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We Report... You Deride

Saturday, November 22, 2003  
James Lileks Plays Lady MacBeth

You've probably read about how Tsetse's pop lost it the other day:

"Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you're the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there's a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Baathists. You owe him."

No, James-- you owe him. The bill for the life of Army Staff Sergeant Dale Panchot belongs to you. The amount of your debt includes the grief of his parents, the anguish of his sister and younger brother and the sorrow of his friends and neighbors in Northome, Minnesota.

The blood of that murdered boy is on your hands. You and every other chickenhawking,warbloggingg jingoisticwingnutt who sent him to Iraq.

Dale Panchot might well have died an untimely death on foreign sands. The people who knew him best say he grew up listening to the soldier stories that his father and grandfather used to tell. He put on his first pair ofcamouflagee pants at the age of three. His friends say he wore military pants to school every day

Dale Panchot joined the Minnesota National Guard when he was a junior in high school. He studied Russian in the hopes it would help him fight the enemy more effectively. He enlisted in the military after one semester of college. And even though he told his father "Dad, I'm tired of getting shot at", he re-enlisted two weeks before he died.

Dale Panchot wanted to fight for his country. And since we are fighting a war on terror, he might have given his life in Afghanistan. Possibly, if the war had been conducted properly, he would have died in Pakistan. Maybe it would have been next week or next week, on a mission to another country whose name we don't know yet, because the fighting has yet to break out there.

Or, since we live in a world where terror exists, he might have died in a cafe filled with noncombatants in a country that we had no reason to believe would be under attack.

But he wouldn't have died on November 19th, 2003, just north of Baghdad, because he wouldn't be there if you hadn't sent him there.

Hi-- my name is Woody. I'm one of those effete,psuedointellectuall, cowardly, treason-preaching, tree-hugging, bleeding-heart, pussified, commie pinko hippie nigger-loving faggot traitors that you've been fulminating about. (Aside to Ann Coulter, Kim du Toit and Mischa: if I missed anything, remind me, willya?)

For eight months, millions of intelligent, patriotic principled people have had to endure your abuse. You've jeered at our understanding of history, terrorism and the Middle East. You've belittled the principles that we live by. The very best sentiments you have been able to muster is that we're naive fools who are endangering civilization because we don't understand the world as well as you and George W. Bush.

Remember that rhetorical question you've been asking for months, Jimbo? Doesn't it go something like "Who among us doesn't think we're better off because we invaded Iraq?"

I suggest you go put that question to the people who knew and loved Dale Panchot. Then drive out to Freeport,Minnesotaa and ask the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Brian R. Hellermann. Ask the citizens of Shakopee-- the ones wearing black because 20-year-old PFC Edward J. "Jim" Herrgot got shot by a sniper while he was on patrol outside a Baghdad museum-- if they don't think they're better off.

I notice, in all the flood of hate and venom you spewed because you claimed to be upset about Dale Panchot's death, that you couldn't be bothered to mention his name. How long would it have taken you-- fifteen seconds to find a web page that mentioned his name and ten to type it in?

But you couldn't be bothered to do that, could you? Couldn't pay him the respect of mentioning his name. Couldn't point out that his family is going to have to fly to Colorado, because that's where the military services are being held. Couldn't have mentioned that he used to send letters home asking for oatmealraisinn cookies with butterscotch chips

Could that be because you really couldn't give a damn about anyone who dies over there-- except to the extent that they can be used as fuel for the fires of the sensibilities of a warped, frustrated, immature man?

I supported the Gulf War, because I don't believe it's right for anyone to try to take over another country that hasn't done anything to it. I supported going to Afghanistan because I don't like it when residents of a country kill thousands of my fellow citizens and their government refuses to hand them over to me for trial.

But, no, if I have a rogue state penned up so thoroughly that it can't wage war on anyone, I don't feel a burning need to invade it and put in a puppet government run by a white-collar criminal. I don't feel that way because I know that kids like Dale Panchot are gonna get sent to do the dirty work after the chickenhawks book the engagement.

See, I haven't been to war. But unlike W.-- who has consumed no works of literature other than The Very Hungry Caterpillar since he let his subscription to High Times lapse-- I've read books about what it's like to be in one. I've learned how soldiers--even the ones who aren't wounded-- feel. I've found out about what it does to civilians-- both at home and on the battlefield.

