Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Reagan Pyramid Nears Completion


Even more hysterical than usual commentary via The Onion:

SIMI VALLEY, CA—Slave manpower was doubled this week in an effort to ensure that erection of the gigantic Reagan Pyramid remains on schedule to be completed in time for the 40th president's mummification and ascension into the Afterworld.

Above: Builders expect the Reagan Pyramid to be ready in time for the Great Communicator's mummification and ascension into the Afterworld upon death. Among the items to be entombed with Reagan are 2,500 MX missiles, a golden chalice of jelly beans, and his beloved servant, George Bush Sr.

Swift completion of the towering structure is "of paramount priority," according to Republican Party insiders.


"Only the most gigantic tomb ever created will be worthy of the Great Communicator," former Reagan Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said. "As his mortal subjects, it is our holy duty to provide Reagan with a burial commensurate with his stature, in order that he may enter the Realm of Death bedecked with raiments and honors so that he may take his rightful place beside the mighty Sun God, Ra."

Check out the rest of it here:

Posted at 09:21 PM in Humor, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The terrifying power of the bloggers

Impressive article from the UK's Guardian on the "terrifying power of the bloggers:"

media_guardian "Not only are major news organisations rolling out blogs of their own, but in the past 12 months the influence of bloggers over their print, television and radio counterparts has grown massively. Consider a decision made by organisers of this year's Democratic National Convention (DNC), next month in Boston. So keen are John Kerry's men to get their message through to the people of Blogistan that for the first time they have issued press accreditation to political bloggers. Just try to imagine any major political organisation recognising blogs in the same way this time last year and you'll realise how far bloggers have gone up in the estimation of those in power. Or, in the case of the DNC, those who will probably be in power next year. Voter fraud notwithstanding.

An even more impressive example of how web journalism has started to influence the mainstream media comes from America's newest radio network, Air America Radio. The New York based station was set up as a liberal challenge to the dominance of US rightwing talk radio in the US. Through affiliates in cities from New York to Honolulu, angry liberal voices such as Al Franken, author of the anti-Bush bible Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Hollywood's Janine Garofalo are finally taking on rightwing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. But unlike Limbaugh and O'Reilly who frequently replace research and reason with rage and rhetoric, Air America's hosts are armed to the teeth with hard, up-to-the second facts to support their relentless Bush bashing. Their sources? Blogs. And the blogging bloggers who blog them."

Good stuff . . .

The terrifying power of the bloggers
Paul Carr
The Guardian, Monday June 28, 2004,7558,1248609,00.html

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

LIRR Commuter from Hell #1

Another installment in our continuing series: LIRR CFH. Today's version: The Cellphone Barker -- a whole new breed of rude.

After getting comfortable in my seat, I start reading my paper. A few stops later, I go to the Head in the next car.

Upon returning, I hear a voice -- somewhere between a bark and a bellow -- yammering into a cell phone -- Damn! -- in the seat right behind me!

I sit down, count to 10 (SERENITY NOW!), and the guy gets off the phone. OK, not so bad -- I can handle one phone call from an apparently impolite turd.

10 seconds later, the deep booming voice starts again. Oh, no, a serial caller! My mind flashes to an entire ride with this tawker yapping in that booming voice the whole trip. No good --Totally Unacceptable.

So I turn around, and in a voice somewhere between firm and polite -- but at a slightly lower volume than Cellphone Barker -- I say:

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to please speak lower, or take the call in the vestibule by the doors".

  The guy doesn't acknowledge me a wit -- no nod, no "I'll be right off," doesn't lower his voice -- nothing. Just completely and totally ignores me.

So 10 seconds later, in my best Police Officer voice, I repeat myself: "Sir, I'm sorry, but I going to have to ask you to keep it down, please . . ."

Cellphone Barker ignores me again -- but this time says to the other party on the phone "

Some jerk is rudely interrupting me -- If he keeps it up, I'm gonna have to knock him out

."  In a flash, I am up out of my seatyou never saw a fat bastard move this fast -- and staring down at him, yelling progressively louder. I am, in a word, unembarrassable (thats an entirely 'nother topic) -- but I see that the louder my voice gets, the more Cellphone Barker deflates:

"What? You're going to 'knock me out?' You are THREATENING me -- in FRONT OF a dozen WITNESSES? I have a cell phone too, and my next call is to 911 -- to have you tossed off this train . . . Where's the conductor?"

I storm off, calm down, find the conductor, explain the situation, drag him back to the car. As I approach Cellphone Barker, I say: "All I want is for you to keep it down." That's an opening for him to resolve the situation (if he wants).

Instead, he says: "This jerk rudely interrupted my call."

The conductor -- who has punched my ticket everyday for a year -- looks at me. I say "I asked him to tone it down -- he was bellowing into his phone."

Cellphone Barker makes the fatal play: "I was talking quietly."

Three other people on the train all pipe up -- "No you weren't" -- "This guy was yelling" -- "You were way too loud."

I suddenly become a diplomat: "You don't have to throw him off the train -- just move his seat."

The guy suddenly realizes that he's on the verge of getting tossed. "Prima-Donnas" he grumbles as the conductor moves him tot he back of the train.

Helluva way to start my day . . .

Posted at 11:07 AM in LIRR Commuter From Hell | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

F9/11: What Political Impact?

Since posting the 9/11 Fahrenheit Presidential Indicator, I've been thinking about what actual political impact the film might have (if any).

In light of some of the comments and private criticisms -- including a few people I respect who termed it "the worst idea you've come up with to date" -- I've been mulling this over for a few days. Here are my conclusions

There are 3 audiences Moore may be "speaking" to, each of which could potentially impact the November elections:

1) 50% :
That astounding number is the percentage of eligible voters who didn't think it was worth their time to cast a vote in the 2000 Presidential election. That's right, half of the electorate couldn't be bothered. (So much for Democracy)

Motivating this group -- not just Independents, but Democrats and Liberal Republicans -- could certainly be part of the impact of Moore's polemic.

In the future, whenever you see this statistic, keep in mind that are many Political Scientists and theorists who posit the entire point of negative campaigning is to keep this group at home. (Call it self-disenfranchised by disgust).

If Moore gets 1 out of 10 of these people off their sofas on November 3rd, he will have effectively overcome all the votes Nader received in 2000.

2) Motivating the Base:
While hardcore Democrats are certainly going to be voting in the Fall, the borderline, "lazy" or soft party members could see their fervor wane if the polls start sliding against them. Rank & file Dems simply don't have the same religious fervor GOP partisans do.

The question is how will the party members handle an occasional setback between now and November?

3) Naderites:
The film would be politically influential -- not if it persuades the centrist or swing voter, but instead if it convinces the 4-6% of Nader voters from 2000 that a vote for Ralph is a vote for the incumbent.

I wasn't thinking in those terms when I wrote this, but considering that Moore was a Nader supporter in 2000, and then backed Wesley Clark in the '04 Democratic primaries, it makes some sense. Of course, that won't show up as part of our 9/11 Fahrenheit indicator thesis, but . . .

Here's a quote from USA Today: "Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, says the savage portrayal of Bush "could convince some Naderites" of the need to vote for Kerry. Moore, who backed Nader's independent candidacy in 2000, says that's one goal. "I hope to have a significant impact on the 4-6% who now say they're going to vote for Ralph," he says." -'Fahrenheit 9/11': Will it change any voter's mind?

Bottom line -- the film may have an impact on the margins. In a race this tight, a 1 or 2% shift or increased participation can be the markgin of victory -- or defeat.

Posted at 07:23 AM in Film, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 28, 2004

Lambo Polizia


There are police cars and there are police cars, and then there's the new police car being used by the Polizia Stradale of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway in southern Italy.

A Gallardo capable of 305 kmh has been given to the Italian State Police by Automobil Lamborghini SpA. It's the first time one of the luxury sportscars from the Italian car maker will be used by the Italian police.

The car will be ''liveried'' in the blue and white colors of the state police and comes with a siren and a set of flashing lights on the roof.

The Gallardo police car will be used by the traffic police during emergency situations and is equipped with apparatus to transmit and receive information and images in critical situations such as road traffic accidents, fires and other disaster situations.

Lambo police car
by Alex Law
Auto123, May 27, 2004,view.spy?artid=24804&pg=1

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

All the President's Indicators

It was one of those odd coincidences: I came across so many separate "Presidential election indicators" in one day, I decided to gather them all in one place, for your blogging pleasure.

Assorted Indicators:
The most comprehensive grouping was in USA Today, which discusses six 'reliable' presidential-election indicators.

