Saturday, November 06, 2004
The Last Attack on the Swiftees
The Newsweak piece is out
, and it's pretty much par for the course, except for the rather startling news that John Kerry met with North Vietnamese TERRORISTS in Paris
The hatchet job starts early:
Nov. 15 issue - The attack of the Swift Boat vets did not catch the Kerry campaign by surprise, not entirely at least. Kerry's operatives had worried from the beginning that some right-wing group would try to use his old Vietnam antiwar speeches against him.
It's just some right-wing group. Of course, three of the leaders of the group (Lonsdale, Hoffman and Elliot) were men that supported Kerry in the past. For some reason this fact always comes up as a reason to discredit the Swiftees, and yet nobody ever seems to notice that it also discredits the notion that they're a bunch of right wingers.
The Swift Boat ads—a first round charging that Kerry had lied to win his medals, then a second batch accusing him of betraying his mates by calling them war criminals—were misleading, but they were very effective.
Misleading how? Of course, Newsweak never bothers to explain how, and indeed if you read the article, it quickly becomes obvious that the ads were not misleading, for the simple reason that the Kerry campaign could not point out the misleading parts.
In early August, when the Swift Boat story started to pick up steam on the talk shows, Susan Estrich, a California law professor, well-known liberal talking head and onetime campaign manager for Michael Dukakis, had called the Kerry campaign for marching orders. She had been booked on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" to talk about the Swift Boat ads. What are the talking points? Estrich asked the Kerry campaign. There are none, she was told. Estrich was startled.
There were none, because Kerry was guilty as charged. Newsweak doesn't want to admit it, but it's not hard to read between the lines.
There is a great deal of discussion of how saddened the Kerrys were by the attacks against them; no mention of the decades of sadness for the Vietnam Vets caused by Kerry's speeches in 1971. Kerry's rebuttals are about as nuanced as Lawrence O'Donnell's:
"It's a pack of f—-ing lies, what they're saying about me," he fairly shouted over the phone.
Which Passing Stats Are Important?
I thought I'd take a quick look at this today. I took the statistics of all quarterbacks with at least 6 games played this season. There were 29 players. Then I looked at the Won/Lost Percentages for their teams and compared them to their stats.
Correlation explained. Correlation measures the degree to which two sets of numbers are related. For example, suppose we were to examine the numbers of hours each student in a class spent studying, with their numerical grades on a test. We would expect there to be a fairly high degree of correlation between the two. Not perfect, because some students can do well without studying hard and others just get by with excellent effort. Similarly, if we were to correlate the number of hours students spent watching TV in the last three days before the test, we would expect there to be something of a negative correlation with the grades. This would probably be a of a lesser magnitude though, since there are plenty of other ways to goof off before a test than watch TV, and some students study hard and watch TV.
Correlation ranges from 100% to -100%. It is important to note that correlation is not causation. The classic example in this regard is that of the number of churches in a town and the number of crimes in that town. If you research it, you will find a high degree of correlation, which might lead you to believe that churches cause crime. However, in fact, both the number of churches and the number of crimes in a town depend on a third variable--population. As the population rises, the number of churches and the number of crimes increases.
Negative statistics. There are several negative statistics in a quarterback's record, and as we would expect, these correlate poorly with winning. For example, interceptions correlate at -50%, and times sacked at -14%. If we calculate out the interception percentage we find that it correlates at -55%, and sack percentages correlate at -15%. This basically indicates that interceptions are far more devastating to a team's won/lost record than sacks (not exactly a surprise).
Positive statistics. There are many statistics in a quarterback's record that correlate positively with winning. Starting with just the counted stats, we find that pass attempts correlates very weakly with winning--just 3%. This is not surprising at all; since losing teams pass more often as a percentage of their total plays, but probably get fewer plays on average. Completions correlate much stronger with winning at 29%. Yards gained correlates at 35%, while touchdowns manages 38% correlation.
If we go to calculated stats, the correlations step up a notch. Touchdown percentage correlates at 44%. Yards per attempt correlates at 59%. Completion percentage (which most folks are unimpressed with) correlates at 67%. And the NFL's passer rating formula correlates at 68%.
The fact that completion percentage rates so highly is something of a surprise, but if you look at the league leaders it is hard to deny:
If you had to draw up a list of MVPs for the season thus far, all those guys would have to draw serious consideration. Their teams are a combined 22-7, they've thrown 51 TDs and 14 interceptions between them.
