Friday, October 08, 2004

Spin Harder

I know parties always are spinning that their guy won after a debate, their guy's going to win, etc., etc. But I think it's also quite clear that the Democrats are making the Kerry's-going-to-win theme unusually central to their efforts this year. For example, they actually are taking on-line polls seriously.

This intense focus on making it appear that Kerry's got a real shot (like other spin, it's irrelevant to the spinners whether it's true or not) tends to confirm, if I may say so, my Kerry/None of the Above Swing Voter Theory. To reiterate, I think the key to understanding most of the recent movement in the polls (and to the eventual outcome, probably) is to realize that the movement is mainly between Kerry and None (or between Kerry and not being counted as a likely voter). These people -- a sizeable number -- are the Bush haters who don't much like Kerry either (maybe these guys). They won't show up for Kerry in - or at - the polls unless he's got a real chance to win.

The Kerry campaign's focus on these people is confirmed by their post debate spin, which again focuses on Who Won? instead of making any arguments about policy. Just might work, too.

Bummer

One thing that should be obvious, I guess, was brought home for me by what I saw of this debate. It's impossible for an honest conservative to get elected President.

When Bush is completely straightforward, he's generally not conservative (e.g., we spent lots of money on education, have a bunch of new environmental laws, more Medicare entitlements), and when he's conservative, he has to dissemble at least a bit. Ok - you can be straightforwardly conservative on a few issues, like judges who don't legislate, and, interestingly, abortion. Plus, it's been long established (since 72, at least) that an honest liberal has absolutely no chance of being elected.

More debate

Managed to avoid most of the debate, but did see the last question which was, please tell us all the mistakes you've made, Mr. President. (Follow-up: Sen. Kerry, please tell us about all the mistakes Mr. Bush has made.) A fair question, but horrible moderating to use it last. (Charlie must have got the memo)

What's interesting is that Bush really can't come up with a good answer to it. They've been hammering him on this for months, so it's not like it's a surprise. What Bush did was go straight to saying he's gotten the big things (I heard taxes, Afghanistan and Iraq) right. That should be the bulk of the answer, but should come after two or three things like, "Well, looking back, I wish we'd changed course from the mindset of treating terrorism as a criminal matter to be dealt with by lawyers and police and realized that war had been declared on us. I wish we'd done that before September 11, not after. Of course, my opponent proposes going back to that mindset, which would be an even graver mistake ... " Or, "I really regret not pushing harder to get the Y Amendment to the Make America Happier Act, but plan to rectify that in the proposal I put forth . . ."

Here's my theory of why Bush can't even come up with some little mistakes: He doesn't make any little decisions. He's basically delegated everything but the war, and has made only three decisions he thinks are important, and he doesn't think any of them are mistakes.

Beautiful

A beautiful site. And nothing to do with politics.

Do Self-Employers Count As Employers?

Via Prof. Bainbridge, I came across this post at Tax Prof discussing a report from the Tax Policy Center on the number of small businesses that would face tax increases under Kerry's plan. I think this is in response to questions about VP Cheney's claim (also repeated in a Bush ad) that Kerry would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses.
As with anything having to do with taxes, the report is almost impossible to follow, so I could be misreading it completely. But the bottom line seems to be this:

"Based on these assumptions [about how many small businesses that pay pass-through taxes have employees], a total of 471,000 small employers would face under the Kerry plan."

Even if that's accurate I don't see why only "small employers" should be counted. A sole proprietorship at least keeps the sole proprietor gainfully occupied. He is contributing to the economy, even if not employing someone, by 1) providing some good or service that others are buying (otherwise he would have no income to tax), and 2) not being unemployed (or taking a job from someone else).

Bush's point is that tax increases on the "rich" (which is actually the "high income") make it harder for all these kinds of small businesses to thrive. If a sole proprietor has to pay more taxes, his business is less appealing and he may end up being (or trying to be) an employee. Isn't laying himself off just as bad as laying off an employee?

And in fact, the different kinds of employment surveys recently have shown a discrepancy that suggests that the Bush tax cuts have indeed encouraged more people to be self-employed. The higher employment numbers in the household surveys (where actual people are asked: do you have a job?) than in the payroll surveys (where businesses are asked how many people they employ) makes sense if we accept that there are more self-employed workers than there used to be.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

So we've now got another report on Iraq's weapons programs. Predictably, the major media boils it down to the headline on this "News Analysis" in the Washington Post ("War's Rationales Are Undermined One More Time"). Meanwhile, the right-leaning blogosphere begins an exegesis pointing out details of the report that support the president's arguments. From what I've read (not much), it appears Saddam was sitting on his WMD program until the storm of international scrutiny passed. That is, the program was dormant, not extinct, rather like Mt. St. Helens for the last 24 years. Still, I'm quite sure all the headlines like the Post's are self-fulfilling. This will hurt Bush.

But what I find amazing is that nearly all the analysis - on all sides - is about how these revelations reflect on Bush's credibility and how they'll affect the election. OK, I don't find that amazing at all - that's the way it goes during an election year. But what is actually amazing is that nobody - not the French, not the Russians, not Hans Blix - nobody actually had any idea what was going on in Iraq between the end of the first Gulf War and the current war. Why are there no "News Analyses" examining how this could be?