Unfortunately, I can't say they are all that reliable, as they are mostly in conflict with each other (at least half of them are gonna be wrong):

Economic formula suggest Bush wins;
Low approval-rating precedent says Kerry wins;
War-president precedent says Bush wins;
Ohio is a bellwether: Tossup;
Northern Democrats don't stand a chance. Bush wins;
Kerry is taller; Kerry wins

The Stock Market Indicator
Next, let us look at the Stock Market indicator, courtesy of CNN/Money:

"Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns. That's good news for President Bush, because if past stock-market patterns hold true this year, he will lose his bid for re-election in November.

Presidential elections are usually won by the incumbent party; in the past 104 years, in 26 elections, the party holding the White House has lost it only 10 times.

Here's the market's performance prior to those 10 losing elections:


But those incumbent losses have been "heralded every time" by lackluster market performance in the four years leading up to the election (or in the last year prior to election) -- according to CyberTrader's chief market strategist, Ken Tower's research.

While this is an interesting approach, readers of my markets/economics blog are well acquainted with my disdain for the oversimplified analysis of controlling for a single variable in complex, multi-variable systems. These include the Markets, as well as Presidential elections.

Other considerations are at play here: Beyond the problems in Iraq, and issues of credibility, CNN/Money notes that "Wage growth has been slow since the 2001 recession, while prices for food and energy have lately skyrocketed. Many voters are only vaguely aware of the stock market's health at any given time, but they are constantly aware of their wages and what they have to pay for gallons of milk and gasoline."

But don't think it is all bad news for the incumbent: "There has lately been good news for the president -- the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose in June, and the latest weekly ABC/Money consumer comfort index also rose from a very low level, led by improving confidence among Republicans and some independents. "

Unemployment Claims Indicator
Next, consider the Unemployment Claims trend (See mnore details here).

click for larger chart
Unemployment Claims, 4 week moving average (thousands)

Source: Hays Advisory

The red circles were where the unemployment claims started getting appreciably better. The red arrows show when the elections were held. The graph suggests that Bush I lost because the election came a few months too early. Bush II doesn't appear to have the same issue as his dad, who had far worse timing when it came to the improving unemployment situation.

9/11 Fahrenheit Presidential Indicator
Lastly, consider the possible 9/11 Fahrenheit Presidential Indicator: Given how polarizing and nakedly partisan Michael Moorse's anti-Bush screed is, can we possibly garner any electoral insights from how well the film does or doesn't do at the box office (or subsequent DVD rental?)

Perhaps, or perhaps not. Some people have observed that the film only "preaches to the choir," and offers no insight into the moderate swing, voter. USA Today quoted University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato: "The savage portrayal of Bush could convince some Naderites of the need to vote for Kerry. Moore, who backed Nader's independent candidacy in 2000, says that's one goal. "I hope to have a significant impact on the 4-6% who now say they're going to vote for Ralph," he says."

Regardless, these indicators give us some ideas to ponder while the rest of the country bides its time until after both political conventions. That's when the voters really start thinking about the election . . .

Stocks point to Bush loss?
If history is any guide, Bush needs a summer rally -- but history may not be such a great guide.
June 23, 2004: 4:55 PM EDT
By Mark Gongloff, CNN/Money senior writer

Election-predicting tools point both ways Depending on which criteria you use, either Bush or Kerry is a lock to win in November Susan Page USA TODAY, June 24, 2004

White House Briefing Dan Froomkin Washington Post, Thursday, Jun 24, 2004; 11:50 am

'Fahrenheit 9/11': Will it change any voter's mind?
Martin Kasindorf and Judy Keen
USA TODAY, Fri Jun 25, 6:23 AM ET

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

9/11 Fahrenheit Presidential Indicator

Earlier this week, we looked at a number of "Presidential Indicators" which might provide some insight into the outcome of the November 2004 presidential election.

I'd like to, in advance, suggest yet another potential indicator: The 9/11 Fahrenheit opening weekend gross indicator.

Here are my thoughts: If this film has a blowout boxoffice for its opening weekend, that might actually be implying that the vein of, lets call it "discomfort" against the incumbent runs far wider and deeper than many moderates previously believed.

If, on the other hand, the film does rather poorly, it suggests, perhaps, that the only people really angry at the President are hardcore partisans. (Perhaps, perhaps not -- I'm thinking out loud here).

An element of truth -- or at least recognition -- of this can be seen in the way both sides have alternately promoted and dissed the film: Some Lefties have been encouraging people to go see it, while some Righties have mounted active campaigns to discourage exhibitors from showing the movie.

