The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Keep the Faith

We are gonna win. We are gonna win.

In the last two days the Right-wing spin machine has managed to convince the national media to sell the latest poll numbers under the packaging "OBL tape swings Polls to Bush." There are only two polls that I know of that have Bush leading by 5 pts or more -- CNN and TIPP. And if it's any consolation, TIPP had Bush leading Gore 48-39 two days out from Election Day in 2000. Gallups latest numbers are a week old and still show the Gallup margin of 5-6% in favor of Bush but Gallup's credibility has pretty much been shot on this one I think. See DonkeyRising for his critique. All of the other polls actually show a Kerry trend. Fox, Zogby, Rasmussen, & WashPost all show a Kerry trend and a miniscule Kerry lead. If anything, the polls have tightened since the tape. Once again, as everyone says, the ground game will determine this race. If you are voluntering to help get out the vote, know that you are doing the Lord's work. See this eloquent post on TPM for inspiration. See NewDonkey for an explanation why the media have all bought Karl Rove's spin.

The news is good. The electoral college polls are swinging Kerry's way. It's not four more years; it's two more days!

Friday, October 29, 2004

The GOP Voter Fraud Campaign

I am pretty much kicking myself tonight for trying to be magnanimous in seeing the GOP side of the voter suppression/voter fraud debate. How could I have been so naive?

I noticed that both TPM and NewDonkey were beating this drum pretty hard today as well as the American Prospect and NewDemocrats Online blog. I have had a tendency to try to look past this but I have to confess to some concern several weeks ago when I noticed an emerging drum beat of punditry from the Right warning about voter fraud just when Democrats were starting to get in gear about their fears of seeing Florida repeated in this election. A local Right-wing columnist started off by criticizing Democrats as hysterical about voter suppression that didn't exist, even arguing that the Civil Rights Commission found no effort to suppress minority votes in Florida when I think it's pretty clear that this is exactly what they did find in 2000.

Then William Safire jumped in to scream about voter fraud and was quickly joined by George Will. The echo chamber got lit up again pretty quick at this point. In fact, our local paper began a steady stream of articles about potential voter fraud in this state and was quickly joined by local TV outlets. The concerns were of felons on parole who were registering to vote and thousands of double or triple registrations of some voters -- who it turns out were simply moving around over a 4 year period and re-registering in their new locale while the Secretary of State wasn't updating voter roles on a regular basis. Hardly a widespread campaign of fraud.

Still, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt in recognition that each side has legitimate grievances over the past. Until tonight's local news that is and also hearing the news out of Ohio. There, a local judge threw out a Republican effort to challenge the legitimacy of thousands (I mean 30,000!) of new registrants. The GOP's reaction? 'Well, since this activist judge wouldn't help us settle these concerns before the election, we will just have to do this at the polls on election day with our poll watchers.' Here in Colorado some GOP big-wigs held a press conference charging Democrats with widespread systematic intent to commit voter fraud and warned that they will be on watch on election day.

So the groundwork has been laid for thousands of GOP pollwatchers to hold up lines in Democratic precincts across the country but particularly in battleground states. The legitimacy of their effort already established through the media, any effort by Democrats to get the lines moving again will be labeled 'intimidation,' a word already trotted out here in Colorado. Ed Kilgore over at NewDonkey does a great job of breaking this down and pointing out the similarities to Florida --act like the Gestapo with regard to intimidation and suppressing democracy and then accuse your opponents of this crime when they get upset. I am willing to concede the what is beginning to emerge appears to be a widespread effort to slow down the vote on Election Day and create chaos and frustration on the part of high performance Democratic voters. The ground work has been laid. The media alerted. All that remains to see is how efficiently election officials and judges deal with this looming crisis, because you know we can't count on the media to get this story out now. It reeks too much of a 'conspiracy theory,' the Left having been outflanked by the master conspirators.

NewDonkey has some more heartening late breaking news out of Ohio.

OBL's Latest Tape

So he is alive after all. After three years of telling us he was probably dead or that his capture didn't matter and not even mentioning him, Osama Been Forgotten resurfaces on Al Jazeera with a tape in which he says essentially nothing other then to drop enough clues for everyone to figure out that he is very much alive and very much still thinking of ways to hurt us. Of course stateside everyone is fixated on the political implications.

Did OBL endorse Kerry? Hardly, but that's not stopping Fox, the WSJ and the whole Right Wing echo-chamber. Yet OBL did not call for the election of Kerry nor did he say much about Bush other than to say he was lying to the American people. Analysts see this as an attempt to influence the election but it's a pretty vague one if it is. Maybe OBL just thinks his visage is enough to send a message but it's puzzling that he would leave open the message people could take way from the tape without trying to give a better signal of his preferences.

So what to do? My advice to Kerry would be:

1) Don't make the issue political unless Bush attacks and makes an issue of it. I think Kerry's comments to a local reporter were somewhat unfortunate in this respect as they open the door to further discussion of the tape when getting past the tape should be the main priority. It also allows Bush to accuse Kerry of using the tape to play partisan politics. Kerry's initial comments of being united were on point. The follow up interview was not.

2) OK so if it's an issue what to say? First, "if we hadn't taken our eye off the ball and focused on Iraq we wouldn't have to be listening to video tapes from this guy. He would be either in jail or dead. If we had committed the resources, the intelligence, and the manpower to hunting him in Afghanistan and securing that country before shifting our intelligence units and special forces and troops to Iraq, he would probably be no longer a threat. In 2000 Bush complained that Democrats had let the armed forces get in a state that threatened our security. He talked about 2 divisions not being ready for duty. Well the latest report from the Army indicates that 4 divisions are not ready for duty. Our enemies know that the US security apparatus is overstretched and this is not helping us with threats from Iran and North Korea."

