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April 30, 2005

Lies, Damned Lies and Polls

There are lots of bogus polls out there, but the ABC News/WaPo polling questions regarding Senate rules and judicial appointments has got to take the cake.  Last Thursday, the WaPo led with a front page article by Richard Morin and Dan Balz which began: 

As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Sounds pretty clearcut, doesn't it?  But then on Friday, RasmussenReports.com released a poll showing that 57% of adults surveyed supported a change in Senate rules.  What gives?

Well, not surprisingly, its all in the wording of the questions. While Rasmussen does not post the exact survey text on its web site (at least not on the parts that can be accessed for free), the table below includes either the quoted question or table caption from Rasmussen alongside the actual text of ABC/WaPo poll:

Rasmussen Reports ABC News /  WaPo
Do you think that Senate rules should be changed so that a vote must be taken on every person the President nominates to become a judge? The Senate has confimed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others.  Do you think Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?
Yes - 57%   No - 26% Right - 48%   Wrong - 36%
If the Senate rules are changed, do you think the Democrats should follow through on their threat to use other rules that would effectively shut down the Senate? Would you support or oppose changing Senate rule to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?
Yes - 26%   No - 51% Support - 26%   Oppose - 66%

Obviously wording matters.  Do you support "following through on threats?"  Do you support unspecified rule changes to "make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?"  (Like what, making it unnecessary for Republicans to testify before the Senate?  Limiting the Democrats to two questions each?)  Clearly, there are more value-neutral ways to phrase each of these questions. In the event, I suspect that each polling organization got the results they wanted to see.

April 30, 2005 at 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

David Gelernter, my hero!

I'd never heard of David Gelernter before today, but he is officially my new hero. A pioneering computer science professor at Yale, novelist, father, entrepreneur, author of several books, survivor of an attack by the "Unabomber", he is also a prolific and talented political commentator. Here are a few of his recent columns, each of which is worth a look, if only for his wit and humor:

When I grow up (as if!), I want to be more like him. (Except for the scraggly beard, that is.)

April 29, 2005 at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Misunderstanding History: the War in Vietnam

Today's WSJ has an OpEd piece by Stephen John Morris, visiting fellow at John Hopkin's School for Advanced International Studies, criticizing the "lessons learned" from Vietnam:

Thirty years after the fall of Saigon the received wisdom among large sections of Western academia and journalism is little changed. The successive U.S. administrations that intervened in the Vietnam War are widely portrayed as foolish or immoral, while the activist opponents of the war are seen as wise and morally courageous. This simple picture is transposed to the Iraq war by many of today's antiwar generation. Yet the widely held image of the two sides is a crude misrepresentation. The Vietnam War provides few analogies for the Middle East, except as a demonstration of how so many in the West are willing to champion the cause of totalitarian states and movements that the U.S. opposes.

It is worth reading. (Links here:  WSJ subscribers | local copy)

April 29, 2005 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Quote of the Day

Stars are exactly like children, in that they play all day and never buy stuff like light bulbs. And that makes them susceptible to destructive stuff like new age religions and Michael Moore movies. It's why stars give their kids such funny names. Those are EXACTLY the names you'd give your kid, if you were, say, a kid! Naming a kid, to them, is like naming a turtle. A box turtle.
Greg Gutfeld, Editor of Maxim UK
The rest of the interview is pretty funny as well. (From the often very amusing online magazine The Black Table.)

April 28, 2005 at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obituary of the Week: 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, murdered at age 66

The aptly-named Lord Shaftesbury, who mysteriously disappeared from a Cannes nightclub, was found dead on April 5th. He was apparently killed by his third wife's brother in an argument over money.

The late Earl certainly led a colorful life. As his excellent obituary in the UK Telegraph put it:

The 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, whose death aged 66 was confirmed yesterday, demonstrated the dangers of the possession of inherited wealth coupled with a weakness for women and Champagne.
A friend quoted by the BBC in their profile of the poor fellow, waggishly characterized him as a "philanthropist who specialised in rescuing lap dancers".

