Archive for July, 2008

Over Thinking Things

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I’m not going to waste time linking to all the in depth analysis of the “Celeb” ad, but let me just say to all the people who are trying to figure out why exactly Paris and Britney were the celebs picked and not, say, Beyonce and Johnny Depp, you’re really overthinking this. It’s not because Depp and Beyonce have “substance” while Britney and Paris are vapid, and probably not even a “slutty white women” thing. It’s quite simply, because Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are really unpopular. People don’t like them, and they’re routinely mocked by just about everyone. So that pretty much sums it up.

Using Polls

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Matt doesn’t like polling:

I think the reason is that referring to polling data, even bad data, is a good CYA mechanism when you need to make difficult decisions. A consultant who says “we don’t have any valid data on this question, but I think you should do X” is going to get blamed if X doesn’t turn out right. But if he can point to some data, and say that he’s not making the recommendation, he’s just pointing to the numbers then if things go south it isn’t really his fault.

This is a pretty common organizational flaw. The natural tendency is to try to maximize whatever it is that you have a good measurement of, even if the measured quantity is only questionably related to what you’re trying to do. Politicians know how to get an issue poll in the field, and there aren’t great metrics for getting the information you would really want. So campaigns often go to war with the data they have, even while knowing that the data’s no good.

He’s remarking on the thesis behind The Opinion Makers, to wit, that our polling data isn’t very good because pollsters don’t differentiate between rock solid opinion and people who don’t pay much attention and/or particularly care about the topic. The problem here, at least with Matt’s analysis, is that it confuses the polls you see at RCP or on CNN with the polls that campaigns use. Why exactly do you think campaigns commit gobs of resources to doing their own polling? It’s precisely because they don’t necessarily trust the media driven data, and because they want to control for as many variable as they can in the data. So, for what it’s worth, the real lesson here is to take media polling with a grain of salt, unless you can digest the totality of the data yourself.

Textbook Bad Parenting

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

There’s something almost disconcerting about the ratio to young celebrities and really, really bad parents, and Michelle Wie’s have always struck me as being among the worst. Maybe not in Dina Lohan territory, but still pretty bad. Here’s the latest on Wie, for anyone paying attention:

Michelle Wie skipped a major to play on the PGA Tour this week. Annika Sorenstam, Helen Alfredsson and Paula Creamer wonder why.

After all, Wie has yet to win on the women’s tour and has never made the cut on the PGA Tour.

Wie, who is managed by her parents, was listed in qualifying for the Women’s British Open at Sunningdale. But she pulled out and instead has a sponsor’s exemption for the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open at Reno, Nev. It is her eighth PGA Tour event.

The gist of this here is that Michelle Wie has been made into a sideshow attraction by her sponsors and handlers, namely her parents. The girl is a good golfer to be sure, but she’s not great, yet, by any stretch. She has yet to win a women’s event, and has never even made the cut for a PGA event. An in any event, the Lake Tahoe event is a second tier tournament, to give it credit. With the top 50 playing in the World Championships, the highest rated player is #87.

In other words, Wie is cherry picking a weak field hoping to make the cut for press, instead of playing in the Women’s British Open. Her sponsors, and parents, want headlines, not acheivement or respect, and they’ve got no problem dragging Wie through the mud to get it. Which is a shame.

A “Mockery”

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

John Weaver eviscerates the McCain campaign:

With the release today of a McCain television ad blasting Obama for celebrity preening while gas prices rise, and a memo that accuses Obama of putting his own aggrandizement before the country, Weaver said he’s had “enough.”

The ad’s premise, he said, is “childish.”

“John’s been a celebrity ever since he was shot down,” Weaver said. “Whatever that means.  And I recall Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush going overseas and all those waving American flags.”

Weaver remains in contact with senior McCain strategists and, for a while early this year, regularly talked to McCain.

The strategy of driving up Obama’s negatives “reduces McCain on the stage,” Weaver said.

“For McCain to win in such troubled times, he needs to begin telling the American people how he intends to lead us. That McCain exists. He can inspire the country to greatness.”

He added: “There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn’t at Obama’s. For McCain’s sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop.”

The interesting thing, I think, is how this seems to have started more and more since Charlie Black’s role in the campaign was reduced, and the campaign was handed over to Rove protege Steve Schmidt. At the heart of it, I think, is an underlying belief that McCain can’t win no matter what he does, so the right-wing Rove types around him aren’t feeling particularly restrained by decorum or seriousness, and so they’re lashing out with these silly attacks. Add in to that McCain’s well know disdain for people who dare to question the greatness that is John McCain (seriously, where the hell has Jon Chait been?), and you’ve got a recipe for juvenile attacks and snarky videos that don’t look appropriate for a student government campaign.