Since you've been reading about Dale Panchot, Jimbo, I guess you've started to figure out that war kinda sucks. It ain't all John Wayne movies and bad country music. Sometimes good guys die.

Now here's lesson two: War is the most dreadful invention that man has ever brought forth on this world. That's why I don't ever want to fight them-- or ask anyone who shares this country with me to fight them-- unless I absolutely have to. And it's why I despise people who are willing to see blood shed before they've gone from A to Z and back again to avoid it.

It's why the candidate I'm supporting-- who, unlike your butt-buddy, can speak from firsthand experience about the horrors of war--didn't want to send people over there either.

You remember him, don't you? He'd the guy who's losing because he's so patriotic that he was worried about a "No" vote on a resolution might do to the president's ability to negotiate. So even though he thought this mess was a terrible idea, he voted for a resolution to allow war to be declared if it became necessary-- stupidly figuring that the simple SOB the Supremes put in charge would come back to rally the Congress and get another signoff before he began dropping bombs.

My guy is the one that you called a traitor. You heard he was saying the mission was being conducted badly-- because he was concerned that W.'s regime was screwing things up and getting kids killed. And you raved about how disgusting and evil he was and how you didn't want to know him and would never never never trust him.

So he's not to blame for Dale Panchot's death. And I'm not to blame. And, no, you brainless 'shoot the messenger and blame the victim' asswipe, neither are the Iraqis. Who are you to berate them for not having an armed revolution and placing the lives of themselves, their families and anyone else Saddam felt like killing at risk? Ever heard the saying "better the devil you know than the devil you don't"? That's usually the mindset of countries in the grip of tyranny. Even assuming they could have overthrown Saddam, what reason did they have to think that the successor would be any better?

For that matter, what reason do you have for assuming that the successor would have been an improvement? Enlighten us, O creator of that prescient intellectual tome known as The Gallery of Regrettable Food. Tell us, Based on your great understanding of the history of human rights: How often does the successor to a repressive ruler turn out to be less murderous? (Case in point: Shah of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini.)

No, Jimbo, the people responsible for the 181 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq are the ones who wanted to send them over there. And that would be you. You also have the lives of 7,893 (or maybe 9,729) civilians killed bymilitaryy action, and the 94 Iraqis killed by the Army in post-war Iraq in what Human Rights Watch calls "legally questionable circumstances to answer for.

You are accountable for the full amount of the good feeling that Dale Panchot would have brought to this world during the course of his natural life. You prevented his soulmate-- the love that he never got to meet-- from receiving the warmth of his affections and devotions. You robbed the world of the contributions of his children-- the ones he might have had and the ones he wanted to teach. In the words of screenwriter David Webb Peoples, you took everything he had and everything he was gonna have. Dale Panchot's blood-- and the blood of 180 other soldiers-- are on your hands.

Sorry you're getting squeamish at the sight of blood. But as you and your fellow travelers liked to say before the death toll struck home, you can't make an omelet unless you break a few eggs.

Oh, and, in your own immortal words... Hey, James? Fuck you.

Update: Amazing as it seems, the first message I get about this post complains about my joke about the nickname of his kid. What-- you're upset that I picked the wrong insect?

Number one, the rugrat is a public figure. Number two, I didn't make her a public figure-- her dad did. Number three, have you really thought about what kind of a nickname the word "Gnat" is? A gnat is an insect that hovers around you constantly, annoying the hell out of you and refusing to go away, no matter how much you swat at it.

OK, the kid's given name is "Natalie." Maybe "Gnat" is just a diminutive and it has nothing to do with her constantly pestering dad while he's trying to write his sophomoric drivel. Based on the limited sampling I've taken of his columns, she seems to be a high risk for ADD and hyperactivity and I still wouldn't write anything about my daughter that could be taken the wrong way.

6:34 PM

Life in Howiewood

There's a second "La-La Land" inside the Beltway. Here's an item from Mr. Kurtz's Tuesday chat:

Q: Have you noticed how the Republican Party for the last several years has managed to change the name of the Democratic Party to the Democrat Party. This has been a less than subtle coordinated effort and the "media" has been complicit. I don't think I've ever heard a reporter or correspondent correct a speaker on this and the other day CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley at the Iowa Democratic function referred to the Party in her on camera spiel as the "Democrat" Party. Are the Democrats at fault for not protecting their "trademark" or does the media have some responsibility?

