Sunday, October 31, 2004
The birthday boy (Oct. 30), diving into his birthday pumpkin cheesecake.
He really can't stop talking about cheesecake.
Zogby Poll Update
I'm pretty sure I was interviewed for Zogby's Wisconsin tracking poll, as opposed to their national poll (which reads at a 48-48 tie).
The Wisconsin numbers are very happy (reported sampling MOE 4.1%):
President: Kerry 52%, Bush 44%, Other 2%, Undecided 2%. This is an 11-point swing to Kerry in the last week.
U.S. Senate: Feingold 57%, Michels 37%, Other 0.7%, Undecided 5%.
Zogby shows Kerry leading 6 of 10 'battlegrounds,' including Florida (narrowly). Of the Bush-leaning battlegrounds, only New Mexico was a Gore state in 2000.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
In Which I Am Surveyed for the Reuters/Zogby Poll
Given the incessant polling, it wasn't unlikely that one of the major polls' random digit dialers would reach us. In this case, I resisted the urge not to pick up on the "Unknown Caller" per Caller ID.
The 3-way Presidential question was ordered Bush, Kerry, and Nader (presumably rotated). Zogby was also polling the Wisconsin Senate race. Needless to say, the nods went to Kerry and Feingold, and I contributed slightly to the President's unfavorables for the personal impression, job performance, and right track/wrong track questions. The likelihood of voting question, interestingly, didn't provide response categories, so hopefully their data collectors are well trained in coding the reuslts.
There were some amusing items interspersed with the questions presumably used for the LV model and poststratification. Do I consider myself a member of the investor class? (Yes.) A NASCAR fan? (No.) Party identification? (Democratic, of course.) How liberal or conservative? (Liberal, but not super-liberal.) Hold a valid passport? (Yes.) Do I live in a large city, small city, town, etc.? (Small city, self-identified.)
I'll be looking forward to tomorrow's tracking poll readings.
(Slightly revised Saturday evening 10/30/04.)
Notes From the (vicinity of the) Penultimate Outdoor Farmer's Market
Today was baby Julia's first trip to Marigold Kitchen, which (probably with some help from the drizzle, which kept us away from the square proper) was slammed as usual. In contrast to a trip the weekend of the Madison Ironman, when kitchen delays exacerbated by lots of very thin people getting takeout pushed the Two-Year-Old (and his folks) just past the brink, service was brisk.
BC'04 stickers on Marigold Kitchen patrons are not completely unheard-of, but we saw none inside or out. What we did see was a lot of Kerry/Edwards yard signs being hauled away from the square (plus a college-aged trio with some to hand out at the Regent/West Wash intersection), so evidently someone in the KE campaign or the local Dems wisely pulled a Milo Minderbinder and worked around the KE yard sign shortage (link via Michael Froomkin) to help capitalize on the rally buzz.
Meanwhile, in commercial food land, in contrast to Nina's checkout experience from yesterday with a member of the apathetic left (a group that recently had me and one of my neighbors who had been out doing some canvassing scratching our heads, too), our Woodman's checker this afternoon had been to the Thursday rally, thought it was awesome, and was very enthusiastic about Kerry and the election.
We Know He Got Away...
Josh Marshall has an excellent buck-up piece on the Bin Laden tape.
As October surprises go, there is no remotely rational reason that this one should be favorable to the President's re-election campaign. That the administration response, as Marshall reports, was 'please don't attack us' and the Kerry attacks are 'discredited' even though a core element has been shown dramatically to be true -- tough talk didn't get the SOB -- (plus the usual deflect, deflect, deflect) suggests that they actually were on the defensive. Now is no time to let them get their footing.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Friday Baby Blogging: Getting Very Sleepy
Thanks for the link, Nina! Political content is below, Other Side of the Ocean readers.
Confidence, Overconfidence, Desperation (and whose)?
Who looks like the prospective Wisconsin winner? Consider recent Wisconsin presidential campaign appearances:
- George Bush appears before 2,400 faithful in Richland Center
- John Kerry appears before 80,000 in Madison (see previous post)
- Dick Cheney talks to 150 campaign workers in Eau Claire
- John Edwards draws 3,000 at UW-La Crosse
I might add that Bush has ostensibly been courting Democrats through an appeal to the legacies of FDR, Truman, and John F. Kennedy. As this is a family blog (scroll down for baby pictures!), I can't publish my full initial reaction, but it starts with "Who the," has "does Bush think he's" in the middle, and ends with "kidding." Insert suitable expletives.
Trying to wrap my mind around these data points, I am reminded most of the fine line between stupid and clever.
Perhaps BC'04've viewed themselves as beyond retail campaigning for whatever reason -- either they thought that it couldn't help, and/or that they didn't need it. The way Bush's appearances are reported in the local media, the latter is probably true to some degree in any case.
Another view I've seen, via a political scientist interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio a while back (sorry, no link), is that Bush is stumping in places like Richland Center (total Richland County presidential vote in 2000, all candidates: 8,293) because the big cities and their suburbs more-or-less cancel each other out, so the Wisconsin outcome will be decided in the rural counties. The potential flaw in this logic is that if the state is very evenly divided, any incremental votes could be decisive, and it isn't obvious that those won't come out of urban areas that probably have some natural cost advantages for the most effective get out the vote methods like door-to-door canvassing.
While I may, of course, be proven wrong in a few days, I just don't think that there are enough votes for Bush to scare out of the countryside to offset improved results for Kerry from intense get out the vote efforts in Madison and Milwaukee and the weaker Nader candidacy. Perhaps supporting my view, Bush has a late visit to Waukesha on his calendar, suggesting by revealed preference that Karl Rove actually sees a need to seek votes where there is a concentration of voters.