His lifelong weakness for drink and exotic women combined with his mysterious disappearence makes a fascinating story. Until the book comes out (and surely someone will write one), here are some places to start:

April 28, 2005 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

RealClearPolitics (the new daily must-read web site for any political junkie) links to an interesting column by Dick Morris on the current filibuster brouhaha. His point? If the Democrats want to filibuster Bush's judicial nominees, Frist and the Senate Republicans should make them do a real old-time filibuster, complete with cots in corridors and 24/7 quorum calls. Morris, who has one of the best noses for politics in the business (IMHO), thinks that C-SPAN coverage of Democratic arguments against Bush's nominees (and their insistance on preventing the Senate from addressing other pressing issues in order to prevent a vote) will expose the party to public ridicule.

I think it's worth a shot. If it doesn't work, there's always the "nuclear option. . ."

April 28, 2005 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

You've gotta love the Marines

I somehow managed to miss this amazing report of a massive attempted suicide attack on a US Marine base guarding Iraq's border with Syria earlier this month. Fortunately, the Marines defeated the attack, inflicting 19 KIAs and an estimated 15 other casualties on the insurgents while suffering only 3 minor casualties themselves.

If the bombers had been able to get their massive truck bomb into the camp, a significant number of Marines would have been killed. As Chester pointed out, our friends at Al Queda were hoping for a "Tet-like" PR victory which might have soured US public opinion on continuing to pay the butcher's bill in Iraq.

Thanks to a group of brave, well-trained and alert Marines, it didn't happen.

April 27, 2005 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

Nigeria: World leaders in scams and fraud

You've got to love Nigeria. Where else do people drill into gasoline pipelines to steal gas, ignoring the (very high) risk of death via fire and expolosion? What other country has established clear global leadership in the art of tricking people located thousands of miles away to send them money?

Now, today's NYT has a piece by Tom Zeller, Jr. reporting on the latest Nigerian innovation in exciting world of international fraud -- counterfeit US Postal Service money orders. What a country!

April 26, 2005 at 10:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Borking Bolton

I don't know much about John Bolton, and find his Yosemite Sam moustache to be kind of distracting, but I find it hard to believe that the holdup in his confirmation hearing is really all about his poor interpersonal skills in dealing with subordinates. As the editors of the NY Sun observed yesterday:

When one stops to think about it, the showdown in the Senate over the nomination of Secretary Bolton to be envoy to the United Nations has a strange aspect to it, as if the individuals who serve on the Foreign Relations Committee in the upper chamber have taken to talking in code. No one really thinks that this is a matter of Mr. Bolton’s temperament and whether he did or didn’t bang on the door of the future founder of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush while they were working on some high-pressure business in a Moscow hotel. Nor is it even likely to be about whether Mr. Bolton had a right to ask for the transfer of an intelligence analyst who tried to tinker with the way Mr.Bolton wanted to characterize the consensus on whether Cuba had a biological weapons program. . .
Not to put too fine a point on it, since when is being an asshole grounds for disqualification for public service? As anybody who has worked in Washington DC knows, there are plenty of bosses there who are sterling-plated SOB's, especially when it comes to how they treat the hired help. (Not convinced? Look at these comments about the latest complaints to surface about Bolton's temperment.)

No, the controversy over Bolton has little to do with him and everything to do with re-fighting the last election. As Captain Ed from Captain's Quarters observed last week:

. . . Quite frankly, I don't care if Bolton got snappy with subordinates twenty-two years ago -- and considering the absolute morass of corruption at the UN, impatience almost sounds like a prerequisite rather than a hindrance. . . 
My thoughts exactly...

April 26, 2005 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

Unscam Unscam über alles

Roger Simon has more information on the latest statements by Robert Parton, the Volcker committee investigator who resigned last week in protest.

The title of his piece?  "Oil-for-Resignations"  Ha!

April 24, 2005 at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack