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:: Friday, January 09, 2004 ::

ARG polling story

Joshua Marshall has picked up on the ARG story. He notes:
On Wednesday evening, ARG interviewers (i.e., the folks who call you on the phone) started noticing that a number of older independent voters were screening themselves out of the survey because they'd been called by another campaign and told that they wouldn't be eligible to vote because they'd missed the deadline to declare as Democrats.

But that's not how New Hampshire law works. Independents (called undeclared voters in the state) can vote in either primary. And they don't have to decide till they're at the polling station.
It'll be interesting to see how Josh handles it. He doesn't note, in his followup, that one respondent said the callers changed their tune when Dean's name was brought up. That's interesting, because Josh really likes Clark, and people have -- myself included -- often accused him of being a bit more biased than he's willing to admit to. (Sometimes unfairly, I might add. )

I think that Josh sees the obvious flaw here: First off, as I noted earlier, the first rule of dirty tricks is "Don't leave fingerprints". Given that, according to ARG, one respondent claimed that when he (or she) said they were voting Dean, the caller changed the story completely. That's a bit too obvious. (It's possible that, perhaps, that one respondent was confused or untruthful as well. But let's assume he or she remembered correctly, and that the caller did suddenly contradict themselves at the mention of Dean's name).

Further, judging by ARG's small sample, whomever is doing this is calling a lot of New Hampshire independents. ARG surveys only 200 people a day for this poll (400 for the two days in question). Independents are only a portion (less than 30%) of the sample. So for the "unknown" calling campaign to overlap with ARG's small daily sample, in really noticeable numbers, means that someone's calling up virtually all the elderly independents. Someone is investing a lot of time and effort into this.

But most importantly, however, Dean does really well among older voters and independent voters. SurveyUSA has a detailed breakdown (ARG doesn't release the internals of their tracking poll) from 12/17 showing: Dean doing three times better among both older voters and among independent voters than Clark.

Now, ARG is claiming that trend has changed (but they don't detail how much. Is Clark leading 2 to 1? By 10%?), but I still don't see Dean trying to rid himself of votes.

So the question now becomes: Who is conducted this poll? Given that the target seems to be elderly independents, I'd rule out Clark (ARG says he does well there) and Dean (SurveyUSA and trendlines in NH says he does well there).

The only candidate who might benefit directly is Kerry, as he doesn't do well at all with independents, and reducing independent voting would depress Dean and Clark's numbers.

Indirectly, a number of candidates might benefit from reduced Dean (or Clark) momentum, or accusations of dirty tricks. Including George W. Bush. I'd imagine that Kerry is going to come under some scrutiny, but this feels a bit too Rovian even for a very desperate Democrat.
:: Morat 2:34 PM :: ::

This is getting ridiculous

Check the latest Dean scandal. While governor, Dean accepted speaking fees, gifts from special interests:
While governor of Vermont, Howard Dean accepted personal pay from special interests at least five times for speeches and also received more than $60,000 in checks and pledges for his charity fund from insurers who benefited from a state tax break, according to documents and interviews.

Dean's fees and charitable donations were legal and did not have to be disclosed under Vermont law but were detailed in correspondence and tax records reviewed by The Associated Press.
So, let me get this straight, "Dean speaks to 'special interests' (actual businesses, apparently) and is paid in donations to charity. This is entirely legal.

And this is news?

Why? And why headline "Dean accepting gees, gifts from special interests" and not the more accurate "Dean raised funds for charity"?
:: Morat 2:07 PM :: ::

Latest ARG

Judging from the numbers, it looks like Clark just ate Kerry whole in New Hampshire.

Clark's gained 9 points, Kerry's lost 9 points, and undecideds continue to fluctuate around 16%. Dean's currently at 35%. I've noticed a couple of people portraying this as a "drop", but anyone glancing at the entire tracking poll would dismiss that. Dean's never been 3 points off "36". Anyone with a working knowledge of how tracking polls operate can see that Dean's numbers got inflated by a single spike. The trend is static, at 35 or 26.

Clark has a definite upward trend, and Kerry has a definite downward trend.

How Iowa affects NH will be interesting, and I'm curious to see how Clark's numbers react when Dean and Kerry re-enter New Hampshire. How solid is his new support?

I could go either way, but at the moment I'm thinking at least half of his new support is fragile, and ended up with Clark because Clark is stumping hard in New Hampshire, while the rest of the top tier are occupied in Iowa.

