Thursday, September 30, 2004

TRANSHIPMENT, ANYONE? Well, Joe Scarborough, Mort Kondracke and I agree that John Kerry won the night. Thoughts?

UPDATE: It's official. Here's some commentary from the right-wing National Review's blog:

"I thought the President was repetitive and reactive. Maybe the latter couldn't be helped with both Kerry and Lehrer going after his decisions, but he never tried to take command of the back and forth."--Kate O'Beirne

"Over at MSNBC Joe Scarborough is saying Kerry wins on points. I think that's right."--Andrew Stuttaford
UPDATE UPDATE: Here's the transcript.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

NADER OUT IN OHIO The secretary of state, a Republican, kicked Nader off the ballot because thousands of the campaign's petition signatures were deemed forged.

Out of more than 15,000 signatures collected, only 3,708 have been accepted as valid. (5,000 signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot.)

The secretary of state’s office indicated some people involved, many of them paid [petition] circulators hired by JSM Inc., a Florida company, may be referred for possible criminal prosecution.
The Nader campaign is planning an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

QUIT GROANING, GET BUSY Regular readers may have gathered the impression that CONTRAPOSITIVE favors one potential presidential race outcome a lot more than the other.

They would be right.

Yet with so few states in play, some lefty readers--particularly those based in New York--have admitted feeling powerless.

But that's nonsense. (Although it happens to be a convenient excuse for those looking to exempt themselves from the hard work that lies ahead.)

So what--aside from sending money here or here or here--is a New York-based lefty do?

For one: Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire aren't that far away. Got a free weekend? America Coming Together is ready to tell you where to go and what to do.

THEATRICAL RELEASE Remember that LIE, CHEAT, STEAL--the slate of three short plays by CONTRAPOSITIVE editor Dan Aibel--will be starting its brief off-off-Broadway run this Wednesday at 8pm.

Christopher Yeatts and James Pinkowski. Appearing in LIE, CHEAT, STEAL starting Wednesday.

The evening is comprised of THE THIRD RULE, a play seen this summer at the Bug Theatre in Denver; GOING OUT, a piece that debuted at The Red Room in New York in 2001; and THE MONEY, a brand-new work.

For more information or to order tickets, click here.

Friday, September 24, 2004

WHERE'S JOHN EDWARDS? Relax, lefties: He's out there. Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly has the scoop.

SIGN OF THE TIMES A postscript follows Edward Wong's article in today's New York Times about the killing of a senior Iraqi oil official. It reads:
An Iraqi employee of The New York Times, whose name has been withheld for reasons of safety, contributed reporting from Mosul for this article.
Is there any precedent at The Times for the hiding of a reporter's identity? I can't think of one.

UPDATE: Does the decision to leave the writer's name off the story have anything to do with the ongoing detention of a Times stringer in China?

UPDATE UPDATE: Atrios links to this live chat with Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, which seems to contain the kernel of an explanation for The Times' decision to withhold the byline:

We at The Post, like most other foreign journalists here, have had to restrict our movements...I used to jump in a car and drive out to places like Fallujah and Baqubah to write about attacks, to get a sense of what was really happening on the ground. No longer. The roads are too dangerous, the threat of kidnapping too great. We spend a lot of time sitting in our hotels and relying on the reporting of our very brave Iraqi local staff. It's not great for us and it's not great for our readers, but it's the best we can do under the circumstances.

MEN'S NEWS DAILY? Joshua Marshall links to this critical look at Google News search performance.

Among other things, the piece discusses why so many right-wing "news services" turn up near the top of search results.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

ABOUT FACE AT EBAY Book-loving cheapskates can relax: Half.com will be staying open.

Here's the e-mail sent out by parent company eBay earlier this afternoon:

Dear Seller,

In our last announcement earlier this summer, we said that Half.com would be closing on October 14, 2004. We have decided not to go forward with this plan and will keep Half.com open indefinitely.


We have heard from many of you that you want the Half.com site to remain open and to have the option to sell on both platforms. Your input, as well as the data and experience we have gained during the transition efforts, are the basis for our decision to keep Half.com open. There will be no substantive changes to Half.com in the foreseeable future...Going forward, we will invest in both platforms and allow sellers and buyers the flexibility to benefit from the unique opportunities they each allow.
Talk about a reversal.

That eBay is changing course so late in the game suggests their efforts to convert Half.com fans into eBay users failed miserably.

It also means that despite their vow to shutter the site--and the migration of users to competing platforms (Amazon.com and Alibris) that announcement must have spurred--Half.com remains popular enough to be worth keeping in business.

Someone, clearly, should be fired.

But the more interesting upshot may be the lesson eBay's experience teaches about the network effect.