I can somewhat excuse the failure of our intelligence services to pick up on the 9/11 plot. It's hard for spy agencies to keep up with a handful of loosely coordinated guys living apparently normal lives in the relatively open societies of the US and Europe. But the idea that all the world's spies, and all the world's weapons inspectors got basically nothing right about the weapons capabilities of a nation that had warred with at least two of its neighbors, had shot missiles into Israel, had declared the United States an enemy, had been invaded by us only a decade before, and had ever since been the subject of UN sanctions and inspections is surely worthy of some "analysis." Does this give anyone confidence that we know what Iran and North Korea (and who knows where else) are actually up to?

I can't help but point out that this inability to rely on intelligence suggests to me that we should give the president more slack, not less for deciding not to take the risk that Saddam was further along than everyone thought. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out (noted by Instapundit), after September 11, a president shouldn't be giving the benefit of the doubt to someone like Saddam. What we should be hammering Bush (and demanding more from Kerry) on is why they haven't done more to improve our intelligence capabilities so there's less of that doubt for whoever is president to weigh into future decisions about going to war.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Parable

This story (from the amazing Fark) is so full of deep symbolism that it's going to take me a while to sort it out. For now, I'm viewing it as a great example of the self-correcting mechanisms of capitalism.

Welcome

Welcome to those brought over from KerrySpot and Kausfiles. (Does anyone know how to link directly to one of Mickey's specific points? I sure don't so you'll have to scroll down to his "Desperate Housewives" post if you want to see what he says about me. Why am I always coming up in the Desperate Housewives context?)

Anyway, you're welcome to look around for a bit, but there's not much to see - yet. I've only been blogging for a few days. But I'm looking for ideas and suggestions and criticisms, so please email me at dstraightblog@yahoo.com.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Aside from my belief in individual liberty and responsibility and daily bathing, I would fit right in in Europe. I like wine, fancy suits (although European casual fashion is amazingly ugly), and working as few hours per week as possible. And I love Euro sports. I am a huge fan of bike racing, and went to France this summer to watch the Tour. (Most amusing, and cringe-inducing, t-shirt: "Texas: 6, France: 0").
I even like soccer. Thus I came across this sad story. It took me a while to realize the strangest part which is that these two sentences were found unremarkable.

Renato's girlfriend also was shot, but the wound was superficial, according to a police report.
Renato, who joined the nine-time Swiss league champions after playing for Botafogo, is survived by his wife, Selmara, and son Pedro.

A Decisive Blow!

I again only watched parts of the debate, finding the Yankees-Twins game more interesting and edifying. It also was just as likely to affect the outcome of the election as the debate. What I did see of the debate was fairly interesting - at least Kerry's three decades in office were discussed.

UPDATE: For the perfect example of the way political junkies overvalue debates, especially VP debates, see this post at The Corner. Don't we all remember how Lloyd Bentsen's dismembering of Dan Quayle effectively ended the '88 race and ushered in the Dukakis Administration? Just think, if Bentsen hadn't won that debate so decisively, he may never have become vice president, never would have resigned after three years in office for health reasons, and never would have been replaced by then-Rep. Gephardt. And who knows, maybe the Dukakis-Gephardt ticket would not have lost in 1992, leading to the eight halcyon years of the Kemp-Dole Administration and the contested 2000 election where the Bush-Bush team narrowly defeated the Clinton and Gore.

All Your Polls Explained Right Here!

RCP has all the post debate polls, and it looks like Kerry may have gotten a slightly larger national bump than I predicted. I note, however, that the battleground surveys seem to show Bush holding steady at worst. (Vodkapundit has his own electoral college analysis, and links to a few others here. The state-by-state numbers on Tradesports.com come up with the same breakdown as VP: Bush 295, Kerry 243. I think the only difference between the two is that Tradesports gives Bush New Hampshire and Kerry Maine. Interestingly, when I looked a bit ago, the only races that were very close either way (ie, under 55.o for either guy) were New Hampshire and Iowa, which were at 51.0 and 54.1 for Bush, respectively.)

This suggests that the debate reenergized some of Kerry's previously demoralized base on the coasts, but didn't help him much where it counts. This renewed excitement among the base would also explain why there are suddently a lot more Democrats in many national surveys.

But remember, a decent chunk of Kerry's base really doesn't like him - they just hate Bush. When Kerry looks like he might get rid of Bush, they get excited and tell pollsters they're definitely going to vote. When it looks like Bush will probably win, Kerry's base disappears. I think this explains why there have been a few wild swings in the polling despite the fact that there really aren't many swing voters. It's not (so much) the people in the middle who are switching between Kerry and Bush (pace Mark Penn) - it's the people on the far left switching between Kerry and none of the above.

If Kerry's "comeback" means he's still down in most of the polls after a couple more days, look for the base to lose its newfound energy, show up less and less in the likely voter samples, and thus further swing even the national polls back somewhat towards Republicans and Bush. (Of course, the MSM will strive to prevent this, just as they predictably strove to spin the debate into the start of The Comeback. Let's see how effective they are at hiding the state polls and pumping the Kerry-friendly nationals.)



Beautiful Days Off

Just got back from a weekend doing the tourist things in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Could not have picked a better weekend to visit such a beautiful part of the country. Plus I got to skip all the weekend spinning - what a treat!