I'm sure Clark is hoping to consolidate those new supporters before Dean or Kerry re-enter the picture. The question becomes: What will Dean and Kerry do about it? Dean might stay out of it -- for the most part -- confidant that his current 15 point margin plus his Iowa bounce will see him comfortably above Clark. Or he might not, as Trippi tends to be pretty pessimistic about these things. So far, it's been restricted to some flyers. Does anyone know if Dean is upping his ad runs in New Hampshire?

Kerry, on the other hand, really needs to pass Gephardt in Iowa, but can't really handle a third in New Hampshire. I don't know what he's going to do. Go negative on Clark? Start stumping in Iowa to lure his supporters back? Do both?
:: Morat 1:31 PM :: ::

Dean just won Iowa

Never mind the blizzard of dirty trick stories. That's now old news. Dean just won Iowa, because he got
Harkin's endorsement:
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin will endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination, party sources said Friday, giving a key boost to an embattled front-runner 10 days before the state's kick-off caucuses.
I exaggerate a bit, but Harkin's endorsement is big. Not nationally, but it'll kick Dean's Iowa numbers up a lot. The bounce might not last until the caucus (although it's getting close), but at the very least it should cement Dean's current level of support. Harkin's organization in Iowa is top of the line, and his word is going to convince a ton of people. Gephardt's chances just got a lot smaller.

Damn...as I've said before, luck sleeps in Dean's pocket. No one, not even Master Jedi Joe Trippi, could have managed to arrange for a Harkin endorsement the day Dean was dealing with dirty tricks accusations, old videotapes -- which show nothing bad, as usual -- and the nasty effects of a close-fought primary.

Admittedly, Dean makes his own luck. He's been working Harkin (as he worked SEIU, AFSCME, Al Gore and Bill Bradley) for an endorsement for a long time. The timing was a lucky break, but he couldn't have gotten that break without months of work.
:: Morat 10:42 AM :: ::

I've been thinking a bit more

Let's recap the last 24 hours: An absolutely blizzard of "dirty tricks" accusations thrown at Howard Dean by multiple sources.

Why? Well, one possibility is that they are true. It's one I discount because they're either very poor dirty tricks, or very ineptly run. Let's face it, if you use dirty tricks, you run "maximum gain/minimum risks" types of tricks, and you take every effort to conceal their source. Moreover, you don't tend to use dirty tricks -- unless you're Nixon -- if you're winning.

So to see the frontrunner, who has managed to shrug off multiple attacks with ease, who is ahead in Iowa, cruising to a big victory in NH, is looking at a solid mini-Tuesday and is in the best position for later primary states, pull dirty tricks is a bit odd. Why? And moreover, why would a campaign that has been run so solidly and so well suddenly become completely inept?

So what if they're not true? Some are certainly tempest-in-a-teapot things. Some might be the work of overzealous volunteers (as Dean fired two of them, that's true in at least one case). Some, however, defy any sort of explanation.

Save one.

Howard Dean's greatest strength, his biggest asset, is his grassroots. They're his ace in the hole. They're the keystone to his popularity, his teflon, and his fundraising. If Dean wins, it's because of his grassroots.

If you want to cut Dean down, you have to kill his grassroots support first. And nothing turns off supporters like the belief that their beloved candidate is playing dirty politics.

Pure and simple, we're looking at an attack on Dean's grassroots. Every major candidate knows the score. As long as Dean's army is there, Dean wins the primary. Karl Rove and George Bush certainly know. There's no need for coordination. No conspiracy. Just one well-known target with one well-known weakness. At least four candidates (Kerry, Clark, Gephardt and Bush) have reason to slam Dean hard, right now...and god knows how many 527s would consider it.

This blizzard of accusation has one goal: To slime Dean in the eyes of his grassroots. To make him out to be another petty politician. To keep the Deanies, the newbies, and the starry-eyed out of Iowa, out of New Hampshire. To keep them home. To keep their wallets in their pockets.

Dean's slogan turned out to be true: They're not trying to stop Dean. They're trying to stop you.
:: Morat 10:36 AM :: ::

So, a question to the more experienced hands..

Accusations of cheating, lying, fraud, voter fraud, and all forms of electoral abuse are starting to fly. Mostly aimed at Dean.

Is this usual for close, and hugely important, primaries?

It's less than two weeks until Iowa, which means pretty much any charge can be aired and the odds of it being proven or disproven before the caucus are slim. I'm not surprised at the Dean focus, because he is leading based on all the latest polls, and this state is "make it or break it" for Gephardt, and Kerry is almost as desperate.

