Sunday, October 31, 2004

Halloween Post-Mortem

Not bad. Not bad at all.

The kids were wired to the point they were driving the wife crazy for a couple of hours before trick-or-treating began. But I thought it was cute. I'm more into the little holiday stuff than she is. At least the parts that involve children. I was raised in a family that made a big deal out of every holiday for the kids. Just feels incomplete to me for a big holiday to pass without kids running around freaked out with adrenaline in anticipation.

And we definitely had that tonight. Plus sugar.

It was a bit chilly, so the wife carried the 6 month old to the immediate neighbors only, and then took her home to help with candy detail, while I took the other two around for some serious trick-or-treating.

As a reminder, my son dressed as the Cat in the Hat, and his sisters were Thing 1, and Thing 2. This was the general concept:



The execution was pretty darn cute. But Dr. Seuss, poetic genius though he was, failed to anticipate the laws of physics when he drew that darn hat. My son spent most of the night holding the hat in place, which made it very difficult to hold out his trick-or-treat bag. Thing 1 had a much easier time, though she had a bit of a struggle ignoring all those fascinating leaves on the ground when marching from house to house.

After perhaps 20 houses, the Cat called it quits, and we marched home.

Long story short, sugar buzz met exhaustion. And that required some parental intervention. But we got them settled down and both went out like a light the moment the lights went out. Thing 1 called it her favorite day ever.

The baby, who normally nurses to sleep after they go to bed, could hardly wait and went without a struggle as well.

Even the neighborhood kids seemed cheerful and well behaved this year. Normally we get the initial wave of young kids escorted by parents, and later in the evening the teenaged crowd straggles in with a pillowcase to hold the candy, no costumes, and surley demeanors. We still got the teens this year, but every one was in costume - including some quite good costumes. And every one said, "Thank you," in a way that didn't sound like a sneer.

So tomorrow it's back to the grind at work, and into the buzzsaw of the final day of campaigning before the polls open. But for tonight, just Happy Halloween memories.

Happy Halloween


Posted by Hello

Halloween, or politics? Halloween, or politics? What an odd couple these topics make. Why did they have to place Election Day so close to this silly little kid's Holiday? Fie on politics today. Halloween wins out.

Today we haven't really focused on politics at all at my house. This morning the eldest child and I scooped out the innards of a pumpkin, while holding a fascinating conversation about how we could roast the seeds later. The boy insisted that we could use the "goopy stuff" to make pumpkin jelly. I countered with the parts that were used to make pumpkin pie; a topic he turned out to be surprisingly well versed in, carrying on for a good ten minutes about all the different kinds of pumpkin pie, and who liked them, and how he liked a few pumpkin seeds in his, but most people don't, etc., etc.

I made him hold off on carving the face in the pumpkin until mommy got home. She had to take the 2 year old for a haircut this morning. Her second in two days, if you count the one she gave herself last night. Anyway, the resulting Jack-o-lantern is posted for your viewing pleasure above. Save for the two teeth, which the wife suggested, the rest of the design is our son's. Nicely traditional and symetrical. I think we're raising a Classicist. The next Victor David Hanson, perhaps?

The less said about the Vikings pathetic performance the better. More Halloween confusion I'd imagine. They decided to disguise themselves as a pre-season team. Poor choice.

In a short while the kids will be dressed in their costumes and the annual ritual of shaking down the neighbors for sugar will commence. It will be my duty to attempt to snap the magical picture in which all three look at the camera with a cute expression at the same time. Thank God for digital cameras. The cost of developing film from that kind of exercise can be daunting.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Crunching the Numbers

I’m officially done watching the polls. It's too close to Election Day. I only ever trust them as general guidelines. They’re good for telling us where things are trending over the long-term, but lousy at making sure predictions. So now I’m going with the big picture. Taking all I know into account, how do I think the election will go?

There’s a neat little electoral vote calculator at the L. A. Times website. I’ve been playing around with it a bit to test a few different scenarios I consider possible on Election Day.

Starting with where I truly believe the states will fall, I come out with an electoral count where Bush wins with 306 electoral votes to Kerry’s 232. I’m probably a little on the pessimistic side in the Northeast, and a little optimistic in the Upper Midwest. But that’s where my gut tells me things will fall.

My super-optimistic, best-case Bush scenario puts the tally at Bush 378, Kerry 160 (even in the best case I can’t see Bush carrying New York, Illinois, California or the smaller truly hardcore Democrat states).

To me the “blowout” scenario in favor of Bush will have some early warning signs. If Bush takes New Hampshire and/or Maine, that’s a small reason to get optimistic. But if he takes New Jersey or Pennsylvania, look out! We’d be headed quickly into blowout territory (I have all of those states going for Kerry in my “most likely” scenario).

My best case scenario for Kerry puts the total at 336 for Kerry, and 220 for Bush.

The Kerry-blowout early warning signs to me would be that he holds all the battlegrounds in the Northeast (including New Hampshire and Maine), and makes a pickup in West Virginia, or especially Virginia. That could foreshadow a very bad night for the Bush backers.

For Kerry to have a chance at winning, he’s counting on Ohio. In fact, if he takes only Ohio and Florida, and the rest of the map remains like my “most likely” scenario above, Kerry has a nice 279 to 259 win. If Bush wins Florida, but Kerry sweeps Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, same thing.

One thing that impresses me is how plausible it is for almost any of the battleground states to become the difference maker.

Another thing that impresses me is how difficult the game becomes for Kerry if Bush holds both Ohio and Florida. In that case, smaller states where Kerry hasn’t spent much time or effort would have to drop into his lap in pretty big numbers.

But let’s move away from the electoral tallies and get into where I think the real difference is. I think the majority of the press, left and right, are fighting the 2000 battle over again in their analysis, not comprehending (or perhaps just not willing to go out on a limb) how different the campaigns are this time around.

Much like in 2002, I think Republican support is being understated in the polls, and some of these “close” battlegrounds in the polls will end up solid Bush wins. I don’t think this is because of some overwhelming late break in the undecideds, or fallout from the cave monkey’s videotape. I think the underestimate is due to a few decades of experience, leading to the expectation of a strong Democratic ground-game, and a patchy to lackluster Republican ground-game. This is the source of the "strong turnout favors Democrats" assumption.

This year I truly believe the Republican ground-game is superior. But even if it was only close to equal, that is something not seen in a presidential election in the professional lives of the pundits speculating about the elections this time around. It was tested in some states in 2002, but on a smaller scale. The result was that several races expected to be tight turned into Republican walks. And the incumbent president’s party defied expectation and precedent by picking up seats in a mid-term election.

This was the gut-feeling I had before I did my interview with the Republican campaign insider a couple of weeks ago. Everything I learned during that interview and subsequently has only reinforced that perspective.

Letting my hopes color my analysis? Possibly. But the first test of the ground-game battle was in the early absentee ballots. Both parties placed a big emphasis on this. The results so far have Bush leading by 15 points. No one predicted that. But the ground game difference I’m talking about would account for it.

Friday, October 29, 2004

An Early Halloween Treat

The cave monkey came out of hibernation and spoke today. Anyone especially scared of him anymore? Me neither. Let's talk about Halloween stuff instead.

Our four year old had a Halloween Party at pre-K this afternoon. He came home with the usual big bag of candy. Of course, we let him have some before dinner. That's what Halloween is all about - children on a constant sugar buzz. Mom cut him off after eating the candy skeleton. But dad whispered to him he could have one more piece after she left the room. He picked out a pixie stick. I leaned down to open it and whispered to him that those were one of my favorites when I was a little boy. He looked up at me and whispered back, "Me too. When I was two I liked these."

And so he did.

Here is a link to a Halloween post someone posted to Free Republic in 2001. I remember reading it back when first posted. Might be a few too many inside Freeper jokes for a general audience to get. But I still think it's pretty funny:

BREAKING!!! HYDROGEN GAS EXPLOSIONS OCCURRING ON MARS! [Following is a reprint of the original thread, exactly as it was posted on Free Republic on the evening of October 30, 1938]

Old Chicago - Blogger's Paradise

Inspired by Chumley's restaurant reviews at Plastic Hallway, I have one of my own to offer. Sort of.