3) If the Right starts spinning this as an effort to elect Kerry because OBL would prefer him, then the response ought to be that in fact, OBL would prefer to see Bush re-elected and if he is likely to want to influence the election it would be to swing voters toward Bush, even if he needs to do it by appearing to prefer another outcome. But it's clear that while the tape lays down no preference, in fact a Bush victory serves his interests. Most analysts of the Arab world know that OBL wants the clash of civilizations, wants to make the war seem to be a war between the Arab world, the Muslim world and the US. Bush plays into his hands by alienating other countries, by radicalizing the Arab world with his strategy and his use of words like crusade and his indifference to public opinion. Does this mean the strategy is to appease the Arab street? No, it means recognizing that it's called diplomacy for a reason. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute makes this clear below:

"There's no question bin Laden would rather have Bush in the White House. The Iraq war has been a fantastic recruiting tool for him and the behavior of this administration has played into his hands."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Two Signs that the End of the World is Nigh

Right-wing Republicans like to speak of 'The Rapture,' the moment when God comes to earth and takes all of his beloved believers with him to Heaven, leaving the rest of us poor sinners to gnash our teeth and bemoan our fate, left here on earth in a world without Right-wing Republicans. Could that moment of universal rapture for both the Left and the Right be upon us?

At 9:00 pm this evening, Denver time, two events occurred simultaneously. There was a full eclipse of the moon which reached its peak, and the Red Sox won the World Series in a sweep after an almost 100 year drought of tragi-comic futility. If this were the Middle Ages, we would all be preparing for Armageddon. All that we would need would be a third sign. Election day is now 6 days away. Could the 3rd sign be a victory by....


TalkingPoints Memo directs people to two interesting updates. The first follows the brewing fight in Ohio over voter registration and connects to the previous posting. The second reports the results from a Republican pollster's final poll in the 12 battleground states. The upshot: if minority turnout mirrors that of 2000, Kerry wins by 3.5%. Did you catch that? 3.5%. See below.

BBC, Voter Suppression and that Story out of Florida

Anyone listening to Morning Sedition on Air America this morning would have heard them discuss a story reported yesterday on the BBC about a possible strategy by Republicans in Florida to slow down election lines by challenging voters in black precincts. You can read the official Republican response here. Essentially, the GOP mailed new registrants, ostensibly to persuade them to vote Republican. I would bet, though, that the real goal was to identify faulty addresses by recording the addresses of returned mail. (Note that the nonprofit rate increases if you ask the USPS to return mail undelivered mail to sender - hence most nonprofits who just want to persuade people on a one time basis opt out of getting undelivered mail returned to them.)

I am not sure what to make of this story. The reporting by Palast is pretty vague and full of sinister allusions but rather nonsensical. ABC's the Note (profiled in this week's New Yorker) picked up this story and found out where the list came from. It seems someone in the Bush campaign inadvertently mailed it to the humorous website WWW.GEORGEWBUSH.ORG and they passed it along to Palast. You can look at the list by clicking here. ABC's the Note doesn't appear too concerned about this story as they printed up the GOP response along with snippets of Palast's story. My hunch is that the GOP is developing lists to monitor possible voter fraud.

The great fear of Democrats is voter suppression. This is easy to understand since so many Democrats come from groups that have traditionally been the victims of disenfranchisement efforts. If you were Republican and wanted to keep a Democrat from voting on election day how would you do it? Well, without being able to directly target an individual by voter registration, hence without knowledge of a person's identity and personal preferences, you would have to go by some external marker. And the best external predictor of voter preference is skin color since black support for Democrats ranges between 80-90%. When I used to work in politics we called minority neighborhoods pockets of "high performance democratic voters." So Republican strategies have traditionally focused on keeping turnout down in such neighborhoods (see below).

But in fairness, let's consider the Republican perspective as well. The great Republican fear is voter fraud. This dates way back (there are still GOP charges that Dailey stole the '60 election for Kennedy), but can be understood by considering where most large scale voter fraud has historically taken place and where most Democrats live -- the cities. If you were a Democrat and wanted to increase your vote you could pay poor people to assume various identities and go to the polls repeatedly during the day. So Republican efforts towards election day traditionally use terms like 'ballot security' in order to increase awareness of potential voter fraud as a preventive measure. You can see this ongoing in the current spate of articles by right-wing columnists warning about Democratic voter fraud and pushing this issue over the danger of voter suppression.

So Republicans have two possible strategies facing them in Florida. They can use the 'caging list' to identify potential fraud on election day and make sure election judges deal with it accordingly, or they can use the list to create distractions and challenges that lead to large waiting lines in 'high performance' Democratic precincts thereby lowering turnout by encouraging people to just go home. I am not too worried about the latter possibility since it is hard for me to imagine a few challenges creating long back ups. If there are many challenges though, that's another story.

The bigger problem appears to be brewing in Ohio and that is a story that bears watching.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

RELAX! Get your resume ready.

We are going to Washington!

OK so maybe I am a little optimistic. Some might call it touched in the head. Others, denial. But hey, what's the alternative but sedatives?

