Cincinnati & national politics -- movies -- music -- law

Friday, July 30, 2004

More excellent election information

I stole this link from the Electoral Votes website I linked to yesterday, but it's pretty cool in its own right. It's some sort of online encyclopedia, and if you wander around, you can find the electoral vote maps for every election since 1792, when George Washington ran unopposed and John Adams when the race for Vice-President. Very neat stuff.

Firehouses, or "Christopher Hitchens, are you wilfully obtuse or actually stupid?"

New article on Slate by Christopher Hitchens (who wrote a vitriolic, rambling, and self-contradictory attack on "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the same online mag). Hitchens discusses the "false alternative" that he claims Kerry proposed last night when he "quite needlessly proposed a contradiction between 'opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.'" Summary of the argument -- Kerry is wrongly implying: a) that foreigners don't deserve our money; and b) that foreign aid is a "zero sum game" in which a dollar spent in Iraq is a dollar less spent here. According to Hitchens, "Could anything be more short-sighted than that? Have we not learned that failed states turn into rogue states, and then export their rage and misery?"

A fine straw man, Mr. Hitchens. And an excellent job knocking it down.

But let's look instead at what Kerry actually said, why don't we?

Here's the segment of Kerry's speech that ended with the applause line quoted, in part, by Hitchens:

And the front lines of this battle are not just far away ? they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9-11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9-11 families. As President, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting ninety-five percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.

Taking the paragraph in full, it's clear that Hitchens is either wilfully or stupidly misinterpreting Kerry.

Kerry's point: Iraq and the Middle East are not the only battlegrounds in the war against terrorism. Terrorism could happen here. And therefore, "national security begins with homeland security." Kerry then proposes that we follow the 9-11 Commission's recommendations on homeland security and notes some of the homeland security issues that Bush has not addressed: security at our ports and our nuclear and chemical plants. And then the money line, "And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America."

On its face, this statement does not mean what Hitchens claims. Kerry is saying that we should not simultaneously open firehouses in Baghdad and close them down here. This does not mean, as Hitchens suggests, that we should do the absolute opposite, and open firehouses only in America and close them down only in Baghdad. Rather, Kerry also could mean that we should close them down here and in Baghdad or open them both here and in Baghdad. To determine which of these alternative Kerry is advocating, we need only look at the context. The whole section is about devoting more resources to homeland security. So, he's saying that we should open firehouses here, but nowhere is he saying that we should close them down in Baghdad.

Indeed, all of this talk about "zero sum games" and "false alternatives" are inventions of Hitchens' own mind, borne of his obvious desire to assume the worst about Kerry and the Democrats. Admittedly, Hitchens does cite two instances where people involved on "the left" have in fact complained that money spent in Iraq should be spent here instead: one a leaflet distributed by the Service Employees International Union and another a statement by the mayor of San Francisco. But who reasonably can attribute those feelings to Kerry, when Kerry's speech, when read in context, does not say that at all?

No one can. But Hitchens is more than happy to go on his partisan way, even calling for a "senior Democrat" to "disown" this sort of thinking. It's a great thought, politicians from both parties going around "disowning" the more radical or unpleasant statements made by their parties' supporters. If we're going to expect that, though, let's be fair about it: Bush or a "senior Republican" should disown Sen. Santorum's likening homosexuality to bestiality or the claims by Rush Limbaugh that the Abu Ghraib prison abuses were akin to a fraternity prank.

That's not going to happen, though, and Hitchens' call for Kerry and the Democrats to do it, based on his blatent misreading of Kerry's speech, is nothing more than blind or stupid partisan vitriole.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Electoral Votes

I've already forgotten how I found this website, which predicts the results of the presidential election by electoral votes. It's interesting because it present an easy-to-use graphical interface, where you can run your cursor over any state and get the results of the most recent poll. However, it also should be taken with a grain of salt, because it bases its predictions on only the most recent poll for any given state. But, at least it's upfront about its methodology, so it's an interesting resource. Enjoy.


And I thought that law firm recruiting can be ridiculous. Take a peek at what it's like to be a top high school football recruit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

News Flash: John Edwards Hates The American Flag

Or at least that's what wrong-headed Republicans hell-bent on creating a political mountain out a molehill no doubt hope to make you believe by bringing a proposed Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to ban flag-burning to a vote in the Senate.  (Note: Edwards voted in the Senate Judiciary Committee to defeat the proposal, thus the headline.)

This is so very wrong. And to those who see such an amendment as some form of "patriotism," I quote Colin Powell:

We are rightfully outraged when anyone attacks or desecrates our flag. Few Americans do such things, and when they do, they are subject to the rightful condemnation of their fellow citizens. They may be destroying a piece of cloth, but they do no damage to our system of freedom which tolerates such desecration. ... I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


It's neither here nor there, but I just wanted to say how happy it makes me that the Northwest Airlines website is www.nwa.com.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Media Bias, Part II

As noted in a comment to my previous post, the AP story on Kerry's selection of Edwards is now longer. However, it still contains heavy anti-Kerry/Edwards editorializing in the guise of description and uncredited "facts."

First off, it still leads with the same paragraph I quoted below. Then, we get these descriptions of the candidates:

Kerry, 60, a decorated Vietnam veteran whom critics call aloof, calculated that his ticket didn't need foreign policy heft as much as a bit of pizazz and the quick embrace of party activists who had rallied behind Edwards' stealth campaign for the No. 2 slot.

Edwards, 51, who made a fortune as a trial lawyer before jumping into politics in the 1990s as a self-styled champion for the common man, edged out several Washington veterans under consideration, including Rep. Dick Gephardt (news - web sites) of Missouri and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.

From this, we are to believe either that Kerry himself admitted or someone in the know somewhere stated that the selection of Edwards was "calculated" to ignore foreign policy issues and add "pizazz" that the campaign is lacking. Given the absence of attribution, however, I doubt that this is anything more than the reporter pontificating. Likewise, Ron Fournier, whose name is in the by-line, expresses his skepticism of Edwards when he describes him as a "self-styled champion for the common man."

We later learn that Edwards is "folksy" and Kerry "patrician," Kerry "has had trouble crafting a general election message," and in selecting Edwards, Kerry "bow[ed] to party pressure."

And interesting article, and one that shows that the blatant editorialization of the news affects both parties.

Media Bias

For those who spend hours cataloguing the editorializing of the news with the implication that it's a sign of liberal media bias, here's the entire text of the breaking AP news story stating that Kerry is picking Edwards as his running mate:

John Kerry selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, picking the smooth-talking Southern populist over more seasoned politicians in hopes of injecting vigor and small-town appeal to the Democratic presidential ticket, The Associated Press learned Tuesday.

I think this needs no further comment.