Anyway, I am currently sitting at the Old Chicago restaurant in (actually in the parking lot of) Northtown Mall. And I have discovered a blogger's paradise.

Check this out...

I stopped in for lunch with my laptop, thinking I ought to format a document I wrote for work this morning. I pop out the laptop and a free wireless network announces itself. Would I like to connect? Why, yes. Yes I would.

The bartender, a clean-cut fellow with a professional demeanor quickly rounded the bar to come to my booth. Would I like a beer? Why, yes. Yes once again, I would. Let's check the list. Great googily-moogily! The list of draft beers is over 20. By the bottle we go into the dozens at least. I ask for information about an unfamiliar one, and the bartender is able to describe it perfectly. I'll have one of those thanks. And a menu.

What to order? I had eaten at an Old Chicago ages ago, and generally thought of it as a pizza place. But what I was really in the mood for - the reason I stopped in here in the first place - was buffalo wings. My recollection was that they were good here.

And indeed, a platter of 10 arrived (half traditional, and half "firehouse jalapeno" by my request) shortly. Another pleasant surprise. These weren't merely wings. These were 10 big fat drummies. The traditional style were as good as I recalled. And the fire house jalapeno were truly fiery and jalapenoey. Another nice surprise. They came with both bleu cheese and ranch sauce, the former of which I prefer as that's the way God and the Anchor Bar intended it. Delicious.

While I dined, I perused the blogosphere. And that's when I realized. I may never leave here again.

Well.. okay. Maybe at closing time. (Imagining call home: "Dear, I'm going to be late tonight. Work is just too much to finish before... oh... 1am or so. What? What's that music and raucous revelry in the background? Umm... the... marketing department? Hello? Hello?)

Ok, one limiting factor. No electric outlets, so I suppose my stay is limited by battery life (I knew I needed a spare battery!).

On a side note: The Summit Seasonal beer on tap is their Oatmeal Stout. To my knowledge this is the first time Summit has put out an Oatmeal Stout. It's thick. Chewy. And halfway into it, I still can't tell whether I love it or loathe it. Guiness is my benchmark for stout. But Guiness is smoothe with a capital S. This is rough and assertive. If Guiness is Gayle Sayers, this stout is John Riggins (football analogy for those going Huh?!). This is one unique beer in any case. But I'd only recommend it to the adventurous. Check that. The bartender informs me this beer is especially popular with non-beer drinkers. I am totally puzzled how that can be. But he's in a position to know.

Anyway, back to the restaurant. It's also not very crowded at lunch-time. So I have this nice big booth - let's call it Blogstation November (This is the fourth booth, in a row of five. I've dubbed the preceding ones Delta, Romeo, Uniform and the one after this is Kilo. I went a long way for a weak joke there if you're in the mood to search for it.). - all to myself. And an attentive bartender to keep the drink and food coming as often as I'd like.

Eventually, I'm even going to get around to formatting that document (and incidentally, no, I'm not on the clock. What do I look like? A lawyer?).

Need a place to blog, eat good food, and drink good beer? Old Chicago is your ticket.

Minnesota Voter Fraud Redux

Long-time readers will recall I've been worried about voter fraud in Minnesota for some time. Now (finally) Powerline has discovered it.

I'm a little peeved at my fellow Minnesota bloggers, especially the biggies, who trumpeted a warning about impending voter fraud in places like Wisconsin and Colorado weeks ago, but didn't see this one coming.

It's not only the desperation of this particular election. It's the registration system itself. My job is designing systems. I know how to see an error-prone element of the design a mile away. And Minnesota's "vouch for someone else" registration is so error-prone it ought to be laughed out of law.

But that's not how it works. So after this election, fellow bloggers, we need to make a change in Minnesota law. No more "vouching" for registered voters. Any REAL valid voter will posess one of the other acceptable forms of validation.

No time for that now, but keep it in mind. I'm going to be pounding this drum after the election. And if our state's idiotic registration system has pulled a "Broward County" between now and then, you'll be begging for it. If not (and I hope we'll be in this scenario), be thankful and just support revising the law because it's common sense.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Evening News

It’s been a very busy day. Not only have I not been able to blog myself, I’ve barely been able to read any blogs. I come from a family that used to get a morning and afternoon newspaper (and continued getting them when they both switched to both coming in the morning), and I read them both. I’m starving for news here.

In an homage to the now-mostly-dead evening newspaper genre, I will attempt to fill in the rest of you on this afternoon’s roundup of the blogosphere. At least the portion of it on my blogroll.

Lileks’ Bleat was the only one I read this morning, and you probably did too. So no need to fill you in about that.

Let’s see what Mitch is up to:

Whoops. Plumbing problems at Chez Berg. Looks like it kept him home most of the morning too. Having experienced a couple of those, I’ll not even try to have fun with this at his expense. And with raw sewage as a metaphor in a political season, that takes some restraint.

Over to Jo’s Attic

Hmm… Jo is calling a post by the Elder at Fraters Libertas the post of the day. Fair enough. Over to Fraters I go…

It’s a piece about media bias, titled Starve the Beast. Works in a “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” joke in the first paragraph. The dude knows how to hook me. And it is one heck of a good piece. But I cannot follow his advice. Because I dropped my newspaper subscriptions, and stopped watching the network news years ago. I’m a news consumer of the new age, baby! “Push” media is old-hat. “Pull” news is where it’s at!

Seriously, with very, very few exceptions, there isn’t a thing I miss about the newspapers that hasn’t been made up for by the extras available on the Internet. Sure, I read the newspapers – at least whatever free content they put online. They’re just blogs with hoity-toity attitudes and fear of comments sections to me.

I used to subscribe to a ton of magazines too. Now I’m down to National Review and Sports Illustrated (the latter of which I only get because I’m on a free six months of it via a Best Buy promotion).

I can’t claim media bias was my sole motivation (though it definitely played a factor – especially my cancellation of the Star Tribune). It’s just that the idea of buying all those dead trees, or sitting through all that dead-air seemed… I dunno… a waste.

I know the big media like to characterize the blogosphere as a vast wasteland of insipid dorkdom. And there certainly is plenty of that out there. But what they seem to miss is that, being a “pull” medium, I only read what I want to read. It’s not some package deal where I “subscribe” to the blogosphere. I read only the blogs I choose to read, and they’re “cancelled” the moment I stop reading them. It’s a better model in my opinion.

Plus, as the Elder says, the old media sucks (only he says it better).

Pinkmonkeybird is talking about the Elder’s article too. And he’s got a couple of nice pieces about the Bush campaign as well; warning us to report suspicious activity at the polling place, along with a message from Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman (Scott is getting so deep into the campaign, for all I know Mehlman delivered the message to him personally); and bucking up our spirits with a quote from Victor David Hanson.

Our House looks like they had a busy day too. No updates since yesterday. But I missed them yesterday, so I’m diving in. David makes a scatological joke, and talks about hobbits (and for the record David, there’s plenty of room for both you AND James to be hobbits. You’re a Brandybuck, and he’s a Took. And I'm a geek who found that joke funny.). He also has an insightful piece about the contemptible mayor of Saint Cloud, and a media organ that deserves the “Starve the Beast” treatment the Elder called for. Plus, if you didn’t read it yet, Margaret’s piece from Tuesday about Dick Morris is a good read too.

Chumley at Plastic Hallway mocks a very mock-worthy poll from Saint Cloud State, conducted by three Saint Cloud State poli-sci profs. King Banyan from SCSU Scholars helps sort it out. Chumley also talks about a more believable poll. Lots more from Chumley today too. He was a real posting demon!

I cannot explain why I like Cathy in the Wright's post today. But I do.

Seriously politically incorrect material from Steve at Helloooo, Chapter Two! He' s only the linker, but d*mn! Keep it coming though. We're called right-wing nut-jobs no matter how much we avoid going there. Another plug for the Elder's piece today. I think a meme has been born. It has his father's eyes.

Mary at It's Noon Somewhere, seems to be recovering from mourning, and has her own very linky post, with a shocking and embarrassing confession buried about 2/3's in. I won't embarrass her further by citing it here. Remember, confession is good for the soul Mary (but also suitable for teasing).