The Best Quarterback in the NFL Right Now
Is pretty clearly Tom Brady. The interesting thing is that there's really nobody else around to make a case. Here's the current top ten in passer rating for this season:
Manning, Peyton 117.4
Culpepper, Daunte 114.2
Brees, Drew 106.8
Griese, Brian 104.9
Roethlisberger, Ben 104.7
McNabb, Donovan 102.9
Carr, David 99.7
Pennington, Chad 99.1
Green, Trent 96.4
Harrington, Joey 94.5
See anybody there who doesn't have huge question marks next to his name? Manning, Culpepper and McNabb have put together fine regular seasons with disappointment in the playoffs. Brees, Roethlisberger, Carr and Harrington are young guys with lots of potential, but none has even played in a postseason game, let alone won one. Pennington looks like the real deal, but he's gotta prove he can stay healthy and of course, he's gotta win a Super Bowl before he can be considered close to Brady's level. Griese and Green are just good players; nobody thinks they're close to the top rung.
There is a distinct shortage of championship quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Favre, Brady and Kurt Warner are the only starters who've won titles; Brad Johnson was a starter earlier in the year but has lost his job to Griese.
Look Who's Back!
Why, it's Anita Hill, getting another 5 seconds
How Can The Democrats Win?
This sounds pretty close to the right diagnosis
, wrong prescription.
"We have to be very careful about the kind of candidate that we nominate and where that candidate comes from," said Scott Falmlen, executive director of the Democratic Party in North Carolina, where Easley won in a landslide Tuesday despite Kerry's lopsided loss there to President Bush. "This party has got to get in a position where it does not write off an entire section of the country."
Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, was more blunt. "As of now, Hillary Clinton's a bad idea," he said.
The standard-bearer should be a face from the South or the Midwest, he added, naming Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, this year's vice presidential nominee, or Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana as presidential possibilities.
Bayh's not bad, but Edwards? Wasn't he exposed as an empty suit?
Friday, November 05, 2004
The Battle for the Democrats
The question now is whither the Democrats? (Or is it, wither the Democrats?). There are two possible responses to any defeat:
1. What did we do wrong, and how can we change to avoid making those mistakes again.
2. We didn't do anything wrong, we got beat by lying and cheating.
Here's a pretty good article from the standpoint of the first response
In Ohio, union leaders met Wednesday morning to assess their loss and discuss how to plan for the future, said Burga. It was a repeat of meetings they had after Al Gore lost in 2000, but with a big difference. This time, the answer will be not just better organizing, Burga said, but an effort to find out who the religious conservatives are and how to connect with them, a question the unions had never confronted before.
I suspect they'll find that they cannot connect with them without losing the liberal elites. The fact of the matter is that you cannot finesse the issue of abortion with the pro-life crowd. "Let's keep abortion safe, legal and rare," is a slogan that is not going to tempt Christian conservatives.
Slate's Tim Noah looks at
1. Democrats need to move right.
2. Democrats need to move left.
3. Democrats should sit tight and await the inevitable demographic shift that will put them on top again.
and concludes they're all bad. However, his argument is weakest on the first option:
Reason 1: The DLC is a victim of its own success. Having already moved the Democratic Party rightward—these days, there isn't much point in distinguishing between a "new Democrat" and a plain old "Democrat"—it now risks taking the party too far rightward. If the Democrats continue down this path, then pretty soon it will be impossible to distinguish the Democrats from today's Republicans. (Some folks on the left, including Ralph Nader, think that's already happened.)
Yes, but those folks are the kooks like Michael Moore, et.al., who are dragging the party down to defeat time and again.
Reason 2: The process of moving the Democrats rightward has no end point, because every time the Democrats shift rightward the Republicans respond by shifting a little further rightward so they can continue to denounce the Democratic position as radical leftism. That explains why the GOP of today is so much further right than the GOP of the Reagan era, when Republicans were still willing to support expansion of the earned income tax credit for low-income workers; more progressive taxation of Social Security benefits; arms control; and promotion of human rights abroad. (This rightward shift was documented compellingly by Joshua Green in "Reagan's Liberal Legacy" in the January/February 2001 Washington Monthly.) In theory, there ought to be a point where the GOP has moved so far to the right that nobody will vote for its candidates. But in practice, I'm not confident that such a point exists.