OH-15 Congressional District

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

For anyone looking for good down ballot races to keep an eye on, I don’t think you could find any with more promise than the Ohio 15th. The Democrats are running Mary Jo Kilroy, a Franklin County Commissioner who nearly defeated retiring Congresswoman Deborah Pryce in 2006, and the Republicans nominated State Sen. Steve Stivers, who has a pretty good biography highighted by taking leave from the legislature to go to Iraq as a Colonel in the National Guard. The two are veritable blue chippers in each party’s stables, and Stivers is the early favorite to be nominated for the Governor’s race in 2014, if Ted Strickland is re-elected in 2010.

And, via CQ politics, both of them crack the list of best funded candidates seeking an open seat. That sort of expensive race bodes well for Democrats in the 2nd and 16th districts. Possibly the 1st as well.

Teixeira Traded

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

So we got our big deadline deal, as the Braves send first baseman Mark Teixeira back to the American League West, getting first baseman Casey Kotchman in return from the Angels.

This is a big deal, for 2 reasons. First of all, the Angels, already the best team in baseball at the moment, are adding a switch hitter hitting .283 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI’s this season, and who has won 2 Gold Gloves in his career, to hit in front of Vladmir Guerrero. Secondly, this is a fundamental change in attitude from the Angels, who have in the past been reluctant to go after big deadline deals, especially for “rental players,” guys whose contracts are expiring at the end of the season, like Teixeira in order to make a short term push.

In any event, this may make Anaheim the league’s best team on paper, to go along with their record. There’s very few things they don’t do well, and Teixeira is an upgrade on all fronts at first base. There’s also no reason to think that Anaheim wouldn’t be able to resign the 28 year old to a long term deal after the season, especially if they have a good postseason. I’d also venture that this makes a Manny Ramirez trade extremely unlikely.

Bad Defense

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Here’s how Jamie Kirchick explains away getting caught making shit up:

I ought to have been more precise with the first policy prescription, “Israeli negotiations with Iran.” To my knowledge, J Street, as an organization, has not advocated such negotiations, though it does support high-level American-Iranian negotiations without preconditions and falsely claims that a non-binding House resolution strengthening sanctions on Iran is actually a declaration of war. J Street’s fervent support of Israeli negotiations with Hamas — an Iranian proxy group — is a distinction without much difference.

But the larger question here — the thing that seems to vex Yglesias and Alterman — is one of ideological association. Saying that I’m imputing views to him which he doesn’t hold, Alterman says I am “simply making that up.” But if Alterman and Yglesias now wish to disown large parts of J Street’s agenda (i.e., its support for the Arab Peace Initiative) then perhaps they should exercise more discretion in the groups they join and vocally support.

Did you catch that? Yglesias and Alterman are associated with J Street, who wants Israel to talk to Iran. Except they don’t, as Kirchick admits. But they do want the US to talk to Iran, and Israel to talk to Hamas. So I suppose if we pretend that the US is Israel and Hamas is Iran, then J Street wants Israel to talk to Iran. See? It doesn’t get much better from there on out. To sum it up, Jamie argues that since Matt, Ezra, and Alterman were on J Street’s advisory board, we can assume they agree with all of J Street’s positions. Even putting aside the logical fallacy that’s apparent to any half sentient human being for a second, there’s still the problem that J Street doesn’t actually advocate for Israeli-Iranian negotiations or the Palestinian right of return.

Jamie, just admit you got caught.

Anti-Semites & Extremists

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The escalating fight between Joe Klein and Commentary is funny, if for no other reason than it’s always nice to see someone, especially someone of Klein’s stature, stand up to the thugs that make up a small, but loud, element of the neoconservative moment. And whether it’s coincidence or not, the overwhelmning portion of that small contigent is Jewish. I suspect that that’s by design, since they can, or they think they can, pummel their critics with cries of anti-semitism.

Take, for example, John Podhoretz’s painfully predictable response to Klein yesterday:

He says he’s not anti-Semitic but rather, anti-neoconservative. To say it is a badge of honor to stand in opposition to a person as manifestly intellectually unstable as Joe Klein has become is to understate the case. As for his use of classic anti-Semitic canards, I am happy to report that the Jewish people will long survive Joe Klein.

The question is, will Time Magazine?

So in response to Klein’s obvious point that he’s not an anti-semite, Podhortez can merely manage an idea that he relies on “anti-semitic canards,” which is to say he can merely call him an anti-semite in a round about way to avoid looking really silly and intellectually infantile. And since these people don’t threaten their critics, he caps it off with a thinly veiled threat against Time magazine.

I should say that my disdain for the likes of the people at Commentary comes mostly from the way in which they smeared Mearsheimer and Walt as anti-Semites after they wrote The Israel Lobby, doing such an effective job that even Klein feels compelled to assure Jeffrey Goldberg that, “I am not a Walt-Mearsheimer guy.”

