Thursday, September 30, 2004

My take on the debate

"John Kerry went in with a credibility gap, and came out with a credibility canyon."

Ok -- that's not my take. But I bet we'll hear a lot on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Candidate That Could Have Been

New Republic editor Peter Beinhart has a column in this week's Time Magazine speculating how the election may have gone if Howard Dean were the candidate. He reaches many of the same conclusions I did a week ago...

Liberals and Democrats

Nice column on the Christian Science Monitor contrasting Garrison Keillor's idea of liberalism with the modern Democratic party.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Numbers on Campaign Coverage

Ok, so I'm beating this one like a drum lately, but here's a website (posted in a /. discussion) from the University of Missouri-Columbia providing a load of data on just how bad coverage has become. My favorite part are the discussions on the "horse race" reporting (polls, campaign funds, etc). As of 2000, 78% of stories during the primaries and 70% during the general election were on the horse race aspects.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Sad State of Debates

Great editorial from the Christian Science Monitor on the rapidly declining value of debates as a tool for voters to learn about the candidates.

Moving Past the Fluff: Health Care

The Washington Post has another column from Robert Samuelson, part of what appears to be a series, shedding non-partisan light on the bullshit campaign rhetoric of our presidential candidates. Up this time: health care policy. Samuelson has, through these columns, done better than anyone else I've seen in covering the election the way it ought to be covered.

An Unlikely Ally On Patents

Slashdotters have long decried the US sytem of software patents, which are often absurdly broad and with little technical merit, and which clearly stifle innovation, particularly among developers without deep pockets or a legal deptartment (ie open source developers). As Europeans (who so far have resisted awarding software patents) explore the topic, PriceWaterhouseCoopers has jumped into the fray on the side of the techies, warning that software patents may threaten the European software industry.

A Foregone Conclusion

George Will has a surprisingly good column in the Washington Post essentially acknowledging what everybody else knows and doesn't want to say: Iran is going to go nuclear, and there's not a thing that anyone can do about it. Extra points for pointing out that the occupation of Iraq both motivates Iran and ties our hands from taking any action.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Paging Cass Sunstein

Time Magazine has a column from James Pniewozik discussing the frustration and animosity of Americans, each of whom have an entire portfolio of news sources telling them they're right about everything, but who have to live in reality where there are unfortunately folks who don't agree with them, some of whom occupy positions of considerable power...

Democrats Slow On the Uptake

A Michael Tomasky column in The American Prospect considers the reasons why, despite being supported by significant majorities on most key issues, the Democrats still get their asses handed to them by Republicans. He does a good job of identifying the Karl Rove genius: it's all about perception, and public perception is surprisingly easily malleable through the use of very simple tactics. Democrats frequently fall victim to relying on the public to support them for their superior policy positions, and fall victim to astute manipulation of public perception by folks like Rove.

Nowhere can this be more clear than John Kerry, who was chosen precisely along the lines of this sort of thinking. Democrats felt they had a slam dunk on the issues and wanted the safest and dryest candidate to get them there. They were simply after the guy who was least vulnerable to attack, so that they wouldn't blow their big opportunity. They failed to recognize that there is no such candidate who is safe from attack, and that if they don't aggressively act to set the agenda, Karl Rove will be more than happy to do it for them, and the issues that they want to talk about will not be on that agenda. This thought seems to be suddenly occurring to them, and now trying to make an about face, but Kerry is just not the man for this job. Case in point:

Yesterday John Kerry finally decided to take a stand on Iraq stating:

"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell, but that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

George Bush needed only to roll out Kerry's comments regarding Howard Dean's statement that the capture of Saddam did not make the US safer:

"I couldn't disagree more. And not so long ago, so did my opponent. Last December, he said this: "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe we are not safer with his capture don't have the judgment to be President or the credibility to be elected President." I could not have said it better."

Could we make it any easier for him? Am I still bitter about Dean losing? Damn right I am. What a stupid, stupid mistake. It still galls me every time I see Kerry speak. Dean was defining the agenda from the moment he came onto the scene. He could speak in simple, strong terms about what he believed in and wanted to achieve. And he was not shy about launching direct attacks against mistakes made by the Bush administration, something Kerry has only now realized he needs to be doing. He was the man that Democrats now wish Kerry was. Playing it safe isn't good enough when the other side is playing for keeps.

Once More, With Feeling: Democracy Is Hard

Voicing one of my recurring blog themes, Fred Hiatt had a Washington Post column detailing the shift in opinion on the inevitability of the spread of democracy. I still believe that democracy (or representative democracy in any case) is a superior form of government that will continue to spread. It's just not as easy as some folks (particularly neo-con folks) would have us believe. There is a requirement for cultural buy-in which is not understood or considered to nearly the degree which it ought to be, and which impedes outside efforts to impose democratic processes on non-democratic nations.