The FDR line must be either overconfidence or desperation. Is there any Democrat who sees the iconic Democratic presidents in George W. Bush? If you are one, please seek medical attention immediately!
Meanwhile at the Post, Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, who often play real reporters (Milbank, anyway; see this nugget from VandeHei) report:
Bush strategist Karl Rove said Thursday night that the campaign's private polls show the president even or ahead in eight of the 10 battleground states -- including Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico -- with leads outside the polls' margins of error in four. He predicted a victory for Bush but said "the next five days are critical."
Rove is not exactly brimming with credibility in reporting BC'04 internal poll results, given his obvious interest in planting a storyline of Bush re-election inevitability and the less advantageous nonpartisan public polling (1). The Rove quote is in the seventh paragraph, and this is not burial of the lede. The administration's history of roughing up messengers bearing inconvenient truths (Larry Lindsey, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, etc.) makes me even less inclined to believe whatever their internal polling might say.
(1) For instance, according to the Cap Times, Badger Poll XVIII shows Wisconsin within the reported margin of error, an 11 point swing to Kerry form Badger Poll XVII. Even the TradeSports contract for Bush's re-election is currently trading at 51.9, down steadily for the week to a post-GOP convention low and down from the sixties before the debates.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Update: Nina has reaction and pictures.
Update 2: From johnkerry.com, a great shot showing the scale of the event. It looked big from inside the crowd, too! Metropolitan Place is the first high-rise visible on the left. Post time stamp corrected from PDT to CDT.
(Image via johnkerry.com.)
Whatever the true count, the crowd was undeniably enormous: West Wash was packed in the vicinty of my spot by the Metropolitan Place condo tower, and all the way back to the 'gates' as far as I could tell. As a matter of scale, note that Gore got 78,430 votes in the city (142,317 in the county) in 2000.
I bucked the advice on the tickets and drove, then parked in the Capitol North ramp (the ramps around the square were quite full overall) so I could fortify myself with an herbed chevre croissant on the walk over to the rally. An small group of College Republican types staged an inappreciable protest near the entrance; they were overshadowed by the superior theatre of "Billionaires for Bush." At least one of the Greens present was pitching the Green candidates for local offices while professing an intent to vote for Kerry. If only all of them were so sensible! There actually was no ticket check by the time I reached the front of a 3-block-long line to get in.
The candidate must have been running behind schedule a bit, as there was a long-seeming gap (which tried the patience of some small children in the vicinity) between Springsteen's sound check and his appearance, which was brief and ended with Springsteen introducing Kerry. Sour Prof. A. dissects the lyrics of Springsteen's "No Surrender" for defeatism on behalf of her Instapundit faithful. Whatever. The crowd was clearly happy to see Springsteen, and I thought he gave a fine, non-shrill, yet clearly heartfelt endorsement of Kerry between songs.
As for Kerry, he was very enthusiastically received by a crowd that clearly didn't have many Bush votes therein, despite not being prescreened for enthusiasm like another guy's audiences. I know Kerry's stump speech too well to be electrified, but he nevertheless made a strong case for his election to anyone with half a brain and one ear to hear it.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Late Wednesday Cat Blogging
Here in the backwaters of the Internets, we can do edgy stuff like blog the cat on Wednesdays.
Apart from being hustled brusquely past to the basement or out the back door whenever he gets curious about the basement, Milo and the other neighborhood kitties have been suffering through two months in which our street has been totally destroyed, and as of this writing only partially reconstructed by men operating very noisy machines that scare the wits out of kitties, engender love-hate relationships with otherwise truck-obsessed toddlers, and send everyone else scurrying indoors to escape the exhausted diesel particulates.
To date, the action has been standard dig, dump, pound, roll stuff. This left us with a bare roadbed and no evidence of preparations for the needed concrete work. Earlier today, though, a fascinating machine showed up to advance the reconstruction dramatically and ensure that the neighbors won't be marching on city hall after the big Kerry rally. (Our driveway is on a side street just outside the destruction zone, so we've been more relaxed about the progress of the work.)
This contraption extrudes concrete curbs, and does it fast -- just under four block-faces' worth outside the house today. The guy who operates it appeared to have a pretty cushy job. He is backed up by a crew that handles the handwork: curb cuts, inserting storm sewer drains, splicing new and old curbs. That work appeared to be extremely hard manual labor, making me (and, presumably, our across-the-street neighbor, whom I saw also watching the machine creep along between the houses) incredibly grateful to be a gainfully employed advanced degree-holder and not outside shoveling concrete on a misty late-October day.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Tuesday Baby Blogging II: Both of Them Edition
I often dream of trains.
I probably dream of milk. For now.
The Flu Shot Clinic
Today was flu shot day at our friendly health care provider (first day of the clinic: get there early), and the scene was unlovely if relatively calm. I only saw one mild argument from a non-senior citizen patient who had apparently been turned down for a shot. There were a couple of Kerry buttons in evidence in addition to mine, and plenty of bumper stickers in the jammed parking lot. I had a brief conversation (with a non-button-wearer) to the effect of how the heck anyone could vote to re-elect the President.
Lots of seniors standing in long lines for their shots is probably not what an administration trying to save its sorry backside by running against the socialized medicine boogeyman would want a week before the election. This also probably goes for our feckless Secretary of Health and Human Services, should he eventually seek higher office than Dog Catcher of Elroy. (The Wisconsin Democrats should be filming this stuff for future attack ads.)