Noodles from People's Republic of Minnesota missed the memo about the new meme, and links to Lileks and some obscure British blog called "The Times," which has a pretty cool editorial judging Bush by his enemies - a standard by which Bush emerges looking pretty darn good.

And Flash at Centrisity? Well his mom has apparently been named a Kerry elector by the DFL. Which I have to admit is pretty cool, even though I think she'll not get a chance to cast that ballot, since her candidate is going to lose. But Flash won't have any reason to be disappointed when Bush wins. I've offered to buy him a free beer to console him. He's the only guy in America in a total win/win situation no matter how the election turns out!

More blogs to check later. But I think I'm supposed to spend a few minutes with the kids before they go to bed - so my wife's menacing glare seems to imply (just kidding, love-of-my-life! But scrambling to comply all the same).

UPDATE:

The little ones are safely and soundly tucked in their beds and sleeping peacefully. This is after learning to FEAR getting out of bed just one... more... time!!!! Dad had the early duty, and dad's a softy. But after the baby was asleep, they had to answer to mom. And that's really not a battle they like to fight. So... ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz...

Army of Mom was offended that I didn't include her blog in my evening news roundup. And I apologize, because I really do read her blog daily. But it tends to be near the end of my daily list for the simple reason that it's in the bottom group on my blogroll (not counting the Blogs for Bush, which I do poke around in from time to time, but not daily). Yes, yes, I know I need to clean the blogroll up, re-categorize them all, separate the lambs from the sheep, de-link the seemingly dead, and get a freakin' hair-cut already!!! (sorry. that last one just slipped out.)

But in lieu of all that, Army of Mom is having surgery tomorrow (*gack* now I feel like a real cad for making her feel ignored beforehand). Cute picture of her two-year old in a Tigger costume too. Since I have a daughter the same age (who also had a costume party today, but dad was at work so I only heard about it), it's fun to compare. And a rare political post for Army of Mom taking a shot at Messiah Kerry. And her comments about the Bush twins chat are perhaps more civil than I would have been. Funnier too. But don't scroll down to her post about dying her hair. She grossed me out by talking about what grossed her out. And by the way, I've seen the pictures, and her previous hair color was just fine, so why bother to dye it ?! (Incidentally, this is a conversation I've had a zillion times with someone closer to home posessing an evil stare, so I'm clearly just not seeing something an extra X chromosome would make clear)

Since we're down in this part of the blogroll, might as well see what Rick at Stones Cry Out is up to.

He's uncharacteristically brief today. Feels like a jogging buddy slowing down so you can keep up even though you have a cold and he doesn't. Thanks Rick.

Rick is talking about Al QaQaa (briefly), basically casting his doubt on any Russian involvement moving weapons. He also talks about the latest video from Al Qaeda... somethingI still can't figure out why it's considered news. Don't we generally assume they want to kill us? Do we need a new tape saying exactly the same thing to call our attention to the fact? Ohhh... this time they said "pig-monkey sons-of whores" instead of "slimey infidel enemies of the Prophet!" Put up Drudge's siren!!! Eh. Rick has words on the topic too which are more thinky and less ranty.

Varifrank is guilty of building my hopes up. Therefore, being raised a properly pessimistic Midwesterner, I'm not talking about it. Look for yourself if you'd like, but I warned you.

Enough for tonight. I still missed a few, but I'll get to you another time.

Our prayers are with Army of Mom for her surgery tomorrow. We expect the surgery to go well. But recovery with young kids can be a challenge. Let us know if you need a gift basket of Scotch or something to see you through.

MacBlogger

There is a very clever advertisement on Powerline at the moment. Something called the “Sport Kilt” (I’m not linking them here, because you really ought to click to them through their Powerline ad, so they know advertising on Powerline works). Basically, it looks like a traditional Scottish clothier is trying to break into the mainstream, as well as get a piece of the recently booming pajama market, by convincing some of us to blog in kilts.

I have to say I like the idea. Even if only because I’m picturing myself in a kilt talking to Scott in his lederhosen and Jo in her pajamas at the next MOB get together. The look on Nick Coleman’s face should he wander in would be priceless.

Though honestly, the one who truly ought to wear the kilt to the next MOB should be the only bagpipe-playing blogger in town. Though I do have a wee bit of Scottish ancestry, I prefer to honor that heritage a slightly different way....



Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Fine. Granted. But only if...

Pardon a brief rant. There are no links in the post below. If you don't know what story I'm talking about, I apologize for the confusion.

It’s short attention span theater out there in the blogosphere. Far too many places I am reading people siding with the New York Times “October Surprise” hit piece about missing explosives in Iraq.

Let’s leave aside the unbelievable naiveté one must have to think the Times ran with this story in good faith, and with proper editorial caution. Let’s leave aside the increasing evidence that this is no more than a rumor, with no solid source able to confirm whether the explosives in question were gone before U. S. Troops arrived. Let’s even leave aside the idiotic notion that blames the Commander in Chief for a screw up of guard duty at a remote outpost.

Let’s go right along with the worst case scenario – American troops captured these weapons, and through their own negligence let them be stolen. Now they could be in terrorist hands, and this is a terrible danger.

Fine.

I’ll grant you this. But I won’t let you simultaneously continue to make the assertion that we’ve found no WMD in Iraq. WMD by definition are weapons that pose grave danger to lots of people even in small quantities, which is why they’re so dangerous in the hands of terrorists.

Either these explosives constitute weapons that pose that kind of danger in the hands of terrorists, or they don’t.

You want to say Bush lied aboutIraq having WMD? Fine.

You want to say Iraq had WMD, but Bush is to blame for letting some get away? Fine.

But please pick only one. If you’re going to oppose Bush no matter what, please don’t continue to cite mutually contradictory points as evidence of your "reasoning. "

Dvorak Pulls a Coleman

Via Michele at A Small Victory today, I discovered a column by John Dvorak, from PC Magazine, which virtually channeled the whiny petulance of Nick Coleman. Somewhat surprising, because I used to read Dvorak, and know he actually has the ability to be insightful and clear-headed (so there the Nick Coleman analogy breaks down).

If you don’t want to read it, let me sum up: Blogs are bad. They ruined the internet. Common people shouldn’t be allowed to post to the Internet. If you read someone on the Internet, he’s probably a freak pretending to be normal. Disagreement scares me.

Michele does a fine job of tearing apart the article itself, which is really no more than a whine.

Dvorak’s central theme is a “Ones and zeros” analogy, used to represent opposing political perspectives in the blogosphere. Ones and zeros. Binary. That’s computer related. Get it? Well of course we get it. It’s hardly subtle. But it would be a little more clever if it was a also accurate. Like most of Dvorak’s kind in the Old Media (that "old" bit has to sting), he seems to have focused on only a few over-heated partisans, and missed the rest of the picture entirely.

If there is one analogy that does not work in the blogosphere it’s “binary.” Pick an issue… say, gay marriage. Surf down my blogroll, which is heavily weighted to the right side of the blogosphere. Try to separate those blogs into only one side of a binary or the other. When finished, pick another issue. Say, preferred presidential candidate. Try to separate them again. You’ll notice that we’re only two issues old, and you’ve already had a few blogs jumping that binary separation (you’ll also notice at least two blogs don't fit on either side of your binary list). Go on to a third or fourth issue, and you’ll end up with something that looks a lot less like a binary separation, and a lot more like a healthy diversity of opinion.

Speaking of great divides, Dvorak represents a generational divide in my opinion. He’s perfectly capable of grasping the blogosphere as far as his intelligence goes. But it so shatters his long-standing view of media – and of the Internet – that he responds emotionally rather than rationally, displacing an attempt to understand with simple prejudice. It's less that he doesn't get it than that he doesn't like it. He liked the old way better.

This is not the first time I have encountered this kind of reaction. In the tech world it’s common.

When the World Wide Web came along, it was a novelty at first. But in a stunningly short period of time, it had assumed a central role in the tech departments of even the most tradition-minded companies. This lead to the disgruntlement of many workers who had invested heavily specializing in technological expertise that now seemed obsolete (as an aside, many of the rumors of obsolescence were greatly exagerated). I remember sitting across a meeting room table from a team of Cobol developers who were stunned when the business sponsor of a large new project referred to their system as “legacy.”