Howard Kurtz: Republicans definitely use "Democrat Party" as a perjorative, and the media shouldn't play along. I can't remember a time when I've heard an anchor or correspondent use the shortened term.

Which shows you how good his memory is-- or how carefully he pays attention. Here's a Google with 17 results at Faux News. 10 of the items were articles that directly quoted wingnuts, which can't ethically be changed. And no member of Faux News used the pejorative.

But seven items were transcripts of talk shows where guests used it seven times-- each time, without being called on it. The hosts who let the guests get away with it: Tony Snow; Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke (twice); Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes (four times),

Here are nine results for MessNBC. And here, six of those quotes were from their employees: Chris Matthews (twice), Joe Scarborough, Michael Weiner, Howard Mortman and Tom Curry.

And a whopping 375 results for CNN. Many of them were references to Thailand's 'Democrat Party' and the UK's 'Liberal Democrat Party' (which are their correct names), but a lot aren't.

Among the on-air staff, the award for using the pejorative most often is split between Judy Woodruff and snitch Robert Novak (three times). Tucker Carlson and Frank Sesno (twice) share the runner-up spot and the bronze is split between Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Greenfield, John King, Larry King, Arthel Neville, Candy Crowley and (amazingly) both James Carville and Paul Begala.

In the running dog category-- people who let the slur go unchallenged-- Begala (nine times) takes the honors. Every instance occurred during Crossfire, which is why Carlson (six) is second. They're followed by Woodruff , Blitzer and Mark Shields (three times); Larry King, Novak, Greta Van Susteren, Jesse Jackson and Neville (twice); and Bernard Shaw, Bill Press, Carville, Al Hunt; Janeane Garofolo and Kate Snow (once).

Dishonorable mention goes to two of the guests who used the term: Ralph Nader (three times) and Joe Lieberman (once). Oh, and (surprise, surprise) some jackass named Howard Kurtz allowed someone to get away with the term twice.

Explain it to me again: Why isn't this considered bashing and hating?

3:32 AM

That 70's Shortage

Know what the real problem with having idiots and ideologues running the government is? Aside from the unnecessary wars and the loss of civil liberties, I mean. People who know nothing about history or economics or science or sociology--and are arrogant enough to think they have nothing to learn--are always the ones who get caught flatfooted by changes that a better mind would have seen coming.

This article is very, very bad news for the United States. China's decision to set fuel efficiency standards higher than ours-- at the same moment W. and Congress are punting the issue-- will detonate on the American economy. Unless they're removed, people will look back on this era with amazement and rage.

1. China's auto market is about one-third the size of the US and Japan. But annual sales are doubling and tripling; experts predict it will become the #1 or #2 market within ten years.

DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are currently selling boatloads of cars in China. But they're selling the wrong kind of cars. GM's top models in 2003 are Buicks and Blazers-- and they're gearing up to introduce Cadillacs. D-C's hot products are Jeeps, SUVs and Mercedes. There's no way on earth-- short of alchemy-- to make those cars energy-efficient

But Volkswagen-- the #1 automaker in China--already sells models that meet the standards; their engineers think it should be easy to get the whole fleet compliant. Honda's entire Chinese fleet already is compliant. Nissan is entering the market by buying into China's #2 carmaker. Hyundai already has factories-- they're doing the building for GM--and they can shift production as they redesign, Only Toyota-- which is churning out SUVs--isn't well-positioned to build the cars that can meet the new mileage standards yet.

U.S. firms should be concerned about how they can retool-- how they can compete in China. And if the U.S. were proposing similar standards, they'd probably say "OK, this is a global thing-- let's move into the 21st century". But because they don't have to modernize at home, they're responding to the Chinese government exactly the same way they always have-- insisting that it is impossible to manufacture price-competitive cars that can comply. (Ford, by the way, isn't upset because they still don't have significant production capacity in China.)

So the U.S. auto industry will get gradually get thrown out of China. What will become the world's #2 market for cars in 2020 might be gone for good.

2. If the #2 market goes, the #1 market will follow. China will be an ideal market for companies to test new high-performance, energy-efficient engines before bringing them to America. The people who claim gas-electric hybred engines are U.S.-ready drink the same Kool-Aid as the people who claim Linux is user-friendly. They've improved from 'yuck...' to 'not half bad...' But you're still very conscious that it's an ecologically-friendly vehicle.