That's just plain stupid. Take an issue, literally any issue, but let's say abortion. Suppose the Democrats move to the right on that and take the stance that abortion should be outlawed except in the case of rape or incest. Where could the Republicans get to the right of them on that issue? By holding out for the death penalty for women who get abortions? Would the public follow them that far?
No, so this argument doesn't hold any water. In fact, it really goes back to his first point, which is that if that's how far the Democrats have to go to win, they'd rather lose. As Zell Miller put it in an article the other day, they'd rather be a majority in a minority party, than a minority in a majority party.
Sometimes the need to move rightward is portrayed as more a matter of style than of policy. But John Kerry didn't get anywhere with his hunting-trip photo op, or with frequent affirmations of his Catholic faith. Democrats, I fear, are doomed to be thought phonies whenever they play this game, even when they aren't. (Kerry is a phony in some ways, but I believe him to be sincere in his faith and in his enthusiasm for hunting.
That means you're easily duped, Tim. Kerry got an "F" rating from the NRA. And his sincere belief in his faith stops when it comes to actually using that faith to decide moral issues.
The Democrats do have to move rightward, especially on moral issues, if they want to win. Whether they want to win that badly is another question.
The Nice Thing About the Election Being Over
Is that I can relax and check out sites like L-Dotter Tokyo Blonde
, which I wish I had discovered earlier. Love the Broken Glass post
Hat Tip: Pajama Pack
(aka L-Dotter Blog)
Let's Hope The Democrats Buy This Argument--Updated
They'll be in the wilderness for decades
I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, so I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million—my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)
As I never tire of pointing out, Democrats are capable of holding two quite contradictory thoughts in their head at the same time: that they are the party of the working class, and that they are smarter than average. In fact, if we take education level as a substitute for intelligence, it quickly becomes obvious that the Republicans are smarter. They consistently get a higher percentage of the votes of college-educated people than they do of high school graduates, and they consistently get a higher percentage fo the votes of high school graduates than they do of high school dropouts. It is true that this turns around when you get to folks with advanced degrees, but this is because a large percentage of those with advanced degrees are teachers and lawyers, two groups who dominate the Democratic party.
Update: Here are the breakdowns by education level per Gallup
for this election. The first number is the percentage of all voters with that education level, the second is President Bush's percentage of that vote, the third is Kerry's percentage, and the last is Bush's relative advantage in that group.
Postgraduate education 20 47 53 -6
College graduate (no postgrad) 15 58 42 +16
Some college 33 56 44 +12
High school or less education 32 46 54 -8
As you can see, the trend discussed above continued in 2004. Bush got 58% of the college graduate vote, 56% of the "some" college group, and 46% of the no college group. Unfortunately, Gallup seems to have eliminated the high school dropout demographic, but I can assure you it went overwhelmingly for Kerry.
The Pity Party
Don Farmer got a microphone into the celebrity post-mortem
for John Kerry's candidacy.
Rather: "Dad gum it, these red state voters are as clueless about what this country needs as a network anchor at a tent revival."
Tom Brokaw: "Well, Dan, your phony document story and our odorous exit polls just didn't work."
Read it all, some funny stuff in there.
Media Seems Primed for Another Stephen Glass
One of the things that has always struck me about the Stephen Glass incident
at the New Republic and other mags is that the stories Glass sold to TNR were ones that confirmed the biases of the editors of that magazine, and thus, even though they were wildly improbable (one concerned a church dedicated to worshipping former President George H.W. Bush), they were published.
Today, Ryan Lizza writes of the glee
that went around Kerry Central on election day as news of the obviously fraudulent polls (whether fraud by the pollsters or by the respondents to be determined) went around. But get this detail:
I compared notes with Jamie Rubin, a senior foreign policy adviser. He popped open a message on his PDA that showed two long columns of state abbreviations and numbers. The first line showed Kerry ahead by 17 points in one swing state. We agreed to swap any new numbers that came our way. The exit polls were like crack.
