Friday, March 19, 2004

I've been thinking about the right-wing's knee-jerk response to the Madrid tragedy and the Spanish election results, and I finally figured out exactly why it seems so wrong to me -- even aside from the fact that they're ignoring the PP's lies, the pre-election polling etc.

No, the problem is that the right-wingers are playing the Prisoner's Dilemma, and they're playing to lose.

Now I'm not in any way suggesting that 'co-operation', as expressed in the standard version of the game, is at all possible with terrorists. But the lesson of the game is clear to anyone who's looked at it even briefly. Your best play every round -- the path that enlightened self-interest guides you along -- is not to simply play 'screw the other guy', but to make the play that makes the most sense to you without considering your opponent's possible actions or responses.

At the largest, most extreme example, look at the Cold War. Had either side played for the short-term advantage of 'screw the other guy' by launching a first strike, the result would have been that both sides lose. The only winning strategy is to make a decision with your eye on the long term. (And yes, Joshua, you've seen this before.)

Now apply that logic to the Spanish election. The electorate had a choice: play 'screw the other guy' by leaving the 'anti-terrorism' party in power apparently against Al Qaeda's wishes, or make the decision they would have made had al Qaeda not been involved, and vote out the party that lied to them. (Which, when you think about it, is just an example of tit-for-tat strategy in the game between the PP party and the Spanish people...)

The right-wingers want to play 'screw the other guy'. Short-term advantage, long-term loss.

Electorates -- and governments -- shouldn't be thinking in those terms.
I usually ignore Howie Kurtz, just because he's so pathetically transparant in his biases, but Jayson Blair vs. Jack Kelley presents a very interesting case study, if you need convincing.
Methinks Fat Tony doth protest too much...

In his decision, Scalia took issue with critics who would assume he could not rule impartially simply because Cheney accepted his invitation to hunt ducks and he accepted Cheney's invitation to fly to Louisiana on a government jet.

"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court Justice can be bought so cheap, the Nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined," he wrote in the 21-page memorandum.

Scalia is right on this one, actually. By the previously established standards of the Supreme Court, he shouldn't be recusing himself from the case. But when he writes choice tidbits like this (from the full text):

"Nothing this Court says on those subjects will have any bearing upon the reputation and integrity of Richard Cheney."

it displays a willful naivete to the controversy surrounding the case. And willful naivete is not a quality we should be cultivating in Supreme Court justices.

Unless of course he means that it's slam dunk the Supremes will rule in Cheney's favor, in which case yes, nothing they say will have any bearing on his reputation...

Scalia does try to cover his ass a couple of paragraphs later:

"To be sure, there could be political consequences from disclosure of the fact (if it be so) that the Vice President favored business interests, and especially a sector of business with which he was formerly connected."

Ri-i-i-i-ight. So there could be political consequences if (well, when really, unless you think they're blocking the release of the documents just on point of principle, and not because they actually say something damaging) his rampant biases are exposed to the world, but that won't affect the perception of Cheney's integrity and reputation. What an interesting theory.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

In a fit of pique I added Rep. Waxman's WMD lie database to my link list. Enjoy!
As those mealy-mouthed, appeasing French say, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel tries really, really hard to convince people that paper trail-less electronic voting is much better than anything else, and that all those blank ballots are normal.

"It happens no matter what system you have," said county Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore.

Wait a minute -- Theresa LePore? Designer of the butterfly ballot Theresa LePore is still employed as an election official in Florida??? Has too much sun addled these people's brains? How does she still have a job?

The Palm Beach Post tries even harder to keep the sheep pacified. Let's take their four explanations for undervotes one by one.

Protest Vote: These are the You-can-make-Murray-go-to-the-polls-but-you-can't-make-him-vote voters. Imagine Murray, whose wife, Mildred, is a staunch member of the League of Women Voters. Mildred has a lot of time on her hands and is intent on using much of it to be sure that Murray makes better use of all the time he suddenly has now that he's retired to South Florida.

Mildred is going to make darn sure that Murray knows all about the issues and the candidates, whether he wants to or not. And on Election Day, she's going to make darn sure that Murray goes to the polls. But once Murray gets there, he takes his secret, silent revenge by not choosing a candidate. When Mildred asks, "So how did you vote?" Murray answers, "By secret ballot."