And that’s exactly the sort of reaction we’re seeing from Dvorak here. He feels threatened. Suddenly he’s “legacy” media. He spent the 80’and 90’s as a hip sage of the New Age. And now he’s Morely Safer (Or perhaps Andy Rooney).

Opinion journalism is obviously the most prone to becoming “legacy” in the age of the blog. Everyone out there has an opinion. A lot fewer have opinions people want to read regularly, but then this is true in the “legacy” media world as well.

There is no writing on the wall that says popular opinion columnists from the legacy media will not also thrive in the blogosphere. Some “legacy” media types have become veritable stars of the blogosphere – James Lileks, Mark Steyn, Andrew Sullivan, lots of writers from National Review. The difference isn’t simply in the medium in which they deliver their thoughts. It’s that the marketplace of ideas just got a lot more competitive.

In the IT world we’re very familiar with this. My software development company isn’t just competing with guys from New York and Silicon Valley anymore. It’s also competing with teams in India, China, the Phillipines, and Brazil. It’s frightening and threatening to realize that your competition for any single project is so large it could populate a decent sized city. So I understand where Dvorak’s emotion is coming from.

On the other hand, Dvorak’s problem is deeper than simple prejudice. In one sense he’s simply flat-out wrong. Oddly enough for someone who has previously written about similar things in technology, he can’t seem to grasp how open systems work. He can’t understand how a good idea can compete with a bad idea unless some editor sorts it out for us.

Dvorak should swallow his pride and start learning about the blogosphere, instead of whining at it. This speech by Alan at the Command Post would be a decent place to start.

Just Because You're Paranoid...

Varifrank borrows from Woody Allen to make a serious point about the apparent collaboration between supposedly independent organizations to defeat George W. Bush. A couple of highlights:

Let’s face it; George ruined a lot of people’s plans, a lot of very powerful peoples plans. He broke a lot of rice bowls. The UN had a sweet deal going in Iraq until he came along and screwed it up for everyone. France had a sweet deal, 100 billion in oil contracts, weapons systems, infrastructure development. Germany had her hands in the Mesopotamian pie too, right up to her elbows. Russia was face down in the slop.

They gave us Afghanistan, they could hardly say no, but Iraq was always off limits. Once George decided to go into Iraq, the gloves came off. From that point on, George has made himself the target of a lot of people who made their living and kept their accounts in balance with the haul of cash made fencing the goods for Saddam and his family band of mad pirates.

One of the elements I think reasonable voters should take into account when hearing about how unpopular Bush has made the U. S. in the world is this one. Many of our most vocal critics - the ring leaders of world opposition - had a vested interest in maintaining the Saddam regime. Other critics have a vested interest in similar regimes, and are frightened that those might suffer the same fate.

This is where the Christopher Hitchens sorts have parted company with their former comrades in disgust. It is not serving the greater good of humanity to prop-up brutal tyrants, even if doing so allows you to oppose the hated George Bush.

More from Frank:

Why?

Because Iraq was the pusher, the juice, Iraq was the grocery store that cashed their bad third party checks and looked the other way. Do a bit of business with Iraq, and a little green grease goes your way when no one is looking.

The UN knew what was going on in Iraq, they knew damn well what a monster Saddam was. They just didn’t care. The UN did worse than just turning a blind eye, the UN enabled Saddam.

As the Oil for Food Scandal has made clear to any but those stubbornly unwilling to accept the facts, the U. N. is hardly some lofty institution with world peace and well-being as its guiding principal. The U. N. is a gathering house, no loftier than the member nations which participate. And some very brutal, ruthless, greedy nations form the majority of U. N. members.

I'm not someone who wishes to abolish the U. N. But I certainly want to break away from the mindset that believes it stands above our national sovereignty. It is neither world government, nor world judge, nor world moral compass.It's just a great big meeting hall.

Anyway, Frank has a lot more to say, and he says it better than me. Read the whole thing.



Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hamlet's Performance Falls Flat

Andrew "Hamlet" Sullivan, after months of portraying a man wrestling with himself over a monumental decision, finally endorsed John Kerry today (hat tip, Vodkapundit), an endorsement as anxiously awaited as that of the New York Times. Truly one wonders if even Sullivan thinks he was fooling anyone by his "indecision" at this point.

I don't read Andrew Sullivan much anymore, though unlike others I don't consign him to some fiery sphere of treason in the blogosphere. I never thought he was much more than a lukewarm supporter of president Bush in the first place, no matter how hyperbolic his supporting rhetoric became.

My most extensive familiarity with Sullivan's writing came in an extended series of articles back and forth between himself and Stanley Kurtz over the gay marriage issue (the most intelligent discussion of that matter anywhere in media in my opinion, with Jonathan Rauch occasionally joining in on Sullivan's side - here's a link to just one article in it, but it's worth your time to track down them all). It became clear to me over the course of that debate that there was literally nothing Sullivan would not sacrifice for the sake of this issue - including intellectual honesty. He began that series still claiming he was a loyal Catholic, with mere technical difficulties which he hoped to reconcile wih the Church. Yet the Church's position on that issue had not wavered since the days of Saint Paul (the Biblical one, not the Fraters Libertas one). When his rhetoric and media campaign failed to budge the Church even a bit, he wrote a series of fiery missives condeming the Church he claimed to be so faithful to. To anyone familiar with the theology and canon law on the matter, it was a piece of brilliant propaganda, but thoroughly dishonest. And Sullivan, no dummy, surely knew this at the time.

Sullivan is still a skilled and often interesting writer, and I still do read him on occasion. But I also know that he writes to advocate and manipulate. His pattern of feigning to weigh the issue of supporting the president, when everyone else knew the gay marriage issue had already decided it for him, is just another example.

More Weird Voter Registration News

I honestly don't know what to make of this one.

This morning Saint Paul Pioneer Press reporter Patrick Sweeney is reporting (annoying registration required):

The rolls of Minnesota's registered voters have grown by about 100,000 people this year and by about 174,000 people since the last presidential election four years ago, according to new voter-eligibility totals released Monday.
So far so good. Lots of new voter registration effort from both the DFL and Republicans this year. Nothing terribly unusual about this. Until we get to this:

But the increase, which is smaller than the Census Bureau's estimate of growth in the state's voting-age population, cannot explain why Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer gave out more than 1.5 million voter registration cards this year [emphasis mine - ed.].

...

"It seems low compared to how many cards have been picked up from my office," said Kiffmeyer, who early this month said she had to order new cards printed after the first 1.5 million had been exhausted.

Kiffmeyer said she could not explain what became of all the unused cards.

So the Secretary of State had 1.5 million registration cards available. And every single one of them was picked up. She had to print even more.

I'm no mathmetician. But even I can figure out that that leaves over 1.3 million registration cards floating around ... where exactly? We're not THAT big a state. That's a huge number compared to our population. It's in the ballpark of 40% of the registered voter roll.

No finger pointing from either side of the partisan divide in the article either. Is this worth looking into?

What the World Needs Now...

... is another geeky quiz apparently. I'm okay with that. I was just worried the answer was going to be "love, sweet love." Then I'd have to punch someone.

Today I discovered what computer operating system I most resemble:


You are Red Hat Linux. You're tops among your peers, but still get no respect from them.  It's all right with you.  You have your sights set higher.
Which OS are You?



Grumbling

It's going to be one nasty week for all sorts of reasons.

Election? You think I'm worried about the election? I should be so lucky.

Walking through my house this morning preparing for work sounded like walking through a TB ward. All three kids have nasty sounding phlegmy coughs. The 6 month old is the one we're most concerned about. She's been on two separate kinds of antibiotics in succession. But now that the second is finished, her cough has returned, along with the signs of at least one ear infection (she had two the last time at the doctor, which is why she was on anti-biotics in the first place).

On top of that the 2 year old has hit upon that perfect combination of stealth and destruction. We're cleaning up the domestic equivalent of an Exon Valdez multiple times per day: mommy's makeup, the garbage near the baby's changing table, permanent markers on furniture and walls, scissors to the leather furniture, and on, and on, and on. And of course, she's the healthiest of the bunch, so she has the most energy to put into this hobby.