But I just feel it in my bones. I am now predicting (I know -- bold of me isn't it one week out?) that Kerry wins by 3 pts and gets about 305 electoral votes. There are a number of reasons for this optimism beyond those mentioned above. 1) the performance of an incumbent relative to the latest polls tends to mirror his last percentages while the undecideds break for the challenger. 2) most polls appear to be tied although I concede some recent movement towards Bush but argue its offset by some other polls that broke towards Kerry. 3) the swing state polls are looking very good although Zogby's latest numbers do contradict those other findings. And...

4) I just came across this site with some interesting projections using simulation techniques from statistics that are increasingly common in political science. The call is for a Kerry victory (using polling numbers from tracking polls). Check out the site and see what you think. It is true that two other models predict a Bush win so maybe this is just selective attention on my part. But despite my belief in efficient markets, I am dubious of the market based models such as the betting line in Ireland or Iowa's election market. I think there is too much investor bias and lack of information. So I guess I am betting on a Bush bubble. For those of you interested in following the polls here are the key links:
For a complete discussion of electoin prospects see this article in the Washington Post.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A New Hero For America

Saturday night I was up late watching TV and like a total geek I found myself watching CSpan. Now I don't usually make a habit of watching this station but I was flipping through the channels and they had an appearance by comedian and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. He was speaking in New York at either the New Yorker festival or some event sponsored by the S.I. Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse and was interviewed by Ken Auletta. He was by turns hilarious, inspiring, and invigorating as he skewered both Bush-Cheney '04 and the press for their failure to do their job. Stewart's contention is that the media allow themselves to be manipulated by both sides and fail in their duty to serve as an arbiter and referee over the arguments both sides make. He doesn't believe that all media fail, just the most important players, particularly the TV media. He recently was a guest on CNN's Crossfire and lambasted both Belgala and Carlson for their efforts. Here is a telling exchange from the show.

STEWART: ...I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad. (LAUGHTER)
BEGALA: We have noticed.
STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America. (LAUGHTER)
CARLSON: But in its defense...(CROSSTALK)
STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say... (CROSSTALK)
STEWART: Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.

While most commentators on the Left and the Right concern themselves with charges of media bias, Stewart is less concerned with this than that major media pretend to be news but are in fact in the entertainment business. He feels they fail in their obligations to present us with anything more substantive than the horse-race and covering the campaigns as spectacle's.

STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.
BEGALA: We do, do... (CROSSTALK)
STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?
STEWART: Absolutely.
CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you... (CROSSTALK)
STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. (LAUGHTER)
STEWART: What is wrong with you?

I urge you to read the full transcript of his appearance on Crossfire and you can watch the CSpan appearance (both of which are quite funny) here. An article discussing his call for change in our media is reviewed here. If you want to see someone call Tucker Carlson a part of the male anatomy to his face, it is priceless to read the CNN transcript.

What World Do Republicans Live in?

Friday on Air America's O'Franken Report, Al Franken hosted Joe Conason and they talked about this latest poll from the University of Maryland. (This was also discussed at the Votemaster's Electoral Vote Webpage). The poll is remarkable for it documents that large majorities of Republicans believe:
  1. That Iraq offered significant assistance to Al Qaeda and was involved in the 9/11 attacks
  2. That the 9/11 Commission found this to be true
  3. That there were WMD in Iraq
  4. That the Duelfer Report found this to be true
  5. That the US should not have gone to war if US intelligence services had found that Iraq had no WMD
  6. That a majority of the world does not oppose the US invasion of Iraq -- that is right does not
  7. That a majority of the people in the world support Bush's reelection
  8. That a majority of people in Islamic countries support the US war on terror (smaller majority)
  9. That Bush support multilateral approaches to international relations
  10. That Bush supports the Kyoto Treaty on global warming
The only word to explain such opinions is cognitive dissonance. When the facts don't agree with what you feel is right, you adjust you understanding of the facts. Bush supporters wish that these things were true since it would support their support of Bush. The only way to reconcile the conflict is to believe they are true. You can learn more about the study by clicking here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

An Eloquent Kerry Endorsement

A friend sent me the following endorsement from a Florida paper that endorsed Bush in 2000. It seems to hit almost all the marks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Sinclair Update

Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo has been doing a great job keeping on top of the Sinclair story. He highlights several developments. He points out that there are now two shareholder lawsuits against Sinclair. One charging that executives are driving down the price of the stock through their political agenda and the other that Sinclair Executives sold stock early this year, just before the price plunged. Check out the marvelous job Sinclair executives have done running the company this year. As you probably know by now, Sinclair is backing away from a full airing of the Anti-Kerry documentary but will still have a one hour 'news' forum on media bias and the POWs issue. In related news, Hannaford backed off of their statement that they were pulling advertising from Sinclair in Maine. Don't forget that you can still air your grievances against companies who purchase national advertising from Sinclair, even if you don't currently live in a Sinclair media market.