So the answer is shrewish, nagging wives. Wow. How enlightened... err, enlightening.

Just a thought, but wouldn't Murray be more likely to take revenge on Mildred by voting for the candidate she hates?

Dumb Voters: After the 2000 presidential race, the Republican line was that Palm Beach County's Democratic voters must be idiots. It wasn't the butterfly ballot; it was the lack of little gray cells. For the record, according to Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore, of the 137 blank ballots in the suspicious District 91 race, only three were cast in Palm Beach County. The others were in Broward. I think it's entirely plausible that, in that race, scores of people showed up who simply couldn't figure out how to work the touch screens. This is a district, remember, that elected the young Connie Mack in the first place, apparently unable to tell the difference between him and his father. The lack of little gray cells is a prime culprit in any district where voters are known to have sent someone of Mr. Mack's mean temperament and limited intellectual skills to the Legislature.

So the dumb people confused by the butterfly ballot in 2000 moved to Broward then? Maybe we should have an IQ test at the door to determine whether people should be allowed to vote or not.

And I thought the whole point of the electronic system was to be as idiot-proof as possible. Mind you, with Theresa LePore is charge, 'idiot-proof' could mean 'proof that the idiots are still running things.'

Pranksters/Activists: If it wasn't dumb Republicans, maybe it was mischievous Democrats. Since only Republicans were running, the race became a "universal primary" in which Democrats could vote. By the time the District 91 election came along, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, and other Democrats were demanding a paper trail so elections officials would have something to count in the event of questionable results -- such as inexplicable under-votes. It is possible that people favoring a paper trail intentionally cast blank ballots to further their cause.

So there was a concerted effort to gum up the works with undervotes... and only 137 people participated? Conclusion: the Democrats are not only anti-democratic by trying to sabotage the system, but poorly organized and incompetent as well. Got it.

Voters On A Streak: Ms. LePore, asked this week to explain the blank ballots, said many probably just "want to keep up a record of voting in every election."

Ah, election junkies, of course. That explains everything. They're just jonesing for their ballot fix, man. Whoa, dude, I just scored some primo 'local initiative to install traffic calming areas in Boca Raton'...

Wexler's right -- ballot systems without paper trails contravene Florida's manual recount law, not to mention the Supremes' decision in Gore v Bush. And no amount of strident, over-the-top excusifying (I got so mad I had to make up a word) is going to change that.
A very interesting piece from Jay Rosen about watchblogs and bias...

First political party to realize this two-way street stuff also applies to them, wins. Dean almost kinda had it, I think, but then he got caught up in the pomp and circumstance. (And no, I'm not talking about the Barbaric Yawp.)
Mickey, Mickey, Mickey...

Here's Kaus on the $87 million question:

A legislator can always defend a vote against a bill by saying "Well, if the bill had failed they would have had to come back to us and we would have made these three improvements." That's one reason Washington votes are Kabuki theater. But Bush's tax cuts could always be repealed later to close the deficit the $87 billion would enlarge. In the meantime, the tax cuts weren't going to be repealed, the troops were in the field, and Bush was finally stepping up to the plate and asking for money to fund his war. It seems to me the logical vote would be to support the $87 billion and figure out how to pay for it later...

Maybe it's just me, being an opponent of the invasion of Iraq from day one, but how is that logical for Kerry? Mr. Budget Hawk writing an $87 million check to someone who'd already blown through the surplus and rung up a deficit? Kerry spends time and political capital trying to include an amendment to make Bush accountable for how much he was spending, then he should just shrug and say, "Go get 'em boys!"

Wouldn't that be the action of the consummate straddler Kaus keeps saying Kerry is? To make a show of fiscal responsibility, then go with the flow on a still-popular war? Mickey says Kerry did it because Kerry was "a Democratic candidate running for president in anti-war Iowa" -- but we're talking October 2003 here. Dean had just become the front-runner; Clark hadn't yet announced he wasn't competing in Iowa. Kerry was polling at 9% in the state according to Zogby.