See also Max Sawicky for another perspective on the debacle.
Monday, October 25, 2004
"L'Etoile Me" Revisited
Thinking of "Super Size Me," longtime readers may recall that this blog started off with a link to Jeremy Freese's pitch for a film in which he would eat at L'Etoile, our premier fine dining establishment, exclusively for a month.(1) I averred that this sounded good to me, but that I wasn't sure that my mid-thirties constitution was up to it.
Having seen what happened to Spurlock, and contemplating our (sadly, too rare) recent visits to L'Etoile, I'll update my previous post to say that I am more optimistic than I was in August that the exercise needn't lead to a health disaster.
1. Portion control has been quite good of late. By that, I mean that three courses plus the amuses bouches has left me feeling Just Right. The one meal I've had there that fell short of being special failed mainly in that we were provided so much food in the early courses that we couldn't contemplate dessert. (For possibly interested reader[s], this was early in Eric Rupert's tenure. Rupert is now corporate chef at Sub-Zero.)
2. The L'Etoile dinner menu provides a semblance of a balanced diet. Note the presence of green vegetables, including the superior Brussels sprouts afforded by the south central Wisconsin climate, and the absence of ingredients resulting from industrial production.(2) Certainly, the L'Etoile diet includes a bit more of the foie gras group, and (not explicit in the menu) the butter group than an ideally balanced diet. On the plus side, the wine pairings may help counteract the deleterious effects of the fats.
3. As for the other meals, I favor a savory and sweet pastry combination for breakfast. The soups and salads at lunch would appear to be no worse for me than the sandwiches I usually tote to the office. (And Farmer John's provolone raises healthy babies. Scroll down for photographic evidence.)
(1) If the bakery/cafe counts, it's possible to take all three meals there Tuesday through Saturday. Presumably, the cost of a workaround for Sunday and Monday would be a small fraction of the film's production cost.
(2) A DVD extra interview with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser points out that even the natural-looking stuff at McDonald's actually is heavily processed.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Be On the Square or Be...
Foo Fighters will be providing entertainment.
True '80s story: while working my mid-college after school job at Bert's Tape Factory in Wilmington, Delaware (now dba the less-dated Bert's Music, or Bert's CDs), I expressly declined to add Nirvana's singles on the Sub Pop label to my collection because I hated Kurt Cobain's singing so much. D'ohh! Not the greatest record collecting decision.
Bert is a hardcore Republican (and a friend nevertheless), so this post may serve as a test of the identity of any publicity and good publicity.
Update 10/26: Atrios reports that Bruce Springsteen will appear, too. Not my cup of tea, but good for Big John.
"Super Size Me" and the Mysteries of Institutional Food
The baby's arrival hasn't allowed a ton of time with two hands free for non-baby blogging, but we have started to catch up with offerings at the video store. One of last week's features was Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me."
This was the scariest film I've seen in some time (1), particularly in its digression into the horrors of the school lunchroom. Along a somewhat similar vein, our 3-1/2 days in the hospital had me contemplating the mysteries of institutional food service.
Airline food of the sort provided in the economy cabin of a good international airline, or the upper classes of not-so-good domestic airlines, could be said to suffer from misplaced ambition -- it aspires to be acceptable one- or two-star fare, but is stymied by the preparation and service constraints of airliners and physiological effects of the pressurized cabin environment. But at least someone's trying -- airlines retain high-status chefs as food consultants, etc.(2) That was not the conclusion I'd have drawn from Suzanne's meal trays.
My main impression of the hospital fare was that it was prepared by someone who had never read (or watched) Julia Child, for someone who had never heard of Julia Child. I came up with a few candidate explanations:
- There is no significant competition among the Madison hospitals along the dimensions of inpatient amenities.
- The fare is pitched to the taste of the "median" inpatient, which is a lot worse than I might think. I know plenty of "natives" whose formative food experiences resulted in pathologies like aversions to onions, garlic, and green vegetables. Consider also those also-scary KFC price-comparison ads pitched at "fast casual" restaurant goers.(3)
- Outside the birthing centers, the inpatient population probably skews towards the ages of the parents and grandparents of my friends and colleagues who are averse to onions, garlic, and green vegetables, i.e., the root of the above problem.
- Inside the birthing center, patients who are so inclined routinely upgrade the fare by 'outsourcing' meals to local restaurants.
- The hospital food service operation suffers from some sort of cost or contracting disease, as evidenced by the reliance on Sysco-sourced prepackaged servings of (lesser) condiments and the odd bizarro item (40% peach juice drink?).
I'd be inclined to put higher weights on the first, second, and last candidate explanations. Insofar as Spurlock notes that schools that serve real food get good results at no higher cost than that of the crap that most schools offer, a point also vividly made a while back by Barry Levenson of the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum with respect to the Madison schools (4) in an Isthmus article that I'd have linked if it could be found on the lame Isthmus website, I don't think that ingredient cost is necessarily the issue so much as purchasing apathy.
(1) This is about the only kind of "scary" I get to see with Suzanne, who has little or no taste for overtly scary or intense films. She can take, say, "Rear Window" but not "Psycho."
(2) I owe this to an excellent article on airline food from the Times (London) Sunday Review from about 12 years ago, now locked away in the Times' paid archives with nary an abstract. The last international flight I took was on Northwest (food: unspeakable), and I haven't flown a foreign-flag carrier since the mid-90s, so I can only guess what might have happened in the interim to the higher-service airlines' offerings.