When it was introduced, Half.com was the cleanest, simplest, fixed-price platform for non-professional sellers of books and CDs. It attracted devoted buyers and sellers right away. And the more people who bought and sold, the better the selection and prices got.

You'd think the folks who run eBay would understand the power of that network-driven virtuous circle, and how complicated it would be to pull the plug.

It sure took a while, but at least they finally got the message.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

STRATEGY FATIGUE Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq:
"At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country."
And if those Sudanese Christians in Darfur would only grow "tired of getting killed" already, they'd probably be a lot better off too.

(Via Oliver Willis.)

Friday, September 17, 2004

POLL WATCH Why are the national polls all over the map? Poll guru (and committed Democrat) Ruy Teixera over at DonkeyRising has set out a plausible-sounding theory.

It boils down to the partisan composition of each poll's sample, says Teixera. According to his analysis, the latest Gallup and New York Times polls (showing Bush with sizable leads) oversample Republicans.

On the other hand, the recent Democracy Corps, Pew Research Center and Harris polls (all showing an even race) surveyed a more representative group of voters, he argues:

The Gallup internals show Kerry with a 7 point lead among independent RVs. Huh? Kerry's losing by 8 points overall, yet leading among independents by 7. How is that possible? Only if there are substantially more Republicans than Democrats in the sample.

That suggests that reweighting the sample to reflect the 2000 exit poll distribution (39D/35R/26I) would give a different result. It does: the race then becomes dead-even, instead of an 8 point Bush lead. (Note: Steve Soto of The Left Coaster got Gallup to give him their party ID distributions for this poll and confirms a 5 point Republican party ID advantage in their RV sample.)

One final note: I mentioned the Pew Research Center poll had the race dead-even just like the reweighted Gallup data. And what was Pew's party ID distribution in their RV sample? You guessed it: a 4 point lead (37-33) for the Democrats, just like in the 2000 exits.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

IN HIS HEAD Here's the President, ostensibly describing a recent conversation he had with John Kerry, as quoted by Mike Allen of The Washington Post:
"So I said to him the other day, well, how are you going to pay for them [your healthcare proposals]?" Bush said at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds in Holland, Mich. "And he said, 'That's easy -- just tax the rich.' "
I'm all for shaking things up on the campaign trail. But inventing conversations with your opponent?

GAME FACE John Kerry has ratched up the rhetoric in recent days. It was time.

First he hit Bush on North Korea. Then on the assault weapons ban. Today, in front of the Detroit Economic Club, he went after the president on taxes and the economy. From the speech:

Of course, the President would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions. That he’s faced the wrong circumstances, not made the wrong choices. In fact, this President has created more excuses than jobs.

His is the Excuse Presidency: Never wrong, Never Responsible, Never to Blame. President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops-–it's where the blame begins. He's blamed just about everyone but himself and his administration for America’s economic problems. And if he’s missed you, don't worry--he's still got 48 days left until the election.


To George Bush, stubborn leadership is steady leadership. But as far as I’m concerned, George Bush’s failures are the result of misplaced values and wrong choices that always give more and more to those with the most and tells the middle-class "you are not the priority."

Monday, September 13, 2004

FOR THE RECORD Dan Aibel, CONTRAPOSITIVE's editor, is in no way affiliated with Vetco Aibel AS, a Norwegian oil and gas company subsidiary with 5,000 employees in seventeen countries. (The subsidiary was known as ABB Offshore Systems until July 12 of this year.)

In fact, as Magnar Hjollo, Communications Manager of Vetco Aibel AS explained in a recent e-mail:

The Aibel name is a constructed name, meaning nothing, but giving associations to the word "to be able to."
Dan is trying not to take it personally.

That said, if anyone wants to apply for a job, feel free to tell the good folks over at VA that CONTRAPOSITIVE sent you.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

PRESIDENTIAL PARDON According to the St. Petersburg Times, some of President Bush's election-related paperwork didn't make it to the Sunshine State until September 2.

So what?

State law sets a Sept. 1 deadline for the governor to certify a list of presidential electors for each party's candidates.
Running Scared reads the law in question, and concludes that Bush did indeed miss the filing deadline.

Meanwhile, Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox had this to say:

To keep an incumbent president off the ballot in a swing state the size of Florida because of a technicality, I just don't think would be right.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

NEW DOOHICKEY The just-added envelope icon at the bottom of each CONTRAPOSITIVE post isn't just there to look pretty: Click on it to pass a post along via e-mail.

In other home news, careful readers will notice that a link to Digby's blog has been added under "Blogs" at right. Check it out. Like Atrios, Digby is a bit more stridently partisan than Joshua Marshall. But his seems an appropriate tone for the current season.

Here we get down to a specific and perhaps touchy point. Why wouldn't Bush show up for that physical? An Air Force pilot's physical is a bigger deal than the one civilians get on a routine basis. But still, it's not that big a deal. Even if he didn't think it was necessary, why disobey a direct order to get around it?


