Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"Blog" is No. 1 word of the year

"Blog" tops Merriam-Webster's list of the top 10 words of the year. Blog is defined as follows: "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks."

Upon reflection, I have no comment, so I will simply provide hyperlinks to the news story and to the entire list.

Monday, November 29, 2004

VIkings' predictions: not a bad start

My prediction was Vikes 31, Jags 21. The actual result was 27-16. I would argue that is pretty damn close in terms of possible differentials. Anyway, at least I didn't embarrass myself with my first prediction.

Right now, I am 1-0.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Democracy is Hard (Authoritarianism is Easy)

The Ukraine is now trying to find its way through a crisis in its infant democracy. Iraq is now trying to find its way to the starting line for democracy. I, for one, am an optimist about these stories because both of these headlines were simply unimaginable 15 years ago.

Democracy is hard, but it must be supported at every available opportunity. I offer this opinion based on both idealism (democracy is morally right) and pragmatism (the alternative forms of government threaten regional and world peace everywhere). Relations with Russia (i.e., Putin) cannot be allowed to cause the U.S. to pull its punches with respect to the dramatic events in the Ukraine.

The process of world democratization has been gradual. Where it has taken root (or there is a reasonable prospect that it will take root) we cannot condone any retreat.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Vikings vs. Jags: Prediction

I may miss a few games here and there, but on a regular basis I am going to start memorializing my predictions on Vikings games so that I can offer an occasional "I told you so." I will probably also offer a brief post after each game in which I will either congratulate myself for my brilliant foresight or make excuses for my erroneous forecast.

Anyway, here I go.

After an embarrassing, decisive loss to the New York Giants several weeks ago, the Vikings followed up with heart-breaking last minute losses to Indianapolis and Green Bay in games in which my team did not play its best. Then, last week, the Vikings looked atrocious in the first half against Detroit. But Daunte tookover in the second half in what I think could be a very important game in his development as a superstar quarterback.

With Moss back this week, I look for Daunte to light it up. The big question is whether the defense can continue to improve, or whether it will regress, as it seems to do every year late in the season.

Prediction: Vikings 31, Jacksonville 21.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving Thoughts

On this day before Thanksgiving, I want to express my unconditional gratitude to the military men and women serving this country. Afghanistan, Iraq, and everywhere else.

This is not intended as a "you either support the troops or you don't" thread. Everyone supports the troops, and we each attempt to do so in our own imperfect ways.

I offer this as a "Thanksgiving Thoughts" open thread.

(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein is a 20ish liberal blogger who is smart and is a talented writer. I enjoy reading his blog. But he has been losing his grip somewhat since the election.

Preface: I voted Bush based on national security issues, not based on "moral values," and in many ways the Democrats are the party of my moral values. But Klein has been reduced to insults of non-affluent Republican voters and claims that their "problem" is low self-esteem.

Insulting people is usually an ineffective persuasion technique.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Vikings win (finally)

Finally, I get to read the sports page again on the day after a Vikings game. (I won't subject myself to the punishment after a loss.) The Vikings ended a three game losing streak today, beating Detroit 22-19. Culpepper is definitely maturing into a big-time, clutch quarterback.

Two weeks ago, when the Vikings took the lead on Indianapolis with 2:54 left on the clock in 4th quarter, I was almost certain that Manning would lead the Colts to the winning score. Last week, when the Vikings took the lead on Green Bay with 1:20 left on the clock in 4th quarter, I was almost certain that Favre would lead the Packers to the winning score. Today, when the Vikings took the lead with 1:49 left, I was almost certain that Harrington would NOT lead the Lions to the winning score. I was right every time.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

House Republicans Snub Bush

Coming less than three weeks after Bush's reelection, I find this particularly remarkable.
House Republican leaders blocked and appeared to kill a bill Saturday that would have enacted the major recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, refusing to allow a vote on the legislation despite last-minute pleas from both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to Republican lawmakers for a compromise before Congress adjourned for the year.
(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Kerry in 2008

It appears to me that Kerry has all but declared himself a candidate for president in 2008. Within a week of the election, he sent his brother out to raise the possibility. Just two days ago Kerry himself said "I’m not shutting any doors” and “If there’s a next time, we’ll do a better job".

Now this. One of the major attacks on Kerry during the campaign was that, in 20 years, he did not put his personal stamp on the Senate or any legislation. It appears that he may look to address that issue immediately. Here is an excerpt from a leaked draft of a statement from Kerry.

And we must fight not only against George Bush's extreme policies -- we must also uphold our own values. This is why on the first day Congress is in session next year, I will introduce a bill to provide every child in America with health insurance. And, with your help, that legislation will be accompanied by the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Personally, I like all of this. Kerry is not pouting. He is picking himself up, dusting himself off, and saying "I'm back in the game."