So far I've charted several distinct claims: Gephardt's claim that Dean is planning on slipping in "out of state" ringers into the caucus process. Kerry's claim that two Dean volunteers misrepresented themselves at out of his campaign offices (which was apparently true, and got those two volunteers kicked out), Clark's claim that "anti-Clark flyers" were anonymously left outside a Clark rally in NH (actually, it appears that Dean volunteers were handing them out, and in any case both sides agree that "paid for by Dean for America" was printed on them...so not terribly anonymous), and now the latest:

An odd little blurb in an ARG poll in NH stating that several independents state they got anonymous campaign calls claiming that they had missed the deadline to switch parties, and thus could not vote as an independent. One of these, apparently, claims that she mentioned she wanted to vote for Dean and the caller then changed her tune.

The first is obviously ludicrous, as it's high risk for no profit. The second appears to be the work of misguided volunteers...always an issue...and Dean's staff was quick to handle it. The third appears perfectly straightforward.

The latest is a bit different, but given Dean's lead in NH, and his appeal to independents, I'm not terribly sure why Dean's campaign would even bother. Moreover, the first rule of dirty politics is "Don't leave any fingerprints". You have to admit that "Oh, you want to vote for Dean! That's okay then!" is a bit obvious, don't you think? If you were actually going to pull that particular trick, you'd find out who they supported up front. If they supported your guy, you let them know how to register and such. If they don't, you either then lie, or just hang up. You don't lie, then find out they support your guy, then suddenly tell the truth.

My take is that we've got one desperation claim (Iowa ringers), one legitimate -- if minor -- complaint swiftly dealt with, one "politics as usual" issue (who complains about signed flyers, for Pete's sake?), and one curious incident that is not only clumsy, but completely unnecessary and probably counterproductive. In all honesty, while I'm not so naive that I believe Dean would never ever do something a bit dirty, I have a hard time believing he'd be so damn inept at it.

I support Dean, so maybe I'm biased....but does this look like the usual mix of last-second claims, and counter-claims, and the usual tempest in a teapot stuff? (And, with the ARG thing, perhaps a third party's dirty tricks?).

Or is there something more to it? I'm having a hard time imagining that Dean has been somehow running the dirtiest campaign since Nixon, but no one noticed until 11 days before Iowa.
:: Morat 10:02 AM :: ::

More on "Iowa Infiltrators"

You know, the more I think about Gephardt's charge that Dean is planning to "infiltrate" the Iowa caucuses, the more ridiculous it seems.

Dean's planning to bring about 3000 to 3500 people in, total. These are almost all volunteers. Now, Iowa caucases generally run about 100,000 or so people.

Which means if Dean manages to sneak in all three thousand people, he could swing the vote a whopping 3%.

As Radical Middle (who had the same thoughts) puts it:
Now to do this, they'd have to get all 3000 aware of the plan AND willing to cooperate. Despite the illusions of the SCLM and the other candidates, Dean's orbital mind control lasers aren't completely effective. Up to several dozen of those volunteers might break free of the hypnotic hold of Dean's stump speech, and be sufficiently offended by the idea to publicize it. Haven't you ever watched a 1950s zombie movie?

Worse, the only practical way the Dean campaign has to deal with so many volunteers is email, and the email going out to them is basically public record. So a plan to organize thousands of out-of-state volunteers to crash the party would be WELL documented. So how can they organize it? A secretive, cell-based plan going by word of mouth, using only volunteers that can be trusted to cheat the voting system and never admit to it.

Now we're back to a couple dozen. Maybe. The more volunteers, the more likely it is that someone will narc on Trippi.

So how much influence could a couple dozen party-crashers have on the Iowa Caucus? Not much, almost certainly not enough to matter. If it's within 1%, that's still a thousand votes.
End result? It's BS, plain and simple

Amusingly enough, I saw someone pushing that Kerry had "corroborated" the story, because it turns out a Dean volunteer (not even a staffer!) had posed as an Iowa voter to ask questions about the Kerry operation in Iowa.

I bet that if you went to any Iowa campaign event involving more than two dozen people, for any of the top four candidates, you'd find Kerry, Gephardt, Dean and Edwards supporters hiding out as "Iowa voters" in order to keep tabs on whoever's running the show.

Update: Looks like the Good Doctor dealt rather swiftly with those volunteers.
The second complaint involved two men who the Kerry campaign said visited its office in Creston this week, asking questions about its operations. The campaign said that one of the men, identified as Mitch Lawson, returned on Thursday and that both he and the other man were with the Dean campaign.

Dean campaign officials told the Kerry campaign that after an investigation the two volunteers were terminated from the campaign.

:: Morat 9:44 AM :: ::

Bush Plans To Call for Settlement On Moon

Bush Plans To Call for Settlement On Moon:
President Bush will announce plans next week to establish a permanent human settlement on the moon and to set a goal of eventually sending Americans to Mars, administration sources said last night.
I've been waiting years for a President to give NASA a worthy goal. I've been waiting years to hear someone, anyone make a firm commitment to space.