Of deeper concern is the emerging 'cultural relativism' and post modernism of the Far Right (once again I owe a debt of gratitude on this one to Josh Marshall). The richness of this irony is probably only apparent to a few, but for years Right Wing commentators have been railing against the cultural relativism of the Left. The apparent motto now seems to be "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." For those of us who truly do have some concerns about relativism and epistemology this is worrisome. Essentially, the question becomes one of fact. Do you accept that there are certain facts out there? Knowable truths that humans can perceive and understand? Or is everything dictated by perception and power, so that all of life devolves into a constant struggle between groups and individuals, not just over material goods, but over the nature of reality and reality itself. You don't have to be a pure Positivist to believe that some things are true, some things have happened, and others have not. Ron Susskind provides a telling story about this in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. But I think you can see this in lots of places. Recent news stories about the Sinclair documentary probably highlight this fact most clearly. At the center of the debate is what did or did not happen in Vietnam. Ultimately, this is not a question of interpretation but one of facts. Did US soldiers commit atrocities in Vietnam? The Anti-Kerry POWs claim among other things, that the atrocities Kerry alleged in his Congressional testimony did not occur. But whether they did or not is a matter of fact not opinion. Again, the Far Right seems to be counting on the media's predilection for keeping things balanced by airing two sides of every account, even when there is only one side. The documentary also claims that North Vietnamese captors showed POWs Kerry's testimony and told them they would be tried for war crimes. But POWS who were in these same camps claim this never happened and that they never heard of Kerry until they returned home. One charge that is a matter of opinion is whether Kerry by himself prolonged the war by two years. But this is a claim that is so laughable on its face that it should be exposed as such. Although the press has an obligation to present both sides of opinion, they also have a responsibility to show the true nature of how that opinion is distributed. It isn't right to air a debate on global warming with 'experts' on both sides without highlighting that 99% of the experts believe that global warming is a threat and is a result of human activity and a handful of near quacks believe otherwise.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the Sinclair executive who defended these accusations against Kerry, brought up Holocaust deniers and likened them to the TV Networks who won't air this documentary. But we would be rightfully disappointed if the networks decided to present a debate about whether or not the Holocaust actually happened with 'experts' on both sides of the issue. Who is really the denier on this issue of Vietnam? Who is really trying to foist a particular view of the truth on people, one that is patently false and misleading with an intention to sway human actions? Who appears to believe that reality is what we say it is? Who appears to be wedded to the notion that might makes right and ownership of the airewaves empowers you to do as you wish?

Poll News

Good news on the polling front. The Votemaster, who keeps a complete and comprehensive tally of state by state polling results that also tabulates possible electoral vote totals has Kerry beginning to move ahead in the state by state races. Check out the polling data for October 20th. These state by state polls fluctuate a lot and tomorrow Bush could be leading by 40 electoral votes (This is due to the fact that Kerry is given all the electoral votes in a state today even if he only is only leading by one point while Bush would get the same state tomorrow if he takes a one point lead -- all within the margin of error anyway). But one thing is worth noting beyond the fact that Kerry tallies 294 electoral votes. He appears to have sizable leads in MN, PA, & NM, states that leaned Bush or were tied. Florida is still up for grabs but then so is Ohio if you place your mouse over the state and look at the resultant numbers. More interesting still is that this map begins to lay out a possible Kerry landslide scenario (kudos to Nancy Harrow!) Kerry is close in (get this) WV, VA, NC, and Tennessee. I doubt Kerry will win those but this map has got to be keeping Karl Rove awake at night.

Daily tracking polls are available at the following weblink. The only concern here is the Washington Post Poll numbers. Everything else looks favorable to Kerry. Remember undecideds typically break 2-1 for the challenger although who knows what is likely this year.

Friday, October 15, 2004

More Republican Hyjinx

This time its from 2002.

Josh Marshall points out this story from the NYTimes and this one from the Manchester Union Leader telling how the NH GOP hired a VA firm to tie up the GOTV phones of the NH Democratic Party on election day. Without phones, Democrats couldn't call people to urge them to vote and to see if they needed help getting to the polls.

Rumblings of Modest Success in the Sinclair Boycott

It looks like some people are making noise up in Maine. Check it out.

Post-Debate Spin

Well the debate is long past in political terms but I am only getting around to giving my spin on it now.

I thought the debate was a rather good one for both sides. Grading it from home I gave Kerry a B+ and Bush a B-. I was kind of surprised when I tallied up the grades I gave to individual answers since I felt the two sides performances were somewhat closer. But I guess my take was confirmed by most viewers who, somewhat surprisingly to me, awarded a solid win to Kerry. Two polls (CNN & CBS) gave him a double digit win and one poll (ABC) had him narrowly ahead of Bush. Josh Marshall gave a more emphatic win to Kerry, but then again, he thought the first debate was a draw when I thought Bush gave pretty much the worst debate performance in a generation.

Kerry started slow and his answer on whether our children will ever feel safe or secure was somewhat weak. He started with an attack on Bush and then a discussion of his plans whereas I would have counseled a reverse approach, starting with a discussion of the question and then turning to an attack on Bush by way of contrast. I felt the highlights for Kerry were his discussion of his Catholic faith and how it relates to abortion, his discussion of jobs (that's where he aired the Tony Soprano line), and his slamming of Bush's leadership on the assault weapons ban. Bush's highlights included his critique of Kerry's health care plan (which was wrong - but Kerry failed to call him on the carpet for that), surprisingly, his ability to sound neutral in the Roe v Wade question (again something Kerry should never have let him get away with), and his discussion of privatizing Social Security. Kerry failed to exploit some opportunities on health care and was surprisingly unprepared for the question on affirmative action (so was Bush for that matter who missed an opportunity to score points against Kerry with white undecideds). At one point Bush stated that Kerry was wrong about malpractice because defensive medicine adds as much as $29 billion to perhaps $100 billion to our health spending. Well, $29 billion is less than 2% of our nation's health care spending so to put this in practical terms, it means a person's health care premiums would fall by about 2% -- or about $200 for a family of four that typically spends $10,000 on health care. And as most readers of this blog know, the Harvard School of Public Health found no evidence that malpractice leads to greater defensive practices. Kerry should have called Bush on two major lies -- the first that he never said he was not 'concerned' about Osama Bin Forgotten, when in fact those were the the exact words Bush used in a press conference, and the second when Bush claimed most of the tax relief went to the middle class when the CBO showed it primarily benefited the wealthiest Americans.