The Story of Superstar CEO's

First up, a nice story on CSM detailing the rise and (hopefully) fall of the superstar CEO cult of personality in business. I think that it has been an important and detrimental influence in business culture that can be easily related to the shift in corporate values which begot the recent spate of corprorate malfeasance disasters.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Offend Packers Fans At Your Own Risk

Could the presidential election turn on the votes of pissed of Packer fans? The Washington Post reports that John Kerry has slipped 8 points in the battleground state of Wisconsin after refering to Lambeau Field as Lambert Field. I'm sure the picture in the article, which appears to be Kerry knocked on the ground by a high school football player (and smiling all the while), doesn't help either...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Putin To Scrap Democracy In Russia

Vladimir Putin has for some time held nearly supreme power in Russia, controlling the executive, the legislature, and the press. In the aftermath of the school attack, he has decided to drop the facade of democracy and just take power outright. He announced a plan today to eliminate the elections of governors and parliament members stating the country must be unified to deal with the terrorist threat. Putin himself would name the governors, and the parliament members would be appointed by the political parties. This plan will need to be passed by the parliament, but as they are already in his pocket, this is not viewed as a major obstacle.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From Global Warming to Acid Oceans

So, it turns out that the oceans can absorb huge amounts of CO2 and will moderate global warming. Yay! But in so doing they will become acidic and marine life may start to die off. Boo!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Cheney: Vote For Us... Or Die

Dick Cheney on the campaign trail argues that if Kerry and Edwards win, America will probably be attacked again "in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States". That man has a talent for subtlety. Meanwhile, George Bush notes that John Kerry, recognizing the fact that voters still don't have a clue what he represents, is trying to make himself Howard Dean. A pity that our candidate has to pretend to be Howard Dean instead of, well... being Howard Dean.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Slashdot Does Politics

Slashdot today announced a new section of their site dedicated to political news. They draw from a pretty wide swath of political opinions, including a significant number of internationals, and the slashdot moderation system should work well with these topics. It should be nice addition to their site.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Just Visiting

I was checking in on Larry Lessig's blog and noticed that a couple weeks ago he had Judge Posner guest blogging for him. He obviously really got into it. There are interesting posts on topics ranging from IP law to the 9/11 report and bioterrorism to global warming to The Matrix. I haven't nearly had time to read through it yet, but it looks like good stuff.

What's the Deal With Chechnya?

Slate has an excellent background article on the conflict between Russia and Chechnya. It's fairly short and succinct, and it's remarkable that after years of following this conflict I've never seen it described in as much depth before. It's a phenomenally sordid tale, from start to end. But then, that's true of most Russian history...

Re: Doh, Our Bad

The Washington Post has picked up the story with an editorial today asking what in the hell is going on here. They don't say it, but I think they're wondering (and I'm wondering if they're not), will Ashcroft get tagged in this? As if we didn't have enough high level investigations of conduct in the executive branch under way already. Thank you, George Bush, for restoring "honor and dignity to the White House".

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

DOJ: Doh, Our Bad

The Department of Justice says it is calling for new trials and dropping terrorism charges against three already convicted sleeper cell suspects after an internal investigation finds that in the initial trial prosecutors concealed key evidence from discovery, going so far as to release documents "with misleading inferences that such material did not exist". Oops.

Jobs For Everybody

On a related topic, RJ Samuelson continues his crusade against bogus and meaningless campaign issues in a Washington Post column today that tackles the job loss/creation debate. Samuelson points out that the candidates spend endless amounts of time decrying one another's jobs policies and demonstrating the value of their own jobs plans. The reality of the situation is that neither one is likely to overcome the impact of market cycles, technological changes, and other factors beyond their control. The president simply does not have that degree of control over the economy. Ironic then that the economy is the single most consistent and important issue from one election to another.

The Media Sucks

Thanks to Howard Kurtz for once again pointing out how much the media's campaign coverage sucks. Talk about your easy jobs, Kurtz, ya bum. He notes a phenomenon that has been amusing me the past week or so: that all of the news sources who two weeks ago were proclaiming that the election was "John Kerry's to lose" (based, of course on some stupid opinion poll) are now writing about how Kerry is in disarray and it's Bush's race to lose (based, once again, on some stupid opinion poll). I'm just glad that these news sources have been able to push aside wasteful coverage of substantive issues in order to bring us these invaluable reports.

To be honest it reminds me a lot of Wall Street reporting, where you see these reporters come on CNN and say, "yeah the Dow index went up 56 points today due to speculation on the price of rubber in the Philippines during the rainy season". My ass. Hundreds of millions of shares were traded to produce that end result, by many thousands of people and organizations. You don't know what the hell caused it. Don't pretend it means anything. The daily ticks of the stock market don't mean anything and neither do the daily opinion polls of the presidential race. Stop wasting our time.

Slashdot Discusses Monetary Policy

Someone managed to sneak a Mises Institute article into a slashdot topic today. Unfortunately not that many posts were able to get past the novelty of the Gilligan's Island example used in the article, but nonetheless the discussions among those who did manage to grasp the topic were interesting.