Archive for November, 2004

Code Duello, Election 2004 Edition

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

It started with Zell Miller, continued with Bill Maher, and now has reached the common angry-Democrat-in-the-street. From Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight.

The net makes it so much simpler to arrange these things than it was in the old days, don’t you think?

Thanks to Lucy for the link.

Ah! Sweet Glory of Empire!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

I challenge any red-blooded American to read this story without being at once both amused and appalled by the behavior of our brave young Marines. From Onan: U.S. Marines in Iraq break pre-battle tension with chariot race.

Photos, too, courtesy of some of the aforementioned militarily enthusiastic weblog crowd: Random Nuclear Strikes and Blogs of War.

The Story of Ted the Caver

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

This apparently has been around for a while, but I’d never seen it before. I don’t like this kind of story in movie form, but as a cheesy personal web page it kind of worked for me. I read the whole thing, at least: Ted’s caving page.

Fallujah 2.0

Monday, November 8th, 2004

So, the US election is over, and Bush is now free to spend some of his political capital on the deferred re-invasion of Fallujah. And in his blunt-instrument way, he’s now making good on his promise to deal toughly, mano-a-mano, (well, by proxy, at least) with the foreign terrorists (or maybe the homegrown insurgents, depending on who you talk to) with which the city is infested. And, in the process, there will certainly be a great many other lives cut short, women and children maimed and blasted to little bloody innocent bits. And yes, I realize, that is the nature of war (or of terrorism, again, depending on who you talk to).

Anyway, while waiting for the glorious revving up of enthusiastic play-by-play from the militarily-enthused weblogger set, here are a few pieces I found interesting. First, from Joe at American Leftist: Foreign fighters. And from Charles2 at the Fulcrum: Military Operations on Urban Terrain and Entering Fallujah.

Publius, Aja on Dealing with Christian Conservatism

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Here are a couple of interesting items to help us blue-America heathens try to get inside the heads of red America: First, from Publius of Legal Fiction: Fight Jesus with Jesus. And, from former Southern Baptist and reformed Christian conservative Aja: This is post #2.

Kaplan Defends Red America

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Here’s a more-serious treatment of the issue of mocking those red-state voters, from someone (Lawrence Kaplan) who counsels that continuing to do so is the surest way for blue-staters to continue losing elections: Polls apart.

The New Democrat Outreach Program

Monday, November 8th, 2004

There’s a snarky sentiment that all us losers have been feeling for most of a week now, regarding the need to somehow “reach out” to the red-state folk who defeated us at the ballot box, while simultaneously feeling extremely frustrated at their willingness to swallow a dishonest sales pitch from the likes of George Bush. Sometimes we give in to the snark; sometimes we rein it in. I’ve seen snatches of it on The Daily Show, and on assorted weblogs, and in that Michael Kinsley piece the other day. I even indulged in a bit of it myself. But so far, I’ve haven’t seen it in this pure a form: An open letter to the Red-State victors.


Norm on Maher’s Show with Chomsky, Sullivan, Simpson

Monday, November 8th, 2004

If (like me) you missed Bill Maher’s show last night (update: oops; Friday night), by all means check out the clips that Norm of OneGoodMove has posted. It’s extremely wacky stuff: Noam Chomsky.

I’d watch a lot more TV if a lot more TV was a lot more like this. Yes, it was wacky in several different ways, and yes, Maher doesn’t have what Jon Stewart has in terms of being able to make you like him while he’s busy being a smartass, but it sure was interesting to watch.

More Election Thoughts

Monday, November 8th, 2004

A few election-related links, and some associated commentary, for your morning:

The people at are keeping track of stories regarding what some are alleging was the fraudulent nature of the Bush presidential victory: VOTE FRAUDArchives.

Some of the more-interesting analyses I’ve read on this topic are these:

My take on all this fraud discussion is that, at this point, I haven’t seen anything that seems to point clearly to large-scale fraud of the sort that would have delivered the election to Bush. Clearly, a very large number of disappointed Kerry voters have a powerful incentive to believe that the election was stolen. And clearly, there were a number of problematic or at least wacky-looking aspects of the election. Most of the ones I’ve seen so far, though, are either too small to amount to election-swinging fraud, even in aggregate, or seem more-easily explainable as random upfuckery or incompetence or anomalies that reflect non-fraudulent campaign strategies by the Bush team (e.g., focusing their GOTV efforts on rural Florida counties that also tended to lack touchscreen voting).