If I didn't already know better, I'd be overjoyed. Unfortunately, I was paying attention when Bush proposed doubling AmericaCorps. I was paying attention when Bush swore to send more money to combat AIDS in Africa. I was paying attention when, time after time, Bush made firm commitments to things like this....and then when it came time to put his money where his mouth was, Bush wasn't there.

So I'm not going to support this. You know, I know, and George W. Bush knows that he's got no plan to pay for it, nor any intention of actually following through on it. No intention of paying for it. No intention of fighting for it. No intention of pushing it through Congress.

As we say in Texas, Bush is has proven more than once that he's "All hat, no cattle". Maybe he'll prove me wrong.

But since Dick Cheney doesn't own Lockheed Martin or Boeing stock, I rather doubt it.
:: Morat 9:15 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, January 08, 2004 ::

Tale of the tape on Howard Dean

Apparently, Dean often took part in a show called "The Editors", a roundtable discussion on American and Canadian politics, foreign affairs, and the usual social stuff. NBC got copies of the tapes of his appearances between 1996 and 2002 and used them to offer an interesting take on Dean:
As reported by Lisa Myers on NBC's "Nightly News," Dean comes across in these tapes as having a wide-ranging intellect, a sharp tongue, and shifting views on some key issues.

Yet he also shows that he's much more consistent on issues -- like affirmative action and trade -- than some of his opponents give him credit for. And despite the constant complaints that Dean has no foreign policy experience, he demonstrates a good grasp of international affairs.
I wonder if this will shift the Dean story at all?
:: Morat 4:18 PM :: ::

Some polling goodness

Survey USA has new polls!

In Iowa, we have Dean on top with 29%, Gephardt with 22%, Kerry at 21% and Edwards at 17% with less than 3% undecided. If I recall correctly, SurveyUSA had Dean at 42 in December. However, that was not only during the height of the Gore bounce, but was also a notorious outlier. I don't recall seeing another Iowa poll confirm those numbers, although several had Dean pegged at around 30 prior to the Gore announcement. (MOE here is 4%)

SurveyUSA also released a TN poll, showing Dean at 27%, Clark at 26% and the rest of the field below 10%.

A separate Iowa poll conducted by Research 2000 echoed these results, showing Dean at 29%, Gephardt at 25%, Kerry with 18% and Edwards with 8%. I'm pretty sure it was a separate poll, leastwise...it had favorable/unfavorable numbers (SurveyUSA does not). Dean was sitting at 74/22/4 (Fav/Unfav/Unsure), Gephardt at 68/30/2, Kerry at 69/27/4 and Edwards at 56/29/15.

Still, as the SurveyUSA poll notes, caucus polls are softer than primary polls, especially given the number of Dean voters who are newbies to caucusing. It's possible that Dean is being underrepresented or overrepresented...and we won't know until the results are in.

All in all, decent news for Dean, great news for Kerry, and bad news for Gephardt. I think the anti-Dean focus is going to start wearing thin, as Kerry will need to focus on Gephadt and Clark, as he needs a second in both Iowa and NH if he has any real hopes. Gephardt, much beat Kerry and Dean, so no telling what he'll do. My guess is that he'll shoot the moon, and continue to hammer Dean. If he loses to Dean, it doesn't really matter if Kerry beats him or not.

Still, Dean's low unfavorables show that the concerted mudslinging simply isn't sticking, which is excellent news for the Dean campaign.

:: Morat 3:32 PM :: ::

Gephardt Aide Accuses Dean of Caucus Fraud Plan

Just a note, Gep, but this sort of charge needs a bit more proof than "He said, She said"
Democrat Richard Gephardt's manager accused Howard Dean (news - web sites)'s presidential campaign on Thursday of planning to slip non-Iowans into the Jan. 19 caucuses to pose as state residents and support Dean.

Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi denied the allegation and told Gephardt manager Steve Murphy 'sleazy tactics like yours are exactly the reason that people have stopped participating in the political process.'
As best I understand it, Dean is shipping a lot of people into Iowa for the caucus. He's using them in GOTV efforts (like driving people too and from caucus sites) and the like, so that his Iowa volunteers can all be at their caucus sites.

Done correctly, not a single Iowa volunteer should be doing anything but participating in the caucus. The goal, I'm guessing, is for all campaign functions to be handled by out-of-state volunteers and anyone who can't caucus (like 17 year olds and such).

:: Morat 3:16 PM :: ::

The betting on Dean v. Bush

Am I reading this post wrong, or the Iowa Presidential Market numbers wrong?