My personal take on this is that, unseemly as it may be, the tactic is necessary for them to deflect criticism, lest people listen to the critics. While it’s obviously perfectly legitimate to advocate action with the best interests of Israel at heart, if it was more widely perceived that you had the best interests of Israel at heart, fewer Americans would be inclined to listen to you. And so when someone dares to point out that you routinely advocate that the United States look ot for Israel’s interest, they must be smeared viciously, lest anyone else consider mulling that idea over.

In any event, it doesn’t look like Klein has any intention of backing down, and it doesn’t really look like Commentary is winning many defenders outside of the neocon sphere. As Ezra puts it:

In recent years, AIPAC — and many other organizations and actors who use the term “ant-semite” as a tool of intimidation and not a descriptor of hatred — proved it. They attacked voices who weren’t inclined to back down. They assailed Walt and Mearsheimer only to find that the smear campaign had done nothing but act as publicity for the W&M thesis, and spurred other writers to make almost identical arguments. Now they’re trying it on Joe Klein, and are finding that the wages of that campaign are a lot of criticism from an incredibly public and well-known writer and pundit. Their problem is that they bought into their own reputation, they believed too fully that they could fire offending writers and thinkers, that they could shut down all dissent and criticism. And so, in the end, the impression of their past success — which they leveraged so elegantly in recent years — is the exact force that’s dissolving the boundaries they’ve placed on the conversation.

Hopefully he’s right.

What the…

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Amy Holmes contributes to The Corner? I had no idea!

And here I thought they were pretty much the bottom of the barrel. I guess Commentary was giving them a good run for their money.

And I don’t really think Amy Holmes, who has basically made herself a media personality, or a CNN personality anyway, by milking the novelty of being a black Republican for everything she can get from it, should chide anyone for “playing the race card.”

Stevens Update

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Earlier I wondered what effect Stevens dropping out would have on the Republican field. As it turns out, they haven’t had their primary in Alaska yet, so the answer is, in short, none.

Real World Me

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I’ve got a report on HuffPo about an obscure Ohio voting practice that has caused some local stir there.

Read it here.

Mark Penn is an Idiot

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Active grannies?

Seriously though, you’d think the fact that he was widely credited as the chief reason for Clinton’s implosion, to say nothing of not knowing the delegate rules of the election, might mean that an organization like Politico wouldn’t publish these kinds of things from Penn. Wouldn’t you?

Tim Kaine

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

So the hot topic at the moment is Tim Kaine’s VP prospects. Kathy and Dylan Matthews hate him, but (all due), they increasingly seem to hate everyone with a realistic chance at the moment (Sebelius excluded). I’m sort of cool to him myself, but for pretty different reasons.

I should say that I don’t much care for some of the anti-gay rhetoric he has employed at times, but keep in mind that he’s still from Virginia, the state that George Allen represented in the Senate until he was defeated by a really narrow margin. The same goes for his stances on abortion. So, in any event, it’s worth keeping in mind that when taken to the national level, those things could change quickly. I’m also not really concerned about these “experience” arguments either. Virginia doesn’t allow Governors to run for re-election, and Kaine will have completed 3 years heading the state in January. He was also the Lieutainant Governor of Virginia for 4 years, meaning that he has as long of a tenure in public office (and this is not counting his time in Richmond city government), as Hillary Clinton.

I am however skeptical of his value on the ticket. Kaine won a narrow victory in 2005 on the tails of a very popular Democratic Governor in Mark Warner, and at the turning point of the Republican brand as it were. But even then, the race was very tight, and arguably turned on backlash from his Republican opponent’s late attack ad. Subsequently, Kaine holds a 56% approval rating at last count, but his approval is highest in areas Obama would have to expect to do well in anyway to put Virginia into play, and is below 50% in the Shenendoah Valley. So I’m not sure that I really see much benefit locally to adding Kaine to the ticket.

It’s worth noting though that the shortlist seems to have coalesced around Kaine, Sebelius, Evan Bayh, and Joe Biden, to much hating. I’ll have more on that, the hating, later.

Stevens Indicted

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I see that Sen. Ted Stevens was formally indicted today:

Veteran Republican U.S. Sen.

Ted Stevens was charged on Tuesday with concealing more than $250,000 of gifts, including renovation of his house, from an Alaska oil services company, the Justice Department said.

Obviously this is good news for Senate Democrats, and Democrats in general if it gets major press. On the other hand, Isaac Chotiner has an alternative theory:

A friend points out astutely: On the contrary, this is potentially very good news for the Alaska GOP.  If there’s any way for them to get Stevens to step down so that some generic Republican can run for the seat, that’s their best chance of holding onto it.  Same with Don Young in the House race.  Republicans only lose in Alaska if they’re significantly more toxic than a generic party functionary.

There could be some vaildity to that, although off hand I’m not sure what the status of replacing Stevens would look like, or whether Stevens would even consider stepping down.

I Never Would Have Guessed Part II

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Jamie Kirchick gets caught lying, again.