(3) Since I don't get out to the far east and west side commercial strips that often, it's easy for me to forget about this market segment (the label was given in a Wisconsin State Journal item on the closing of a Damon's restaurant somewhere on the far west side), but it's evidently big business and is probably not materially more reliant on fresh-prepared food than the fast food segment.
(4) While I greatly prefer our Dudgeon-Monroe location overall, one plus for the Middleton Hills development (for out-of-town readers, a "new urbanism" neighborhood that is a simulacrum of our old urban neighborhood with bigger houses on smaller lots given over to large multicar garages) was that its elementary school has/had some sort of program to serve real food to the students. My standards aren't necessarily that high -- I doubt there was ever anything green in my grade-school lunches (5), and I was fueled by Coca-Cola (the old sucrose-laden variety) in high school as much as anyone.
(5) Typically, brown-bagged sandwiches and Twinkie-type snacks -- our Catholic elementary school had no cafeteria.(6)
(6) Apologies to all for going all David Foster Wallace with the footnotes.
Friday, October 22, 2004
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Wednesday Baby Blogging
Julia has been a typically sleepy newborn, so it's been a challenge to actually remember to get the camera during her alert phases. Here, she's certifiably awake around lunchtime.
Not All Family Members are Getting Lots of Attention These Days
Authenticity note: It might be noted that the picture above could not possibly have been taken in October, 2004. In fact, the cat (Milo), table, chairs, and PowerBook all still exist. However, the pale green walls, phone cord connected to modem jack, unpainted window sill, and file name suggesting nearly 1,500 photos have been taken between this and today's baby picture all point towards the picture having been taken in our former Nakoma house in late, but not too late, 2002. Still, if you asked the cat, he'd agree with the sentiment.
A 0th Birthday Present to Julia From the NRSC
With the arrival of the new baby, I almost forgot to mention one piece of good news from the Senate race in Wisconsin.
My good buddy Tim Michels has lost a $1.2 million National Republican Senatorial Committee ad buy. By way of explanation, the NRSC spokesperson diplomatically cited "limited resources."(*) By "revealed preference," this translates into "Michels is toast," though Michels still is insisting on dissipating a fair amount of his personal fortune, and those of various individual donors and PACs, in the effort.
So what happened? I think the Cap Times has it essentially right here. My qualms about Michels, versus his primary opponents, had focused on his potential to get enough emotionally-driven swing voters with limited grasps of the issues to vote for his Inspiring Personal Story (TM).(**) He has chosen instead to re-run Mark Neumann's ugly campaign from 1998 -- but without big NRSC bucks behind him this time.
(*) For those who might be despairing over possible election outcomes, this also constitutes a tacit admission that the Senate races in general are going much less well for the Republicans than they might have expected a few months ago, including but not limited to the spectacular meltdown south of the border.
(**) As far as I know, the good Professor hasn't weighed in on the Senate race.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Tuesday Baby Blogging: Yes, It's a Girl!
...a very sleepy girl.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Monday Baby Blogging: Getting Ready to Go Home
Julia gets ready for the ride home from the hospital...
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Saturday Baby Blogging: Brother and Sister
October 31, 2002 (John, age 1 day)
October 16, 2004 (Julia, age 1 day)
Friday, October 15, 2004
Check the main page for baby updates.
Julia Helen Lee, born 8:41 A.M. Friday, October 15, 2004. 8 lb., 5 oz., 20 inches.
Early afternoon checkup.
Big brother, meet baby sister.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Thursday Toddler Blogging
Little does he know, this is practice for the end of the egocentric universe.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Presidential Debate III
A solid win for Kerry. Bush came into the debate needing a much more solid performance than he gave, given the adverse dynamics of the horse race since the debate season started, and the continuing cruddy news on the economy and Iraq.
I don't see that Bush really stepped up his game on substance. Bush's fundamental problem is that, given Republican control of the legislative and executive branches, there's no real excuse for not passing anything popular enough to muster a working supermajority in the Senate. Either he can't build bridges even to the tune of 10 or so swingable senators, the congressional Republicans are out of control, or some combination of the two. I'm happy to choose the last, but then again I'm not the Republican President.
So he ended up nonresponsively falling back to a surprising extent on not quite signal accomlishments, such as No Child Left Behind, in an obvious sign of weakness. It was news to me that NCLB, which I had previously regarded as being a lot less popular in practice than in theory, could solve so many problems -- retraining of adults displaced by offshore outsourcing?! Wasn't it supposed to be tax "cuts" (*) that were the cure-all (this, seemingly, was a failure of Bush's preparation)?
Kerry was underbriefed on some relatively minor points, such as litigation issues having just about nothing to do with flu vaccine supply. I thought he improved significantly on the 'town hall' in that he better articulated the contents of proposed programs that previously came out in the more nebulous "I have a plan for X" format. Under the circumstances, that funding Kerry's proposals has a bit of 2+2=6 about it is a lot less disturbing than the fact that Bushonomics requires 2+2>12.
As for presentation, Kerry should benefit from being essentially the same guy in all three debates: calm, consistent, and knowledgable. Bush still showed an erratically varying affect, and should regret exaggerating "exaggeration" in upcoming reviews of the proceedings.
Just past the halfway point, I remarked to Suzanne that I thought Bob Schieffer was doing a decent job moderating. The closing softballs led me to mark down my overall assessment of the moderation a bit, perhaps even a good bit. Such as the format of the debates permitted, something on the environment, energy policy, higher education, or really any real domestic issue would have improved on the redundant question on religion, the question about the candidates' wives and daughters, or most likely both.