There are now two news organizations actively at work (and at least one of them is pretty far along) on a story about just why Bush was having those problems in the Guard in 1973...At least one major news organization -- and I suspect others -- is working on a story that touches directly on why Bush might not have been willing to take that physical.
Here's the link.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

LIE, CHEAT, STEAL That's the name of the evening of three short plays by CONTRAPOSITIVE editor Dan Aibel set to be staged in Manhattan September 29 through October 3.

The production includes THE THIRD RULE (a play recently mounted by the Denver-based Bug Theatre) and is being directed by David Dalton.

For more information about LIE, CHEAT, STEAL and to purchase tickets, click here.

BUSH MINUS ONE? Daily Kos links to this story out of West Virginia: It appears that a Republican elector to the Electoral College is publicly toying with the idea of not backing Bush if the President carries the Mountain State.

Difficult to know how seriously to take this development. But there is one perfectly plausible scenario--and maybe more than one--under which the presidential sweepstakes could end in a 269 to 269 electoral deadlock.

Is the election really going to be decided by South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb?

Just one more reason to rethink the entire Electoral College system.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

RESOURCE ALLOCATION A solicitation from the "New York Democratic Victory Fund" arrived in CONTRAPOSITIVE's mailbox this afternoon.

The enclosed letter, which turns out to be from the New York State Democratic Party, mentions that, "we're in the homestretch of the most important election of our lives," and then goes on to discuss why it's crucial that John Kerry win in November.

But later is where it gets interesting:

Please help the New York Democratic Party succeed in our biggest and most important voter mobilization effort ever--by sending an emergency donation right away in the enclosed envelope.
The letter does mention that, because of Republican retirements, there are two contested, winnable congressional seats up for grabs this year in New York. But the nature of the "emergency"? It never really gets spelled out.

I certainly understand that the New York Dems have an interest in mobilizing voters statewide. And I can sympathize with the party's desire to cash in on the Bush hatred currently pulsing through New York.

All the same, it's difficult to think of a less useful way for Democrats to spend their political dollars this fall.

If Kerry doesn't win in New York, he won't have won anywhere. And if New Yorkers want to help local congressional candidates in tough races, they ought to contribute to the campaigns themselves. (Here's the donation page for one Democratic candidate in a tight New York race. Here's the donation page for the other.)

But dollars sent to the "Victory Fund" are not going to help unseat George W. Bush or shift the balance of power in Washington.

And the bottom line is that this year--with so much at stake nationally--every nickel collected by the New York party is a nickel that would be better spent in Ohio or Nevada or Florida.

Is it asking too much to wish the state party had skipped the fundraising drive? Or at least asked New Yorkers to contribute elsewhere as well?

Maybe it is.

But the solicitation goes over the line when it willfully misleads prospective donors, asking them to mark a check-off box on the donation slip next to the phrase, "I am doing my part to help elect the Kerry-Edwards ticket and Democratics up and down the ballot."

Anyone who thinks sending money to the New York Dems means that he's "doing [his] part" is either delusional or not particularly interested in a November victory for Kerry.

WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? Any self-respecting conservative would have qualms about a president who turned a budget surplus into a deficit, overcommitted American troops, and responded to these developments by vowing to go to Mars.

Of course, few have been willing to put their reservations on the record during an election campaign. But in a subscription-only piece in the most recent issue of The New Republic, Franklin Foer squeezes blunt-spoken nuggets from a few right-wing bigwigs. Among them:

"People are careful about how they say it and to who they say it, but, if you're together with more than a couple conservatives, the issue of would we be better or worse off with Kerry comes up--and it's seriously discussed."--columnist Bruce Bartlett

"There's a sense that the is not a real Ronald Reagan anti-government conservative."--Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth

"The one message that rings true that Kerry has been pushing is when he says that we could not have been a better recruiting tool for Iraq."--Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.
Not quite full-throated repudiation, but it's reassuring to see that some conservatives are no longer willing to parrot the party line.

If Bush loses, you can bet that these folks will be ready to pounce.

POLL ROUNDUP Rassmussen Reports posts a short piece critiquing last week's Time and Newsweek polls--the ones showing a double-digit Bush lead.

(The upshot, according to Rassmussen, is that Bush is up 4 or 5 points nationally, rather than 11 or 12.)

Meanwhile, poll guru Ruy Teixera over at Donkey Rising draws attention to recent Gallup results suggesting that Kerry has expanded his lead in the states that matter most--the battleground "purple" states.