The mood among Kerry staffers was celebratory. VIP guests roamed the hotel lobby hugging and high-fiving. By the time Joe Lockhart briefed the press in the afternoon, the campaign had started to pivot toward a message that discouraged talk of litigation, recounts, or overtime of any sort. "We think the system has worked today," Lockhart said on Fox News. "There were thousands of lawyers deployed to make sure that no one tried to take unfair advantage, and, by and large, it's worked. I've seen very few reports of irregularities. ... There's not much going on." They were so confident that they were preemptively striking at any Republican legal efforts to steal Kerry's victory.
Ahead by 17 in a swing state? I mean, alarm bells aren't going off in your head? Would they have been twice as happy if Kerry were shown as up by 34 points?
Thursday, November 04, 2004
NFL Power Ratings after Week 8
How to read the Power Ratings
Comments: I'm surprised to see San Diego rate so highly, but they're 5-3 with plus 63 net points.
The Election by the Numbers--Updated!
I put together a spreadsheet comparing this election to 2000. Here are some of the findings:
In 2004, Bush got more votes than 2000 in 47 states (and the District of Columbia). The only states where he got fewer votes than in 2000 were Alaska, California, and Washington, and at least part of that is due to decreased turnout in all three of those states. (Update: Those were the only three states that had decreased turnout in 2004). Kerry got more votes in 2004 than Gore did in 2000 in 45 states (and the District of Columbia).
Bush increased his percentage of the two-party vote in 33 states, declining in 17 states and DC. Of the states where he improved his percentage, 14 were Blue States. These were mostly the ones that had been talked of as possible pickups for the President, like Hawaii (which had the biggest swing to Bush at 5.5%) and New Jersey (Bush +5.1%). But there are some surprises in there. Rhode Island, which is probably the most liberal state in the nation, swung towards the Republicans by 5.2%. New York gave Bush 4.2% more of the vote than in 2000. Even Massachusetts, with a home state Senator in the race, gave Bush a higher percentage than in 2004. The state where the President did worst compared to his 2000 performance? Vermont. Howard Dean delivers!
This Is The Sunset of the Age of Aquarius...
Hugh Hewitt pronounces the 1960s
now officially over.
THE WORST LEGACY of the '60s was its Vietnam complex. The opposition to the war in Iraq--even after 9/11, even after inspections of the vast munitions dump that was Saddam's wasteland--was as much about legitimizing the huge mistakes of 1974 and 1975 as it was about concern of a new "quagmire." The collective trauma of those years--relived in the Swift Boat Vets' campaign and stage lit by the reactions they produced--had a last revival tour in 2004. When Senator Kerry called the president, it put a tombstone on that debate. It didn't end it, but it is hard to see how it will ever play on center stage again. Everyone is too damn old, and sick to death of the shouting.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Getting the Call
Turnout In Red States Way Up
I was blogging on the turnout yesterday at Kerry Haters. The turnout was the early signal that Bush was going to win. Kerry's people felt that higher turnout would favor them, and indeed, conventional political analysis holds that higher turnout favors Democrats.
But it was where the turnout was up that provided the early signal that the nation was not about to take a sudden left turn. I coded the states as Red or Blue based on how they had gone for President in 2000, and when I started looking at the turnout it was pretty obvious that turnout was extraordinarily high in the Red (Republican) states.
How obvious? Well, the overall turnout in Red States this year was up an incredible 17% on average, while the overall turnout in Blue States was only up 6%. This is one reason why Bush did so much better in the popular vote, while only modestly improving his electoral vote total. These patterns showed up fairly early in the data, and I should have pointed it out last night. But things were happening fast and furious, and of course we went from the depths of despair to absolute glee in the course of only a few hours.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
About This Blog
For most of this year I have been blogging at the Kerry Haters blog, and as a result this blog has only had occasional posts on baseball and football, along with a few other items.
Basically, this blog is about heroes, rather loosely defined. Some are no questions asked heroes, like Bud Day, whom I profiled below. Some are heroes only in their fans' eyes, like football and baseball players. And some are fictional heroes, like Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, and Batman.
There will be lots more political posts than has been the case in the last year. I don't anticipate Brainster's becoming the huge blog that KH evolved into, but I appreciate my readers and if there are stories you'd like me to cover, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Regarding the blog name, it is not a boast. I used to post on Usenet under the self-deprecating name of "Brain Death" but the Brain Death blogspot was gone, so I selected Brainster ala the Saturday Night Live character who used to give everybody a nickname--The Mikester! Mike-aroonius!