But the more the cars get driven in China, the faster manufacturers can see the results and make changes. That will slash the time it takes to get the technology U.S.-ready. Those cars will grab market share in California inmmediately and move east. If you're old enough to have lived in the 70's-- not just watched them on TV--you know what'll happen next.

3. But those glum scenarios aren't the really scary scenarios. Americans have always benefited from the level of embedded snobbery in Asian culture. Historically the Chinese have thought of the Japanese as mildly retarded; Japan thinks Koreans are subhuman. They've never been able to form the same sort of trade alliances that the U.S. has with Mexico and Canada-- meaning they don't compete as effectively as they could. And U.S. companies have always been able to find opportunities as go-betweens and integrators.

If they all start making cars together-- and they see what happens if they cooperate-- and they get into the habit of working together in other industries-- we're in big trouble.

4. The mileage standards suggest that the Chinese government understands something that W.'s regime doesn't-- that conservation is an essential part of an intelligent energy policy. China is terrified about its energy usage. China, which used to export oil, now imports 30% of its consumption. If nothing changes, they'll be importing over 50% of their consumption (roughly the same as the U.S.) in less than 25 years.

This could just be the latest example of Chinese xenophobia-- they have never liked to feel dependent on foreigners for anything. But if this isn't a knee-jerk decision-- if they understand that unnecessary consumption puts their economy at risk-- it means they're figuring out this capitalism business pretty quickly.

5. When the Chinese are more worried about cutting consumption-- and dependence on Saudi Arabia and Iraq-- than the U.S Government... man, that is scary. Contrary to what Gregg EasterSmog would have you believe, fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles has dropped like a rock since the 80's. The emergence of minivans and SUVs-- and the decision to 'temporarily' exempt them from mileage standards-- means that a sizab;e percentage of the population is putting the country at considerable risk.

And I've been there and done that, thank you. In the 70's, the U.S. public's desire to drive obese automotive monstrosities was growing at geometric proportions. Landmasses that were loaded with luxury options--and got slightly better mileage than armored personnel carriers-- sold as quickly as Detroit could make them.

But then the political situation in the Middle East combusted. The OPEC countries were pissed-- and they also needed cash to calm the unruly populace. They rolled back their production levels and oil prices shot through the roof. Assuming that you could even get oil.

Actually, there is one difference between the 70's and now: 30 years ago, terrorists tried to avoid getting the U.S. mad. Now we have people dedicated to that end. And since most of them despise the Sauidi royal family too, many people think some of them will try to strike at both, by bombing Saudi production or distribution assets. (The article in the same issue is even better, but it's offline.)

And thats what really has me furious at the W. Regime. All the jackasses who spout jingoistic bluster about defense spending and homeland security and the war on terror forget that the most important protection the government offers is planning. It's the government's job to figure out where the rest of the world is heading, plot a course that takes those issues into account, and moves the country to to the best place to be, given that course.

This group of idiots thinks they can actually move the entire world-- overcome geology, geography, science, laws of nature, cultural heritage and the impact of a thousand years of history-- with ideology and force of will.

The Earth doesn't manufacture oil as quickly as our cars currently consume it-- that is a fact. You can get around that by building cars that run on some other source of energy. You can get around it by reducing their current rate of consumption. You can get around that by finding oil in someplace that hasn't already been identified (and, sorry, rational experts agree that tthe quantity in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is known and limited).

But what you can't do-- not if you want to solve the problem-- is to bluster that you're going to do whatever you damned well want to, because this is the way you think things should work out and you're used to getting your own way.

But that'w what the wingnuts and W are doing. And if they're not stopped, we're all going to pay the price for it.

12:48 AM

Sunday, November 16, 2003  
Diary of a Madman?

Compare and contrast the following:

1. The third letter in Dan Savage's sexual advice column. (NB: Subject matter not for the faint of heart.)

2. MarkThis entry in Mark "If I Had a Hammer, I'd Kill Me a Secular Humanist Commie Senator" Bryon's blog.

As my ex used to say, you could fit the difference between inside Clarence Thomas's heart. (And, to revise and extend the joke, still have enough roonm left for Donald Rumsfeld's charm and W.'s intellect.) The denial drips from almost every word.