Overall, though, Kerry's gifts from Schieffer seemed more valuable, as they allowed him to hit at several of Bush's more manifest failures of leadership. Kerry hit an off-note on his marrying-up quip (he's best off with straight answers), but if Bush needs to make people feel fuzzy about his faith and family at this stage of the gang, the President is in big trouble.
That David Brooks couldn't muster the enthusiasm he trotted out for Cheney or for Bush's 'town hall' performance reinforced my view of the event.
(*) Which, since they have simply added to the deficit, are really tax shifts.
Anticipating Presidential Debate III
What I really don't like about the laser-like focus of some widely read blogs (e.g., this Talking Points Memo post et seq.) on the Sinclair Broadcasting affair is that a lot of energy has been expended there that could have been spent softening up President Bush himself in advance of the debate.
The BC'04 campaign seems to have been telegraphing its strategy just about as clearly as could be imagined, based on the tax-and-spend-liberal screed that Bush has been testing on his sycophantic audiences. Suzanne warns against anyone trying to drink to Bush's utterances of "liberal."
From this, there is no question that the guy has balls the size of Deimos and Phobos. Their characterization of Kerry's health care plans is a flat-out lie. Bush can, with as straight a face as he can muster, say that electing Kerry would lead to a fiscal disaster. (I think by hitching his wagon to the Clinton era record, Kerry has a good riposte here.) They're all but daring fact-checking journalists to roast them in the aftermath.
It couldn't have hurted to have bloggers (other than the stalwart Brad DeLong) whose readerships are several orders of magnitude larger than mine laying out, with the ample available evidence, the case that the content of Bush's debate performance shouldn't be trusted.
But... But... What About Bratfest??!
Hilldale owner plans new buildings
Hilldale Shopping Center owner Joseph Freed & Associates announced plans Tuesday to add new retail stores as well as condominiums and a multilevel parking structure.
Joseph Freed plans to build 54,000 square feet of retail space in new buildings along Midvale Boulevard, where the mall's parking lot is now...
blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah
Tim Metcalfe, who coordinates the popular Bratfest events in Hilldale's parking lot, said brat lovers shouldn't worry about the future of the event even though the proposed additions are for the spot where it takes place. Metcalfe said the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend event will most likely be moved to a different part of the parking lot.
Whew. (Last quoted paragraph is currently in the print edition of the Wisconsin State Journal only.)
George W. Bush Hasn't Been a Slick Extemporaneous Speaker for a Long Time
Brad DeLong (among others) had been killing some time speculating as to the possible causes of what is reported by James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly as a striking deterioration of George W. Bush's speaking and debating skills. Could it be evidence of a real-life "West Wing"-style medical scandal?
That Bush mangled the Dred Scott bit so badly that even a conservative anti-abortion Catholic law professor like Stephen Bainbridge viewed it as a flub (I assume the Roe reference subsequently detected elsewhere was intended, as it's otherwise almost impossible to see how that case would come up spontaneously in response to the question asked), and couldn't properly deliver even the $87 billion canard from his stump speech, is suspicious.
That some "tinfoil hat" questions seem to lack satisfactory answers doesn't help matters. (I'm curious, too.)
And indeed, there's a video circulating of Bush from a debate in his 1994 run for governor of Texas that does, indeed, show a minute or two of clear and malapropism-free oration (if not exactly the Feynman lectures) that would now shock many of us liberal bloggers textless if he pulled it off tomorrow evening.
But one invaluable research tool, the "Bushisms" desk calendar, leads me to the simpler explanations. President Bush has been mangling his lines at this level since at least the start of his original run for the office, and he has lousy material to work with, as evidenced by the excoriation of his policies by security scholars and American Economic Review referees surveyed by the London Economist, among many others.
Fallows' argument is, in part, falsely premised on the contention that Bush had never lost a debate prior to his appearance in Coral Gables. I watched the 2000 debates, and while I may grant that Bush, with help from the hopeless mainstream media, won the post-debate spin battles, the actual debates were another matter. See the incomparable Sept. 28 Howler for details.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Here is a little gem from David Brooks this morning.
Indeed, Bushian conservatives talk about central global authorities like the U.N. the way they talk about Washington - as places where venal elites gather to serve their own interests.
(Cf. George W. Bush at the Al Smith dinner, October 2000: "What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base." Also see here.)
Dialogues of the Toddlers II
Daddy's car is an 8MW.
Comment: Until full alphabet mastery arrives, at least this is a useful outlet for the Two-Year Old's "W" obsession.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Snacktime is Now Pear Time...
...as goes the haul of a quick late-market trip:
- 3 lb. Moonglow pears (photo here)
- 2 lb. mixed Harrow (Delight?) and Luscious pears from Future Fruits (thanks to Nina for the tip!)
- Smoked cheddar from Hook's
- Rose Finn Apple and Cranberry red (red fleshed) potatos, probably to accompany previously-obtained Jen-Ehr chicken in some form
- 2 cloves hardneck garlic (not sure of specific variety or name of stand)
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts from Harmony Valley
- Shallots from same
- Scones to tame toddler during circuit of the Square
- Tammy Baldwin for Congress stickers for everyone!
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Where Would We Be Without Fafblog!?
Rather than try to take apart David Brooks' delusional op-ed, which purports to explain how Saddam's ability to game the UN oil for food program made him far more dangerous than if he had, in fact, had WMD, the ability to produce WMD, etc. (a task which would require re-reading the piece and the attendant risk of sanity-loss), I can simply quote the inimitable Fafnir:
In his closing statement George Bush warns the audience that Americans must not change their strategy, their channel, or their physical position, because to do so would be to waver before terror. As of this writing Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks have starved to death in front of C-SPAN.