Bush has this increasingly annoying habit of going around the country and accusing Kerry of 'exaggerations,' dishonesty, lies, and untruths when in fact he is usually discussing something that is entirely true -- thus rendering his accusation of lying a lie in itself. Gee, lying about lying. Are you surprised a Republican does that? Bush had a couple of moments where he exposed himself. First, discussing the amendment process, he talked about how 'people can ratify the Constitution.' Funny, but I thought we did that 200 years ago. His jokes on health care fell very flat. And he several times began to gesticulate wildly during his answers. I suppose this provided him some relief from having to sit still while Kerry talked but it didn't make him look very Presidential.

Kerry looked cool, calm, and collected. He was poised and very Presidential and at the same time, he managed to evoke two or three very human moments and one where he broke into a broad grin at the end when he discussed his wife. So overall, a good evening. Kerry seems to have righted his campaign and I think the consensus is that he bested Bush across the three debates. Sadly, today's Reuters' poll by Zogby has Bush opening up a 4 point lead on Kerry which confirms a trend of the last 3 days in which he closed Kerry's lead, edged ahead by a point and now appears to be stretching it. Of most concern are crosstabs indicating that 89% of Republicans will vote for Bush but only 79% of Democrats. These numbers are a major worry and I think it has partly to do with Kerry's failure to address Bush's attacks directly and strongly. Most of Bush's accusations, which many have pointed out are almost completely untrue, just sit there. In a time of war, one way to demonstrate strength is to vigorously defend yourself. Kerry is attacking Bush, but I think he also needs to defend himself. His silence is Dukakian -- this from a guy who swore his campaign wouldn't make the same mistakes.

One observation about the debate. It struck me that one thing Republicans do a lot of is tell everyone in their audience how great America is. Americans love to be told how great they are and how great this country is. Democrats don't do enough of that and I think they need to do it more.

Last Comments: In the final days several things will be critical. Everyone is saying how important GOTV (get out the vote) will be. They are right. If polls indicate a split near election day among registered voters, then the winner will be that party which gets its people to the poll. Also important will be the numbers of undecideds towards election day. Charlie Cook claims that undecideds break 2:1 for the challenger but I am not sure if this will hold during a war. Still if the candidates are tied the eve of election that's bad news for Bush. If, however, Bush can build an insurmountable lead then this is moot. For instance, if he leads Kerry 48-44 (the latest Zogby numbers) with 7% undecided, than he will win on election day. I am not sure that we can count on the undecideds in this election. Psychologists talk about a phenomenon called 'status quo bias.' Humans need a big push to get off of the current status quo and make a move for change. I think that for most of the undecideds it is now a matter of convincing them to go with their gut. I truly believe (and I think the numbers back me up on this) that most undecideds and independents know in their gut that this is a failed presidency and want a change, want new leadership, want new direction. But to decide for change is to choose the unknown since Bush is so much more of a known commodity than Kerry. And I think that the uneasiness associated with a time of war heightens the status quo bias. Essentially, the Bush presidency is standing on the gallows of defeat, and all that remains is for voters to pull the lever and end it. To do this though, they have to get past their anxiety of choosing change. Kerry needs to spend a lot of time convincing these people that going with their gut is the right thing to do. Also, look out for any dirty tricks from Karl Rove.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Boycott Sinclair!!!!

My friends know that I have been urging people to take action on Sinclair Broadcasting's completely unethical effort to air anti-Kerry propaganda days before the election on their local affiliates. Information about this is posted below.

For proof that it works -- see this article that advertisers are starting to back away from Sinclair.

Here's an email I sent to all my friends. I got the suggestion from Josh Marshall's blog (which is an excellent read by the way).

Dear Friends,

This is a mass email on an urgent matter. I urge you to read it and forward it to as many friends as you can. We need to get the word out on this. By way of background, Sinclair Broadcasting has ordered all of its 60 some affiliates to air a documentary created by the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans group several days before the election. It has ordered them to pre-empt their regularly scheduled programming to do this -- and many of its stations are major network affiliates like UPN, WB, ABC, FOX and others. The documentary is created by a man whose other claim to fame is a documentary entitled Inquisition, about, if you can believe it, the government's alleged "persecution" of the Rev Sun Myung Moon. This so called documentary is essentially 90 minutes of free advertising for the Bush campaign days from the election. Former FCC member Reed Hundt has written to Sinclair urging them to abandon this as it violates the public trust and many of the principles laid out in the FCC rules for Fair Use. (You won't see Republican lackey Michael Powell take action on this any time soon.) This is a publicly traded company mind you. So what to do?

A good person with a background in local media has come up with the following plan: Call advertisers who advertise on Sinclair and tell them you will boycott their establishment unless they withdraw advertising on Sinclair. If you live in one of the Sinclair media markets and care about the outcome of this election and about how our Democracy evolves from here for that matter, I urge you to take part in this effort. You can find out if you live in the relevant markets by clicking on the link at the bottom of this email. His idea is below:

"I’ve worked in the media business for 30 years and I guarantee you that sales is what these local TV stations are all about. They don’t care about license renewal or overwhelming public outrage. They care about sales only, so only local advertisers can affect their decisions.

