Sunday, October 31, 2004
The Good Doc
I'd have to say my favorite congressional villain is Bill Frist. That's right folks; not the Hammer. The Doctor.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Just listening to John Brennan next to Secretary Ridge now... It appears as if he's a tired and frustrated real intelligence professional who's doing his best to keep his frustration with this administration from emanating from his speech.
Interesting... We'll look at the transcripts.
Friday, October 29, 2004
The Master rises from the grave and lands an extraordinary one-two punch on all of those who haven't taken a step back to look at the big picture, his prose crisp as ever, making me cringe in pain as we speak. Then again, I was this way when I read Peter Galbraith's article in the Globe the other day too. So I guess it's not my glass of extra dry martini that's causing it?
Friday, October 22, 2004
State-sponsored and Non-state-sponsored Terrorism
Kevin Drum has a great post today, referencing a Washington Post article that once again recalls the state-sponsored-terrorism-driven mindset dominating this administration. If memory serves, both he and Josh had commented on it a while back as well.
I have no disagreement with any of Kevin's points except for the single sentence that reads:
Please... It's this kind of forced evenhandedness that we're all criticizing in the mainstream media: Of course state-sponsored terrorism is something important that needs to be dealt with, but that goes without saying! International law and order have long laid the foundations for fighting and preventing such terrorism, and rules of engagement are clearly --and sometimes not-so-clearly-- outlined therein.
But, when you're talking about the dangers of non-state-sponsored terrorism, bringing up the state-sponsored version is no different from my saying the following:
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Or perhaps I should've picked "Voter Registration Fraud and Sinclair Broadcast Group" as the title of this post, because I've long made up my mind that those two really are the October Surprise we've all been expecting.
Now I'm asking out of honest curiosity. What do you think?
E-mail me people.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
A Little Word Counting
Here's what I did...
First, I divided the answers into three types for each of the candidates:
Then, I counted the number of words in each section (actually, Microsoft Word did).
We're talking about a matrix with 21 rows here --one for each question and the closing-- and 12 columns, that's not sparse, but has more empty cells than not. Empty cells exist for the obvious reason. A total of 400 words in two minutes is a good-enough ceiling value, so this is the normalization I made:
Keep in mind that since this is simply normalizing the number of words spoken in a given amount of time, in essence it's comparing speed.
Then, I plotted the x-y pairings, for the abscissa spanning 1 through 21 and the ordinate containing values that vary between 0.1 and 1.1, roughly. And finally, I fitted a polynomial curve to each of the data sets, which, although not very reliable, is quite good in telling the untrained eye of trends.
Comparing Word Counts
The normalized values that you see in the legend are all called mu, the letter "k" is for Senator Kerry and "b" is for President Bush. Finally, the numbers in the subscript denote the number of seconds of speech (interval) the data point represents.
As I saw, and so should you, Senator Kerry had a very solid, stable and low-variance profile in all three types of answers and managed to put in more words per minute than his opponent did at every answer except one. His profile shows a warm-up towards a modest peak, stays there and then gradually declines to its starting point. And notice how close the fitted curves also are.
Now look at President Bush's curves. Notice anything special? Aside from the fact that his values are rather erratic, higher-variance than his opponent's and lower in general, it's also quite visible that his main answers are in a steady decline in density whereas his first rebuttals are increasing.
What does that tell you about a man who has not much to say about his own record but sings like a bird when it comes to trashing his opponent?
What does it tell you about his national campaign?
The Morning After
Many people have been doing a terrific job of fact-checking the debate and I thought I'd look into something that I paid as much attention to during the debate, thanks to Somerby's posts about Bob Schieffer.
Here are my question-by-question remarks... Enjoy.
Granted, it's an important issue. Why bring it up again when this issue has been repeatedly discussed in the previous debate? Why add homeland security/terrorism to the list of questions in a domestic debate, when every single poll shows that fighting terrorism is the only remaining issue where Bush isn't doing worse than Kerry? I think this question was clearly tilted towards the President.
Yes, vaccine shortage is something that happened on this administration's watch and it shouldn't have, but because of the specific nature of the subject it was a softball to the President --shortage can be blamed on contaminated supplies of foreign provider and not directly on administration policies.
I think here Schieffer was blatantly trying to corner Kerry for his pledge. And I also believe the word skyrocketing was a carefully selected buzzword from the tort-reform-to-reduce-medical-malpractice-liability playbook. Oh, and by the way "Bob", healthcare costs are skyrocketing, not is.