(Note, follow the link for a very funny rendition of Kerry's close.)
Longer Presidential Debate II
The mass media response may be that because George W. Bush didn't (for the most part) comport himself as poorly as he did in the first debate, and Kerry didn't somehow annihilate Bush over the employment situation or the lack of WMD in Iraq -- neither of which, it's abundandly clear, could ever get bad enough for the administration to admit error -- it's somehow a "win" for the President. Without cable TV, my media sample is limited, of course; I only saw PBS. David Brooks said what he had to (much as he did after the VP debate). I was at least pleased to see that Mark Shields wasn't buying.
The more theatrical moments still broke against Bush. He was reduced again to peevish 'of course I understand that up is down' lines in the Iraq session. I was surprised Kerry didn't nail him harder on the latest post-Duelfer rationalizations for the war, but it may be best to let the Bush-Cheney relationship with reality bounce around in the media over the weekend. If it's not obvious to a sufficient plurality of the voting public to yield 271 electoral votes that abuse of the oil-for-food scandal (obviously carefully rephrased as "undermining sanctions" in the President's debate prep) doesn't pass the laugh test for the thousands of lives lost and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, we're moving to Canada.
I had to resist spitting out my drink at Bush's Dred Scott response to the SCOTUS appointment question (see also Jeremy Freese for a similar reaction, though it seemed to have less of a visible effect on one cross-town Bush-fancying constitutional-law-prof-blogger than one would hope). Kerry nailed his rebuttal on that one. Bush's failure to muster so much as a good Catholic confession to the "list three mistakes" question was a huge mistake. I imagine he won't be getting those two votes.
Kerry's "I have a plan" closing got repetitive, but he has a plan, which is more than can be said for the other guy. I thought the bit about his involvement with actually balancing the budget in the Clinton years was a useful rejoinder to the usual tax-and-spend-liberal attack, which seems certain to be repeated by Bush ad nauseam in the third debate.
The bottom line is that Kerry didn't make any substantive mistakes, and Bush was still describing events in a parallel universe.
I give two thumbs down, maybe way down, to Gallup for its 'undecided' voter identification. The adult-vs.-embryonic stem cell question repeated inane GOP talking points, and if the probability that the abortion-is-murder woman would have voted for Kerry is bounded away from zero, I'd suspect it's not by much. Bush did have the clearer position on abortion, FWIW.
Good news is that the post-debate polling appears to be favorable to Kerry. Also, the TradeSports electronic market shows a sizeable swing towards Kerry for the winner-take-all election contract. (Update: the Saturday morning bid-ask spread is 56.0-58.6, see this previous post for discussion of the magnitude of the swing since the debates started.)
Friday, October 08, 2004
Shorter Presidential Debate II
John F. Kerry: I have plans to solve our problems, based in real policies.
George W. Bush: Don't change horsemen in mid-apocalypse.
The Employment Situation
Today's job figures came in, perhaps not surprisingly, below market "expectations" of around 150,000 additional jobs as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' payroll (establishment) survey. Various implications are well-covered here, here, and here.
My small value added is to discuss one excuse for the Bush administration's dismal jobs record I've seen from time to time. The argument goes that since the Clinton-era peak in the employment-population ratio was reached at the height of the stock market "bubble," a portion of the employment was unsustainable and won't come back. (See, e.g., the report on the analysis by consulting/macroeconomic forecasting firm Global Insight in this article.) This argument is disingenuous at best.
It's true that the peak employment-population ratio was reached in April 2000, just after the NASDAQ market peak. However, the period of high employment was not uniquely a feature of the late bubble. The employment-population ratio, currently 62.3 percent, was above 64 percent for 41 out of 42 months, beginning in November, 1997 and ending in April, 2000. At the start of this period, the job market was strong but not obviously unsustainable. A 64% employment-population ratio would increase current employment by 3.8 million jobs.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Go Big John!
Fresh state polls show Wisconsin leaning toward Kerry/Edwards. It's about time.
Here in Madison, there seems to be a lot more visible support for Kerry than there was for Gore in 2000 -- 25 houses, more than one-third, on Nakoma Rd. (a commuter route through our upscale former neighborhood, for out-of-town visitors) for Kerry, zero for Bush last weekend. Lots of Kerry and zero or near zero Bush signage in Dudgeon-Monroe, Midvale Heights, Hill Farms and even University Heights! (Maple Bluff lake houses, with at least one notable exception, seem to be going for Bush, I'm sorry to say.) Also, Baldwin and Feingold signs are abundant.
This is notable as strong intensity of Democratic sentiment in Madison makes it tough on Bush, Magnum and Michels.
Update 10/8/04: A handful of Bush-Cheney signs spotted on Pickford and Glenway Sts., still vastly outnumbered by KE'04 signs.
My own two cents...
VP Debate: Not a Tie
The Cap Times' scorching editorial.
Nina Camic: "...George and Dick, the two angry boys who cannot believe that the country, indeed, the world would question their command of the playground..."
More Fun With Surveys
Another release of results from Badger Poll XVII finds 27% of surveyed Wisconsinites calling an attack by non-existent Iraqi WMD "very likely" and another 33% considered it "somewhat likely."
This seems like deplorable state of misinformation on the part of the public, but one should never accept such results without first examining how the question was posed. Here's the full question:
IRAQ10X. If the US had decided NOT to go to war, how likely do you think it is that we would eventually have been attacked with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not likely at all?
This formulation yields two main objections.