My father (a fine Freudian doctor) has a standard reply for patients who share things like Byron's post during sessions and then say things like "But I would never actually (dress like a woman/have an affair/pay someone for sex/commit murder/molest a child/etc..) . I've never done anything like this, ever. I'm not the kind of person who would do this-- as a matter of fact, I do just the opposite. I did think about this, but I didn't do anything!" The reply is "I'm sorry to disagree with you, but it seems like you've put more effort into this than idle thought:

"First of all, I see that you set a specific date for the attack, and that the date of the attack is the precise date (the first Monday in 2004) that the Democratic Senate caucus will be meeting and everyone is expected to attend. That suggests you've thought very carefully about what would be the right date to attack the Senate.

"A fantasy that just pops into your head isn't that detailed. For example, you chose a date that the Supreme Court will not be in session, which means it is unlikely that many of the justices would be in the building. That suggests that you really haven't thought very much about attacking them.

"I see another issue. In this fantasy, you know exactly how many attackers there are, and how many people were killed. You know the exact number of political and non-political casualties. Someone just having a passing fantasy would probably not have thought about that. On the other hand, it does seem that you have put less effort into visualizing this part of your fantasy, because your news story doesn't list the number of wounded. Apparently your attackers are able to shoot only the people who need to be killed. I take it that the others who died were mostly security guards.

"The part that concerns me the most is the list of senators who were killed. You haven't listed the names of any of the Supreme Court justices who needed to die. But you've listed the name of every senator who was killed. You even went to the trouble of alphabetizing the list.

"It is very disturbing that you chose to kill only Democratic senators who represent states with Republican governors. Therapeuitcally, it would have been healthier for you to have imagined that these missionaries had shot every Democrat-- or placed some kind of a bomb that would have killed everyone. In a fantasy, the more detailed your recollection is, the more important it is for you to imagine that it has happened.

"For example, if you came to me and said 'I keep having a dream about raping a woman', I would ask you to tell me something about the woman. If you said she was white and had big breasts... well, that certainly isn't the type of dream I want my patients to have. But I would be much more worried if you could tell me her height and weight, said she was in her late 20's, had shoulder length hair, knew the color of her hair and eyes and could describe how she dressed and where she lived.

"Also, your original opinion of the morality of this fantasy was 'I'm also assuming that such bloodshed would be a good idea; I don't think it would. Would five extra conservatives on the Supreme Court and a filibuster-free Senate be worth the bloodshed?... It might be a short-term victory for judicial conservatism, but a long term loss for our society and the cause of Christ.' You seemed to be more concerned that these killings would cause a backlash against religious conservatives than you are about the legality or morality of these actions."

Added to all the above is that Mr. Byron wrote all this down and published it. Contrary to what he suggests in his defense of his essay, 12-step programs don't encourage members to think about acting out. The goal is that you don't think about drinking or gambling-- that even thinking that you've mastered your flaws is a form of pride (scroll to the paragraph that begins "And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone, even alcohol.")

Is he serious? Probably not. Most people who think about doing something don't actually do it. But, no, normal people don't think this way.

Update: Just called Dad and read this to him. He said it is unethical for a therapist to comment on the behavior of anyone he isn't seeing prefessionally. When I pointed out that it wouldn;t be ethical of him to comment on the behavior of someone he was seeing, he replied "Well, I can't stop you and you're not a therapist, so what you say is up to you." That's what you would call a 'non-denial denial'.

He did say that the piece didn't sound like an essay on the dangers of demonizing opponents. "This is a person who seems to be very controlled and cautious about his opinions, based on his other essays. If his goal had been to condemn Operation Rescues and that assassin, I think he would have written that as a preface to the fantasy. Instead, he introduced his fantasy murders by saying 'I'm not advising anyone to do this, but I admit it would please me if this happened.'

"Also, when he really feels something strongly, he inserts quotes from the bible. The stronger his feelungs are, the more he quotes There are many quotes he could have used in both pieces, but he didn't use any."