If Kaus seriously thinks that Kerry's no vote on this was part of his master strategy to win the Iowa caucus and the nomination, he should be supporting him out of pure fear, lest this Dem combination of Professor Moriarty and Niccolo Machiavelli reach out and crush him from the center of his spider's web.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I wonder how many times Andrew Sullivan can be kicked in the teeth by the government he supports before he realizes crap like this isn't an exception to the Bush administration worldview, it's part and parcel? Everything gets subsumed into their agenda -- from gay rights to 9/11 -- and their only agenda is to hold onto power.

Heck, I had second thoughts just using Sully as some sort of short-hand for 'those people'. Do you think Scott Bloch is troubled by concerns about stereotyping?

Insert string of profanities here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

From today's press briefing:

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, that's making a lot of assumptions, one, Mark. I mean, Senator Kerry has said that he met with foreign leaders and that he's heard from those leaders, and, yet, he refused to back up that claim. And that's why, yesterday, I said that it's either one of two things: Either he can back up those claims and say who it is, or he is simply making it up to attack the President of the United States.

Too bad that standard -- either the claims are backed up or the person is simply making it up -- wasn't used on all those WMD 'evidence' claims, huh Scott?
Bob Dreyfuss wonders if the CIA are up to their old tricks in Syria.

Wouldn't be at all surprising. The Bush administration is awash in unrepentant Cold Warriors, so dipping into the Cold War playbook is about as creative as they're capable of getting. Syria would make three coup attempts in four years under Bush, alongside Venezuela and Haiti.

This is an administration run amuck.
Breaking story from the NarcoSphere... Aristide's letter has been translated by one of America's foremost experts on Creole, and guess what? It never explicitly states, "I resign."

What it says is, "IF this evening it is my resignation which can prevent a bloodbath, I agree to leave in the hope that there will be life and not death." (Translated English PDF here.)

First: Compare that sentiment with the convicted murderers and thugs who opposed him.

Second: Compare that sentiment with Latortue's depiction of him as someone who's mere presence in Jamaica is so potentially devastating to Haiti that Latortue had no choice but to withdraw Haiti's ambassador to Jamaica and pull out of CARICOM, the league of Caribbean nations.

The Pub party line in Haiti (rather close to its party line in Iraq) has been, "We didn't kidnap him, and does it really matter how he came to leave? Haiti is better off without him." Kissinger-style realpolitik all the way.

The mounting evidence though is that Haiti is NOT better off without Aristide. Latortue is acting like a chicken with his head cut off, and murderers like Chamblain are free to roam the streets. (Mind you, Latortue's evident paranoia might have a tenuous connection to reality -- South African President Thabo Mbeki tried to send arms and supplies to support Aristide, and that shipment could in theory still be sitting in Jamaica...)

Aristide is the democratically elected leader of Haiti. Any action to support his overthrowers is anti-democratic, plain and simple. If Aristide is unfit to rule, the people of Haiti can turf him out when his term is up. Again, plain and simple.

Oh, but wait you say, the last election was rigged, wasn't it? Well, yes and no. There were tons of problems, but chief among them was the fact that all the opposition parties boycotted the election. They claimed the fix was in for Aristide and Lavalas and they had no chance of winning. Well, the second part of that became a self-fulfilling prophecy, so there was no way to tell if it was rigged or not. The US didn't even bother to send observers.

Plus, look at the timing. The last elections were in 2000. Surely, if the opposition felt cheated and they truly had a mandate from the people, the time for action would have been back then, wouldn't it? Not four years later.

On the other hand, if this action was anti-democratic, then waiting four years -- four years in which draconian sanctions would have tied Aristide's hands and hamstrung his reforms, four years in which the people of Haiti could be ground down a little more, four years in which to soften up resistance -- makes perfect sense.

It's time Big Media fessed up, and started calling a coup a coup.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Patrick Healy, the reporter who originally broke the "foreign leaders want Kerry to win" story, made a correction -- apparently Kerry didn't say 'foreign leaders' at all, but 'more leaders'.

Now in the context of the remarks it's mostly splitting hairs, but given that the Pubs spin point on this has been "If you don't tell us who they were you must be lying and shut up already", accuracy does matter. And major props to Healy for coming forward. (You'll notice, for instance, the CNN article linked above already contains the corrected version).

