Wednesday, November 3

The American Conservative

I'm speechless. After four years of some of the worst goverance on record, a president and a party who has done almost nothing right and many, many things wrong has been reelected.

A majority of the American people have decided to place the presidency, the senate, the house of representatives, and by extension, the entire legal system in the hands of the Republican party, which, because it has increasingly swung away from the center, is now almost entirely a conservative party.

Thus 11 states have banned not only gay marriage, but the benefits that might come from domestic partnership. Illegal, you say? Well, that would be up to the courts and the congress, now wouldn't it? And you know full well who thinks they have a mandate from the people from here on out.

I dispair for rational discussion when so many conservative commentators have, their patience exhausted by Bush's poor record, have finally given up and endorced Kerry - only to have Bush reelected and, just as in 2002, his party further strengthened.

Cornell West, one of the more articulate men I've ever heard speak, claimed that Bush was not a conservative, because he was not guided by a conservative philosophy about which one might have a reasonable discussion. Instead, West preferred the term "gangster."

Well, what do you call it when the gangsters have all three branches of government?

El Duce, we salute you!

Monday, November 1

The Horserace

So everyone's sick of polls by now. Slate has basically given up, after Florida shifted from Bush to Kerry back to Bush in a matter of hours, and Ohio and Wisconsin basically did the same. They correctly advised, "if you don't like the results, wait an hour."

But as this site is intended to be more than a news filter, I want to point out that, depending on the results tuesday night, we may see a major transformation of the way polling is done and reported based on Sam Wang's work at Princeton on allocating undecided voters. Follow the link for indepth information, but the gist is this: decided voter polls, which is what every media organization currently uses, and which obviously produces a media-feedback effect, has the campaign going strongly for Bush. Here are some numbers:

Median outcome, decided voters: Kerry 252 EV, Bush 286 EV

Popular Meta-Margin among decided voters: Bush leads by 0.9%

Predicted median with undecideds: Kerry 280 EV, Bush 258 EV

Electoral prediction with undecideds and turnout: Kerry 323 EV, Bush 215 EV

Popular vote prediction with undecideds and turnout: Kerry 50%, Bush 48%

So as you can see, and Wang has basically clung to this all along, that because of a statistical observation termed "Cook's Law," the so-called "undecided voters" are not statistically split down the middle, but historically favor the challenger by almost a 3:1 margin. In an election this close, such a seemingly insignificant detail changes the entire landscape. With decided voters only, Bush always wins in a landslide. With undecideds and turnout predictions included, Kerry wins both the popular vote, and in something of an electoral college landslide. Wang personally puts Kerry's odds of winning at 6:1 in favor, and is putting his own money on it.

Because perhaps the most important factor in contemporary politics is the phenomenon of "momentum," it stands to reason that the race would be very, very different if news organizations across the world - with the exception of Fox, of course - were reporting a Kerry landslide on the basis of these numbers. How or whether it would change actual voting depends on your understanding of mass psychology. If voters, on the whole, are more drawn to the fight because it's so close, or because they believe Kerry is losing, then the change might work against Kerry. If, however, you believe as I do, that we have a lot waffling voters who don't like Bush, but are afraid to vote for Kerry - and who are getting psychological reinforcement for this belief on the basis of media predictions that everyone else feels the same way - then bringing in the undecided calculation could work massively in Kerry's favor. Media commentators would all begin to chime in that "the country is moving in a particular direction" - in this case, towards the idea not simply that Bush is bad, which it has already decided, but that Kerry is an acceptable replacement, which it has not.

So after all the results come in on Tuesday night, whether you're elated or angry as hell, or - most likely - that you're gripped to the news listening to all the insanity of multiple law suits and countersuits, check back here and see whether Sam Wang was right or wrong, because it could lead to significant changes in 2008 and beyond. -andrew


Eminem's get out the vote video, in which he calls for an army to defeat bush.

cheered me up this morning, anyway.

nicked wholesale from william gibson's blog...

William Gibson: "President Bush goes to an elementary school to talk about the war.

After his talk, he offers to answer questions. One little boy puts up his hand and the president asks him his name.

'I'm Billy, sir.'

'And what's your question, Billy?'

'I have three questions, sir. Why did the US invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? And whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?'

Just then the bell rings for recess. Bush announces that they'll continue after recess.

When they return, Bush asks, 'OK, where were we? Question time! Who has a question?'

Another little boy raises his hand. The president asks his name.

'I'm Steve, sir.'

'And what's your question, Steve?'

'I have five questions, sir. Why did the US invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? Whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Why did the recess bell go off twenty minutes early? And what the heck happened to Billy?' "

Gibson's *real* punchline, posted the next day, was that this was, in fact, a very old joke. a soviet joke.

You Must Vote. It's the Law. - Australia requires citizens to vote. Should the U.S.?

You Must Vote. It's the Law. - Australia requires citizens to vote. Should the U.S.? By Eric Weiner

article on slate that looks at the pros and cons of mandatory voting, an idea i've been arguing for lately, infuriated by the lack of voter turnout in the past few elections.