(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)

Ted Rall

For a long time, I have wondered why any major newspaper publishes Ted Rall's cartoons. WashingtonPost.com has finally accepted the fact the Rall is a nutcase. Here was the last straw.
NEW YORK WashingtonPost.com is no longer running the cartoons of hard-hitting liberal Ted Rall.

Rall said he thinks the site dropped his work because of a Nov. 4 cartoon he did showing a drooling, mentally handicapped student taking over a classroom. "The idea was to draw an analogy to the electorate -- in essence, the idiots are now running the country," he told E&P.

"That cartoon certainly drew a significant amount of negative comment from our users," said WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Doug Feaver when contacted by E&P. But he added that the decision to drop Rall was a "cumulative" one that had been building for a while.
Rall has also recently described Bush as "a geocidal maniac," "one of the worst serial killers in human history."

Perhaps the worst part is that Rall cannot even draw. If you want to read good liberal cartoons, go see Tom Toles or Tom Tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Voter turnout

Here is the final tally from Minnesota.
This year's turnout represented 77.72 percent of the estimated population of eligible voters, tops in the nation -- and well ahead of second-place Wisconsin's 73.7 percent -- but short of the Minnesota high of 83.15 percent achieved in 1956, when 1.6 million people voted. The only other higher showing since records were first kept in 1950 was 79.39 percent in 1960. . .

Same-day registrations at the polls totaled 581,904, 20.57 percent of all voters and more than 117,000 greater than the previous high in 2000. On a percentage basis, that was exceeded only in 1980 and 1976. Same-day registration began in Minnesota in 1974.
If there is a good argument why there should not be same-day registration, I have not heard it. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, only six states allow it.

This was our second election at our current address. This year, when we went to the polls, I was on the voter roll, but my wife was inexplicably absent. She had been looking forward to casting her vote this year for a long time, and same day registration saved the election judges at that polling place from having a very bad day.

(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Powell resigns; Rice next?

Here is the best part of this story to me: the first African-American Secretary of State is about to be replaced by the the first female African-American Secretary of State, both nominated by a Republican president from the South.

This is not the end of the "can't we all get along" campaign, but it certainly deserves more than a footnote in the telling of the story.

I offer this comment as the parent of two Hispanic children who can never be president (unless we amend the Constitution), but who could each be Secretary of State.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Carville is hilarious

James Carville is as partisan as they get until an election but, once the election is over, he is brutally honest and, in the process, often hilarious. In 2002, he put a garbage can on his head on election night as it became clear that the Republicans were going to make gains in Congress. Today, he cracked an egg on his head on Meet the Press to acknowledge that he has egg on his face for predicting that John Kerry would be elected with 52% of the vote.

Since the election, Carville has also said this about the situation for Democrats nationally.

"We can deny this crap, but I'm out of the denial. I'm about reality here," Mr. Carville told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "We are an opposition party, and as of right now, not a particularly effective one. You can't deny reality here."
I think that Carville's "reality" will sink in more broadly within the Democratic party in the next few months. The real issue is how the Democrats, as a party, will respond. It seems to me that making Howard Dean the new party chairman would not be a good start.

(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Movie Review: The Incredibles

In my opinion, The Incredibles is even better than Shrek as a great "kids' movie" for parents. Cole and I went today, and I really enjoyed it. So there is my endorsement, for what it is worth.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Bush Machine

I, for one, "misunderestimated" the Bush campaign's unbelievable organization this year. In 2000, Bush officially received 50,456,002 votes. Bush's current tally for 2004 is 60,480,957 votes. That is almost a 20 percent increase in raw votes.

Charlie Cook says this:

You have to give enormous credit to the Bush campaign, which unquestionably was the best planned, best executed presidential campaign ever. . .

The true measure of the quality of the effort by the Bush campaign, the Republican National Committee and the business community, is in the turnout figures. In key state after key state, the John Kerry campaign, the Democratic National Committee, organized labor and most of all, America Coming Together -- the 527 committee charged with the get-out-the-vote operation on the Democratic side -- not only hit but exceeded their target number of voters they thought were needed to win. But the Bush/Republican/business/social conservative coalition got even more.

In Ohio, for example, Kerry got 25,000 more votes than the goal ACT had set, but Bush got 130,000 more. This was also true in Florida. No one stands in more awe of the Bush campaign than the folks on the Democratic side. They put up a hell of a fight and yet were still bested by the Bush/Republican/business/social conservative effort.

All of this further convinces me that the Bush machine won this election much more than Kerry lost it.

(To view cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Machines make noise - get over it

In the stupid category.
This morning at 9:30 at Van Cleve Park, Rueff is holding what he's billed as an urban noise and leaf blower forum. The purpose: Get Minneapolis to adopt an ordinance that would ban, or at least heavily regulate, leaf blowers.

