had not only won, but won by a truly historical margin, the poll came in showing a five to one preference for Edwards. They all sputtered for a moment before taking refuge in the fact that this was not a scientific poll (as opposed to their spouting, which would meet peer review standards for any major scientific journal). They had all (except Ron Reagan) convinced themselves before the show that Cheney was going to win big and in the aftermath were mostly concerned with congratulating themselves for being so perceptive.

I did find the insta-polls interesting. I'm sure most of the reason for Edwards' margin was that the Democrats did a better job stuffing the ballot box than did the Republicans. This, by the way, is an encouraging sign for the Democratic get out the vote effort next month; we're never this organized. I wonder if there were any real voters hidden in the insta-poll results. I wonder how amny people were seeing Edwards for the first time? The talking heads and internet political junkies are familiar with both candidates and have well formed opinions at this point. We judged the debate on that basis. But how many viewers knew little about Edwards other than that he is a young pretty face? The constant harping on his youth and inexperience might have backfired on the Republicans. Edwards came across as compitent, informed, and calm. He might have come across as a reassuring surprise to many who were expecting a Democratic Quayle.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Those damn trial lawyers
I expect Cheney to take every opportunity he can find tonight to remind us that Edwards is one of those evil trial lawyers. Because we elitist liberals are so out of touch with the common people, we might not be sure why they hate trial lawyers so much. But the Republicans have attained oneness with the common folk. They know that trial lawyers are a blight upon this good land. They know that when they say the code words "trial lawyer" the average American immediately thinks of rogues like these:

Oh wait. These are fictional trial lawyers. I'm sure when the republicans sneer at trial lawyers, they have real life trial lawyers in mind. Like this guy:

Just in case you haven't seen the movies, the fictional lawyers are Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind," Jimmy Stewart as Paul Biegler in "Anatomy of a Murder," and Raymond Burr as Perry Mason.

Update: Looks like I was wrong on this one.
Debate predictions
I'll start with the usual expectations management caveat: don't overestimate our guy; don't underestimate their guy. In that spirit, let's get a little more concrete. The format is a good one for Edwards and I expect him to do well, but I'm not going to dismiss Cheney. Besides being a black-hearted old bastard, Cheney is pretty canny and street smart. He's a gutter fighter and he is very well motivated.

The motto of the Republican Party of the last ten years-the party of Cheney, Bush, Gingrich, DeLay, Rove, and Luntz-is "win at all costs." On top of that general atmosphere, party bigwigs will have been pressuring Cheney for the last five days to make up for the hideous performance of his titular boss. But if neither of those if enough motivation, Cheney must be aware of the fact that he is one of the administration officials most likely to do jail time if all of the facts of the last four years ever see the light of day.

Last year during a car trip to visit Mom, my wife and I categorized the members of the administration using a variation of the old "stupid or evil" question. The categories we used were fanatical or corrupt. Which ones are actually true believing ideologues and which are just old fashioned political crooks? Cheney came out as the model and very definition of crook in our eyes. In these days of scary fanatics like Ashcroft and Wolfowitz, a good old Nixonian crook is almost comforting. "He reminds me of Agnew," I said, wiping away a nostalgic tear.

Now, at this time I have no solid evidence of wrongdoing by Cheney that would hold up in court. If the modern Republican Party stays in power, I never will. I expect Cheney understands that his continued freedom might be at stake in this election. So, expect him to be very well motivated tonight.

That's not to say he will be in full attack-dog mode. That doesn't play very well outside the faithful. He will probably do his "gruff but lovable" act (well, lovable to some). Depending on the questions, he might also try a sentimental "conflicted father" act ("I love my daughter, but I love the perks of powere more. Therefore, though I support her right to make her own adult choices, I'd provide the gas and marshmallows for a good old which burning if that would get us re-elcted.").

Edwards, meanwhile, will be elequent, intelligent, homey, and charming. I also expect he will use every question to build a case against the administration.

For those of you in the audience playing "Hi, Bob," my nomination for drinking phrase is "trial lawyer."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

What now, Ms. Hughes? Mr. Rove?
I think we're all agreed that Kerry won the debate. Not only did he put in a great performance, but also Bush put in a terrible performance. Kerry's victory over Bush is so clear as to be almost unspinnable. The GOP has been reduced to a choice between desperate looking denial ("the credibility gap is now a credibility canyon") or pathetic looking silly spin ("Kerry had bad eye contact with the audience").

Even though the debate was surprisingly well watched, one debate victory isn't going to change a lot of votes. Most voters are firmly enough committed at this point that seeing their candidate speak in the voice of Satan himself (for which, see previous post) would not be enough to change their minds. The smaller, but more desirable, group leans toward or against one candidate or the other, but still hasn't committed. The smallest group is genuinely uncommitted. In the middle group, the ones most likely to be convinced by this one debate will be those who were already leaning toward Kerry or against Bush. Those leaning the other way were simply thrown into confusion. This is cognitive dissonance; reality failed to confirm their gut feelings. At this point they are actively looking for something to either re-confirm their previous leanings or nail down the new reality. They would prefer the former.

This is the essence of the problem of the Bush campaign going into the next two debates. They need to pull back as many of those wavering people as they can. Kerry's performance was so clearly superior to Bush's, that spin alone has very little chance of repairing the damage. Bush has to perform in the next two debates.