And due to all the illnesses, the four year old has been pent up in the house for days, kept away from sitters and playdates, which typically means he'll start acting out at the least opportune times. But he's number two on the sick list, so hopefully that will tire him out into some sort of stationary mode more than usual.

The wife and I are obviously also getting hit with the same cold to varying degrees. Plus the sleep deprivation of getting up with sick kids all night.

And just as my project at work is finally nearing completion, I suddenly discover my next assignment(s) want me to start immediately, which would require me to literally be three places at the same time.

In other cheery news, Mary's cat died (sympathies through my grumbling to you Mary).

So anyway, posting will either be lighter or angrier than usual. Perhaps a mixture of the two.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Few More GOP Insider Interview Items

I seem to be developing a pattern. After launching into a big blog project, like the GOP insider interview this past weekend, I have tons of ideas but have a very hard time focusing on just one or two and getting them out. I wish I was able to write in short pithy little comments like Instapundit more often. But my mind doesn’t work like that. Anyway…

There were a few things in the interview I cut, not because they were sensitive or secret, but because I didn’t quite know what to do with them. They were offered as sort of background information to help us make sense of where some of his answers were coming from. But since they seemed to get off-track from my questions, I removed them.

I’ll use this post to share a couple of them, as well as some of my thoughts about them.

One of the things raised in the context of explaining his answer to another question was the notion of “smoke filled rooms.”

Source: The smoke-filled room still exists on many levels. … In that sense the political movies are correct. These rooms do exist. There’s not a lot of cigar puffing going on anymore. Most people don’t smoke anymore. But the philosophy is the same. This is the way candidates are chosen. Years in advance. [He gave an example of one current candidate who destroyed his political future in the party by “pulling some stunt” in his current election race. And then a couple of examples of currently undeclared, yet already “chosen” candidates.]. This is how a healthy party operates.


I’m not sure how people would feel about this “smoke filled room” stuff if it was more publically known. Our source made it clear that this is true for Democrats as well as Republicans. He also made it clear that it is still ultimately up to the grassroots to decide to get behind the candidate or not in the caucuses and primary. This called to mind a couple of incidents where the grassroots did indeed revolt against the party’s preference (the caucus endorsement of Alan Quist over sitting Governor Carlson, and the caucus and primary endorsement and election of Michele Bachman, over the Republican incumbent for State Senate from her district).

I guess on a gut level, I know most people would hate this arrangement if it was publically acknowledged. All the good reasons in the world would not make these things popular. They seem anti-Democratic. That’s why they’re unofficial, and off the record.

Not that I think they should or even could be abolished. All they really amount to are the private communications among influential party members. Call it a smoke-filled room, or a Christmas Party with an exclusive guest list. People are free to associate, free to form opinions, and free to agree about whom they want to support. Anyone else is free to disagree. But one of the things that makes these “smoke-filled rooms” work, is that the price of membership seems to be that you are someone of great influence, meaning you’re able to swing a lot of votes to the candidate of your preference.

This reminds me a bit of the way the blogosphere works. Kind of a natural aristocracy, where the big guys at the top influence the attention and opinions of those who read them, and that filters down all the way to very small local cells – official or unofficial groups of local bloggers who work together. No wonder a political wonk like Hugh took to the blogosphere like a duck to water. It really is more like the way a political party operates than the way the Big Media does.

Another little item from the interview was about the “October Surprise.”

Source: In the last 6 to 10 days the Democrats will come out with something. A big surprise or revelation on Bush. They already know what it is, they’re just holding off until either the weekend, or first part of the week. Every year it happens. You can predict within a four day period when it will come out.”

Scott: Any idea what it is?

Source: I don’t care what it is. We just know it will happen.


Two aspects of this mildly surprised me. The first was the absolute certainty in his tone about this. This wasn’t a matter of guessing a move in political chess for him. It was an established pattern, observed often enough that it has simply become an expectation.

One thought that occurs in regard to that is that if the campaign knows this with certainty, because it happens every time, so does the media. And yet every time they play along. That’s not responsible journalism. That’s consciously acting as a campaign tool. Factor that in when listening to the snooty shots the scions of "integrity" in the Big Media (*cough* Nick Coleman *cough*) take at bloggers.

The other thing that was interesting about this is how blasé he was about it. He truly didn’t care what the story was. And as I thought about it, I realized why. It’s a pattern. That means they have already accounted for the impact in their polling models. They expect the surprise. They expect it to work. They believe they know how many points its good for in the polls. And they expect Bush to win anyway.

An interesting twist on this comes to mind. The media model is different this election than in 2000. The blogosphere has already distorted the way the media normally impacts elections. Will the blogosphere play a similar wild-card effect on the coming surprise? And if so, will that be to give the surprise more impact, or less?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Minnesota, Election Battleground 2004 - The Inside Story

Around the nation, Minnesota still carries a reputation as a bastion of liberalism. It’s widely still considered the state of Humphrey, Mondale, and Wellstone.

But those of us who live here know things are changing. The Minnesota Republican Party is demonstrating new vitality, and showing tangible results – capturing the state House, the governorship, a U. S. Senate seat, the majority of U.S. Representative seats, and the majority of statewide offices – since 2000. This is a state demonstrably trending Republican.

The question this raised for me was how this would translate into the 2004 presidential election. Will the Minnesota Republican Party of 2004 be able to mount an effort to win the state for a GOP presidential candidate for the first time since 1972? If so, how will it do it?

In 2000 George W. Bush narrowly lost Minnesota to Al Gore, winning 1,109,659 votes, to Gore’s 1,168,266 (source: 2000 OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS).

I was curious about the 2004 Republican effort, and how it might compare to that of 2000.

The polls currently show the presidential race in Minnesota to be a dead heat once again. But most polls seem to be basing their predictions on historical data, Most commonly, this seems to be extrapolated from the 2000 election numbers. Yet it has been my contention that this is likely to understate Republican strength, because the Bush campaign and Minnesota state party have been more effective in organizing their grassroots effort this year than was true in 2000.

However, this was no more than a gut feeling, backed by a few anecdotes. I had insufficient experience or knowledge to confidently back this up.

In pursuit of some better answers, I set out to talk to someone with longtime experience in the Minnesota Republican Party, who had detailed knowledge of how this campaign is being conducted and how that might differ from previous campaigns.

Scott Brooks (a.k.a. Pinkmonkeybird) introduced me to a longtime Republican Party official in Hennepin County. Out of respect for his privacy, I’m withholding his name.

I hope the following is as helpful and insightful to others as it was to me.

...

I met this source along with Scottt at the Uptown Bar & Café in Minneapolis, on the evening of Thursday, October 21, 2004. After some introductions, and general conversation, we began to get into the “nuts and bolts” discussion. Our first topic concerned the 72 Hour Task Force; a national strategy of the Bush campaign in which the final three days leading up to the election are concentrated on most effectively getting your voters to the polls. My source had an interesting revelation about this 72 Hour Task Force. He contends that it is based on a strategy put together in Minnesota for the 2002 gubernatorial election, which resulted in the election of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.

I immediately followed up and asked him how it came about in Minnesota.

Source: 40 people sat down of varying degrees of experience. But, one publication said it was 40 of the most astute political minds in Hennepin County. Piece by piece we put together, over three days, eight to ten hour sessions, how to best win an election in the last three days.

This was three years ago, in preparation for the Minnesota gubernatorial election. And we got [Senator Norm] Coleman elected. We got [Governor Tim] Pawlenty elected.

Karl Rove looked at our results and reportedly said out loud “holy shit!” And they based their campaign’s 72 hour plan on what we came up with in Hennepin County. The 72 Hour Task Force. In fact, they didn’t even change the name we gave it.

It’s national now. It was 5th district before [referring to Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District – ed.].

The techniques used were techniques we were all familiar with in those planning sessions. It was a matter of putting them together in the most effective way possible.

How does this campaign compare to others?

It uses the same techniques we’ve had. I became interested in politics when I was 12. I still have my “I like Ike” button. Nothing really has changed except refining the way things are done.

For example: a simple thing like door-knocking and lit dropping. Over the years we’ve discovered that if you actually talk to the voter when you drop the lit, it increases the vote count by three per visit. Lit dropping is a lot easier. You stick it in the door. There’s a six to seven percent increase in voter turn-out if you target swing voters as opposed to party faithful alone.

Me: Target exclusively?

Source: Targeting means you don’t stop at every door; just the known swing voters and the known Republicans.

Me: As someone who participated in the campaign of 2000, as well as that of 2004, what differences do you notice, specifically regarding the GOTV effort? I’m assuming the 2002 GOTV effort you refer to was not something we had in 2000.

Source: What changed was the way we used the tools we are were familiar with.

We try to keep some of our differences within the party. There’s going to be some bleeding, because there will always be turncoats. All of our meetings are public. There are no closed door official meetings.

Me: I have observations from someone on the ground in Ohio [these Ohio questions are verbatim quotes from posts by Free Republic's Common Tator, a person who over many years has proven himself very insightful to me - ed.]. I want your reaction to how this applies to Minnesota. Is it totally different? Totally the same? I just want to get your reaction to it.

First, regarding the Republican registration effort, here’s the statement from the campaign worker in Ohio:

“Republican volunteers filled out registration forms for new voters... then have the new voter sign it. It was then turned in to the local Republican headquarters. Another volunteer staffer contacted the new voter to confirm that it is a real person and the data is correct. The completed form is then checked by a third volunteer to make sure the name and address are valid. It is then sent to the board of elections for processing. The new voter is sent a confirmation that they have been registered. We then check to make sure the notification is not returned as an undeliverable address. The person is then called to confirm their registration. During the final 72 hours they will be contacted once again to urge them to vote. They will be offered transportation to the polls and thanked for supporting President Bush.”

Source: Similar. Every state has its own laws. Each municipality has its own slant within those laws.

Basically it’s similar, except that within Minnesota, everything has been computerized.

Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican, in her terms in office has been just excellent in fine-tuning the process. Before her, Joan Growe, DFL, also was very good. Joan made no missteps except as she became more and more hardline on other issues. More party-line.

As far as recruiting registrations, this can be done by anyone. A similar process is used by an individual who wants to register themself. If the party does it – and we do it – Doug [not the same Doug – ed.] and some of his cohorts sat out there on the shores of Lake Calhoun registering voters in August. It’s the involvement that’s needed. And it doesn’t make any difference what party they are. It’s the quantity of voters that makes it the most democratic process. That, combined with the fact that it’s the Republicans who are hardest to get to the polls.

In ’99 when my wife ran for school board, she didn’t make it past the primary. Only 1 in 20 Republican voters bothered to vote, citywide. If 2 out of 20 had voted, she would have been on the general ballot. We’re talking registered voters. This is why the GOTV thing is so important.

Beyond that, we don’t do any of the verification ourselves, because like I mentioned, everything is computerized. Everything can be verified with a few clicks of the mouse. The registration card is filled out; goes to, in our case, Hennepin County. Hennepin County verifies and reports to the Secretary of State’s office, and the municipality; in this case Minneapolis. It ends up at City Hall.

Beyond that, the follow-up is done by the parties. Registered voters lists are available at all times to all parties. We know who the new registrants are. This year we know it within days. And they are contacted to make sure they actually vote. Do you need an absentee ballot? Do you need a ride?

Part of the 72 hour task force, with the three days leading up to, and election day itself, anyone who needs a ride anywhere for whatever purpose, leading up to and including election, has got it.

And more direct involvement is encouraged: to hold a campaign sign at a busy intersection,To talk to their neighbors, To get on the phone and call their friends and relatives. Make sure that they’re voting.

Some precincts, both the Democrats and Republicans will park a car at least 100 feet from the polling place, and offer coffee at 6:30 in the morning for people who are there to vote. And they’ll set a political sign there, as long as they’re far enough away from the polls, so they know who’s offering that coffee. And people from all parties will come in to take advantage. Especially when it is a chilly morning, as November mornings in Minnesota tend to be.

Me: Regarding the Democratic registration effort... We’ve heard that groups like ACORN are largely running the volunteer effort for the Democrats this year. Here’s another observation from Ohio I’d like you to respond to:

“Compare that to Democrats hiring people at 10 bucks per registrant to register voters. A huge percentage of those registered are invalid. Just names and addresses turned in to get the 10 bucks each. Lots of them will not vote, many are fake names and addresses and many who do try to vote from fake names and/or addresses will be challenged and not allowed to vote.”

Source: There’s generally a set pattern nationally. And locally it follows a similar pattern.

Yes, a lot of the [Democratic] volunteers are paid. They expect this because this has become a tradition for them. This goes back to the days when they owned Washington, and owned our cities. This is becoming less and less the case, as people are waking up and becoming more politically astute.

Scott: Paid? Volunteers getting paid? [Scott has been putting in a whole lot of unpaid hours on the Republican side this year. He couldn’t let that one pass unremarked. – ed.]

Source: It’s becoming less pronounced.

There are two things that they do that we [Republicans] do not do. One is… I call it “inciting the mob.” They will find the hot button issues to inflame the emotions. To make it a militant mob… often times violent.

Scott: The draft is a good example, right?

Source: Good example, yeah. It’s a flat-out lie. And it incites the mob. And the mob no longer thinks rationally. That’s what they want. It’s a political technique. I may find it abhorrent personally. But it’s effective. We don’t do it. We have always respected the intelligence of the people who vote. And as a result we have come in second in that regard. Both in quantity of volunteers, but also in voter turnout. Because we don’t incite in that way. We incite on the issues, in that we put a spin of some kind on the truth. But it’s still the truth. We don’t pull things out of the air.

The other main difference is that the local campaign effort is governed from the very top. And the top is not the DNC. The top is a smoke-filled room. Therefore, now that the voters in general are more astute, they can see the Democratic Party constantly walking into walls. Because that smoke-filled room is so far removed that it has lost touch with the 21st century realities of human existence. It’s based on things that were true for Roosevelt, Carter, and Johnson.

Me: Here’s another Ohio observation to respond to:

“It takes 50 calls to register one person. We felt we were not doing well. When we asked Bush staffers what we were doing wrong... they said, ‘You are doing great. We hope for one out of 50 calls. That is the goal.. Most don't reach it. You guys are... congratulations.’ Some of those hired to register Democrats are registering up to 100 people a day. They would have to make 5,000 calls to register 100 people in a day. UHH HUHHH Right!!!”

Are we seeing that kind of thing in Minnesota as well?

Source: Yes. That figure holds fairly true nationally. Last weekend we covered almost 9,000 calls. All volunteer. None of them paid. That’s the way it’s done.

It’s one of the less glamorous aspects of the campaign. That’s true.

Success ratio is a little better for GOTV. Much better actually. Because you’re calling people, reminding them. Now remember, you promised to vote. You’re registered now. Did you get your absentee ballot in the mail after you applied for it? Did your registration go through? Did you get your card? Well it’s too late for postcards to be mailed out now.

Yeah, the telephone calls basically go on year around. When there isn’t an election imminent, the calls are basically for fund-raising; for special events; for community awareness.

Me: On getting New Voters to the Polls, again an observation from Ohio

“The question we are asking is how can the Democrats get fake people to the polls? The fact is they can't. And the fake voters would have to be able to match the fake original signatures. They can't.”

Are we more confident in our registrations compared to the DFL in Minnesota?

Source: It’s a real problem. I was election judge for a number of years. And I became a chair judge, responsible for the whole precinct. Then they sent me to various other precincts, other than my own. Because as peoples’ awareness grew of my involvement and my effectiveness, they started putting me where I’d do the least damage.

Minneapolis elections, for the last 30 years, have been controlled by the Democrats. And they stack the judges. They give them special training on how to manipulate. They go to the nursing homes, convalescent homes, halfway houses. The people are not mobile. If they’re conscious, they can make an X. If they get them to sign a ballot, they fill it out however they want to.

They will go to a halfway house, or housing for special needs people. And will pile them into a van. And if it’s a chemical dependency orientation of the people, they’ll offer them cigarettes if they’ll vote for certain names. In the case of mental and emotional challenges, they’ll offer them whatever flies. They’ll stop at Burger King or McDonald’s on the way home if they remember certain names to vote for.