Kleiman claims betters think Dean has a 2/3rds chance of getting the nomination, that betters think any Democrat except Dean would give Bush a hard run, and that betters think Dean will get clobbered.

Checking the Nomination alone graph and current quotes has Dean trading at about .634, with Clark next at .2.

So that seems right. But the general election chart and graph seems to be giving Dean about a 33% chance versus Bush, which isn't surprising.

What I don't understand is Kleiman's stating "That any Democrat except Dean would give Bush a close run". Where does he get that information?

Is he extrapolating based on nomination likelihood? That is, people betting that Clark would win the nomination are also betting that Clark will beat Bush in greater percentages than those betting Dean will win the nomination? That doesn't seem quite right. 20% or so of the people are betting that Clark will win the primary, and 10% of people are betting Clark wins the general. Assuming a one-to-one correspondence, that's pretty much 50/50. Dean's doing the same thing...doing about 66% in the primary, and 33% in the general....once again 50/50.

Hopefully someone a bit better with this sort of thing can explain it. Or maybe I'm just reading the chart backwards....offhand, I'd say the latter, so I'm hoping someone explains where I'm screwing up.

Update: Apparently I wasn't the only one confused, and Mark Kleiman has expanded the post. I understand what he's getting at now, but I think he's going to see a big change in numbers in about two weeks. The Iowa market is pretty good, but if I recall correctly, they're not great 10 months out. A month before, yes. But not almost a year out.

I put great weight in their Democratic primary numbers, simply because the primary starts in 12 days and will, in all likelihood, be over in less than two months.
:: Morat 12:47 PM :: ::

Sometimes I really don't understand

What, exactly, is the point of Josh Marshall posting the results of this poll? (It was a mid-December poll of Ben Chandler's Kentucky District). Josh gives Bush's numbers (rather good, almost 70% favorable or somewhat favorable) then Dean's ( 22% favorable or somewhat favorable). Then notes:
The poll was conducted by a well-known Democratic polling firm. Dean was the only one of the Democratic presidential candidates who's name was tested. The poll was not commissioned by or connected in any way to the Clark campaign.
What's the point of that? That Dean's doing poorly in that Congressional District in Kentucky? So? How's Clark doing? Lieberman doing? Edwards doing? Gephardt doing?

Without a comparison to another candidate, what's the point?

Given Chandler's recent endorsement of Clark, I could understand the relevance if polling showed Clark doing really well, or really poorly, in Chandler's specific Kentucky district.

But why Dean in isolation? What's the point? It tells you nothing meaningful, other than that Chandler's District is pretty pro-Bush, which the Bush numbers alone convey nicely.

So why Dean's numbers? What's the reason there? And why stress so much how the poll was done be a reputable Democratic polling firm, unconnected with the Clark campaign? (Yes, these are rhetorical questions. I'm pretty sure we all know why).
:: Morat 12:35 PM :: ::

On the job front

My wife, who has been substitute teaching because she was unable to find a teaching job last year (Thanks George! NCLB strikes again), gave me some decent news today.

First off, she didn't work the week before the Christmas break, nor the whole Christmas break, and she's not working this week. Teachers show up the last week of a break, and the first week back, no matter how sick they are. If you're not in the hospital, you're there.

So, February is going to be a tight month. Again.

On the good news front, however, she got a personal call today from one of the Junior Highs she's been subbing at, and they set her up with ten subbing jobs at that school over the next two weeks. Which is nice, as it means no 5:00 AM phone calls for the next two weeks. It's not a long term sub position -- the best -- but it is a good sign that she's was singled out for the jobs, rather then being assigned to the substitute job bank for random assignment.

Since she hopes to work in that district next year, we're taking it as a sign she's making a good impression.
:: Morat 12:03 PM :: ::

Why Did Attorney General Ashcroft Remove Himself From The Valerie Plame Wilson Leak Investigation?

John Dean has some interesting thoughts on Ashcroft's recusal:
What facts would raise a serious questions of the appearance of a conflict of interest here? I'd bet that the investigation is focusing on at least one target whom Ashcroft knows more than casually, or works with regularly. After all, Novak did identify his sources as two 'senior Administration officials.'

What explains the timing of Ashcroft's removal? Recall that the removal occurred as a result of events occurring in the same week the Post reported that the FBI had told potential witnesses they might have to face a grand jury.