Prior to the Republican convention, Kerry had a one point lead among RVs (47-46) in the battleground states. After the Republican convention, now that battleground voters have had a chance to take a closer look at what Bush and his party really stand for, Kerry leads by 5 in these same states (50-45)! Note that Kerry gained three points among battleground voters, while Bush actually got a negative one point bounce.
Of course, everyone knows that Bush got a sizable convention "bounce"--so don't expect to see this story reported in the mainstream media...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

NETWORKING For those who missed it, The New York Times snuck a pretty good profile of Craigslist and its founder Craig Newmark into Labor Day editions.

The piece discusses eBay's recent acquisition of 25% of the free classified listing site, and provides a rough sketch of Newmark's governing philosophy.

Among the more interesting passages:

Craigslist.org accepts no banner advertising. It posts no pop-up ads, requires no visitor registration and charges no fees, except to employers posting job offers. But people involved in several proposed deals said it could be worth $100 million if Mr. Newmark decided to sell to the highest bidder.
Mr. Newmark handles the creative neurotic part. He has a kind of condition: obsessive customer-service disorder. He is not totally at peace if there are e-mail messages in his in-box complaining that someone is falsely advertising, defacing or hacking into the site or blanketing various forums or channels with sales spam.

The complaints run the gamut. Lately, Mr. Newmark's pet project is making sure that apartment rental agents in New York do not post in a section reserved for no-fee apartment listings.

"Something smells funny about this one," he said of an advertisement for a one-bedroom apartment at 76th Street and Second Avenue. Mr. Newmark sent a note to the poster, asking him to disclose the name of his brokerage agency.

MEMO TO LEFTIES Quit whining. Get to work.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

BATTLE STATIONS Now that we're entering the decisive stage of the presidential campaign, expect CONTRAPOSITIVE to focus a bit more closely on the horse race angle: There will be more discussion of poll results, state-by-state analysis, etc.

In that vein, one of the better Electoral College maps has been added under the "links" menu at right. It's far from perfect, but it can be used to get a rough sense of where current polling suggests the race stands.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

RNC POSTCARD: MEDIA BISTRO It would be wrong to read too much into the rampant line-cutting outside the New York Yacht Club last night: A long procession of prospective partygoers spilled out from the club's main entrance, dribbling down 44th Street toward Fifth Avenue.

A much shorter VIP line pivoted toward Sixth. And not infrequently, Very Very Important People could be seen breezing right past both lines and into the Distilled Spirits Council-sponsored RNC bash.

As I say, it would be wrong to read too much into the line-cutting.

And yet it's an irresistible metaphor for the ethos of today's Republican party, and its standard-bearer in particular: Crowds of neatly-dressed, carefully-coiffed white people electing themselves too important to step to the rear of the pack and wait their turn.

I mean come on--are lines really necessary? Aren't they the product of proletarian thinking? And probably inferior breeding? Isn't there some less egalitarian way these pesky situations could be handled?

And one wonders: Has there ever--in his entire life--been a line that George W. Bush didn't cut? Has he ever been more than a phone call away from the kind of bureaucratic wrist-flick that would land him in the VIP section, the luxury box, the Texas Air National Guard?

On the toll road that is life, has George W. Bush ever lacked for an E-ZPass?

These are the thoughts that swirled through my head as I stood on 44th Street last night (on the non-VIP line), hoping to make a foray into enemy territory to gather some useful intelligence.

The line crawled along slowly--held up by the heightened security regime and the presence of only a single metal detector at the club's front door. Even some of the more audacious queue-jumpers found themselves stranded on the pavement for half an hour or longer.

As for myself, I passed the time listening to a miffed reveler repeatedly wondering aloud into his cell phone why oh why someone couldn't be sent down to tell the security people that he needed to be admitted Just This Instant.

INSIDE: Once I finally made my way into the dizzyingly-ornate clubhouse, it soon became clear that despite the free booze, the trays of seafood and the complimentary cigars, the party was anything but a deal-making session for elite Republicans. Instead, the place appeared to be full of staffers, hangers-on and media types. Lots of media types.

Photo by Willow Lawson.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, across a crowded room: He's smaller than you might think.

There was Michael Isikoff of Newsweek holding court in a corner, Fred Barnes and Brit Hume of Fox News chatting by the coat check, and David Brooks with The National Review's Jonah Goldberg, talking up a storm.

There was Wonkette posing for photos, Peter Beinart of The New Republic wading through the crowd and NewsHour regular Terence Smith chomping away on a cigar on the clubhouse's outdoor deck.

Sadly, sightings of real-live Republicans were few and far between. I did find myself, if only briefly, within spitting distance of a deeply-tanned Katherine Harris. (I did not spit.) But even a C-SPAN junkie like myself was able to spot preciously few pols.

If the Republicans are having back room meetings after hours at the convention, they must be doing it in genuine back rooms--or at least in gatherings smaller than last night's 1,600-head soirée.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.