First, there is the problem of translating the repsonse categories into (subjective) probabilities. "Very" likely could be interpreted as ">50 percent probability" or "nearly 100% probability;" ditto "somewhat likely" could easily be taken as "likelier than not" or just "not high but not close to zero probability." Without a "nearly certain" category (to mirror "not likely at all"), it's harder to tell. But the lower-probability interpretation of the categories would make the respondents appear to be less at odds with established facts.
Second, the question itself is formulated such that it's difficult to be certain that it's registering fears specifically of Iraqi WMD (as opposed to anyone's WMD, which is not an irrational fear). The question may appear to be straightforward enough assuming good listening comprehension, but real respondents have a tendency to respond to "A and B" statements as "A or B," or perhaps just "B" -- some will forget about crucial modifiers in the question. It would arguably be better to vary the wording to show that a specific form doesn't materially affect the results, or to break the item up into multiple questions.
Note to Readers: Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed as stating that there is not 27 percent or more of the electorate who respond to everything George W. Bush or Richard Cheney state or imply with total credulity.
Overall, the Badger Poll, which states that it strives to use the best available methods, could do better. But at least they are not unaware of the issue. Wisconsin Public Radio quoted Don Ferree, the Badger Poll XVII director, regarding a Harris Interactive poll sponsored by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute indicating 2/3 support for strict local spending caps similar to (actually, stricter than -- another case of a significant technicality that does not likely register with a lay audience) the Republican-sponsored Taxpayer Bill of "Rights" (or TABOR). Ferree noted that by asking the question without also exploring respondents' attitudes to actual spending items, the formulation is likely to overstate true support for the item.
More significantly, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a partisan group (linking from their home page an article entitled "Lowly Sinner: George W. Bush's Humble Faith") and so polls they sponsor should be regarded with additional skepticism.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
VP Debate Wrap-Up
Edwards was clearly up against the Grand Vizier and more than held his own, though it wasn't the knockout of Thursday evening. Hard to say as a partisan how the Cheney monotone goes over with swing voters; it arguably hides his evasions better than Bush's. I expect the fact checking to be far less kind to him than to Edwards. The attack on Edwards' experience is pot-calling-kettle-black, considering Bush's political resume. And while there's some incredulity expressed at Cheney's non-responses to some of Edwards' sharper attacks, I suspect that it may have been a calculation that no response could simultaneously placate swing voters and the base.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Bush is prepped for Friday. In the "all-important" image war, Kerry has a significant advantage in that he can just do what he did on Thursday, and thus appear more steadfast to another huge audience. Bush can't come off the same and survive, but he'll be well-Gored, fairly or otherwise, if he comes off too tranquilized in the face of hard questioning.
Quick bedtime update: Prof. DeLong nails it. Which one of these doesn't belong?
- Richard Cheney
- John Kerry
- George W. Bush
- John Edwards
Morning update: Unbelievable (DeLong, via Atrios and Kos). The "first time I ever met you" line was almost certainly prepared, and is a flat-out (and stupid!) lie.
0 for 3
Prof. Althouse quotes Vice President Cheney from his debate with Joe Lieberman four years ago:
We're really going to choose between what I consider to be an old way of governing ourselves of high levels of spending, high taxes, an ever more intrusive bureaucracy, or a new course, a new era, if you will.
They're 0 for 3, and that's not the least of why they shouldn't be re-elected.
Back in Action
The blog spent a quiet (long) weekend on spousal birthday hiatus. Some goings on:
- On the way back from an apple run (*) to the Farmer's Market, we found ourselves outnumbered by Republicans (identified by their BC'04 stickers) in the elevator of the State Street parking ramp, to our considerable surprise. We were polite to each other, though politics was not discussed.
- Proud Daddy moment (23-month-old edition): Boy leafs through Sandra Boynton's Moo, Baa, La La La in the crib, and turns to the page with "Some other dogs go BOW WOW WOW," he exclaims "duppa-yew!" (He has been playing with an alphabet puzzle.) Now, to teach him "W" is for "wrong."
- Last weekend's turned out to be the last "summer" market, as the Madison temperature officially hit freezing just before midnight last night, on its way to 28 this morning. Farewell, growing season.
Of course, there has been the post-debate scorekeeping. Talk at the water cooler and in my (partisan) Friday bike-to-work group was solidly in the Kerry-kicked-ass department. Unlike in 2000, this seems to have further solidified over the weekend.
Still, over at the libertarian economics blog Marginal Revolution, Prof. Tyler Cowen of George Mason U. read the debate bounce via the price of the contract for Bush's re-election (the price of which can be interpreted as indicating something about the distribution of beliefs over the probability of re-election, with higher prices indicating that market participants think re-election is likelier) at the TradeSports electronic market. While the contract price had dipped in the immediate aftermath, it bouced back slightly above pre-debate levels by mid-Friday morning, implying no bounce. However, the price has dipped considerably since, with a bid-ask spread of 59.6-61 as of bedtime last night (not materially changed this morning), down about 5 points since Friday. So even the participants in this market are reading a bounce.
More economics content this week, as I hope to discuss the D.C. baseball stadium proposal, some education econometrics, and the employment report due Friday. We will be watching, but not likely live-blogging, the debate between Edwards and
(*) Law prof and L'Etoile forager Nina Camic plugs Weston's antique apples, and indeed I got the Best Apple Ever from them a couple years ago (a variety, whose name I can't recall, the flesh of which was like biting into apple ice cream). But I'd need to bring a sharpie to label the bags if I were to really try to sample a broad variety of their wares, as I find it darn hard to keep them all straight. Instead, we've been plowing through mass quantities of Cortlands and Miltons from Ela, from whom I hope to score a few delectable Moonglow pears if we can get out the door early enough.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Wisconsin Senate Debate Live Blogging
Michels' opening statement diminishes expectations for his performance. Democracy in Iraq would be the biggest development "in his lifetime." Is he 14?