It’s terribly difficult to screen when out of 7 judges, you’re the only Republican. State law requires no party to have a majority.

Me: Isn’t the GOP suing to enforce that law this election?

Source: Guess where they found out about it? Minnesota. Minneapolis. We started screaming 6 years ago.

Scott: Is the law that it has to be 50/50, with a differential of 1 elector?

Source: One judge minimum. It can be 40/40 with 20 percent being independent. And so on. But no one part can have a majority of judges.

Me: Another Ohio observation:

“Poll watchers will be armed with lists of voters to be challenged. When a suspicious voter (one on the list) shows up they are to be challenged. As you know the presiding judge in each precinct will be a republican [Ohio law requires the presiding judge to match the party of the governor -ed.]. The presiding judge will then rule if the person can vote or not. If the judgment is against us then the local attorney representing the campaign will be called and a volunteer lawyer will be dispatched to handle the situation.”

Do we have anything like that in Minnesota?

Source: No, and I’ll tell you why. The first time we used poll watchers… we call them poll challengers…. was in 2002. 18 lawsuits were initiated. Every one of them was dismissed, because by state law it all had to go through the State Attorney General… Mike Hatch, DFL [Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, which is Minnesota's Democratic Party affiliate - ed.]. He dismissed every case.

Washington has been watching what has happened in Minnesota. We haven’t gone for the Republican candidate for president since 1972. In 2000 we came within 2 points. In 2002 we elected a Republican governor and Republican Senator. 57,000 votes were the difference in 2000.

How do we avoid the pitfalls? We can’t go around the DFL Attorney General. What we can do is get people on this thing that are not local, but national.

As a result 2 things are taking place.

Number 1, the Republican National Committee has hired 600 lawyers nationally, working for the Republican National Committee to file suits wherever there is an infraction. The RNC has also filed suits in Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida – I think those four – in anticipation. Be on your toes people. We’re all over this shit. Here are the lawsuits already in the works.

In Minnesota they went after Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and Ohlmstead County, for that very thing.

In Minneapolis, as chair election judges, we were trained to compensate for the lack of balance by saying to the judges, before the polls opened, “today you’re a Republican, you’re a Republican, and you’re a Republican. So we’ll be balanced.”

And the mantra has always been, because we just don’t have enough Republicans who want to be election judges. I told Mary [Kiffmeyer, the Republican Secretary of State in Minnesota – ed.] that right after she was elected [in 2002 – ed.]. In a matter of months, she’d come up with 800 new Republican judges. And the push has been nonstop since then. So there is an adequate supply.

Hennepin County and Ramsey County are the ones that we had documentation on. In Ohlmstead County, which is basically Republican, the problem switched around and it was the DFL that filed the suit there. Ok, you’re going to come after us? We’re going to come after you. Ok, fine. Let’s have it fair across the board.

Scott: Is there more cheating going on in the heart of the Democratic territory? I’m going to be judging at [a heavy DFL place] on Election Day. Am I going to have my hands full?

Source: No you aren’t, because that’s my precinct. I judged there for many years, and I was the chair judge there for two years. I know everybody in there.

Scott: So you’re judging with me that day?

Source: They haven’t asked me to be a judge for three years.

Scott: What should I pay attention to when I’m there?

Source: Registration! Registration!

We do have vans pull up with retarded, blind, deaf. The chair judge is excellent, but she’s very old. She’s a dear friend.

The vans that pull up, you’ll see it inside. They’ll file in and they’ll need help. There has to be a Republican and Democrat helping them if they need assistance. The blind will need names read to them. And it needs to be done with a lack of inflection in the voice, in the order they appear on the ballot. You can’t put all the DFL first. You can’t encourage them with voice inflection. This is something to watch for. Because without our presence, the DFL will do it.

Scott: What other than my presence alone will pre-empt cheating?

Source: You should have a poll challenger there too. The challenger cannot interplay or question an election judge. But they can challenge the voter. Especially in registration. Do you have a driver’s license? Oh, you left it at home. So do you have a current utility bill from your current address? Do you have someone to vouch for you? Someone will step forward who vouched for three people already. No, no. You vouch for one person, and you’re done for the day. That’s it.

But he talks only to the voters. Only to the citizens. He cannot question an election judge. He cannot question the chair judge. He cannot even bring anything to the chair judge’s attention. What you do is call a lawyer.

Me: And we have them for every precinct? Or just the ones we’re concerned about?

Source: There will probably be 2 or 3 phone numbers. They’ll be on relay. And somebody will grab it. As an election judge you can’t do that, but the poll challenger can. They are certified by the party or by the campaign, either one. Or by any organization for that matter. There can be any number of challengers. But they must be certified.

Me: Will there be poll challengers in every precinct?

Source: That’s what we’re shooting for. I think we’ve got it covered. We did in 2002. We had every precinct covered.

Scott: How are the challengers trained?

Source: This year by the RNC. One of my people came up with 3 documents. One of them is a manual, a short manual. And a couple of specific blurb sheets. And they should all have copies of the election judge manual. Even the election judges don’t get these. They come out of Mary’s office. At least that’s been my recommendation to [campaign official].

Beyond that, we learned in 2002 how effective this is.

Me: What observation did you make in 2002? What did you learn?

Source: That we made the DFL judges and chair judges, and their Minneapolis election HQ… we gave them ulcers. And you don’t get that upset if your conscience is clean.

Me: Comparing polling in 2000, 2002, and 2004, here is an observation from Hugh Hewitt I’d like you to respond to:

“… the turnout models drive the polls, and these models are guesses built upon voting data from before 9/11 which may be further corrupted by the resistance of subgroups to accurate sampling. … In three Senate races in 2002 --in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado, all states figuring heavily in this year's presidential contest-- pollsters, including Zogby, underestimated the Republican vote by 9, 8, and 8 points respectively”

Source: We pay attention to the external polling, in that that will often times drive voters. However we use it directly converse to popular opinion. The worse our candidate appears to be doing, the better it is for our volunteers to motivate them. Now see we’re down 2 points, we’ve got to work harder. Get some friends to help you.

Me: There must be some tipping point though where they get dispirited and don’t want to help anymore.

Source: No, because by that time it has become a matter of pride, of personal opinion, and putting their principles and values where their time is.

Volunteers are going to be very faithful if they’re sincere to begin with. You’ll always have a few volunteers who are anxious to ride a winning wagon. And as in sports this is very transitory. But the core of your volunteers are going to be with you to the end; be it bitter or celebratory.

Internal polls are what count with us. There is secrecy on those because we spend a lot of time with rallies and positive themes to the volunteers and to the voting public. You see how often Republicans from Washington… Bush, Cheney, Laura…. are here. They practically live here. I’ve reached the point I don’t even bother going to these any more.

It takes on a sameness where every campaign has the same elements.

Scott: Every campaign has the same elements? Do you really want to say that?

Source: Yep. Because aside from the personality of the person who’s running, the process is identical.

Now a lot of it depends on your personal relationship with that campaign and that candidate.

For example in 2002. Tim is a long time personal friend. He has spent more time in the party room than most of our executive committee. So I went to almost everything he had going during that campaign. Simply because I wanted Tim to know that I was at his side as often as I could be. Whenever he needed me, for whatever reason. That’s what friends are for. Personal ones.

Brian Sullivan [lost the Republican nomination for Minnesota governor to Pawlenty - ed.] and I are friends too. And it was kind of hard that year. But I told Brian early on, in March, I told him in the party room one on one, if Tim decides to run I’m going to be supporting him. That’s not going to change my friendship and respect for you, or best wishes for your campaign. But if Tim runs he’s got me. And I had to explain why.

The floor of the convention, come 2:30 in the morning. 12th ballot. Tim comes walking by our delegation. I grab him by the shoulders and said, Tim take a deep breath. Get a drink of water. We’re going to win this for you. Be confident. We’re going to do this for you. He looked at me, gave me a big hug, and said thank you I needed that. He no sooner got out into the hall to get that drink then the convention voted not to do a 13th ballot. Brian conceded.