Some of those witnesses very probably hired lawyers as soon as they heard the news. Especially likely to hire a lawyer would be a middle-level person with knowledge of a leak by a higher-up. And such a lawyer would likely have gone immediately to the prosecutors to make a deal.
Here's hoping that's the case. National Security isn't something to screw with for cheap partisan gain.
:: Morat 11:11 AM :: ::

Dean on Christianity and the poor

Reading the Post article again, I noticed something else of interest besides Dean's civil union stance:
Dean said he does not often turn to his faith when making policy decisions but cited the civil union bill as a time he did. 'My view of Christianity . . . is that the hallmark of being a Christian is to reach out to people who have been left behind,' he told reporters Tuesday. 'So I think there was a religious aspect to my decision to support civil unions.'
Do you mark it? About reaching out to those "left behind"?

That got me thinking. We all remember the recent attempt to raise taxes -- rather considerably -- in Alabama. What made that so interesting was that the tax hike was designed to make the system more progressive, and was being sold by a Republican Governor as a way of fufilling their Christian duty to aid the poor and infirm. Those "left behind", so to speak. It was pitched as a conservative Christian rationale for raising taxes.

Now, it failed rather miserably, although that was in large part due to the distrust between the poor and the GOP in Alabama.

But I'm curious...what would happen if a centrist Democrat tried to make that same pitch? Tried to appeal to that logic?

What would happen if Dean, or even Clark, went to the South and pitched -- using logic developed by conservatives for conservatives -- a progressive platform as a Christian platform?

It wouldn't swing the South. But it might swing enough people to make Bush spend time, and money, buttressing the South rather than competing in swing states. And it might lay the foundation for a renewal of Democratic hopes in the South.
:: Morat 11:02 AM :: ::

Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper

That's right. We started a war, got 500 or so American soldiers killed (and another 9,000 wounded) to deal with the imminent threat of paper cuts:
Tamimi's covert work, which he recounted publicly for the first time in five hours of interviews, offers fresh perspective on the question that led the nation to war. Iraq flouted a legal duty to report the designs. The weapons they depicted, however, did not exist. After years of development -- against significant obstacles -- they might have taken form as nine-ton missiles. In March they fit in Tamimi's pocket, on two digital compact discs.

The nine-month record of arms investigators since the fall of Baghdad includes discoveries of other concealed arms research, most of it less advanced. Iraq's former government engaged in abundant deception about its ambitions and, in some cases, early steps to prepare for development or production. Interviews here -- among Iraqi weaponeers and investigators from the U.S. and British governments -- turned up unreported records, facilities or materials that could have been used in unlawful weapons.
Iraq's most dangerous forbidden weapons existed as sketches that, with years of effort, might produce medium range missiles capable of severely irritating the Middle East....but not America.
:: Morat 10:49 AM :: ::

CNN.com - Black Hawk crash kills 9 in Iraq

Another bloody day:
A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter made an 'emergency landing' just south of Fallujah, killing all nine soldiers on board, military officials said.
I'm getting sick of the death. And the worst thing? It's not going to get any better.

Not if Dean wins, not if Clark wins, not if Bush wins. The best we can hope for is that Bush loses, and someone competent and pragmatic steps in to start cleaning up the mess. A new President might not make it any better, in the short run, but Lord knows that as long as Bush is in charge it's going to get worse.
:: Morat 10:21 AM :: ::

Another Gaffe!

Lookit! Dean makes another political gaffe, ending -- for the tenth time -- his run for President.
Dean Says Faith Swayed Decision on Gay Unions:
Democratic front-runner Howard Dean said Wednesday that his decision as governor to sign the bill legalizing civil unions for gays in Vermont was influenced by his Christian views, as he waded deeper into the growing political, religious and cultural debate over homosexuality and the Bible's view of it.

'The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial genetic component to it,' Dean said in an interview Wednesday. 'From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.'
Having given you the CW spin -- probably before it even comes down the pipe -- let me make my own prediction: Dean's comments will be on top of the news cycle for a few days, meaning Dean is on top of the news cycle. These comments will play well with most Democrats, and fit right into his view that civil unions are a civil rights issue.

They'll play well to anyone who has a gay friend or relative.

It'll piss off fundamentalists, who aren't voting for Dean anyways, be embraced by liberal Protestants, be tolerated by moderate Protestants (who tend to think "Hey, you know, we each got our theology"), and be blasted by most Catholic leadership, but tolerated or rejected by individual Catholics based on their pre-existing belief.

In other words, the only people this is likely to truly alienate are people who wouldn't vote for Jesus if he ran as a Democrat.
:: Morat 10:18 AM :: ::


As I've never really watched the primary season this closely before, is it normal for me to be insanely eager for the primaries to start?

Because normally I don't care. I research a bit before my state's primary, vote, and go on with my life.

Right now, however, I'm a wreck. I'm infuriated that no one seems to be polling Iowa, irritated at seeing national polls of "registered voters" rather than "likely voters", and wondering why no one seems to be polling most of the mini-Tuesday states.