Which isn’t to say that I believe Bush didn’t steal the election. I certainly think he’s capable of it, and the fact that lots of us Bush haters are willing to believe it based on insufficient evidence doesn’t in any way prove he didn’t do it. But while I’m interested in seeing where the story goes, at this point I don’t think it leads anywhere in particular.

On the question of the big red America/blue America “values” debate, I’ve seen some interesting discussion that tends to discount the role of the anti-gay-marriage initiatives in the swing states as a key element in the Bush victory. (Update: Like, um, in this piece by Paul Freedman that everyone has been linking to: The gay marriage myth.) The reality is that the shift toward Bush in Heartlandia was more complicated than naked anti-gay bigotry; more-telling, apparently, was red America’s buying of the Bush campaign theme that Bush was better able to safeguard us from those scary terrorist wolves. That, and red America really, really hates John Kerry (again, thanks in no small part to the Bush peoples’ effective painting of him as a flip-flopping liberal traitor).

The most interesting link I’ve followed on that score was this one, from a southern 20-something single woman who claims to defy the more superficial aspects of the Superchristian Bush Voter stereotype (while doing a decent job of underscoring the reality of the red America/blue America divide that Rove & Co. exploited so effectively in the election): Open letter to the Democratic Party: How you could have had my vote.

Red-State Values

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

So, for your Sunday, a rambling sermon. Or rather, a series of at-least-somewhat thematically related links.

First up, from the Web-challenged LA Times (login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works): Creationism in science class angers educators:

Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for “various models/theories” of origin to be incorporated.

The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter from 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities.

“Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds,” said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Actually, Wisconsin school boards time-traveling backwards to mandate teaching evolution in science class can’t be labeled a “red-state” story per se, in that Wisconsin went blue in the election. But Burnett County, WI, where the Grantsburg school board has been pushing to dumb down the curriculum, went for Bush 51% to 48%, thereby making it a nice little microcosm of the national mood. (Maybe’s Wisconsin correspondent Adam Blust can enlighten us about where Burnett County and/or the city of Grantsburg sit in terms of Wisconsin’s larger political geography.)

But really, as this other piece from today’s LA Times points out, this wasn’t a “Bicoastia-vs.-Heartlandia” election. That perception is certainly created by a casual glance at the electoral map, but the clustering of blue votes on the coasts is merely an artifact produced by the location of cities. What really happened in this election is that city dwellers were beaten by rural/suburban/exurban types. See this item from Princeton history prof Sean Wilentz (again, silly LA Times login of cypherpunk98/cypherpunk required): Hicks nixed slicks’ pick.

This matches my own experience. I grew up in Los Angeles (broadly speaking), and it’s clear to anyone that pays attention to southern California politics that while the densely packed heart of the city is very much Kerry country, you don’t have to go far at all to find yourself in the Other America, where heartland values hold sway.

You see it south of LA in Orange County (which went huge for Bush), a land of tract housing and a certain raised-on-television sensibility that sent me fleeing for my sanity after an ill-considered first year of college at UC Irvine. You see it east of LA in the Inland Empire, where I lived until I was 11, a region of alllooksame developments containing a soulless monocrop culture of ill-educated humanity. They bake in the heat, breathe the city’s wafted-in smog, and give way, on the edges, to a sparsely populated desert known mainly for sex criminals and meth labs.

And you see it north of LA, where you eventually come to the county I live in today, Santa Barbara County, which, were it not for the liberal concentration in Santa Barbara itself, would be as red as Wyoming.

We’ve seen plenty of moving tributes to red-America values over the last few days. But a big part of the mental scaffolding that sustains those values is a lack of critical reasoning, and its replacement by a willingness to be influenced by emotional imagery that doesn’t demand, and in fact is incompatible with, too much thought.

This is the part of the country that went big for the version of Bush presented in the Ashley ad, as discussed in Salon (watching the ad for the one-day pass required for non-subscribers): The TV ad that put Bush over the top. And while I’m not saying that Bush didn’t really feel a father’s protective sympathy during the moment when he hugged that girl, I do think the resulting snapshot provides an inadequate basis for judging his overall character, and his suitability for the presidency.

We of blue America have values, too. But they’re the values of the Enlightenment, rather than those of jihad. And thanks in part to the cynical calculations of people like Karl Rove, they’re in jeopardy. See this opinion piece by historian Garry Wills: The day the Enlightenment went out.

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values – critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed “a candid world,” as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush’s supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

I’m running out of links for today’s sermon, but I can’t give you my benediction and let you go without this item from LA Times editor Michael Kinsley (once again, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login required): Am I blue?