Here's a thought -- maybe Big Media wouldn't be on the wane if they employed more people like Healy.
I'm watching a CNN piece on Melissa Rowland, the Utah woman in jail for murder after she refused a C-section, and as a result gave birth to a stillborn child.

Here's how the piece went:

1) display horrible picture of Rowland making her look like a crack whore
2) interview with an adoption agency worker who says after she was arrested, Rowland tries to scam the agency for bail money by offering up a non-existant unborn child for adoption
3) display horrible picture of Rowland making her look like a crack whore
4) mention that she refused the C-section at three different hospitals
5) second-hand quote from Rowland that she let her baby die because she didn't want a scar. No mention of the fact that she's had previous C-sections
6) report from some expert that she's probably crazy, and has problems with authority
7) display horrible picture of Rowland making her look like a crack whore
8) interview with some government official who says, "The jails are full of people who have problems with authority"
9) display horrible picture of Rowland making her look like a crack whore

oh, and snuck in right at the end of the piece...

10) interview with an attorney who says she was completely within her rights to refuse surgery for whatever reason she deemed fit

Hearst would've been proud, CNN. Way to demonize the unjustly imprisoned!
Remember that pesky Bush AWOL story? Yeah, neither does Big Media.

Other folks, however, have better short-term recall.
Instapundit gets an 'F' in basic research skills. (Original article is in the Miami Herald.)

I posted this on Matthew Yglesias' blog as well, but it's my scoop so I get to put it up here too.

Here's Kerry clearly voting 'yea' on Helms-Burton (HR 927).

Here's Kerry's caveat about his yea vote, in which he makes clear that Title III was what he had a problem with, that Title III was not part of the bill the Senate had just approved, and that he would fight against any attempt to re-instate Title III.

Here's Kerry voting 'nay' on the conference report which re-instated a rather toothless version of Title III, requiring presidential declaration of suspension or enforcement of its provisions every six months.

And here's a link indicating that the provisions of Title III, to date, have never been enforced by either Clinton or Bush.

So Kerry a) fought against what he thought were the worst parts of Helms-Burton (and to date, successfully) but b) is quite correct in saying he voted for the bill.

Whether that makes him as tough on Castro as he says, that you can question.

(EDITED to kill Kaus/Giordano refs... nods to two other blogs in one post is plenty.)
This quote pretty clearly spells out the party line on the Spanish elections:

"This event rivals 9/11 in terms of a victory for al-Qaeda," says homeland security consultant Randall Larsen. "They just influenced an election. That's a frightening development because it's only going to encourage them."

Kevin Drum, surprisingly, said much the same thing over at Calpundit:

The goal of terrorism is to affect public opinion and to scare people into not opposing the terrorists' aims. If (if!) the Spanish electorate was punishing Aznar solely because they perceived his actions as being anti-terrorist enough to provoke an al-Qaeda attack, the terrorists have accomplished their goal: the Spanish public has shown that if they are attacked they will vote against a politician who strongly opposed the terrorists.

To be polite to Kevin, let me just say I vehemently disagree with this viewpoint. There are all kinds of holes I see in it, but what it really comes down to, as far as I'm concerned, is that any successful exercise of a country's democratic freedoms is a blow against terrorism and tyranny. It's when we start becoming more like our enemies (hel-lo, Patriot Act, I'm looking at you) that the terrorists 'win'. The conflict is one of ideologies, after all. We win when we remain true to our ideals even in the face of terrorism, not by compromising them.

Had the Spanish election been postponed to "deal with the crisis" or some such, that would have given victory to the terrorists. Not a free and fair democratic vote.
I don't suppose it's going to occur to Big Media that the solution to their collective crises of declining ratings and sagging influence is to actually practice real journalism again... nah, didn't think so.

I mean, how sad is this?:

"While the overall trends are difficult there are places you can point to that are islands of quality," such as National Public Radio, the Economist magazine and The New York Times...

OK, the Economist, sure. But the NYT? If that's your island of quality, the island in question is Atlantis, or maybe Krakatoa. I mean, here's how the Senile Old Lady headlined their version of the story:

Study Finds a Waning Appetite for News

No, dumbasses, there's a waning appetite for your bastardization of the news. People will always want to be informed about their world. What they don't want is to be lied and condescended to about it.

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