He also suggested that I read an essay on fantasy and its relationship to violent behavior. The paragraph that seemed most relevant to me was:

"Studies have shown that 96% of adults report that they daydream several times a day, noting that fantasy may either substitute or prepare for action. For example, if you anticipate a confrontation with a specific individual, and the idea of this is anxiety provoking, you may go through several ways in which to handle the situation. You visualize where it would take place, and the details of your surroundings. Then, in your mind you may go through a series of role plays, hypothesizing what you would say in possible situations and the reactions and outcomes of your dialogue. This process helps you feel more at ease with the forthcoming encounter, so that when it actually does happen, you will feel more relaxed and prepared for any situation. However, for certain people, fantasies may be sadistic. It is not known how many people activate their sadistic fantasies and in what context this may occur, but once a fantasy builds to a point where inner stress is unbearable, a person's fantasy may turn to reality. "

Which means, I think, that we should give Mr. Byron a break this time. But another post of this type would suggest that the FBI should pay him a visit to chat with him. My father fully expects that we will see someone commit one or more murders in the next 2-3 years. And when the police investigate, we will discover that the killer published a web site where he explained exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. He expects the furor to be similar to the debate about whether the New York Times and Washington Post should publish the Unabomber's manifesto. "I'll bet you the victim's family will sue the web site publisher for negligence--claiming they should have monitored what he was writing and notified the authorities. And the way these juries are going, they might win too."

By the way, Mr. Byron: to these ears saying "If someone suceeded in bringing the FBI out to investigate the "terrorist threat" of yesterday, they would see a mild-mannered college professor with no expertise in weaponry and no significant history of violence" sounds very like this memorable saying.

11:43 PM

How to Beat W. (Part 1)

Finally, an intelligent article about the 2004 campaign landscape. This terrific op-ed in today's Post explains how the Democrats can write off the South and win-- and why they should.

The writer argues a point that many people (including me) have noticed: The South is going wingnut, and these people have absolutely no intention of voting for candidates who are moderate or independent-- much less liberals.

It's another reason I'm so skeptical about Wesley Clark's chances-- John McCain, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot all expected to find support in the South, too. But to quote the article, "of the 10 states where Perot fared worst in 1992, all were Southern. Of the 47 states where Nader was on the ballot in 2000, nine of his 10 worst showings came in the South."

If the south had scads of electoral votes to give, there would be a pressing need to solve this problem. They don't. The 12 states in the South have a total of 159 electoral votes. 91 come from four states: Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.

The other eight states have a total of 68 votes-- about eight votes per state. You never want to write off any states if you don't have to... But there are other states that offer the same number of votes and no one ever talks about strategies to court or keep them.

1. Oregon (7) and Washington (11) have virtually identical numbers of votes as Kentucky (8 votes) and Tenneessee (11). And those two states (which have gone blue in two of the last three elections), have something the southern states don't: high-tech companies (Intel, Microsoft) that have employees who are rich donors.

2. Missouri (13) and Nebraska (5) were part of the solidly Democratic farm belt at one time. They're both red now, but they have each voted Democratic at least once since 1980. Why are they less important than Mississippi (9) and Alabama (6), which haven't voted blue once in that time?

3. Both Ohio (20) and Pennsylvania (21) have voted Republic in four of the last six elections; Michigan has crossed three times. Ever heard anyone suggest that the party needs to do something to recover the Rust Belt?

The preaching about the need to recapture the South stems from three sources: (a) southern politicos, who want to continue to be courted, (b) fossilized media types and political scientists, who can't accept the concept of realignment and (c) wingnuts pundits, who have no interest in seeing the Democrats rebuild.

The author (to get back to what he is saying, not what I think) correctly notes that the flood of Republican-sponsored anti-hispanic initiatives are driving Latinos-- the largest-growing group of voters-- into the arms of Democrats:

"Between 1988 and 2000, the Democratic margin of defeat plunged from more than 21 percentage points to less than 6 points in Arizona and just 3 points in Nevada. Combine Nader's votes with Gore's and these states have gone from GOP blowouts to tossups in just three election cycles. "

If the Democrats can pick up the Southwest, keep the Northeast and Northwest and solidify either the Grain Belt or the Rust Belt, they can blow off the south and win. To quote one of the many "money grafs" from the article:

"If Democrats solve their solvable Ohio problem, they can win the presidency without carrying any states south of Maryland and east of the Mississippi River. Non-Southern coalitions worked for the GOP for decades: William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge all coasted to victory without the South."

I'd still like to try to pick up the guys who have the conferedate flag decals on their trucks. I'm not convinced that they're seriously embracing all the Confederacy's social policies; there's no substantive, policy-based reason that these guys should be supporting people like Bush.