There’s just one little request I have. If it’s not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don’t mind, that is.) It’s true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I’m sure they are — don’t involve any direct imposition on you. We don’t want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don’t, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don’t claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

Anyway, we’ve now got the government we collectively deserve. And may a merciful deity grant us that the resulting lessons in the efficacy of reason over feeling not be too painful.

In the meantime, for you in red America, please take a moment to think about your kids’ intellectual needs. Maybe when you’re granting their letters-to-Santa wishes for the latest first-person shooter for the Xbox, you could throw in something with a little more practical educational value. A chemistry set, maybe.

Okay; I’m done. Go with God, and peace be with you.

Killing the Innocent — on Purpose — in Iraq

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Jeanne at Body and Soul talks about a story that really depressed me when I read it in the LA Times last week. It concerns a group of US soldiers in Baghdad who shot up a garbage truck one night, mistakenly believing that its occupants were planting mines. And then, having determined that they were innocent victims, two US sergeants finished off a wounded teenager by shooting him as he lay writhing on the street. To put him out of his misery, you see, the same way you would end the suffering of a wounded animal. Except he wasn’t an animal, of course. He was a human being. Just not in the eyes of a couple of young men from the US heartland whose values have been twisted by the cruel logic of occupation.

Jeanne thought it must actually be an older story that she’d read about previously, but then realized that no, it was just a repetition of the same exact circumstances: Déjà vu all over again.

We can expect such incidents to continue, and multiply. It’s the nature of war. And it shows ever more clearly how we as a nation are following the same path to defeat that we walked in Vietnam.

Political Geography

Friday, November 5th, 2004

I’ve always liked maps. As a teenager I navigated a racing sailboat between a dangerous shoal and a hidden reef, forty miles offshore, hitting a narrow gap on a dark, windy night using only bearings taken on a single lighthouse and rapid-fire plotting on a government chart. (This was before the days of cheap GPS, you young whippersnappers.) Anyway, like I said, I like maps.

And there have certainly been a bunch of them floating around in the wake of the election. Here are some of the more memorable ones I’ve seen lately.

From Yahoo! comes this one, which I watched fill in on Tuesday night:

All that red is certainly impressive. But even more impressive is this one, from USA Today, breaking us down into red and blue counties:

Now, while those maps tell a compelling story of the electoral landscape, the fact is that there are red Americans in blue states (and counties) and blue Americans in red states (and counties). Accordingly, BoingBoing gave us this version, showing us in our truer shades of purple:

And we can do the same thing on the county level, courtesy of Robert J. Vanderbei of Princeton:

He also gives us this one, where he’s added some relief based on population density:

Meanwhile, the folks at have scaled up the Z-axis, and done away with that wishy-washy purple, to produce this version. It’s certainly impressive-looking, though admittedly, given that the winner-take-all thing doesn’t operate on the county level, the solid blue of the urban skycrapers is a bit misleading.

(Update: Actually, I’m pretty sure now that the blue/red columns in the image below are showing vote differentials for the winners. So they’re not misleading at all. See this scanned version from some magazine or other, which breaks the red and blue parts of this graph out into separate maps: where.jpg.

So, basically, city-folk voted for Kerry, suburban and rural folk voted for Bush. And overall, there were 3% more voters in the hinterlands than in the metropolis.)

All those interesting data have inspired some more-fanciful geographies, too. Mena of Six Apart (the people who brought you’s former weblog software), posted this interesting item under the title Canada 2.0:

And then there’s this one that has been making the rounds. It’s actually the map that inspired this post, since I figured people were never going to stop emailing it to me until I posted it:

Which brings me to this historical offering, one that this election has put a great many of us in mind of:

If I can turn away from all these maps for a moment, there was also an interesting chart floating around, based on an item that originally ran in The Economist after the 2000 election. It claims to show a striking correlation between average IQ and which way a state voted (but note that the underlying IQ numbers are almost certainly bogus — sauce for the gander, I guess, given the way the Bush team used outright lies as their weapon of choice in destroying Kerry). Anyway, see IQ and politics to indulge your extra-snarky side.

But I know you all come here for the articles, not the pictures. So let’s conclude with a pair of fun articles. First, from red-stater Mike Thompson at Human Events Online: Declaration of expulsion.

The truth is, America is not just broken–it is becoming irreparable. If you believe that recent years of uncivil behavior are burdensome, imagine the likelihood of a future in which all bizarre acts are the norm, and a government-booted foot stands permanently on your face.