"Here's how to have an impact on the local Sinclair stations: first, watch the station and make a list of all of the local advertisers. Then, write to the sales manager -- not the general manager, but the sales manager -- and tell him that you're going to contact all of the local advertisers to register a protest about the station airing this program. Be specific -- mention the names of those local advertisers. Then, actually contact them (if you write or email, cc the sales manager). These stations make most of their income (around 60%) from local advertisers and will NOT want to have that income threatened.

"This has worked numerous times. A recent example was when a local radio morning show host in North Carolina told his listeners to aim for bicyclists on the road (he was ranting about how cyclists have no right to share the roadways). The station defended him for several days amidst public outcry, until the advertisers, under pressure from outraged cyclists, began to make noise. Suddenly, the station reversed itself, suspended the host for several days, and made him do public service announcements for weeks about sharing the road with cyclists.

"This can work! I plan to start tonight!"

Media Markets of interest:
Asheville, Baltimore, Birmingham, Bloomington, Cape Girardeau, Cedar Rapids, Champaign, Charleston SC, Charleston WV, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Des Moines, Flint, Grand Island, Johnson City, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Lexington, Madisonm Milwaukeem Minneapolism Nashville, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Pensacola, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh, Richmond, Rochester, San Antonio, Springfield, Springfield, St. Louis, Syracuse, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Sacramento, Winston-Salem.

Tom Friedman hits the nail on the head

An excellent piece in the New York Times by Tom Friedman about the President's use of 9/11 and his critique of Kerry's comments on reducing terrorism to a nuisance. Friedman captures perfectly part of what this campaign is all about. That's really all I can say. He says it so well himself.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Republicans Have a Democracy Problem

It's still early. Election day is almost three weeks away. But Republican efforts to suppress the vote appear to have started. Suppression of the vote is a sad chapter in American history that stretches back decades. History has shown that comprehensive efforts were undertaken to suppress the right of blacks to vote ever since the Civil War.

More recently, however, evidence has repeatedly come to light that a key element in the Republican Party's electoral arsenal consists in suppressing the vote that may go to the other side. Not content with just trying to get elected the old fashioned way -- by persuading lots of people to vote for you. And perhaps bored with an even older-fashioned way -- lying about your opponent incessantly. Republicans have repeatedly turned to efforts aimed at encouraging populations that are likely to vote Democrat to not do so. There are so many ways to do this. Purging the voter roles of supposed felons was a favorite tactic of Kathleen Harris in Florida. Other tactics include distributing flyers in latino neighborhoods claiming that immigration officials will be standing at polling sites demanding to see green cards. Or posting police officers in low income black neighborhoods where police are viewed with suspicion.

Think it still doesn't go on?

Here is a story from today in Nevada. It appears a Republican effort to register voters may have been systematically throwing out Democratic registrations for this election. Seems the company is doing the same thing in Oregon (and possibly West Virginia.)

Hard to believe you say? Check out the following stories:

Here is what a court had to order the Republican National Committee to stop doing.

Here is what happened in Florida

Here is a story about problems in Arkansas

Here are some issues that arose in Tennessee

Think it only happens in the South? Think again. Here is what may have happened in New Jersey. This story was later discredited as an example of Ed Rollins boasting by lying. But the following story tells you what happened in New York City and suggests Rollins may have been boasting, but not lying.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Issue of the Day: Who's the Big Spender?

I just have to share this from Eric Alterman's blog (Altercation):

"And Mr. Nobel Nice Guy, Jonathan Cohn, who notes,

"'Bush's campaign proposals would produce $3 trillion in new debt ($2 trillion of it from social security privatization) even as he postures as a fiscal conservative.

"'Kerry's proposals, including his big health plan, would add just $1 trillion and probably a lot less since Kerry -- unlike Bush -- says he'll scale back plans as necessary if that's what it takes to get the deficit under control. Naturally, Russert and the rest of the media have decided that Bush and Kerry are equally unserious/dishonest when it comes to budget politics.'"

Issue of the Day: Health Care Reform

Health Care is bound to come up as an issue Wednesday and Kerry didn't seem nearly prepared enough on Friday. Democrats have to nip in the bud this Republican idea that our health care crisis is the result of malpractice claims and trial lawyers. I liked what Edwards said in his debate.

"[This] issue...really doesn't have a great deal to do with...[the national crisis in health care] in this country, which I think is a very serious issue.

"...the...problems with malpractice premiums [are] very real. What doctors talk about is very serious....they're getting squeezed from both sides....They have trouble getting reimbursed, first of all, for the care that they provide...,from [both] the government or from health-care companies. And, on the flip side, their malpractice costs are going up. [In some of our rural areas, access to care is a critical issue and malpractice insurance plays some part in that.]

"That's very real, which is why we have proposed a plan to keep cases out of the system that don't belong there."

{I think he should then add the following}

"Try to visual what we as a nation spend on health care by thinking of the total amount as represented by the length of my arm. All $1.5 trillion of it from my shoulder to my finger tips. George Bush's health care proposal, even if it passes and works - which is a big assumption - would only affect an amount equivalent to the top knuckle of my finger. And the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would reduce health spending by less than one half of one percent. That's about equivalent to cutting my finger nail and saying you shortened my arm. All in all, George Bush's health care proposals amount to little more than a manicure. Which is about right for this administration. My proposal could save the American family $1,000 a year. That's about a quarter of the length of my arm. My proposal promises American families real savings. It promises to cut the waste in our health care system. It will free up businesses to focus on what they do best and give them assistance in providing health care for their employees so they can worry about expanding their business rather than trying to give their workers basic health coverage. George Bush is offering a makeover. I am offering a real solution for real problems."