City Council Member Dan Niziolek supports Rueff's initiative and will be bouncing ordinance proposals off those attending the forum.

In his heart, Niziolek -- who uses an old-fashioned push mower on his corner lot, rakes in the fall and shovels in the winter -- would like to see people dump all of their gas-burning outdoor tools.

Eliminate snowblowers, leaf blowers, lawn vacuums and gas-powered lawn mowers and you could improve air quality by 5 percent, Niziolek said. He added that the city would also be helping to solve the national obesity problem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Arafat dead

Here is a month-old news item from Israel:

JERUSALEM - Three weeks before the people of the United States choose their resident for the next four years, reports from Israel and elsewhere tellingly reveal how the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict view the candidates.

While Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is rooting for Democrat John Kerry, Israel’s Jews overwhelmingly hope President George W. Bush will stay in the Oval Office through 2008.
In the last 8 days, Bush has won and Arafat has died. This week may someday warrant an entire chapter in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is to hoping (but not necessarily predicting) that chapter will be a prelude to a turn for the better, and not a turn for the worse, in the quest for ultimate peace.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I found the cure for cable news addiction

The Scott Peterson jury deliberation coverage.

I checked in tonight to get news about the Fallujah battle (the ultimate Battle for Iraq) and the Ashcroft and Evans resignations. Our cable media's attention is focused elsewhere. Apparently we need more details about jurors inspecting Scott Peterson's boat.

There have to be hundreds of murder trials in progress at this moment in time. Scott Peterson is not O.J. Simpson. I just don't get it.

UPDATE 11/10/04 at 10:00 CST: It was just announced that Arafat is dead. CNN and MSNBC are giving the story full-time coverage for now. Fox had a two minute "breaking news" alert, and then went back to coverage of the Scott Peterson trial. I still don't get it.

Blogging from Charlotte

I'm in Charlotte on business for a few days, and this is my first visit to the city. Although I will admit that I have seen little outside of about six square blocks downtown, I really like what I have seen.

My two favorite things are the big trees that line all of the downtown streets and the countdown timers on the walk/don't walk signs. (As you approach the crosswalks you know from a reasonable distance how much time is left on the light and whether it is worth hurrying.)

I will be back someday to further explore the city and the area.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bush: Political Genius

Carlos Watson:

Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an independent, it is hard not to look at President Bush's re-election victory last week and conclude that he is probably one of the three or four most talented politicians of the last half of a century.

This seems way over the top to me. I don't think that it is particularly remarkable that a guy named Bush who is a Republican was able to unseat an incumbent Democratic governor in Texas. In 2000, there was Clinton fatigue and Gore was a stiff. And this year, Bush got a bare majority in the midst of a war. I voted for him, but I certainly am not in awe of this skills as a politician.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

New York Giants

As a paranoid Vikings fan, I think that somebody is messing with us. Two weeks ago, the Giants lost at home to the Detroit Lions, a team that recently broke an NFL record for consecutive losses on the road. The Giants then came to Minneapolis to face my streaking Vikings and proceeded (like always) to thoroughly dominate. (Over the last several years, the Giants have effectively won every game against the Vikings before the end of the first quarter.) The Giants returned home this week to face the lowly Chicago Bears. Of course, the Bears won. Salt in the wound.

I hate the New York Giants.

Here we go

Iraq declares martial law

I have no idea what the prospects for "success" are for the impending offensive in Falluja. One thing seems sure - this necessary step is going to be bloody.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Senator Kerry: Thank You

I offer a few comments about Sen. John Kerry from someone who came semi-close to voting for him.

  • In general, I admire and respect him more now than I did 12 months ago.
  • I rejected every invitation to micro-evaluate his miltary service to our country. Who the hell am I to judge that?
  • His immediate post-Vietnam activities are hard to understand, but I gave him a complete pardon for them for the purposes of this election.
  • He was the most "electable" Democrat. Dean would have lost by 10 points.
  • Kerry ran a good campaign and there was nothing he did wrong that can reasonably argued changed the results.
  • Bush won, Kerry did not lose.

Thank you, Senator Kerry. You forced a real debate.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)

Minnesota Vikings' politics

Before the election, I could justify to myself an obsession about day-to-day political activities on the grounds that one nose-pick at a debate might change 500 votes in Florida or Ohio and, thereby, change the results of the election. Thankfully, that is over. Now I'm going to try to spend more energy on non-political issues.

For me, part of my reintroduction to normal life will involve the Minnesota Vikings. I could say much about this group of heartbreakers, but I will start with the fact that Mike Tice is in the last year of a contract if the team does not pick up an option. Last week, owner Red McCombs was quoted as say “Mike is going to stay with me as long as he wants to." But McCombs later insisted that Tice's status had not changed and no decisions would be made until the end of the season.