That is why the unthinkable must become thinkable. If the so-called “Red States” (those that voted for George W. Bush) cannot be respected or at least tolerated by the “Blue States” (those that voted for Al Gore and John Kerry), then the most disparate of them must live apart–not by secession of the former (a majority), but by expulsion of the latter. Here is how to do it.

By all means, read the whole thing. It’s rich. And then read this suitable rejoinder from blue-stater Adam Felber of Fanatical Apathy: Concession speech.

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I’m impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it’s not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it’s not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us… we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn’t need its allies, doesn’t need to share the burden, doesn’t need to unite the world, doesn’t need to provide for its future. Hell no. Not when it’s got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we’re “morally inferior,” I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we’ve done just that.

Sigh. We’ve got a long ways to go. And this election was, at least in some respects, a giant step backward. But maybe it was a step that needed to be taken, if only so people like me would have their eyes well and truly opened about what’s going on out there in Heartlandia.

There are no small parts…

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

This is from an email written by my buddy Wess, who lives in LA — but don’t let that fool you, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to people in LA every day…

I walked into Sherman Oaks’ Fashion Square yesterday to buy a new watch battery. As I entered the center part of the mall, a man with a headset stopped me and told me to move away from where he was. I had no idea who this guy was and what was going on so I looked at him puzzled and asked, “What?”

He pointed to a spot maybe fifteen feet away and said, “That’s where you should be.”

Now completely confused, I told him, “I’m just here to buy a new watch battery.”

“I don’t care about your motivation, the extras are not part of this shot.”

After staring at him for a second, I looked around and suddenly realized there were five cameras and heavy equipment all around us. The floor was taped up, dozens of people were mulling about, and ten feet away was Felicity Huffman. A big sign read “Desperate Housewives.” I had walked into a TV shooting.

I chuckled and told the man I was just shopping and wasn’t part of the production. I thought he’d be mad.

Instead, he seemed amused and said, “I liked what you were doing. It was very believable.” He turned to a man and said, “Do we have room for this guy in the next scene?”

The guy looked down at his clipboard and shook his head. “We need less extras, not more.”

The first man looked back at me and said,” Sorry. But I liked what you were doing.”

It’s good to know that when I’m shopping I have the look of someone who is shopping.

LA Times: US Soldiers Describe Looting of Al Qaqaa

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Just in case anyone still cares whether the spokespeople for the Pentagon branch of the Committee to Re-Elect the Preznit were lying last week when they asserted that lots of high explosives weren’t looted from Al Qaqaa after our side took over, well, they were (lying, that is): Soldiers describe looting of explosives . (Stupid login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works.)

Burke on the Meaning of the Election

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Timothy Burke of Easily Distracted has some interesting thoughts on the meaning of the just-concluded election: Ship of fools.

I’m going to cheat, and give you part of his conclusion, but you should read the whole thing to get the gist of what he’s saying.

Perhaps the hardcore that hates me and everyone like me, that hates the other 49%, that hates New York and California and Boston and Chicago, hates the cities and the educated and the culture-makers and the secularists, perhaps they cannot be turned or changed or persuaded, any more than I can be on the convictions that form the heart of my lifeworld. Perhaps this is a social conflict so deep and so fundamental that its resolution will never be carried out through electoral politics. Four more years may make no difference. If so, then our time is better spent in a quest for the Fort Sumter of our times and our souls, for the path to the figurative dissolution of our contaminated Union.

Four. More. Years.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Kerry concedes; I make good on my bet with Michael Williams:

Four. More. Years.

I Bet My Favorite Bush-Supporting Weblogger That Kerry Will Win

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Heh. It is so on, Michael Williams: Election 2004.

Voting for Bush Makes You Fat

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

In honor of National Regime Change Day (or maybe it’s National You Hear That Sound? That’s the Sound of Your Democracy Being Flushed Down the Toilet Day), I present the following fun analysis, courtesy of a former fellow student of official fashion correspondent Lucy: What’s a red state? Education, obesity, and Bush.

All in fun. But seriously, go vote. Even if you have to vote for Bush.


The Bush Legacy in Iraq

Monday, November 1st, 2004

I’ve updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the number of US dead for October. The number was down from the previous month, with 65 US fatalities. Expect that number to rise again in November, once the post-election re-invasion of Falluja begins. Overall, the pattern seems pretty consistent: US soldiers keep dying. Gosh; who would have expected it?

Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 20 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until shortly after Johnson won the 1964 election, some three-and-a-half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above.

These graphs are not intended to show the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and these graphs let me see that. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

You can view more discussion of these charts on the following pages, if you’re interested. The graphs are all the same; I just update them in place when the new numbers become available.