I cannot say what the uptake is on the encouragement, but as the Al Franken - Bill O'Reilly dispute demonstrated, orchestrated campaigns of censorship have a tendency to backfire.

(Its not just the Right which seems never to learn this, but the Left also:
Barbra Streisand
learned that the hard way when she attempted to have photos of her house suppressed. She lost, and the photos became far more widely distributed than if she hadn't ever said anything in the first place).

The 9/11 Farenheit thesis is but a mere half-formed theory, and I cannot say something like this has ever been tested before. Baybe the total gross has more predictive power, or the opening month sales, or even DVD rentals will be instructive; I cannot say. This is only a thoery, so your mileage may vary . . .

UPDATE: June 26, 2004 1:05pm

A few people have pointed out that a film such as this is more geared towards the so-called base, and not really geared towards "mainstream" or "swing" voters. While I'm not sure if thats true, it certainly is a realistic possibility.

Further, some writers suggested that these same voters tend to be less involved in national elections until after both conventions -- and that also may be true. (Thats why I said this was merely a half formed thesis, and not a historically well correlated proof)

Posted at 06:40 AM in Film, Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday, June 25, 2004

Jeep Rollover

Be sure to check out the bumper sticker:


That's called "tempting the fates." For future reference: Don't.

Northwest Indiana Times

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Who does that song?


Ever wonder? Now you can find out!

Who does that song? via linkfilter

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the Shrill Blonde Harpy Challenge

I hate violating my own admonitions. . . but I must.

I refer to my exhortations of neither speaking nor writing the actual name of the Shrill Blonde Harpy, lest we somehow extend her 15 minutes of fame, which are surely just about over by now, assuming there is any sort of a loving and kind and merciful God -- or at least one with some sense of humor.

So despite my own best efforts, I am compelled to bring to your attention the dispassionate, objective, zen-like observations of one Mark Ames, who has issued the following:

The Coulter Challenge

"There was a time when an appearance by Ann Coulter inspired an uneasy mixture of rage and desire. Most won't admit it, but there was something sexy about an Aryan she-villain calling on her country to conquer and Christianize the Islamic heathen. I don't think I was the only one who read that notorious post-9/11 column of hers and thought, "Damn, I bet she's a good lay."

But o, how the mighty have fallen. Last week, Ann Coulter appeared on Hannity & Colmes looking haggard and clinically insane. The Night of the Living Dead circles underneath her eyes, the lifeless hairit looks like she's been living on canned foods for the past two months. Ann looked like she should be pushing a shopping cart, not politicking for Bush. It wasn't just what she saidlike repeatedly accusing Holocaust survivor George Soros of being an anti-Semiteit was how she said it. She laughed insanely after every sentence fragment she uttered, a clear symptom of late-stage paranoid-schizophrenia.

The saddest part was when Hannity flashed the cover of Coulter's upcoming How to Talk to a Liberal . There she is, posing full-length in a tight black mini, a childless MILF-wannabe trying to pass herself off as a 40-something far-right pin-up. Ann's star is sagging, and apparently her handlers don't have the heart to tell her.

Which brings me to my challenge. I don't believe Ann is half as sexy as she wants us to believe. In fact, I'm sure that Ann has all the sexual dynamism of a carton of fax paper.

So here is my public challenge to Ann Coulter: I propose that you and I spend a night together in a four-star hotel. We will wine together, we will dine together, we will harden each other's nipples with erotic pillow talk about Sen. Joe McCarthy, and yes, Ann, we will fuck. Ann, here's the dare: I am betting that no matter how much you try, no matter what prostate-massaging tricks a John Birch Prom Queen like you possesses, you, Ann Coulter, cannot make me come.

I'll bet the ideological house on it. If she can bring me to orgasm, I hereby promise to vote for George W. Bush. Moreover, I promise that I won't see Fahrenheit 9/11 , and I promise to promote Bush's candidacy, without irony, in every article I publish between now and November.

On the other hand, if Ann fails to make me come by sun-up, all Iask is that she dress like a genuine Republican womancovering the knees, arms and neck in a Barbara Bush burqa, or dressing in McCarthy-hearings-era Pat Nixon tweeds.

Be as bland as your heroes, Ann. It's time to stop fighting Father Time, and accept the cruel workings of your Christian god.

The Coulter Challenge
Mark Ames
NY Press, Vol 17 - Issue 25 - June 23-29, 2004

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