Ironically, the St. Louis town-hall style debate might be Bush’s best chance to recover. Bush spends most of time isolated in a happy land where no one ever questions him or asks a question that he isn't fully prepared and practiced to answer (at least, no one that he can't fire on the spot). Impromptu should be the worst style for Bush, but it gives Rove the best opportunity to send in ringers with the campaign's desired questions. Left Blogistan should be prepared to do a real time background check of every questioner to expose this possibility.

Barring the possibility of Rove fixing the results of the St. Louis debate, their next best chance will be for Hughes to completely retrain their candidate before the final debate. She only has two weeks and part of that time will be taken up by the second debate, campaign appearances, and being leader of the free world. Though, since he's never felt he has to spend a lot of time on that last one, I can’t see why he would suddenly start now.

So what will Karen do? Her boy didn't just fail on one count; he failed across the board. His body language was rude, inappropriate, and more than a little scary. His attempt to stay on theme led him to noticeably repeat the same phrases over and over like a broken record. He was obviously annoyed to even be there. She's going to need to work on his temper, his physical demeanor, and the quality of his answers. She'll need to teach him to actually listen and not just respond to cues. She needs to do all this in a couple days. If you were Karen, which would you focus on?

If you were us, and I assume you are, what would you do to disrupt her re-training. Don't just sit there reading; go do it.
Just a thought
The written descriptions of Bush’s body language during the debate sounded strangely familiar to me. The hunched shoulders, the nervousness, the sour expression, the eyes darting around, the clear sense of not wanting to be there. No one has yet used the word “shifty,” but it’s clear to me that George Bush is morphing into Richard Nixon before our very eyes.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Science marches on
Enough with the debate and this future of democracy crap. Let's look at something really important. Last night while we were rediscovering the meaning of schadenfreude, the winners of the 2004 Ignobel Prizes were announced at a gala ceremony at Harvard.

Among the winners:

In MEDICINE: Steven Stack of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA and James Gundlach of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA, for their published report "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide."

In BIOLOGY: Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Lawrence Dill of Simon Fraser University [Canada], Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Magnus Whalberg of the University of Aarhus [Denmark], and Hakan Westerberg of Sweden's National Board of Fisheries, for showing that herrings apparently communicate by farting.

In ENGINEERING: Donald J. Smith and his father, the late Frank J. Smith, of Orlando Florida, USA, for patenting the combover (U.S. Patent #4,022,227).

Thanks to these and other intrepid stalkers of knowlege, the world is a better place today.
Two media organizations got scammed by Republican organizers posing as "undecided" voters in their debate coverage. Jesus' General caught one on a CNN's "American Morning." Edward Martos, a graduate student who they interviewed at the University of Miami is actually a prominent member of the local branch of the College Republicans. Even more outrageous, Josh Marshall noticed that one of the members of a panel of "undecideds" put together by the Miami Herald and a local TV to watch the debate is actually a paid Republican political consultant. How did Marshall discover this? The Herald mentions it in the article. Did these two Miami Republicans come up with this on their own, independent of each other and the party, or is this a coordinated effort to game the system for some extra spin? If so, at what level was this planned? Miami? Florida? National? And why were the press so incompetent in letting this happen?
I'm relieved
Last night at the beginning of the debate, I was scared. Election debates are not won by the normal rules of debating--in terms of logic and data--they are won by making the audience comfortable. In addition, most of the audience doesn't even see the debate, they get a mediated version of the debate filtered through the professional news media. So when my wife and I sat down on the floor in front of the TV with a pile of junk food and beverages, we were not only listening to the debate, we were trying to guess which images and sound bites would be all over today's news.

Kerry looked dignified and got the tallness points on the handshake. Bush's first answer was a complete non-sequitor. Kerry's answers were clear and thoughtful. Bush looked nervous and petulant. The reaction shots clearly worked against Bush. Lehrer even got Bush to say bin Laden. At twenty minutes it looked good for my guy, I was starting to let myself relax.

Then came the moment I dreaded, "New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?" Bush's answer was okay, but his presentation was great. The little catch in his voice as he talked about the widow Missy Johnson was flawless. I don't know if it was sincere emotion or, as the old joke goes, if he's learned how to fake sincerity. What I knew is that it was good TV. My stomach knotted and I thought, this is the image that we're going to see over and over in tomorrow's news.

But a miracle happened. With his moment of emotion over, Bush went back to looking nervous and petulant and at times downright irritable. His effort to stay on message decayed into whiny repetition. Kerry remained calm, intelligent, and on topic. Bush would ask for an extension and have nothing to say, leaving these uncomfortable empty moments as blinked at the camera. His performance over the next hour was so bad that it completely erased any memory of Missy Johnson.

If the Missy Johnson moment had happened in the last ten minutes of the debate and been fresher in the pundits' memories at the end, we would have lost the election last night. But we won. We know we won because the pundits say so. The results of the instant polling last night said Kerry won the debate but didn't change any minds. It's too early to say that. Like the convention bounce, the results of this will take a few days to soak in. People who are unhappy with Bush, but not yet comfortable with Kerry, will need a few days of listening to the message of the media to be convinced to move one way or the other. Fortunately, the message for the next few days will be Kerry beat Bush; Kerry looks presidential; Kerry answered his critics. I didn't think we could hope for this much, so today I'm a very happy camper.