I want information. I want polls. I want the damn voting to start, because I have this burning desire to see how it all works out...and whether my instincts and predictions are even in the right ballpark. (For the record: Dean wins Iowa by at least 5 points. Dean wins NH by 20 or more. Dean bounces into mini-Tuesday and wins 4 of the 7, including SC and Arizona. Although SC is probably very close. The primary effectively ends after that, as Dean is well positioned to maximize his bounce after that...and Clark, who will become the anti-Dean, isn't so prepared.).

Back on topic, is this normal? To be so interested, excited, and generally eager to see this stuff sort out? To quote Kos, "Is it Iowa yet?"
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

Pigs Fly!

Look! It's a pro-Dean piece in The New Republic. Of course, TNR just endorsed Lieberman, but this is still a good piece. One point really caught my eye:
Dean critics dismiss the power of Dean's activists; in this weekend's debate, for example, Joe Lieberman pleaded for a "center-out" coalition. But, in the real world, that's not how politics works. Moderates aren't the ones who man the phones or walk the precincts or start their own Web logs--they're not passionate enough to devote the time. It's the activists who do that, which is why alienating them is every bit as self-destructive as letting them take charge. The key is finding some middle ground, and that's the beauty of the Dean campaign, as my colleague Noam Scheiber has observed: Dean has won over Democratic activists more with tone than substance. He has tapped radical energy without committing the party to a radical agenda.
Many politicians -- and I hope Bush and Rove are amongst them -- seem to have a bit of a blindspot on this particular point. They can't seem to believe, and thus discount, that a candidate can have the support of the radicals without being one himself.

It's certainly something the Club for Growth can't grasp. Their latest anti-Dean ad is aimed at a Dean who doesn't exist, and the disconnect between their rhetoric and reality renders their ad worth than useless....if anything, it's likely to boost Dean in Iowa rather than harm him.
:: Morat 9:40 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 ::

35 GIs Injured in Iraq Mortar Attack

Another deadly day:
Thirty-five U.S. soldiers were wounded Wednesday in a mortar attack on a U.S. base west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

:: Morat 2:53 PM :: ::

Car Update

Remember my Beetle? The one that got badly mangled about two or three months ago? It's almost ready. It went to the paintshop yesterday. They're detailing it tomorrow, and then inspecting the interior and test driving it more thoroughly.

I had been warned, when choosing this shop, that they were slow. Very slow. Meticulous, perfect, relatively reasonable on prices...but slow, slow, slow.

I hadn't fully grasped this. Their initial estimate was for the week of Thanksgiving, almost a month after the accident. Their current estimate is "next week". My wife's started a betting pool.

You can bet, however, that after three months it better be perfect.

In other news, my insurance company still feels I should pay 1100 dollars towards my wife's recent medical tests (the ones she had back in September). My personal feeling is "No, I don't have to pay them 1100 dollars. That's what I have health insurance for. I've paid my deductible, it's in network, pay up". I'll be talking to them, again, today. Should I continue to run into problems, I might be forced to contact a lawyer. Or an advocate.

I'm not sure, even now, why they're not paying all of it. I can only guess that they still refuse to admit it was an in-network facility, and thus I'm liable for 20% of the cost.

The mere fact that the facility in question is listed as "in network" on the Aetna home page, the facility staff claims they're in network, and the people I've spoken to on the phone admit it's part of their network, I'm guessing the name change is still throwing off their billing.
:: Morat 11:21 AM :: ::

2004 NH Democratic Tracking

According to ARG's 2004 NH Democratic Tracking poll, it looks like Clark's strategy is paying off.

Clark decided to skip Iowa to focus on NH. Over the course of the two weeks or so of the NH poll, Dean has fluctuated around 37% (his highest was 39%, and his lowest is 36%, where he currently stands), meaning his support is steady...but not rising. Unsurprising, given the good Doctor is focused on Iowa right now.

Kerry, on the other hand, has fallen from 19% to 13%. That's statistically significant, and the poll shows a steady downward trend.

Clark has rise from 12% to 16%. It's only four points, but it's been a steady rise unlike Dean's fluctuation, which leads me to believe it's a true rise...and not a statistical aberration. I'd say that Clark's NH focus is slowing paying off. Whether it will be enough to get him over 20 points is unknown, but I'd say it's at least likely.

At the moment, however, I'd kill for a new Iowa poll. If Dean wins Iowa, he'll get a bounce into NH. If Dean loses Iowa (this assumes he comes in a close second), then he won't...and Clark's rising numbers will mean a lot more.