But I'll be damned if I see the reason to prostrate the party before people who actively preach intolerance and violence. And if I find that I have to reach out to people who endorse people like Roy Moore and Bob Jones to get into power, then I guess I'll have to buy a gun and start shooting wingnuts instead.

(Kudos to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, which is always there when I forget to surf.)

7:27 PM

Bigmouth Strikes Again

If anyone has ever been skeptical about the moral fiber of Andrew "Bareback City" Sullivan, we now have documented proof of exactly how strong it is. On October 10, the man who is to political analysis what Leni Riefenstahl was to documentary filmmaking wrote "I really need to avoid all math questions. I keep screwing them up."

His will power lasted exactly 33 days. On November 14th, The Artist Formerly Known as RawMuslGlutes referred his readers to a site that measured (using his words) "how generous people are in various parts of the nation. Not absolute generosity - but charitable donations as a percentage of income" (emphasis mine). His analysis of the rankings:

"Bottom line: states which voted for Bush - you know, all those callous, selfish rich Republicans who don't give a damn about anyone else - dominate the rankings."

This item might not be the most untrue thing that Sully ever written (he's so prolific that it's impossible to be sure) But it stands out because:

A. His description of what the rankings measure is completely false.
B. He fails to notice (or just ignores) that the data he claims to want present is on the site.
C. If you actually look at contributions as percentage of income, states that voted for Gore dominate the rankings.

Last but not least, he's endorsing a methodology that appears to have been designed by John Lott on ecstasy. The errors are so obvious that a child could see that the results Sully is crowing about couldn't possibly be meaningful.

Lets's start by looking at the ranking page. If you have any experience working with data, it should take you seconds to spot three huge problems with its construction. The rankings have five columns of data for each state:

1. The name of the state.
2. Something called a "Having Index", which ranks each state from 1-50. If you look at the raw data, you find this is based on the state's average Adjusted Gross Income for 2001, using data supplied by the IRS's Spring, 2003 Statistics of Income Bulletin .
3. Something called a "Giving Index" rank. This is based on average size of charitable contribution for returns from that state that (a) itemized deductions and (b) listed charitable contributions.
4. A "Rank Relation", which is calculated by subtracting the "Giving" rank from the "Having" rank. (Seriously.) The state with the highest total was Mississippi, which ranks 50th in 'Having' and 6th in 'Giving' (+44). Rhode Island (8th in Having; 48th in giving, -40 total) has the lowest number.
5. The "Generosity Index", which merely sorts the "Rank Relation" by descending number

If you believe the results of this 'system', the ten most generous states are Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and Idaho. And if you do believe that, you should seriously consider a brain implant.

Before we go any further, let's note one item for the record: Andrew Sullivan's description of what this system measures is completely false. It should be obvious to even a backward child that a system that ranks states 1-50 and subtracts one ranking from another is not measuring "charitable donations as a percentage of income." In order to measure percentages, Milky Loads, old boy, you need to actually calculate percentages somewhere along the way.

But wait-- there's more. No Andrew Sullivan post about statistics is complete without at least one blind eye turned toward contradictory evidence, and this post is no exception. The site provides a download link to an Excel spreadsheet with the raw data. Buried inside that sheet is a column that lists exactly what Sullivan was all hopped up about: charitable contributions as a percentage of adjusted growth income.

In that column-- the one that actually measures what Sullivan said the 'Generosity Index' did-- six of the top ten states gave their electoral votes to Al Gore. Listed in order (blue states in bold), they are: Montana, Arizona, Washington, North Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Maine, New York and Kentucky.

Not one of the states in the top ten in the "Generosity Index" finish in the top ten in percentage of income given to charity. Only four even make the top twenty-- five make the bottom twenty. Here's the top ten with the real rankings listed in parentheses: Mississippi (25), Arkansas (14), South Dakota (17), Oklahoma (39), Alabama (35), Tennessee (46), Louisiana (15).

If I were compiling a "Generosity Index" for the blogosphere, I'd put people who read Andrew Sullivan-- for anything other than comic relief -- at the top of it. Given a choice between letting a panhandler borrow my credit cards and trusting Sully to present data accurately, I'd put my trust in the bum-- the homeless one-- every time.

3:56 AM

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