What I like about this response is its visual (if hokey) and concrete. And it addresses what most people care about - which is cost and their own coverage. I am sorry but most American's just don't care about the crisis of the uninsured. Want to sound like a liberal - talk about that issue. Instead, we need to talk about health care as it is experienced by most families - rising premiums, an ever narrowing scope of coverage, headaches with the insurance bureaucracy, uncertainty about the future. This takes an issue and makes it real for people. It's not a slogan but a policy with a response to a real problem put in terms people can understand. This is something that Kerry really needs to do - get more specific. Stop using slogans and show that he has a plan to make things better from day 1.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Issue of the Day: Social Security

Between now and Wednesday I want to address some key domestic issues that are likely to come up in the domestic policy debate and discuss the way that Kerry should talk about them. First up, Social Security & Privatization.

This is a bad idea whose time has passed. There are so many things to say against this proposal that's its hard to know where to begin.

"First, this reform would cost us a fortune because we will have to find the money top both fund the new accounts of today's workers while we continue to meet our existing obligations to retirees and those near retirement. I don't think the President wants to ask someone who is 57 and has paid into Social Security all his life to suddenly start a retirement account and try to live off of what he save in the last few years of his working life. If we hadn't squandered the surplus, maybe it could be affordable, but given the deficits created by this administration and the Republican Congress, how are we going to pay for it now? This idea will cost billions of dollars and for the President not to admit it is reckless and thoughtless.

"Secondly, private retirement accounts represent a huge administrative cost windfall for the private securities industry. Each of these private security accounts will be charged management fees from the investment industry. This is the same industry that has been charged with fraud, with lying to and misleading customers, with allowing market timers to play with other peoples investments, with urging people to buy stocks they knew were worthless. This industry has paid billions of dollars in fines. So now we are going to ask the Social Security fund to bear the cost of those fines? To support this industry? Markets work often but the advisers in the financial market seem to do everything they can to make the market for financial advice as dysfunctional as possible.

"Thirdly, Social Security privatization is a bad idea because Social Security is not a retirement plan but a safety net for our seniors who may have trouble saving for retirement or who have faced some kind of personal financial catastrophe like the collapse of Enron which saw billions of retirement dollars vanish or the bankruptcies of the airlines who are now threatening to walk away from their pension obligations. There is a looming crisis in America's private pension systems that the Bush administration will barely talk about. America's employers have hugely underfunded these pension funds and not met their obligations to their employees. Now many of them threaten to stick the US taxpayer with the bill. People in this country rely on Social Security to be there in case everything else they count on isn't. To allow this money to become subject to the same kinds of investment risks breaks a promise with our seniors and our workers. Look at the risks of private investment. Look at stock market in the last five years. Social Security is a low risk retirement plan. Allowing people to invest the money privately may allow them to raise their return, but only because they are raising their risk. What will happen to those people who lose everything in their Social Security retirement account? Who is going to pay to support them in their old age? Social Security, remember is a program that came out of the Great Depression, an event that was triggered by the collapse of the stock market in 1929. It's a program designed to protect our people against this kind of catastrophe but private accounts would make this kind of event worse.

"Finally, the fundamental reason that this is such a bad idea is that it is really just an effort to destroy something Republicans have been working for 70 years to destroy - Social Security and the protection it provides to our nation's seniors in retirement. When FDR signed the bill into law, he commented on its universal aspect by saying that this would ensure its long-run viability. He recognized that the brilliance of Social Security lies in the fact that we are all covered under this program. One reason that this program survives as it has is because we are all in this together. In our current political system and environment we have enough reason to see each other as members of competing groups, to bicker and fight over government's benefits as if it were a zero sum game. By vesting us all with an interest in Social Security we stand shoulder to shoulder, united as one United States. This stands in the best tradition of our government institutions that bring us together as one people, one nation under God. The flag, public education, the draft army in World War II. No matter our differences, no matter our origins, we are all equal and all one nation. The President's proposal would require special subsidies for poorer workers. We cannot allow Social Security to become another welfare program because we know what happens to those kinds of programs in Washington. Policy makers like to talk about means testing and such for Social Security but this ignores political realities of this country. It ignores what we do to programs that get aimed at one group in our society but cost the rest of us money. Social Security is one of the finest legacies of Franklin Roosevelt because it makes us stronger as a nation and as a people. Most policy experts in Washington forget that. And that is not in the interests of a political party like the Republicans that depends for its political success on dividing us and reminding us continually of our differences. Pitting white against brown, rich against poor, north against south, straight against gay."