Michels: Did you know there have been no terrorist attacks in the last three years? Repeated ad nauseam. Possible drinking game theme.
USA PATRIOT Act:
Michels, no sweat over civil liberties issues with the USA PATRIOT Act. Would vote yes on any renewal. Feingold swings back with court case ruling provisions unconstitutional.
Feingold lists numerous accomplishments in job creation, retaining Wisconsin jobs. Michels created 1000 jobs himself! Says he might be the most job creating candidate in the whole country.
Michels is pro free trade, except when he will need to revoke it. Feingold says Michels is for and against trade agreements, Feingold has consistent trade record.
Michels is against Australian free trade agreement. So long Big Pharma money.
Michels is 'disciplined.' Knows top, middle, and bottom lines! Economy was strong in 2000. If we could grow it, less taxes, less regulation, path back to budget surplus. Obviously didn't get the program on the economy being strong and getting stronger.
Feingold says this was tried and failed in the 80s, he is a deficit hawk, but notes support for middle class tax cuts.
Asked whether money is still the bottom line in politics, Feingold says McCain-Feingold wasn't meant to solve everything, but has removed some abuses, wants to regulate 527s. Accuses Michels of wanting to go back to bad old days.
Michels: Admits that Feingold showed leadership, complains about Soros, but doesn't like restrictions on First Amendment rights (help, Wisconsin Right to Life!).
Standard of truth for campaign ads:
Michels goes to church and his "word is good" -- will never do anything less than truthful. (Fact check: Not.)
Feingold notes that Michels wouldn't sign clean campaign pledge for general elections, cites editorials about dishonest Michels prescription drug ad. Notes Michels' flip-flops on health care.
How to get stuff passed as minority member:
Feingold notes McCain-Feingold, noted (before question) bipartisan sponsorship of drug import legislation. Known as aisle-crosser.
Michels "not a diehard Republican"? Thinks going to Mars isn't a great idea in this fiscal environment.
Health care cost containment:
Michels' business has above average premium cost growth. Way above average. But does not want socialized medicine, because that would be inefficient, thinks more privatization would be the solution.
Feingold: Wants universal health care, managed by states. "Tommy Thompson style" like welfare reform. Michels' targeted approach is "weak tea."
Feingold thinks stem cell research should be expanded, cites UW-Madison involvement in the field. "Only pro-Wisconsin position" is encourage appropriate research.
Michels is pro-stem cells, but against embryonic stem cells, which is pro-abortionist. Makes very strong and almost surely scientifically unsupported assertions about the relative effectiveness of embryonic vs. other stem cell research.
High prices affect "the wife's ability to go to the grocery store." (Guess those primary ads were expensive.) Wants to tap into more domestic resources, thinks we can take $15-20 of "fear" out of the price of a barrel of oil.
Feingold: cites Iraq as source of political risk premium. Cites work with Paul Ryan on simplifying fuel formulation rules.
They agree on something. But if you want to shoot something, call Michels.
Michels, different perspective. Feingold is a politician. I'm a businessman who wants to be a politician.
Feingold stresses his independence, willingness to look beyond labels for quality of legislation.
Michels eventually settled down, but provided no real reason to vote for him. Feingold hit Michels' poor command of the issues and of Feingold's real record, and Michels barely replied. In the end, Feingold was the senator and Michels the guy who should stick to his construction business -- but he should really shop around for a better health plan.
Who Says Journal Editors Don't Have Senses of Humor?
Phillip Leslie, "Price Discrimination in Broadway Theater," RAND Journal of Economics vol. 35, no. 3 (Autumn 2004).
J.C. van Ours, "A pint a day raises a man's pay; but smoking blows that gain away," Journal of Health Economics vol. 23 no. 5 (2004).
Lawrence C. Marsh and Arnold Zellner, "Bayesian solutions to graduate admissions and related selection problems," Journal of Econometrics 121 (July-August 2004).
The Presidential Candidate
A clear win for Kerry, plus a potentially huge mistake by the president. From the Capital Times editorial:
One of the rare points at which the president actually showed some vigor came after Kerry suggested that tax cuts for the wealthy should be rolled back to pay for homeland security initiatives such as securing bridges and tunnels, checking containers coming through U.S. ports and ensuring that all cargo on airplanes is inspected before it is loaded onto planes. "We didn't need the tax cut," Kerry said. "America needed to be safe." Bush's response was to grumble about how Kerry was going to pay for "all these promises."
It was the most telling moment of the debate. Kerry was promising to keep America safe. Bush was promising to keep cutting taxes for the rich. And, suddenly, Kerry was looking a lot more presidential than the president.
(The Cap Times reversed the order of the quotes, though that doesn't affect the substance of their point.)
Happy New GFY (*) 2005!
...to all friends in the federal government.
I look forward to seeing the final budget deficit from the outgoing fiscal year, and the proffered explanation for why it should have gone up despite increased economic growth.
(*) Government Fiscal Year ("jiffy"). Until last year, the U.S. Postal Service operated on a separate fiscal year from the rest of the government, known in postal circles as the PFY ("piffy"), using an idealized calendar consisting of 13 "accounting periods" of four weeks each, and necessitating annoying PFY-to-GFY reconciliations. As the 364-day PFY gradually shifted away from the GFY, postal consultants in giddy moods would wish each other a happy new PFY in early September.