McCombs is a flip-flopper, and Vikings fans need a new, local owner for immediate emotional security. But the everlasting emotional security that could only be provided by a Super Bowl victory continues to seem beyond our reach.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Minnesota Voters are Weird

Do not draw conclusions from the national election results this year and apply them to Minnesota. Bush got close in Minnesota this year, but no closer than he got against Al Gore. At the same time an overwhelming Republican majority in the Minnesota House was reduced to a razor thin majority.

Minnesota voters seem to be the most persuadable and unpredictable in the country. Sometimes we like hardcore conservatives (Boschwitz, Grams). Sometimes we like hardcore liberals (Wellstone, Dayton). Sometimes we like goofy independents (Ventura). I'm not going to try to make any sense out of it.

Diversity in Dallas

This is not a joke.

Gay Hispanic woman elected Dallas sheriff

Exit Polls: It's the Bloggers Fault


News organizations promised Wednesday to look into why their Election Day exit polls showed an initial surge for John Kerry, but also blamed bloggers for spreading news that gave a misleading view of the presidential race.

The exit poll data was delivered at several points Tuesday to the National Election Pool -- ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and The Associated Press -- by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The pool hired the companies for exit polling after the networks' blown calls on election night 2000 and exit poll systems failures in 2002.

The first wave showed Kerry with a lead of three percentage points in Florida and four points in Ohio -- both battleground states won by President Bush when the votes were actually counted, giving the president his margin of victory. . .

The Florida and Ohio exit poll results, along with those in other states where Kerry was strong, were quickly disseminated on Web sites such as Slate, the Drudge Report, Wonkette.com,
Atrios.blogspot.com and Command Post. . .

"I think people believed them, and it's particularly the case with Internet bloggers," said Kathy Frankovic, CBS News' polling director. "That's unfortunate because it sets up expectations that may or may not be met. I think it's a good exercise because it reminded people that early exit polls can be unreliable."

This is ridiculous. The exit polls were driving the early coverage, and there were veiled references to them during the coverage. People wanted information. Also, the exit polls were news because at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday (1) Kerry's people were elated because they believed the exit polls (in fact, I heard one report that Kerry and Shrum started working on the acceptance speech in the late afternoon), and (2) Bush's people were deeply depressed (in fact, I heard one story that a staffer announced that he was going to get drunk and he left).

With the Internet, information like that represented by the exit polls will never again be contained.

UPDATE: I neglected to note that at Centerfield one of the site's founders asked that we not discuss the exit polls. As a guest there, I respected that request. But I personally don't think that there was anything wrong with disseminating the information.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Supreme Court

Even before the second Bush term starts, it seems guaranteed that sometime early in that term (or perhaps sooner) we will be faced with one of the ultimate polarizing issues -- who should be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

Accepting the fact that George Bush is a Republican who was just reelected based in large part by votes of social conservatives, I still think that Scalia or Thomas are not realistic choices. In my view, his best choice might be to elevate Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative. Obviously, Bush would also have to nominate someone to replace Kennedy and I could go on at length about this topic, but I will stop here and we can hash it out in the comments (to the extent people are interested).

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)


Wizbang argues that George Bush has a mandate. As I was drafting this post, the "mandate" issue was also raised as a topic on Hardball.

A mandate to do what other than to "stay the course" in Iraq and continue to take the fight to terrorists? It seems to me that even if Bush had won by 100 electoral votes, he could not claim a mandate on how to deal with issues that he did not want to talk about during the campaign.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments there, click here.)


I plan to cross-post here my posts at Centerfield. That way there will be one place where all of my postings can be found and criticized. In other words, if you feel so inclined, please use the comments here to take issue (or maybe even agree) with anything I have to say there and/or here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Marathon training

I have been a runner, on and off, for 20 years. At my peak, I would probably not run more than 12 miles a week, but I have had a 20 year-old intention of some day training for and running a marathon. Well, this year, I turned 40 and I was forced to recognize that it is only going to get harder if I wait any longer. So I began a couple of months ago to increase my mileage with the goal of running a half-marathon in May 2005, and the Twin Cities Marathon in October 2005.

I read somewhere that announcing that you are going to run a marathon is like announcing that you are going to quit smoking. It is the easy part, but it puts you on record and if you don't follow through, people will ask you "why." Well, I've said it.

Todd's Blog: Day One (Election Day)

It is election day and I have decided that it is as good of a day as any to start a personal blog, something that I have been thinking about doing for some time. Exactly seven months ago today, I joined the group blog Centerfield, "A Weblog of Centrist Voices in American Politics," as a contributor for the purpose of helping me to decide who to vote for this year. Last week I made my final decision.

I intend to continue blogging at Centerfield about policy and politics, but I wanted to establish a place where I can talk about whatever I want. I don't know how much or how often I will write here and I expect hardly anyone to read this but, for those who do, I hope that you will comment from time to time. So here I go.

Day one.