Kerry likes to talk about the administrative cost argument. I think the key is not to lead with the administrative cost but to break the overall argument into four key components. Next - Health Care

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Message of the Month: How to Characterize Bush

Bush has made miles of Kerry as a flip-flopper. As I have noted, numerous commentators have suggested that the charge works effectiuvely because it is the foundation from which all their attacks come. Feeling momentum slipping away from them, the Bushies have begun to shift into the tired old Liberal line (see NewDonkey for an excellent analysis and prediction of this trend). So what has Kerry got?
For a while, it seemed he was searching -- "W stands for wrong," "Bush is stubborn," and now we have "Bush is living in his own fantasy world of spin." Here's my two cents. The Kerry theme ought to be, "Bush is wild and thoughtless." Or "reckless and thoughtless." Here are some reasons I think it works.
  • It connects with what people in polls already indicate they know about Bush's stupid side ("OB-GYNs can't practice their love for women!")
  • It also connect with the rashness of his Iraq actions.
  • Then one can use it to undermine his Social Security privatization and health plans which are half baked ideas at best.
  • It explains why he doesn't get that the economy isn't growing how it should -- the recovery is anemic at best and we paid a fortune for it. How different would this be from a normal cyclical recovery? Perhaps his cuts have actually been the problem?
  • There is a huge deficit for our kids to pay off, but what does he care?
  • It allows Kerry to defend his opposition to Bush spending billions on a missile defense system that is untested and untried while refusing money for research into alternative energy sources.
  • It explains why Bush think we need more tax cuts.
  • It explains his elegant touch in foreign policy in which he manages to offend everyone. He goes to the UN to ask for support and says in effect, "I would like your support but I don't need it and will do what I want anyway." Sounds like a plan.
  • The list goes on.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Did you know?

In the wake of the recent report from weapons inspectors in Iraq, it seems fitting to bring up this report done by a college student on the total number of justifications that the Bush-Cheney Administration has offered for the war in Iraq. She documented 27 different reasons in total, of which 23 were attributable to the Administration. You can read an article about her findings here. You can read her original report by clicking here.

John Aravosis documents the arguments here. Here is his list:
1. War on Terror
2. Prevention of the proliferation of WMD
3. Lack of Inspections
4. Remove Saddam Hussein regime
5. Saddam Hussein is evil
6. Invading Iraq would allow us to gain favor in the Middle East
7. Example to other terror states
8. Liberate the Iraqi people
9. Broken Promises - Iraq had made commitments to the UN and the world
10. Revenge for Iraq's attempt on the life of President G.H.W. Bush
11. Threat Saddam posed to the region
12. Because We Can - There would be little conflict or struggle, little price to pay for entering the country, the war would be easy.
13. Cleaning up unfinished business in Iraq from the first Gulf War
14. War for Oil - The US' oil interests in the Middle East and Iraq serve as a reason for wanting to invade the state and topple its leader.
15. Sake of History - Pres. Bush claimed history had called on the US to take action against Iraq.
16. Disarmament - total elimination of ALL weapons in Iraq
17. Safety of the World - Iraq as a terrorist nation could sell weapons to other terrorists and thus posed a threat to the entire world
18. Commitment to the Children - America should give its children and the world's children a better future.
19. Imminent Threat - The uncertainty of Iraq's weapon power and future plans.
20. Preserve Peace - Iraq posted a threat to the peace of the world by its continued terrorist involvement and its increased tension in the Middle East
21. Threat to Freedom - By oppressing its people and threatening the world with possible terror acts, freedom was prevention from spreading through the Middle East and was lessened in those nations that feared terror in their backyards.
22. Link to al Qaeda
23. Iraq Unique - Rumsfeld declared that Saddam Hussein in combination with the weapons potential in Iraq made Iraq different than the other "axis of evil" countries, and therefore a great immediate threat.
24. Relevance of UN - The UN was put on notice that it would face illegitimacy if it did not support the cause of the United States.
25. Iraq had broken international law - Colin Powell said that violations of UN resolutions broke international laws established in the UN Charter.

I would also add 2 more that Bush announced in the past few days:

26. Saddam "hopes" to "some day" get WMD (as compared to he "has" WMD).
27. Saddam had an "ability to work with terrorist organizations" (as compared to actually "working" with terrorist orgs).

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Yet another Bush Cheney Lie

This one's a whopper.

"The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

The truth:
AP Wire, Meeting was not the first for Cheney Edwards.

Friday, October 01, 2004

It's simple: KERRY WON

You know the Bush crowd are starting to flail when the day after the debate Bush trots out the argument that Kerry would let France control our military. That's so pathetic as an argument it's laughable. The Bush folks will try to spin the debate as more contradictions. But it's clear that they are panicked by how shaky Bush's performance was. He mumbled. He paused for long periods, not so much to gather his thoughts as to try to remember what he was doing there. He kept telling us how hard it was to be President, when it was clear what he was really referring to was the fact of how hard it was for him to stand up in front of a crowd for 90 minutes and actually have to use his noggin.

Kerry stomped him on "our enemies attacked us" to justify invading Iraq, pointing out Osama Bin Forgotten attacked us, not Saddam Hussein. He embarrassed him by recounting how during the Cuban missile crisis, De Gaulle told the American Secretary of State, who offered him photographs of the Russian missiles, "the word of the President of the United States is good enough for me." And he showed how out of touch Bush is on foreign affairs when, after Bush tried to argue that we already have sanctions on Iran, Kerry pointed out that he meant we needed to lead a global effort to develop broad international sanctions to isolate Iran.

All national polls show Kerry winning the debate by decisive margins. The smallest margin of victory is 10 points. In some polls, it rises to 22%. And these are polls with Republicans in them, who, if you told them Bush said fire was cold, would cheer loudly and happily. Among independents Kerry's margin of victory in the debate is a butt-stomping 20+ points. Kerry looked confident, calm, steady, thoughtful, informed, poised, and brave. Bush looked childish, petulant, ill-informed, irritable, tired, and every now and then gave us that glorious deer caught in the headlights look he must have mastered at age 4.