Nonetheless, NH is still solidly Dean. He's got a 20 point lead over his nearest competitor, which does give him the luxury of focusing on Iowa. If Dean's lead in NH wasn't quite as solid, he'd probably be forced to split his attention....or do as Clark has done, and drop one for the other.
:: Morat 10:18 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 ::

Why I love the Club for Growth

Have you heard about the new Club for Growth ad?
The Club for Growth Political Action Committee said the 30-second spot against the former Vermont governor will begin running in Des Moines today -- two weeks before the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

In the ad, a farmer says he thinks that 'Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ...' before the farmer's wife then finishes the sentence: '... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.'

I'm sorry. I can't take that seriously. I can't take the Club for Growth seriously.

Look at that ad. Look at it. Can you actually imagine anyone being swayed by it?

Well, actually, you can. Let's rephrase: Can you imagine anyone, who might at some point in his or her life even flirt with the idea that perhaps "Democrat" and "Evil" aren't synonyms, taking this ad seriously?

It's too bad, really. I could promise a massive Democratic landslide if all our opponents were this flamingly stupid.

And, for the record, Dean drives an 89 Chevy Blazer. Vermont + Winter + Hockey playing kids = Need for large car.
:: Morat 12:44 PM :: ::

Finally back!

I spent the morning upgrading to XP on my work machine, which meant I was very busy and cut off from the internet.

Thankfully, I seem to have the system up and running and life should return, slowly, to normal.
:: Morat 12:17 PM :: ::

:: Monday, January 05, 2004 ::

The New Yorker: Running on Instinct

The New Yorker has an excellent (and pretty objective) piece up on Dean and Dean's background. It's a long read, but well worth the time.
Dean’s abstinence from personal revelation was just one way that he had discombobulated the Party leadership’s assumptions about how to reclaim the White House. He stridently rejected the forever-glancing-over-the-shoulder centrist calculations that had defined the Democratic Party establishment since the advent of the Clinton era; he wasn’t from the South; he almost never spoke about faith (“I don’t go to church very often,” he announced in a debate in November); he’d become a free-trade dissenter; he didn’t target his speeches directly at aging, affluent suburbanites. Nevertheless, his heretical choices about what to say (and what not to say) had somehow propelled him to the top of the heap. It was a trajectory that even Dean seemed not to have foreseen. “This campaign is not about me—this is a movement” was one of his catchphrases, uttered with a matter-of-factness that sounded as if he actually believed it. Watching the race unfold, one assumed that he also instinctively trusted serendipity. Indeed, the evidence of Dean’s career thus far was that, as bold, hardworking, and opportunistic a politician as he obviously was, a key component of his success had been his preternatural good luck.

:: Morat 10:40 AM :: ::

Bradley to endorse Dean

Daily Kos points out that Bill Bradley seems set to endorse Dean.
Former Sen. Bill Bradley (news - web sites) of New Jersey, who lost his 2000 presidential bid to Al Gore, is expected to endorse Democratic front-runner Howard Dean in New Hampshire on Tuesday, political sources said.

Dean, who was campaigning in northeastern Iowa, refused to confirm the endorsement but scrapped a planned pancake breakfast in Iowa on Tuesday and will fly to Manchester, New Hampshire, on Monday night.
Gore and Bradley? As I've said before, luck sleeps in Dean's pocket. The latest polling makes the "unelectable" meme a bit hard to push, which means the "Dean is divisive" meme is probably next out the gate.

Getting Gore and Bradley onboard makes that one pretty hard to sell.
:: Morat 9:37 AM :: ::

:: Sunday, January 04, 2004 ::

The AP shows it's Liberal Bias

Needlenose points out the AP story on the Democratic Debate today. From the lead of the AP wire story:
For a brief time in their debate Sunday, Democrats seemed to be hewing to a New Year's resolution to stick more carefully to the facts on taxes, the budget and more. But old habits die hard.
Let me add a polite "What?" to this.

AP, a widely respected and mainstream wire service, just sent out an article -- not an opinion piece -- whose lead insults Democrats.

Not just the nine on stage. All of them. They're all prone to ignoring or making up facts, apparently.

Atrios had an excellent suggestion:
You may contact the AP National desk at 212-621-1600 and ask them, ever so politely, "what the fuck?"

You may also email the author at cwoodward@ap.org and ask him how what he wrote makes any goddamn sense at all.
He also points out another part of the article, which basically calls Dean a liar for telling the truth, oddly enough.

Update: Some of the AP people contacted have claimed it was an AP screwup, an opinion piece sent out as a wire report. That's not official, but I'd imagine if true they'll be issuing a correction tommorow.
:: Morat 8:59 PM :: ::

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