Me: Are there differences in how the campaign is focusing on turning out the base, versus targeting swing voters? Is there a change?

Source: No. Basically they’re treated the same. When it comes to crunch time, the door knocking will be geared primarily to swing.

A list of targeted precincts was submitted, and this coincides perfectly with my list. We have in Minnesota something that’s the envy of the country in the Republican Party, called Mastermind. It’s a database that is [very] extensive. Everything from snowmobile ownership, to pro-life or pro-choice, fishing habits, if you own a hunting rifle… unbelievable…. date of birth, last time you changed your registration address, how much your house cost. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And using that list, the targeted precincts the last 72 hours are based on the number of swing voters per precinct.

Me: Why are you so confident that swing voters will vote for Bush?

Source: We don’t know.

When I say swing voters, I don’t mean just any swing voters. It’s those we categorize in Mastermind as 2’s or 3’s. The 3’s are people who say I vote for the person. I vote for the issues. Party makes no difference. The 2’s are people who say I usually vote for Republicans. But it depends on the people involved. Those who say that I usually vote Democrat, but I’d vote for a Republican are at a lower level of importance than our regular voters. And these we call “strong GOP.” [Local Bush campaign official] says “hard GOP.” Same thing.

Me: Did Congressional redistricting affect campaign strategy?

Source: It realigned the concentration of Bush voters for one thing.

There has been gerrymandering. It doesn’t affect the presidential election. But it will certainly affect the House races. They’re the ones that did the gerrymandering.

Me: Does having a Republican governor in office affect the campaign?

Source Yes. In two ways.

Number one, it helps enthuse the Republican base. We’ve got [Minnesota Governor] Tim [Pawlenty] and [U. S. Senator] Norm [Coleman] in office. We did it before, we can do it again.

Secondly, Tim governs from a moderate position. Extraordinarily fair and genuine as a person. He’s the same in person at a bowling alley as what you see on television. At the same time, he stands behind Republican positions. All his commissioners are Republicans. So that he has a subtle yet personable control over everything in the state. Aside from himself, he’s backed by Mary [Kiffmeyer – the Republican Minnesota Secretary of State – ed.], by Patty Anderson [Republican Minnesota State Auditor – ed.].

And then there’s Mike Hatch, who wants Tim’s job. And it makes for a beautiful interplay, because Hatch can’t attack Tim too overtly or he blows the comparison when he runs against him. Or he’s the mean guy. He’s the sorehead.

Me: Personal feelings on Bush’s chances in Minnesota this election? Acceptable to say you’re optimistic?

Source: Yeah!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The GOP Insider Interview - Update

For those of you who have been following, I interviewed a Republican Party insider - meaning someone who has held official positions within the Republican Party for a long time - this past Thursday night. The intent was to try to get to some of the nuts and bolts about how the Bush campaign is operating in this state, and to identify anything which may be different in Republican strategy or operations in Minnesota for this presidential election compared to that in 2000.

Tonight I completed transcribing the recording of that interview. But since Mitch got me all skittish about including the umm's and ah's, plus the fact that some of the info was off-the- record, I need to do some cleaning up before it's suitable for posting. It should be coming sometime tomorrow. Here's a teaser a of the sort of thing to expect in the interview:

Me: Here is an observation from a Republican campaign worker in southern Ohio about how poll watching is going to be handled in his area:

“Poll watchers will be armed with lists of voters to be challenged. When a suspicious voter (one on the list) shows up they are to be challenged. As you know the presiding judge in each precinct will be a republican [Ohio law requires the presiding judge to match the party of the governor -ed.]. The presiding judge will then rule if the person can vote or not. If the judgment is against us then the local attorney representing the campaign will be called and a volunteer lawyer will be dispatched to handle the situation.”

Do we have anything like that in Minnesota?

Source: No, and I’ll tell you why.

The first time we used poll watchers… we call them poll challengers… was in 2002. 18 lawsuits were initiated. Every one of them was dismissed, because by state law it all had to go through the State Attorney General - Mike Hatch, DFL [Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, which is Minnesota's Democratic Party affiliate - ed.]. He dismissed every case.

Washington has been watching what has happened in Minnesota. We haven’t gone for the Republican candidate for president since 1972. In 2000 we came within 2 points. In 2002 we elected a Republican governor and Republican Senator. 57,000 votes were the difference in 2000.

How do we avoid the pitfalls? We can’t go around the DFL Attorney General. What we can do is get people on this thing that are not local, but national.

As a result 2 things are taking place...

If that sounds intriguing, pop back in sometime on Sunday and the full thing should be posted. If that sounds very dull, go watch that very funny and oddly disturbing egg thing Lileks pointed out. Somehow that one always makes me feel happy. And hungry.

Chumley's Brilliant Solution

Chumley Wonderbar, from Plastic Hallway (one of the best alter-ego names in the blogosphere incidentally. I picked "Doug." Much inferior. My real name is Leonardo Di Caprio incidentally. No not THAT one. It's like Michael Bolton from Office Space. Anyway... back to Chumley...), has a new restaurant review up. Why he inflicted Benchwarmer Bob's upon himself seems like a move born of desperation more than intent. We sympathize. But out of such suffering, great things sometimes result. Such as this observation from Chumley:

"There should be a rule at restaurants that customers with small children get their food made first. Seriously. For us time passes at a snail's pace because there's only so much you can do to keep a two-year-old entertained with four crayons and a 8x11 piece of paper. Eventually he's going to discover that he's trapped at the table and fidget like it was going out of style. Trust me when I say that everyone at the tables around us would have gladly waited an extra two minutes so we could be served first. They'd thank you for it."

There are those out there who don't have children, or who have fogotten what it's like when they're really young - our memories frequently repress trauma - who will read the above statement and think it sounds selfish. They're wrong.

Let me spell it out for you. Kids below the age of... oh, I dunno, 25 or something... are not well behaved in restaurants. I suspect this is the secret motive behind Peter Singer justifying killing them. One bad night out at the Olive Garden and a murderous child-killing philosophy suddenly seems plausible.

Those of us who prefer not to turn evil need to come up with an alternative solution. And Chumley's is a good one. It's not like parents get out of this cheaply or easily. We're at ground-zero of the problem every time. If you're at the neighboring booth and slightly annoyed, try to remember, we're the equivalent of "instantly killed" from the kiddie-blast to your "25% casualty" zone.

And when we take our kids out to dinner (those of us who aren't cretins anyway) are doing our d*mnest to try to keep the young'uns from acting up for all of your sake. This is frequently an all-consuming struggle, making the evening out more exhausting than relaxing. The kids have way more energy. So despite our parental wisdom and experience, the kids will sometimes win that struggle. And that's where the rest of you get annoyed.

So take Chumley's observation seriously. Recommend it to your local restaurant of choice. Get us in and (more importantly from your perspective) out of the restaurant as quickly as possible. You'll be happier. And you won't even have to turn evil to get there.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Heroes Can Cost You Money

Second plug of the day for N. Z. Bear’s “Heroes for Bush” blogburst. But for a very different reason. This one is a warning.

Reading the entry: The Tick, from What is Flig, I remembered how d*mned funny the Tick series was. I'm talking about the animated one. Don't get me started on the missed opportunity that was the live-action series.

For those who don't know, it was an over-the-top spoof on the Superhero genre. Sort of like the Adam West Batman series, but with Simpson-like levels of humor and social commentary interlaced. But the core was constant parody of popular heroes, villains, and themes from the comics.

If you were never a geek, most of it probably comes across as just strange. But I've kept up on my "geek" card membership, earned in spades during junior-high and high school by, among other things, collecting comic books. So I get pretty much every comic-book inside joke offered in the Tick. It's a genre that one can't help but look back on and find silly. And with the Tick, that makes it seem even more worthwhile.

So, anyway... I wandered out to eBay tonight and entered into a competitive bid to win the complete set of the Tick episodes on DVD. Cost a bit more than I had originally planned. But someone should warn people that their spoofing of Republicans as heartless money-bags has a kernel of truth. I crushed the competition with my deep pockets.

And this was in pursuit of the hero from my third place choice from the blogburst. I haven't even started checking eBay for John Wayne DVD's! So fair warning before you click those links!