This was a more-or-less fair question, I'll have to admit. However, he could've stated a clear case of the total number of jobs lost, referred perhaps again to Hoover, preempting Kerry --and possibly saving him from the troublesome task of reminding all the IQ-deficient members of Schieffer's brethren, repeatedly, that this President has lost near two million private sector jobs on his watch. And while we're at it, I'd like someone to tell me why noone's ever explaining the difference between private sector and government job losses and gains. Since this tax cut-happy recovery recipe was supposed to encourage investment/spending/hiring in private businesses, why should referring to the job losses therein be a poor way of explaining the situtation?
Whatever should one say? I think I was in college, prepping for the panel-interview of a graduate scholarship when I last heard this stupid question. The answer lied then, as France had discovered at the time, and does now, in understanding the dynamics of labor.
Um... What's that I hear? "Wedge"? Yes, that's what I thought.
Meant to burn Kerry, again. So wonderful that stem-cell research, that is such a sweet issue that the Senator could hit Bush with, came dissolved in a direct attack and could not be used as a point by Kerry.
Again, setting him up to talk about lawsuits...
The underlying assumption in the interrogative sentence is that what Bush said was true, and leads the listeners to believe, a priori, that Kerry's characterization of his tax rollback was wrong, Bush's is right, and puts Kerry on the defensive.
This question... I don't know what to say. Is it reasonable to think that he wanted to allow an advertisement of the social security privatization plan? Or does it make more sense to consider the opposite, i.e. the plan more-or-less suggests that 1+1=4 (Hello, Dr. Krugman!), so he was trying to get him to talk positively and hopefully and promisingly about another impossible? I think in the next question to Kerry lies our answer...
I'm both sick of Schieffer's repeated attempts to corner Kerry, and pleased that every time he tried, 44 managed to rise to the occasion and explain himself brilliantly. First of all, Alan Greenspan didn't just say "Social Security", he said "Social Security and Medicare", a trick that they very often use to increase the magnitude of the object to create a false sense of direness. Second of all, everything Kerry said is true! Noone seems to remember how desperately Dr. Death was talking up the tax cuts to Congress. And noone seems willing to make the clear point that the deficit-hawk Greenspan, who was very careful in guiding the Democrats to fiscal responsibility during the Clinton years turned into such an obedient troop once C-Plus Augustus and company made it into the office.
Hmmm.... Might be a good one. Finally!
Another good one for Kerry, are we finally being fair?
And yes, believe it or not, I also think this was a good one for Kerry (given the electorate's general opinion on the issue). And I loved Kerry's quiet arrogant moment with Schieffer (of the kind that only experts of that arrogance can recognize)... (I didn't ask you what the question is, idiot, I just asked you how long the answer's going to be.)
Could've been a ditch, Kerry still pulled out nicely.
Yes, another one sort-of trying to corner the President.
Kerry did well, it was an okay question, but I'm surprised he didn't bring up the administration's filing of an amicus brief for the U of Michigan case.
Wedge again. Nothing to say. Luckily, Kerry pulled it off rather eloquently.
Time to stick the "uniter not a divider" slogan in, and twist the blade... Good question.
Now, given the facts there are two possibilies: Either Bob Schieffer is aware the answers (and facts) are so obviously tilted against Bush that he's throwing Kerry hardballs in order for the Senator to rise better and brighter after the answer, or he's simply protecting his close friend, and fellow Texan, against a Northeast liberal, just like he said on Larry King Live. I choose to believe the simplest explanation.
Coming up: A tiny little mathematical analysis of the debate.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
But of course...
Just when everything is going the way it is --gigantic deficits, hundreds of soldiers dead in a quagmire, a report that puts to rest all shreds of possibility that the invasion might have been warranted in the first place, the KE04 ticket gaining a much-deserved momentum-- you would need something like this to set the balance, right? You know, to put the lefty folks in their place, in case they're getting hopeful. Even if the text isn't entirely unfair, the title is, and the title is as deep as most people would ever read in this country anyway, is it not?
In the Gray Lady, of all places.
Guess by whom?
Monday, October 04, 2004
Anyone worried about what might transpire must rest assured that it'll all be just good...
John Edwards is one of the best trial lawyers in this country. Trial lawyers, by definition, are people who have the ability to master any topic in depth in a relatively short amount of time so as to broaden their range of lawsuits. This should lay to rest any and all concerns that John Edwards might not have a stellar performance against Darth Vader. And people who are still delusional enough to think that he is to be worried about should go ahead and read and re-read Josh's skillful article in the Washington Monthly or see the equally brilliant more recent work of T.D. Allman in Rolling Stone Magazine.
Update: I thought I should add, after discussing with some friends, on whether being restrained to sit down will be such a disadvantage for a trial lawyer like Edwards. I have one word for you:
This man knows how to sit across the table from chairmen, CEOs, presidents and other corporate bigwigs that have screwed the helpless little guy in one way or another. He does.